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Turbocharging Your Twitter Power–6 Rules for the Road

I counsel a lot of people both formally as a consultant and in my private life informally about Twitter. I hear from folks who say they’re not interested: “I don’t want to know what people are having for breakfast!” My response is that Twitter is not for everyone but that people who tweet what they’re eating for breakfast are usually not very popular nor well-regarded in the space. Which usually draws a deer in the headlights stare when the easy answer they’ve given others doesn’t work on me. The fact is we all know now that Twitter can be powerful.

I counsel a lot of people both formally as a consultant and in my private life informally about Twitter. I hear from folks who say they’re not interested: “I don’t want to know what people are having for breakfast!” My response is that Twitter is not for everyone but that people who tweet what they’re eating for breakfast are usually not very popular nor well-regarded in the space. Which usually draws a deer in the headlights stare when the easy answer they’ve given others doesn’t work on me. The fact is we all know now that Twitter can be powerful. Yet a Harvard Business Review study found that the top 10% of tweeters constitute 90% of tweets and that among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one.

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Here are some tips to help you turbocharge your Twitter power. I’ve worked with everyone from well-known luminaries, leading nonprofits, major corporations, bloggers, educators, and even the U.S. Government on how best to engage on Twitter. Twitter can be incredibly powerful and even fun if you know what you’re doing. The most important factor–as in all social media–is to see yourself as part of a community engaged actively in conversation. People aren’t interested in one-way tweeting. Twitter is a great place to share what you’re planning, thinking and doing. Yet successful tweeters know that the key to success is being a good Twitter citizen who is visibly interested in and actively sharing cool stuff that other people– especially your friends and fans–are thinking and doing. You can find out the latest news sometimes before it hits CNN or MSNBC by checking the trending topics at place like Twitter Search and Hashtags.Org. You can find the hottest links being shared on Twitter at sites like TweetMemeor Twitturly.

My Twitter name is @ch3ryl, by the way. Feel free to tweet this article! Here are a few suggestions on how to maximize your participation in Twitter-space:

  1. Be informative. Burnish your reputation or that of your organization by tweeting useful, relevant links that you find while surfing. Use bit.ly to easily create short urls that you can track. Just because you’ve read a thought-provoking article or blog post doesn’t mean that others have. They might appreciate the link. Avoid tweeting the weather or what you just ate –unless it’s unusual, cool and you have a picture.
  2. Use hashtags and keywords. There’s often a misperception that the only people who are reading your tweets are your followers. Not so. Experienced tweeters also search for topics of interest or create hashtags (e.g. #marketing) to find other people who are tweeting about the same thing or attending the same event. Even if you only have a handful of followers, you can potentially reach hundreds, thousands or millions of people if you are being smart about using the keywords and hashtags others are using to search for the latest info. Marketers often try to spread a particular hashtag so that it appears on Twitter.com’s trending topics list to generate buzz. If you’re looking for a job, try searching the hashtags: #job, #jobs or #hiring.
  3. Talk to people. In most Twitter interfaces (including Twitter.com), you can click a button to see your “replies.” Whenever someone uses your twitter name along with the @ symbol, this is a “reply” e.g. @ch3ryl. Good Twitter citizens review and respond to those who are tweeting about them. This starts a dialogue and you’ll find that some of the followers of the people you are talking to will start to follow you too.
  4. Re-tweet. You may see people on Twitter use terms like “RT” or “retweet” or “(via @so-and-so)” e.g. RT @ch3ryl. This means that someone else tweeted something interesting and you are sharing that with others, while giving credit where credit is due. This accomplishes several objectives at once: it makes you look smart and in-the-know, it gets on another person’s radar, it furthers dialogue and it spreads valuable information.
  5. Thank people.. When someone says something nice about you or re-tweets something that you’ve tweeted, say Thank You and use their Twitter name. People love to be mentioned in Twitter and you’ll find that folks will be more willing to follow you, recommend following you to their followers and RT your missives. This is how you tap into the magical powers of Twitter.
  6. Get Twitter To Go: If you have a smart phone (Google Phone, iPhone, Blackberry, etc), Twitter is really useful when you’re waiting in line, on the train, in the airport or waiting for a friend to arrive for dinner. Sneak in your regular tweets this way and try to tweet at least 1-3 times a week. I recommend the apps Twitterfon and Twitterberry.

I also highly recommend Deanna Zandt’s great blog post “Non-Fanatical Beginner’s Guide to Twitter” as a great quickstart for anyone who wants to participate more successfully in the Twitterverse but wants to spend no more than 10 minutes a day doing so. Or if you want to use Twitter to promote your business and nonprofit objectives and need to get some work done, too!

Read more of Cheryl Contee’s Fission Strategy blog

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Cheryl Contee is a partner and co-founder of the social media consultancy Fission Strategy where she specializes in online advocacy, engagement, and communications. Prior to launching Fission Strategy, Cheryl was Vice President at Fleishman-Hillard San Francisco where she acted as lead digital strategist for the West Coast, helping clients manage their brands and online campaigns. Before Fleishman-Hillard, Cheryl led the interactive team as Vice President at Washington, DC public affairs firm Issue Dynamics Inc. where she launched and led the group blog BloggerRelations.com. Previously, she was the Web Director for Oceana, an international marine conservation organization. Before Oceana, Ms. Contee launched 40 multi-lingual Web sites for Discovery Communications as Senior Producer for International Networks for television brands Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Health, Discovery Kids, and more.

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