Let’s begin with what on the surface seems to be the most simple and easynetworking site – Twitter. Twitter however has become a complex and rich source of data and marketing possibilities. Essentially, Twitter is an online network that allows the user to receive and send messages of 140 characters – which refers to the famous ‘Tweets’. Twitter is also referred to as a ‘micro-blog’ and while it is limited by the fixed set of characters that you can input, it is a very effective communications tool. (Note: there are ways around this text limitation – but that will be dealt with in a more advanced and in-depth book on twitter that will be published by IMAGINETsoon).
Twitter has developed into much more than just an online space for social conversation. For example, it is used extensively by researchers and academics to find and share information, as well as by many businesses to enable more effective customer relationships and to ascertain the perceptions and reception of their products. There are many different ways in which this social network can be used; for example, it can be used by a family to keep in touch, or a company to coordinate business, by the media to keep people informed – or by a writer or musician to build up a fan base.
What one needs to grasp about Twitter, and this applies as well to the other social networks we will be discussing, is that social networking is about making connections which are facilitated by following and being followed by other people
with similar interests and aims.
Twitter enables you to send messages to those in your network (your “followers”). Information you share can be linked to other Web sites which are “tweeted” or sent to those who have joined or followed your Twitter site.
To get started simply register a username and password at twitter.com and you’re ready to go. Twitter has a very user-friendly setup which guides you through
the start process. You will be asked to choose five people to follow from a list to begin with. Just follow the instructions in order to build your timeline. Your bio or profile is the essential link in all the social networking sites This is the only
information, besides your tweets, that others have to determine whether they would like to communicate with you or not. So spend some time on the creation your bio or profile, even if the space given by Twitter is very short.
Once you have set up your details in the settings section of the site the next thing to do is to connect with more users. This is a simple process of clicking on the Discover tab at the top of the page. This will open a side panel which enables you to find friends or to browse the various categories. Twitter also offers you possible connections to follow based on your profile. You can search for friends based onemail accounts or find connections by subject category. The simplest way to findnew connections is to use the search facility and search for a key word or keywords that will bring back a host of search results that you can investigate and join.
TIP: How do you determine if you would like to follow a certain Twitter account?
This could not be easier. Clicking on the image of the individual, company or institution that you would like to connect to will bring up their profile. Read this carefully in order to decide whether to “follow” or not. One should also look at the
timeline of that account. The timeline represents the tweets or messages associated with that individual or company that have been sent over time. By browsing through the messages you will be able to ascertain if this is someone who you would like to join or not. If you decide to follow these tweets then simply click the follow button. In the same way you can also click on the unfollow button to sever the connection if you find that the tweets do not interest you.
The most important part of following another account is to follow those people, companies or subjects that interest you and add interest and information to your site. Once again the main idea to focus on is communication. Ask yourself if the
information and links that you receive from following others are beneficial and whether you would like to enter into an online conversation with that individual or group before pressing the follow link. The idea behind Twitter is that those you follow will hopefully follow you back if your interests, objectives and tweets coincide with theirs. In this way a network of interest can be developed among thousands of people.
However, a word of caution: it is tempting but not a good idea to just follow hundreds of people at random. Remember it is the quality and not the quantity of your followers that adds depth to your Twitter connections. Furthermore, Twitter has a limit of 2000 followers on every account, dependent on various ratios. Ideally you should follow those whose interests coincide with yours and build relationships with likeminded people. Twitter also has a Direct Message facility that enables private conversations between followers.
Remember that Twitter is a fast moving and very dynamic network. If you are going to have a positive presence and not have others unfollow you it is vital that you do not let your account become static. One should ideally twitter at least once a day with an average of four or five tweets to keep the account alive, up-to-date and interesting.
Things You Should Know About
There are some strange symbols that are commonly employed by Twitter users, but
which are in fact simple to understand.
The @ sign is used to refer to someone – such as @Imaginet – which is used
to direct a message to specific user.
The # key to tag is placed in front of a particular subject, which makes
searching for that subject easier – for example, #socialmedia.
The letters RT refer to re-tweet. This is a way of forwarding a message from
someone that you feel is important to your followers. For example, if you feel that a certain message from one of the Twitter accounts you follow is
significant and would be useful to those who follow you, then you simply press
the retweet button and all your followers will receive the message indicating
as well who the originator of that message was.
TIP: it is very easy to use the retweet function excessively. If you do this you might
irritate your followers with an excessive or continuous flow of messages.
So much more….
The above is enough to get started with but there is much, much more to Twitter. This is only the tip of the iceberg as it were and there are many other exciting aspects to twitter. For example, there are many new online and desktop applications that enable you to manage and control who you follow and who is following yourtweets. There are also many free and subscription applications available that provide analysis of your account, such as an analysis of your most influential followers, allowing you to connect and interact with others in a more meaningful way. Imaginet
will be bringing out more eBooks in the near future on more advanced issues and ways of increasing your online presence. Keep tabs on these new publications and regularly visit. www.imaginet.co.za; or follow @imaginetsa on twitter.
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