by Joe Pulizzi
Twitter is all over the media these days. From Ashton Kutcher’s contest with CNN (first to get a million followers wins) to Oprah’s on-air worship of the microblogging tool, suddenly everyone feels the need to figure out what a “Tweet” really is.
Whether or not you feel Twitter is relevant to your business is up to you and your marketing objectives. Our goal in this article is one thing: to show you how to be successful using the tool if you choose to move forward. By following these steps, you’ll be a Twitter pro in no time.
Step 1: Decide who you want to be
Thinking through your identity is the most important, and most overlooked, issue in using Twitter. Are you going to be a person who shares everything about yourself, or are you going to focus on a specific task? Many successful Twitter users, such as Chris Brogan and Shama Hyder, talk very intimately with their followers and it works for them. When you get to 30,000 followers, you can do that. For now, keep it simple.
Success on Twitter means staying on point. Most successful Twitter users never answer the question prompt, “What are you doing?” Instead, they deliver content to their niche that helps and motivates others to spread the message. So, ask yourself: What kind of information will best help your marketing goals if it’s released via Twitter?
Are you all about marketing measurement for agencies? Are you into chicken recipes for stay-at-home dads? How about financial issues for small-business owners? Notice that there is a topic and an audience. Focusing on both keeps your content on target, which will increase the likelihood of your success.
Step 2: Set up your listening posts
If you are using Twitter on the Twitter website you probably don’t get all the hype. It’s challenging to see what’s going on without being able to view multiple conversations at the same time. What you need is a Twitter management program like Tweetdeck. That way, you can not only “listen” when people are talking about you, but also search on keyword phrases or follow hash tags (#contentstrategy) that are important to you.
A Twitter management program will be extremely important in helping you to respond efficiently to your followers, but first and foremost you need to use the program to listen. After you install it, you should use its filters to set up and follow your brand keywords (e.g., “Dr. Pepper”) and industry keywords that drive your business (e.g., “CRM Implementation” or “#CRM”). How you do this depends on which program you use.
But Tweetdeck can’t do it all, so you need to use two other listening tools to round out your toolkit: Google Alerts and Twitter Search.
Google Alerts will send you real-time or summary e-mails based on your keywords. For example, you can find out if someone is blogging about your branded power tool, or see an industry article that mentions all the leading brands in the power tool industry. For Twitter’s purposes, this will help you “follow” people who are talking about your company or industry, as well as find relevant content that you can actively share.
No listening strategy is complete without Twitter Search, which will tell you who’s talking about anything on Twitter. Use this tool to select your initial people to follow by typing in your keywords using phrase search (i.e., “content marketing”). Be sure to use the quotes so you get results for the exact phrase. And, by selecting “Feed for this query,” you can send customized results for any keyword directly to your RSS reader.
Step 3: Consistently distribute relevant content
Once you’ve completed steps one and two, all you need to do now is distribute great content via Twitter. Although you may have to create links to your content and tweet them manually, you may already have a means of distributing it automatically. If you have an e-newsletter or blog that you use to distribute content, Twitterfeed is the answer. This program will automatically distribute your RSS feeds into Twitter for you (shortened URLs and all). Once you start sharing great information with your followers, you will see them “retweeting” or forwarding your information on to their followers. When that happens, more people will begin to follow you. So, the more your content spreads via Twitter, the more followers you will gain.
Final Step: Find the Right People to Follow
You can bet that if the leaders in your industry aren’t on Twitter now, they soon will be. You need to know what they’re saying, whether you’re actively using Twitter yet or not. Find the people who are tweeting (see sidebar) and get into the conversation.
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How to find someone’s Twitter address
Twitter has an internal search function that allows you to find people who are in your e-mail address book, but if a person or organization whose name you know has an unpredictable Twitter name, you might not find it that easily.
Fortunately, as soon as a cool new site goes viral, cool new apps are created to help people make the most of it. Here are some additional tools you can use to find relevant people to follow on Twitter: