By now I’m sure you’ve all heard of Twitter but some are still a bit confused as to how Associated Content sources can generate traffic and extra revenue through this micro-blogging service. I’ve been a member of Twitter for at least a year now and you can see my profile at chris722.
First for those who still do not know you may ask “what is Twitter”? This is what is known as a micro-blogging platform, which means that posts are limited to 140 characters, but Twitter is still in essence a blog just like WordPress, Blogger, TypePad and other services. How does Twitter differ from these other services, you may ask. The short answer is that Twitter is free, and these other services generate revenue either through advertising or through payments you make to the corporations that own the platform that host your blog.
The long answer is that Twitter is completely free, meaning that you not only do not have to pay to use their service, but they do not host ads either. Twitter is also compatible with cell phones, which means that people who subscribe to your posts, or “follow” you, can read your messages on their cell phones. When I say that Twitter is compatible with cell phones I do not mean a fancy Internet ready cell phone either but any cell phone that can receive SMS text messages. Anyone with a plan that allows them to receive unlimited text messages may find that communicating with people through Twitter is cheaper than actually talking with them on their phone.
On Twitter, there is no HTML. You get a page that shows the last 20 “tweets”, or posts of people you follow, in the order in which they were received by you. This may take some getting used to, on most blogs publishers are accustomed to seeing their own posts in reverse chronological order. Twitter is the same but takes on the nature of Facebook in that there are two different pages one in which you can see the posts of people you follow, your primary home page, and those you actually posted yourself, your profile page.
Another difference is that the “micro-blogging” nature of the platform means that people can easily send out thousands of messages, and if you spend hours on the site, you may find yourself sending out a hundred messages a day. Now that I have spoken about how Twitter is similar to other blogs and social networks like Facebook I will talk about how it is different. Twitter has its own language; RT, DM and @. If you see something cool and want to respond back to someone you are following, you put an @ before their username.
For example if you were following me you would put @chris722 and then the message that you wanted me to see. If you wanted to speak to me, but did not want anyone else to see the message, you would do DM @chris722. You may wonder why you would want someone else to see your conversation with your friends. The reason is because of self-promotion; if people are privy to your conversation and see something interesting, then they may choose to follow you, which is a win for both you and them. If your conservation is meant to be strictly confidential, and you want that “private chat”, then DM will hide that conversation between everyone but you and that other person.
Now onto RT, which is not used to respond to the individual that initiated the conversation, but to rebroadcast something they said that you felt was cool in the public timeline. The public timeline is a place where anyone can see anyone elses messages that they are following. Supposed you said something like “Aerosmith really brought down the house last night in Boston!”, and I thought that was cool but didn’t want to talk to you about but just wanted to let everyone else that follows me know about it. I would put an RT in front of it.
If I had said that myself it would appear as “RT @chris722 Aerosmith really brought down the house last night in Boston!”. You could comment on it as well, like “Chris was really stoked about the concert, lol (not sure why) RT @chris722 Aerosmith really brought down the house last night in Boston!”. Inside jokes and sarcasm or analysis of a retweet brings some extra depth to it and gives it an extra punch. Twitter also has a Follow Friday, where you shout out people you think are cool, in order to get people to follow them. Twitter includes on everyone’s profile, their top ten trends, and Follow Friday is almost always one on Fridays. So if you wanted people to follow me, you might do “#FollowFriday #FF Follow Friday @chris722”.
You might wonder why I put a “#” before Follow Friday, and why I included #FF as well. This is because #FF is an acronym for Follow Friday, and sometimes Follow Friday, without the hash tag, is a top trend as well, so it is best to cover all of the bases. If you purposely want to start a trend, put a # before the subject you want to trend, but keep in mind that Twitter also searches keywords and creates trends from there as well.
Now that I have covered all you need to know about Twitter you probably want to know how to find followers and what is the best way to use the platform. Ironically, visiting Twitter.com is not the best way to use the service. For one you are constantly loading up other pages to see if someone responded to your conversations, or if they are trying to speak with you directly. For another people have to consistently include the text of what you said to them so that you do notlose track of why they are responding to you to begin with. There are ways around that through other websites that allow you to log into Twitter remotely that aggregate your profile and represent it to you in a more sophisticated form.
Tweetdeck is the most popular application, but requires you to download it to your computer and install Adobe Air, not a good option for those who use netbooks that need to keep their hard drives free for updates to their operating system or those who never know which computer they will be using. It does have iPhone functionality though, which is a plus. You can also use Tweetdeck, and other Twitter clients I will discuss in a moment, to access your MySpace and Facebook profiles as well. Another application I currently use is Twithive, the interface is nice, but the only drawback is that I had to tweak it to see replies to me, though it does allow you to see direct messages easily.
Twithive is customizable application that you configure on your own. If you want a ready made solution out of the box, you may want to try Tweetvisor. This application will give you three columns, one with messages that people send you, another with replies to your profile, and another with direct messages. Most Twitter applications do this. Now if you are looking for people to follow, and to encourage people to follow you, there are two ways to do this. One is to go with Twitter’s suggestions of people for you to follow, which is aggregated through complexalgorithms, another is to visit directories of people to follow, such as wefollow, and another is to use a service that interfaces with your Twitter account that will actually send you tweets from time to time, such as Mr. Tweet.
If you choose to use Twitter’s recommendations, keep in mind that Twitter will not allow you to subscribe to follow more than 3 times as many people as are following you. It will also provide these recommendations in silence, and also consider that they are not just good recommendations for you, but often the most followed people on Twitter in general. I would use it every month or so, because if you check it every day you may get 200 recommendations one day and none the next, because people are not following you as much as you are following them.
If you choose to use a service like wefollow, again, keep in mind that the service is only as good as the information that you feed it about what your own profile on Twitter is about. This is not necessary when using Twitter’s recommendations. Mr. Tweet is good because it actually tellspeople who you used it to find them, and it will tell you how many of the people you already follow have recommended these recommendations for other people, so it feels more personal.
Some of the more interesting people I follow on Twitter include Tia Mowry, Ashton Kutcher, Larry King, Anderson Cooper. Some of the more interesting organizations I follow on Twitter include independent media in my hometown of Akron, OH and Detroit newspapers and of course Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. The New York Times has an interesting feature on their own website by which you can make friends that are on Twitter but unique to the New York Times, or other New Yorkers.
To promote my content, I use Associated Content’s application that automatically posts tweets when I write an article. I also use automated services such as Twitter Feed that will send a tweet on a schedule. But the real value in Twitter is not in putting it on auto pilot, for example if someone responds to my work on Associated Content I automatically retweet that article onto Twitter, to keep up interest in the article. I do not send out a tweet every hour, or throughout the day, of my articles.
Getting followers on Twitter is only as good as the amount of energy you put into it. Some people will quickly “unfollow” you if you never respond to their own tweets or put any energy into getting to know them. Celebrities and corporations, if they ever follow you (ironically corporations and organizations will follow someone before a celebrity will), typically never “unfollow”you. If you really want to get into Twitter I would recommend checking out the top trending topic and responding to what people are saying. Be sure to include the hashtag and that topic when you do so, and retweet if you see something of interest. I was able to get over a hundred followers one day doing this, though it took me like six hours to do so however they just kept on coming.
If you do not have an outgoing personality, even online, putting Twitter on autopilot will get you enough followers that you can rely on coming to Associated Content to keep up your revenue, but not too many in that you have what you could consider to be “Twitter Noise”. That is a polite way of saying that you are following hundreds, if not thousands of people, and have gotten confused about who to respond to, or if you should say anything at all on the service. Keeping some level of automated functionality on Twitter though, will keep your profile alive when you are busy writing but do not want to visit the site to let your friends know that you are still alive. Expect to see random people visit your profile on Associated Content talk about your work that do not have profiles of their own on this site. Chances are these are people who found your work through Twitter; let’s hope that in turn they decide to sign up for Associated Content and become a source here, which is a “win win” situation for everyone!