9 Ways To Make Twitter More Useful For You

9 Ways To Make Twitter More Useful For You

Yesterday I wrote a post about the "5 Stages Of Twitter Acceptance." Part joke, part insight – I was trying to focus on the evolving way that people are uncovering their own personal usefulness out of the site. Several hundred retweets later the post seems still to be travelling around the web and I hit a rhythm of a few hundred new followers on Twitter yesterday and likely will have the same today. But aside from getting all this conversation, the more interesting point of view that several commenters to my original post shared was that they are making their way through the stages and finding the one that is most useful for them. So for today’s post, I thought I focus on nine ways that Twitter can be more useful for you. It’s still not a tool for everybody (I don’t really believe any tool can be). But hopefully these tips offer you some ideas on using the site well, regardless of what stage you happen to be in. =

  1. Listen to conversations real time. This is the easiest thing to do. Just go to http://search.twitter.com and type in your brand or company name, a subject area, or even your own name. Within seconds you’ll start to get an idea of people’s perceptions, trending discussions and who some influencers are.
  2. Track emotion moments. At any given time, you may need to email someone to ask for something or tell them about something. Sometimes, it’s a journalist or blogger you want to talk about you. Other times it’s a colleague. Looking at their latest status on Twitter can give you a wealth of insight about timing your message. If they’re on holiday in Jamaica, you might want to wait till next week. If they just talked about how much they hate sales emails – maybe you should think about calling. If they happen to be travelling to your city, invite them to coffee. The uses are almost endless.
  3. Get link love. There are times when you may want to get the word out about a piece of content or something that you are doing online. To get bloggers to do a post about it is a time commitment that many times may not be possible. Getting a mention on someone’s Twitter stream, however, can reach an equal number of people and can be easier to get, as long as what you’re asking for is still relevant.
  4. Reach unreachable people. Sure, you could use Twitter to send a message to Robert Scoble and he would likely see it, but in recent news, now even Shaq has his own Twitter account, as does Lance Armstrong. Do you think either of those guys picks up their own phone or reads their own emails? Probably not, but as more high influence unreachable people start to use Twitter, this alone might create it’s ultimate usefulness.
  5. See what’s popular/important. If you wanted to, you could probably use Twitter as your single source of news information. Trending topics often mirror the big news stories of the day, and in cases of tragedy such as the recent Mumbai bombings, Twitter could offer a more direct lens into real recaps and news on location than any traditional media site.
  6. Introduce more people to your personal brand. Before I shared a link to my own post about the 5 stages of Twitter yesterday, I tweeted that my word of the day was "sarchasm" (the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it). My aim was to create a few different reasons for people to pay attention to my Twitter stream in the same shorter timespan. The result was hundreds of people sharing either thought, or both, within an hour of posting and more than 250 new followers within 12 hours. Those people now know my name (at the very least) and at most they may have been introduced to my blog and my book.
  7. Get quick answers. People on Twitter love to share answers to questions and things they have learned. When I wanted to know how to get a new logo designed for my blog, I got an answer on Twitter. The community there has also helped me find apps for my Blackberry, solve issues with Typepad, find examples of companies with personality, decide whether joining a particular social network or organization is worth it, and translate pieces of content in languages I don’t speak. All usually within minutes of posting a request.
  8. Optimize your event attendance. Of course, it depends on the type of event you’re going to, but just about every business related conference or gathering these days (no matter how traditional) will likely have some attendees twittering about it. And paying attention to those conversations can give you vital inside information about an event, such as what sessions to attend, where the parties will be, what the key trends or topics of discussion happen to be, and who the influencers at that particular event are. Typically, a "hash tag" emerges for any event (such as #sxsw08 for the SXSW show in Austin this year). Once you have this, you can also easily aggregate all the conversations about a particular event as well.
  9. Read instant feedback. If you launch a new service or product, or speak at a conference, or do a new blog post … you can get instant feedback on the effort through Twitter. Often it will be thoughts that people don’t visit your site or email you directly to share, but do post publicly to their networks.

Any other tips to share on how else you’ve found Twitter to be most useful?

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