Twitter Tuesday thoughts (Volume 4)

Another whirlwind week of drinking out of the Twitter firehose. 

I’m continuing on with my focus on building an organic following on Twitter. Using the platform correctly takes time, as much or more so than blogging.  The best time to Tweet (unless you use Tweetlater and never RT in real-time) is during the day.  This means that it is not all fun-and-games like Facebook.  It should be results focused.  Which leads back to the point: Do you have followers or do you have network strength? 

Let me be really clear: Twitter is not to be gamed by cheesy/scammy apps that get you thousands of useless followers in a few days.  This practice will not lead to value creation, unless you are a spammer.  And then, to reference Freakonomics, you are likely working for minimum wage.  I refuse to use Twitter Train or any of these tools to get followers.

One of the best ways to get true-followers (they care about what you have to say) is to show up often in the timeline either via posts or RTs.  Last week, I chatted with a few dozen Twitter users that comprise a representative sample of the network.  Most of them consume Twitter content via their timeline.  In some cases, they click to a profile (follow) and scroll through recent tweets.  But mostly, I’d say 90% or so of the time, the timeline is whats-for-Twitter.  A few highly advanced users syndicate Tweets and follow the best-of-the-best via a reader.  But that’s really rare.  So here’s my first general observation: 

1. Tweet often if you want to show up.  
With the exception of @zappos, most of the non-celeb mega Twerps post often.  At least 20 times a day and sometimes in flurries.  They tweet in all categories: FoundURLs, life, blog/product URLs, replies and questions.  They often tweet during prime time Twitter hours (think lunch time, all three coasts for the three hour sweet spot).  In some cases, they repeat their tweets via Post Later.  

Because they are frequently tweeting, they are consistently in the timeline. If your follower is following a lot of people, the timeline moves pretty quickly.  After a few minutes, your tweet is buried.  If they are using Tweetdeck, it completely disappears within the hour if your follower is following more than five hundred (frequent) tweeters.  

These days, I suppose I tweet about twenty times, mostly during the day. I look @ my unfollows via Twitapps to measure my followers’ sensitivity to over posting. My newsletter, for example, goes out every four to six weeks to avoid too much unsubs.  Send out a newsletter every week, and I get more unsubs than I can stomach.  Twitter is different: So far, it looks like my frequency is OK, as the lost follower count is pretty low.  One note: It is MUCH easier to unfollow on Twitter than to unfriend on Facebook.  

My next observation has to do with harvesting followers by strategically following others.  I call this, “panning networks for gold.”  There’s no easy app to do this quickly, because you want to be an organic follower too — you should only follow people you are interested in knowing either by following or developing a relationship.  I’ve done this for months on Facebook: Find a friend that likely knows other friends I’m out of touch with, look through their friend list, find gold.  Works like a charm! This leads me to observation #2: 

2. Target discussions to find new Twerps to follow.  
Meeting Professionals International is having its annual World Education Congress in Salt Lake City this week.  As a professional speaker, this is a very important group of customers, partners and colleagues that I’d like to follow and be followed by.  Even though I’m not at the event, I’ve picked up over one hundred follow/followers by having a presence on the event’s channels.  

Towards the beginning of the event, I used Twitter search to find the most popular hashtag, which was #WEC09.  It already had dozens of postings, even though the general session hadn’t started yet.  First, before I started panning, I joined the conversation.  I posted some ideas, links and gave some RTs. Then I started clicking on Twerps there, looking at their profile, and following when it made sense. Later, when I found another channel at #MPI, I jumped in their too and found a few incremental follows.

I bought a webcast ticket, so I could watch and comment on the opening general session.  Later in the day, I posted suggestions on how to network and make the best use of the reception.  Along the way, I noticed something: The more you are RT’d with the event hashtag in the post, the exponentially bigger your presence on that channel.  Why?  The event’s channel is being introduced widely to non-attendees via the retweets. 

For example, yesterday I posted, “The only reason to have a meeting is the change the world.” with the #WEC09 hashtag in it.  A few meeting attendees RT’d it within the next few hours.  Then some of my long-time non-meeting professional followers started to tweet it, and my presence on the channel grew fast. I started to get people organically follow me because of my posts — and many of them were potential customers or sales channel partners!  Takeaway: If your industry is having any type of event, assume its being tweeted about.  Find the hashtag, jump in, add value and pan for gold! 

Finally, here are some of the tools I’ve started to use this week: 
1. Tweetake – This is a great tool for backing up your followers.  What if your account was accidently deleted or closed?  All your panning for gold would be lost!  Same goes for all your fantastic tweets, there might be a book in there!  Tweetake will gather up your followers, posts, friends, etc. and download it to your computer in CSV format — perfect for an Excel spreadsheet.  

2. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.  That’s right, I’m talking about a book (not free).  If you want to be success on Twitter, as a blogger, author or any type of writer, this book is money.  The first half of the book gives you simple rules of thumb for effective writing.  The last half covers frequently misused words or phrases.  Trust me, the more effective you write, the more successful you are as a text content producer. 

After all, in this new new new economy, we are all content producers!  

If you don’t already, please follow me on Twitter.