Twitter Tuesday thoughts (Volume 6)

Social media is truly shaping up as Web 2.0. 

The original promise of the web is being delivered via new tools and a community of content. I was part of Web 1.0 (1996-200?) and while much has changed, the promise of the web stays the same. (Check out this slide from a 1999 Yahoo sales presentation)
Back then, the obstacles to the vision were: 1. Poor search result quality  2. Low % of friends/associates could be located via search and 3. Commerce either lacked in quantity of provider quality.  With Google, blogworld, Facebook and Twitter, those obstacles are falling down, and quickly.  

The key to making the web the ultimate information solution lies with the user community. When a recession hits, bloggers and Tweeps don’t close down shop like eCommerce shops, portals or software houses. The only enduring part of the web is…you. 

During these times, we all must contribute more to the social stream of information, making the whole system work better. If we participate fully, we’ll all find anything we need via our trusted connections. This leads me to this week’s first Twitter thought: 

1. Be a good follower 
For once, let’s shut down the two Twitter topics that consume 90% of our mindshare: Get more followers and new Twitter tools.  Let’s shift attention to the act of following for the sake of the community.  If the Twitter stream doesn’t give good return on attention, it will eventually turn into a permission based spam machine where 2nd Tier marketeers attempt to sell to each other.  This is the problem with LinkedIn.  When is the last time you learned or discovered via LinkedIn?  When the Twitter stream is more newsworthy than major media or leading portals, adoption will skyrocket. 

What do you contribute to the stream? Many of my friends tell me that they aren’t writers or authors, so they don’t know what to contribute.  Ambient content (what I’m doing, what it looks/feels like) is somewhat useful — but only interesting to your friends and stalkers.  Relevant quotes can offer a little pick me up.  Breaking news is good, if it’s really breaking news.  In many cases, when you post a “newsflash” it’s already on the Yahoo homepage and has over 1000 Diggs.  Sometimes, though, a niche piece of useful information is posted first on Twitter.  It either flies through the timeline or gets “picked up” by the community.  

The best way to follow is to retweet the good posts, exposing them (and their authors) to your network.  When you RT (retweet), you are putting your stamp of approval on the information (worthy, relevant, helpful) and giving it some velocity.  Even if you can’t author short powerful tweets, you can pick out useful ones and RT them.  This is an equal opportunity opportunity to help.  Besides moving good info through your network, you are also sharing it as a follower to help others grow.  This is Twitter love. Unlike @replies, RT’s are given solely for the information value of what you are retweeting. Each week, you should find and retweet at least a few dozen great posts.

<I must admit, so many Twerps use replies (@sanderssays, what are you reading now?) to bait power users into replying back, and giving the Twerp exposure (and hopefully more followers).  It really doesn’t work that way. There is no hard data here, but my assessment is this: Getting a whale to reply to you is less powerful than getting a moderate user (10-999 followers) to RT you.  A very very small % of Tweeple bother to click on a profile because someone replied to you, in fact they are more likely to click on the replier’s profile to read the thread.  When you get RT’d, a much higher % click to YOUR profile as the originator of the helpful piece of information.>

2.  Be helpful 
In general, this is the best way you can help the community and yourself grow. This is Chris Brogan‘s #1 suggestion for people that want to build a following on Twitter. Think of Twitter as a place you help and trust others to help you back in someway.  If you approach Twitter with the “be clever” or “get noticed” philosophy, you’ll dogpaddle along until you eventually give up or wither away to spammer obscurity. 

For leaders (those who have followers), look at Twitter as a stream you must help stock with good fish. Contribute a few ideas each week, either found on the Internet or original.  When you buy something, review the product on Twitter.  Good place to eat? Tweet it and include a hashtag (mine is #timeats). Same goes for movies, records or books.  Remember, Twitter could be a search engine killer — a formidable competitor to Google or Bing. 

In my first book, Love Is The Killer App, I argued that “your network is your networth.”  You grow it to give it away and produce value in the lives of others.  Follow Friday is an example of giving your network away to help sweet Tweeters grow.  The Twitter elite, such as Chris Brogan or Chris Penn, are incredibly generous with their network, despite the fact they are peppered with people asking for “free promotion” all the time.  Here’s my point: You more you share your network with the deserving, the more you’ll deserve to grow your following.  

There’s an old saying, “money goes where it is wanted and stay’s where it is well kept.” The same is true with a following.  If you commit your Twitter time to helping, you’ll see positive results over time.  You are harnessing one of the most powerful psychological laws in the universe, I call is The Secret of Social Media: The Law of Reciprocity