Twitter can be as frustrating as it is powerful and engaging. Because there is so much opinion and commentary most of the content is either not relevant to you, pointless or space filling nonsense. To get the most out of Twitter you have to decide what it is you want from it.
If it is ideas, reference or inspiration then just log into your web based Twitter account at a frequency that suits you (once an hour, once a day, once a week) and watch what people are saying. If something is of interest don’t be afraid to engage them in a conversation. Don’t forget to use their @TheirTwitterName in the tweet (post) otherwise they won’t know you are directing the comment at them. While you are logged in take a moment to see who is following you and if they look credible, follow back. It is in this way your portfolio of followers will grow. Remember it takes time and it’s not a popularity contest.
If you want to use Twitter for a more specific purpose such as track comments about your business, your industry or competitor then one of the many 3rd party products will be useful. I would recommend TweetDeck as one of the better applications I’ve seen. It does require a download and a small amount of setup. Once in place you can Tweet from your computer desktop, set up customised searches, receive and send messages from multiple Twitter accounts and also update other applications like your FaceBook. MySpace and LinkedIn.
One of the core features of Twitter is that you can send and receive from your cellphone. Not difficult to set up and I would suggest a handy tool if there is something that happens while your are out and about that you just have to share. Again there are numerous 3rd party applications that can enhance this feature, adding pictures using Twitpic being one example. Unless you have lots of time or a specific reason I can think of few reasons why anyone would want all the tweets on their feed sent to their phone. The cost of these mobile updates will cost you depending on you data plan, I would advise you check with your Telco provider before you get carried away.
When it comes to building your own list, take your time and apply some degree of strategy to who you follow. You can’t choose who follows you but you have every right to decide who to add to your follow list. Unless you are extremely famous or popular you will have to build your following gradually and in sync with how many follow you.
Because effective social media engagement still involves trust and honesty do not be tempted to use automated list builders, it’s not a numbers game and you can risk being regarded as an insincere waste of space spammer. The “auto message your new followers” feature offered by some of these tools is basically spam and should be avoided. As a result of this annoying practice I now never bother to check my DM (Direct Message) folder.
I have more than one account to ensure I can target my audience more effectively. With my personal account @craignetworker I will follow anyone who looks credible and offers advice or genuine content. My business account @MondayMorningNZ is more specific in that I follow predominantly NZ businesses and people who give sound Social Media or business information. Other accounts are more specific like @WineryNZ which is specific to people in the wine industry.
To understand Twitter better you need to think of it as a conversation. Make your posts conversational like you are talking to a real person. Think less about “what are you doing?” as what the original twitter question posed and more on “what can you add to the conversation?”
If you find you are getting hard-sell messages and mindless drivel don’t hesitate in un-following the offender.
When your lists builds to a size that the core group you liked to listen to and engage with melt into obscurity, then use the group filter function built into the twitter browser or featured in applications like Tweetdeck to filter them back into the foreground. If you want to find people who are local, in your industry or discussing particular topics try the advanced search features on http://search.twitter.com.
Finally shorten web links using http://bit.ly to help reduce the character count (you only have 140) and to offer a mind blowing amount of click through statistics.
Most of all enjoy Twitter, discover its power and develop your own strategy by watching, listening and engaging with others who offer their wisdom and experience.