5 lessons i have learnt about 'twitter'

I started using twitter in June of 2008 and back then I used it more as a tool to quickly capture a fleeting thought that previously would go un-captured. I had always been hit by interesting ideas and thoughts in the most inconvenient of places like when I was am on the bus, a movie, an event or even the rest room :). But with twitter I now had an option to get out my PDA and express how I feel about something instantaneously.  Back then I didn’t really use twitter to update people on what I was doing or where I was headed as I didn’t think anybody would be interested in that.  And honestly I didn’t think of it as a conversational tool either, one because I was too shy to respond and other was that I didn’t know how to track back replies.  So for the initial period I had a simple plan – grow followers via follow all back policy, tweet thoughts and interesting content and reply back only if mentioned or DM’d.  I did briefly use some auto follow and auto tweet tools but then discontinued when it made me uncomfortable with the idea that I was not in control of my content or people that I connect with (especially the adult rated profiles). With the lack of any tools at that time which properly graded twitter accounts I followed the simple concept that more the followers, the higher the influence. So I started having the false illusion for some time that I was some Twitter celebrity in the making. Boy was I wrong about that. Thankfully some tools surfaced that started measuring true reach and click thru of the content that I was sharing which completely shocked me and burst my bubble. Anyway my twitter strategy evolved after that and I believe had learnt some important lessons which I thought I should pen down for people who are starting off in the twitter world.  Off course I no expert and won’t be foolish enough to think that I am because there is much more out there that needs to be discovered in the world of micro blogging.

Here are some of my thoughts on key questions on the Twitter universe.

1. What is true Influence and how do you measure it?

That is probably the million dollar question and if you are serious about social media and want to have a goal then being an influencer should be one. Hmm Let me re phrase that a bit – If you follow the true spirit of social media which is great content, great networker, polite and interactive, a conversationalist, not afraid of debate etc then you will get to be an influencer at some point.

So how would you define an influencer in Twitter world? Well there are many variables that go into defining or grading a twitter profile but first things first, don’t listen to a person that says that # of followers is true measure of one’s influence and success on twitter. Well it’s just one of the variables and in absence of other behaviors that are need to be observed on twitter, a well followed account can be completely worthless and have the reach of a smaller follower base.

True influence is combination of followers, interaction, conversations, content quality, true reach, amplification potential, click thru on links shared etc. There are various tools that measure your influence or success of your twitter profile but the one I would recommend at this point is Klout. In their words ‘The Klout Score is the influence metric. It measures overall influence through 25 variables broken into three categories; true Reach, Amplification Score and Network Score.’

Here is post that covers the most popular and effective tools that measure Twitter influence – ‘What’s your Twitter influence’

2. Should we use auto follow tools and what should be my follow policy?

This is a tricky part and I would say an outright ‘No’ or ‘yes’ would not be a right answer.  Using an auto tool at the start for a brief while may not hurt if you are very sure what profile of accounts you want to auto follow. They could be talking about a particular subject that you may be interested in and some of them could be great content providers. But you may also end up following a lot of bot or crappy accounts as well. If you do adopt an auto follow policy expect up to 20% follow backs and be ready to constantly prune your account. Of course there is no beating the organic way of doing this which is search individual profiles and physically checking their content quality to discern if they are worth following. The latter is time consuming but quality and control is guaranteed. No easy answers but you need to decide your comfort level and amount of time you can put into it. A good auto follow tool to try is Twollo.

3. Should I auto follow back everybody who follows me?

My 2 cents on this is no. Even though it may appear to be similar to follow tool discussed above, the chances of following bad profiles with well defined search keywords is slimmer than a blind auto follow back policy. If you auto follow back everyone that follows you then you will spend a lot of time pruning bots and adult porno profiles from your friends list. Let’s put it this way it won’t put you in good light if you are seen following back X rated profiles in the hundreds. I would recommend the old fashion way of accepting manually only those followers who you think are worthy of your follow back.

4. Should I use an auto feed for my Tweets?

This would possibly be my single biggest mistake of using something like this when I first got started. If you want to do this then it’s like faking it completely. Most twitter users now know tools that do the auto feed and the message you are sending out there is that I am not genuinely interested in social media and producing original content. It’s probably the worst advertisement that you can give about yourself on twitter.  My advice is stay away.

5. Tweets- Content, Links and structure

  • Decide early what theme or topic you would like to tweet about if you want your profile to be a one stop for any particular subject.  But it may be a good idea to mix it up with some personal tweets once in a way to give it a human feel.
  • Nothing wrong in having a general interest account but then just like general interest blog don’t have larger reader base same is true for twitter profiles. (exception is celebrity accounts)
  • If you like something you read share it with the variety of short link services available but my advice is to add your own flavor or your opinion on the content.
  • Do use hash tags so that you can show up on trending topics. Also leave space for people RT within 140 characters etc.
  • You know your followers best if you think they are interested in your daily activities and personal pictures then go ahead. But mostly the audience who is interested in this content is your friends. Too much of it and you might put off people who don’t know you personally.
  • Mentions on twitter are as good as a real conversation. It’s a good idea to reply back with response with a mention or a DM. It also shows others that you respect conversations and are interested in people. Many people ask me about the time within which you need to put in a response, well I would say as fast as you can :). With all the push notifications possible it does make it similar to responding to a sms.
  • Along with replying to mentions it is also good to also send reactions to peoples original tweets. Same with the Re-Tweet function. If you like something acknowledge with a mention and RT.
  • Be yourself and stick to your values & beliefs but know this that what you say on the internet can’t be taken back. There will always be people who don’t agree with you and will get offend and even un-follow you. Recently there have been tools that can measure sentiment of your updates and can be used to judge you as a person. This data can be used by potential recruiters etc. So finally the choice is yours but it’s good to be aware of the consequences of your tweets.
  • Finally if you are a celebrity or a famous person then some of this may not matter but as an influencer you should know your responsibility, as you impact many minds and actions of people.

In the next post on the subject of Twitter I will share my personal follow and un-follow policy, but till then keep tweeting and enjoy the experience.