Basically, it really helps you to get to know people, by having brief conversations with them, and its a great way to build up a network of new contacts locally. I’m always meeting new people in real life that seem familiar, and its usually because I have already ‘met’ them on Twitter.
I find Twitter very useful for sharing information (both banal and useful) with others. It’s a great way of communicating with like-minded people and I like its immediacy, e.g. if I’m reading an article that I think some of my followers would be interested in, I can post it straight away.
A lot of people use it when they are at conferences, to tell others what is going on, and you can get a sense of the buzz around certain conferences and topics from it. If you follow the conference hashtag* you could also identify people from their tweets that you might be interested in talking to, and set up a meeting there and then.
*What is a hashtag? It’s this symbol #, used immediately in front of a word or abbreviation. e.g. #SIEsummit was used for the recent SIE Student Enterprise Summit. You can follow hashtags by using the search box in Twitter. Hashtags are also often used to keep track of different networking groups, such as #SWIB (Scottish Women in Business) or to promote events such as #themeet140, a regular tweetup that takes place in several UK cities. (A tweetup is a face-to-face meeting of tweeters).
In my opinion, the “banal” chat that people who are unconvinced by Twitter complain about is still worthwhile, as it helps you to build up a more personal picture of people and to get to know them better. After all, we usually prefer to do business with people we like! And if you ever feel like finding a drinking companion, check out #yeoldetwitterpub !
It’s hard to explain how to use Twitter, the best advice I can give you is just try it (which is the best way to understand Twitter anyway). Once you have set up your profile**, start following a few people that you know, and see what they are talking about. You will soon find that you will want to join in the conversation. Just click on ‘reply’ and start typing.
**make sure you fill in a few details, so that people know who you are. A link to your web site or LinkedIn profile can be useful. And do upload a profile picture so people know you are a real person.
In order to make any sense of what people are talking about, however, and to keep track of groups of friends, its much better to use a third party application to access Twitter, instead of using the http://www.twitter.com web site. These applications are free to download and use and can be used on your computer, and also on mobile phones and iPads.
I usually use Tweetdeck, but sometimes I use Hootsuite, and Twitter also has its own apps for mobile phones. Take a look at their websites to find out more about them. The key advantage is that you can sort people into columns, so its easier to see what groups of people are saying. You can also use these apps to access multiple Twitter accounts (for example you may tweet in your own name and a company name), as well as LinkedIn and Facebook. You can also create lists directly in Twitter and then create columns in your chosen application to match these Twitter lists. Again, its much easier to do than to explain! As soon as I start following someone I add them to a twitter list, then they will appear in the tweetdeck column I have created for that list.
If you want to know more about using Twitter, and what people mean when they talk about ‘mentions’, ‘messages’, (DM’s), and ‘retweets’ (RT’s), visit Twitter basics. Though the quickest way to find out something, especially when it is about Twitter etiquette***, is probably simply to tweet your question, someone is sure to reply!
***Twitter may be a new way of communicating, but a few basic guidelines apply, if you don’t want to upset people.
Do feel free to follow me @Fiona_Go
I promise to follow you back, unless you haven’t filled in any profile details, or you describe yourself as a social media guru.
Update: I’ve just come across this helpful blog from @MrsMcDowall that explains #FF and hashtags in general; it’s worth a read.
Another update: a great blog on the importance of your twitter bio from @KtAndersonBlogs