Headline Blogging: Elevating the Twitter Conversation

Jun 23, 2009

Our little Twitter is growing up. The time has come for us to come to terms with this fact, and take our Tweets to the next level. Mature Twitterers (those of us who have been around longer than Ashton Kutcher) are tired of the noise, and certainly don't want to be the ones creating it. So, we’ve taken matters into our own hands.

We’re trying to create interesting conversations to rise above the lame, incessant chatter that makes non-Twitterers roll their eyes. When I began Tweeting, I actually answered the question, "What are you doing?" and my Tweets looked like this: "Heading out for a swim then the grocery store"; "Ugh! Listening to my neighbors party it up again. Damn I'm old." These days I offer (I hope) a lot more to the community.

There is a reason Twitter is growing up before our very eyes: opportunity. These days Twitter is a full-fledged search engine. As Twitter has grown in popularity, the quality of content has improved. Combined with better tools like TweetDeck, Seesmic Desktop, and People Browsr that allow us to actually organize our conversations, Twitter is real-time interaction that allows us to do more than just tell our friends about what we ate for dinner.

Today, Twitter can be an important business tool. You can learn from markets, competitors, and colleagues by listening in on conversations that would normally have been out of earshot. Twitter breaks down barriers with people who previously wouldn't have given us the time of day. So, how can we keep Twitter from languishing in adolescence and moving on into adulthood?

Here are some tips for maximizing your 140 characters to help you and your company contribute to the dynamic conversations that are happening right now and save us all from boring, noisy Tweets:

Generate Interest
Always write in context. If you are having a conversation with one person understand that others are listening too. I recently appeared at a conference as a speaker on Social Networking, and I received a lot of Tweets like, "@suzicraig when is your talk happening?" Instead of responding with "Tomorrow at 3pm", I tried to make it interesting, and search worthy for anyone stumbling onto it: "@twitterpal So sorry you'll miss me at CT Business Expo! Should be interesting - 160 signed up and only 75 chairs!" This resulted in more people retweeting, and others I didn't know sending me more messages.

Complete the Picture
If you were having a conversation in person, you wouldn't start it with, "Hey, I went to this great restaurant the other day" and then stop. While Twitterers only have 140 characters, you will find that it's plenty of room to get your message across: "Perfect steak dinner at Vivo's in Hartford, CT, paired with an excellent bottle of Merryvale cab + got a 20% coupon. Going back!"

Help a Brotha and a Sista Out
You will find yourself wanting to help out your fellow Tweeple by sharing their ideas and news. Don't fight the urge. You're helping out your network, and showing that you are someone to be counted on. Just be sure that what you're passing along is valid information, and the favor will likely be returned.

Understand Your Environment
What makes sense on Twitter doesn't always translate to Facebook or other environments. Originally, I had all Tweets funneled onto my Facebook page. Bad idea. My Tweets turned into a string of noise on Facebook and my Facebook friends caused a mutiny with, "Hey keep your Twitter $%&@ on Twitter!" Now I use the option on TweetDeck to choose which Tweets land on Facebook.

Follow Cool Tweeps
People make Twitter. You can follow heroes from childhood, find new ones, and turn ordinary Tweeps into heroes. If you say something interesting, or retweet something someone else said, you might get a few followers. If your business or focus is regional, be sure to reach out via Twitter Local to connect with interesting Tweeps right down the street.

Choose Wisely: DM, @, and #
If you want to have a direct conversation, use Direct Message (DM). If you want to have a conversation that others might find interesting and is not private, you're missing an opportunity by using DM instead of @. If you want to track a bunch of folks talking about an event or an ongoing topic, use hashtags (#). Hashtag pages allow you to populate a Twitter page with every conversation related to that hashtag. Search "using hashtags on Twitter" in Google to find out how to set this up.

If you're reading this, I'm guessing you already want to help elevate the conversation on Twitter (or are at least interested in learning how to use this popular tool to market yourself or your business). The Twitterverse thanks you, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

When you're ready to find out just how much of an impact you're having, check yourself out via Twitalyzer, or other measurement tools. Don't take that stuff too seriously, though. The most important way to see how you are bettering Twitterland is to listen to your Tweeps. Some day soon maybe we'll all reach Twitter puberty together (Twuberty?), but hopefully we'll leave that conversation offline.

(www.twitterlocal.net, www.twitalyzer.com, www.twitter.com, http://tweetdeck.com/beta, http://desktop.seesmic.com, www.peoplebrowsr.com)