Twitter is the booming online craze that turns a mere 140 characters into social media bliss. The site has been sparking daily online conversations since its start in 2006 about everything from the latest news to which celebrity’s sex tape just surfaced. Sounds like a brilliant idea if you ask me.
I’ll admit that I had to make an account in one of my journalism classes several months ago, and I failed to see what all the fuss was about. Moreover, I had no idea of the immense potential hidden behind Twitter’s simple frame. I now use it all the time and appreciate its purpose, and I often find myself on Twitter-tangents continuously going from one link to another.
The 140-character limit is about 99 percent why Twitter is so unique and may be difficult to navigate for the virgin tweeter. Thank heavens for ‘The Twitter Book‘ by founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Inc., Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein, writer and founder of the Tools of Change for Publishing conference (TOC). It’s the ultimate guide to tweeting like a pro. Don’t know what a tweet is? You should probably keep reading.
Short and sweet is how we like it.
One thing is for sure, O’Reilly and Milstein are no hypocrites. They explain the ins-and-outs of Twitter using the very principles the social site is based upon. The book is concise, laid-back and user friendly, just like Twitter itself. In today’s fast-paced world, we are attracted to anything short and sweet—hence the genius of Twitter and the necessity of guides like Twitter Book.
It explains the fundamentals for beginners, expands established tweeters’ uses for the site, and provides skeptics justification for Twitter’s value. The book has 6 chapters and even provides readers with suggestions to skip beginning chapters depending on what they’re looking for, or by their current level of Twitter knowledge. Of course, it begins with the basics like setting up an account and understanding what exactly Twitter is.
Common Twitter jargon explained:
- Tweet- a single Twitter post
- Retweet-reposting someone else’s tweet while giving them credit
- #hashtags-designate related messages under one topic
- @messages-sends a public message or refers to someone on Twitter
- Direct messages (DM; d)- private message
- Tweetup- an in-person gathering organized via Twitter
- Fail Whale-Twitter downtime
Along with the numerous benefits and uses exposed to readers, the authors also throw in some of Twitter’s faults. A sort of social media ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ for those who are new to Twitter and are seeking to take full advantage of the “goldmine of ideas, feelings and conversations.” If you are frustrated at first, don’t worry, the authors say to take 3 weeks to get in the rhythm. If a Fail Whale appears, don’t worry, the site is just overwhelmed with tweets and will be up and running shortly.
Another great thing about the book is that there is no shortage of Twitter eye candy. Every other page is a screen shot that applies to each topic, a comfortable reference for beginners. There are also frequent ‘twitter tips’ that share helpful hints throughout each chapter.
My favorite Chapter was Ch. 2, Listen In, the nitty-gritty of building Twitter value. It teaches you the best strategies for staying on top of Twitter trends and searching for what you want, perfect for established tweeters who want to sharpen their Twitter proficiency. In my opinion, searching and finding what you want is one of the most important skills to have. It’s fun to stumble upon an interesting topic, but being in control of your Twitter experience makes all the difference. O’Reilly and Milstein provide ‘Four cool tools for tracking trends’ that highlight some of the best ways to stay current: What the Trend, @TweetingTrends, TwitScoop and Twopular. They also tell you how to get an RSS feed of searches and touch on the best sites to advance your search: TwitterSearch (search.twitter.com), Monitter and Tweetgrid.
Other Twitter features revealed in the book:
- Bookmarking tweets
- Using ‘Third Party Programs’ like TweetDeck
- Tracking searches with email alerts
- Picking the best mobile clients
Keep in mind I’m not including half of the helpful links, strategies, and advice available in the pages of the Twitter Book in fear of revealing too many of O’Reilly and Milstein’s great secrets. So it pick up to get the full scoop.
Didn’t your mother ever tell you how to ‘unfollow graciously?’
Twitter Book doesn’t stop at basic functionality. The authors give their take on how to be Twitter savvy by making yourself known, keeping others interested and using your Twitter manners in ‘Hold Great Conversations’ and ‘Share Information and Ideas.’
It turns out even Twitter follows the Golden Rule. O’Reilly and Milstein point out that “Twitter isn’t so much a broadcast medium as it is a discussion channel.” In other words, despite the “What are you doing?” prompt, you should utilize your 140 characters to maximize your contribution to the community because “the more value you create for the community, the more value it will create for you.”
Although you’re looking at a computer, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re building real relationships and some of the same rules apply as with face-to-face encounters. There are tools for how to know your new followers and a warning that ‘Auto-DMs’ and spamming are big no-no’s. Also, unfollow people if their accounts aren’t contributing to your Twitter experience—but don’t make the act a big deal by worrying they’ll care or by signing yourself up for ‘unfollow notices.’
O’Reilly and Milstein also encourage picture posting (Twitpic), live-twittering from an event, publishing posts according to a theme and participating in “Follow Fridays” where people post suggested followers.
Three main points are mentioned in these sections and are essentially relevant to anything you do on Twitter: 1. Be interesting 2. Be conversational 3. Follow relevant people.
“Because it’s so lightweight, Twitter may tempt you to just dive in and give it a try. Which is a reasonable approach if you’re an individual. But for companies, an unfocused stab at twittering can lead to accounts that don’t represent the business well or that conflict with other communication channels.”
Twittering for companies isn’t a platform to throw out links to their Web sites every once-in-a-while. Use Twitter to improve customer service, connect with other businesses or reach out to potential clients.
Some of the best advice in Twitter Book: “Twitter gives you an unparalleled opportunity to build relationships with customers and other constituents, and we suggest you think of it in those terms, rather than as part of a campaign.” See my blog:
O’Reilly and Milstein also mention that corporate Twittering should be a slow process to ensure no time is wasted on something that isn’t helping the company. Check out TweetStats and see how some companies stack up. Again, there are many, many more useful links in the book—especially if you’re trying to get your business tweeting efficiently.
The ‘Twitter for Business: Special Considerations and Ideas’ chapter tells you how to manage a staff of Twitterers, coordinate multiple accounts and how to make sure you’re findable, which is important information that may be difficult to find on your own. It also details establishing credibility, posting creatively, how to integrate your products and even how to make more money with Twitter—now tell me who doesn’t want to try that?
So no matter what your relationship is with social media, or Twitter for that matter, Twitter Book should have a spot on your desk. Twitter has proven itself as a legitimate marketing tool among other things, and you don’t want to be left behind. Looking at a book might also be a nice change for your eyeballs that may always be glued to your computer screen like mine.
So for all of you beginners, don’t get discouraged. For all you regular tweeters, I hope this inspired you to try some things you were missing out on…and I bet even you Twitteraholics realized you can definitely still learn a thing or two.
Ok, now go practice and tweet this blog :)
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