Thursday, July 29, 2010

Creating an Amazing Social Network on Twitter Without Spamming the Universe

I recently volunteered to help out an organization I work with from time to time with their Social Media initiatives. When I logged in for the first time, their Twitter account had three followers - one of them was me. After a day, that had increased ten-fold - still small potatoes in the numbers game, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. And more importantly, we had a lead for a headliner guest, a sponsor and a few great panelists. In one day.

As the follower gauge crept slowly up, I was thinking about how easy it is to create a truly *amazing* network on Twitter. And I thought I'd write it up and share it with you today.

1) Start by Following Someone/Something You Know

I've mentioned this before. A new classroom or new job doesn't seem as scary when you know someone there before you start. It gives you a person to sanity check with, a guide and a mentor.

Talk to the people you know who are on Twitter. Learn from them, emulate them. Use them as references for behaviors, acronyms, abbreviations and actions.

Read what they say and notice how they say it. Take note of their balance between work and life, personal and professional.

Use all of this as a guideline for your own interactions. When you get a little freaked out, shoot a Tweet over to that colleague or friend and just have a nice irrelevant chat. It's great for the soul and you'll be blown away by how many people follow you once you relax and just have a conversation.

2) Follow The People The People You Follow Follow

You follow people you respect, information sources you trust, peers and colleagues and people against whom you benchmark your business. Take a look at who these people follow. Who do they get their news from? Who do they consider valuable members of their network? You don't have to follow all - or any - of these people, but the people you follow are a great resource to find more people to follow.

3) Don't Follow Everyone Just Because They Use A Keyword Or Phrase

There's nothing stranger than noticing you've got a dozen new followers and they all seem to have the word "soap" in their names. Suddenly, you realize that you mentioned the lovely new soap you bought last weekend. These people have created a search for a single keyword and automatically follow anyone who mentions that word. It seems like a good idea, but you already *bought* soap. You don't need or want more.

Having a keyword search set up is a great idea. It might net you a few new folks to talk with, a conversation about your business to track, some new contacts - but it's not a catchall basin. Pick and choose your connections so that there's some meaning in it for both you and the person you're following.

4) Follow People You Want in Your Stream

Everyone you follow will pop up on your home page. This and your own posts are your "Twitter stream." It could seem like a great idea to follow your cousin, because she knows a lot about Twitter, but when she starts late-night or drunk Tweeting, is that what you want showing up in your *public* stream?

Follow people who provide your stream with the level of quality and professionalism you want your business to express to the world at large.

5) Talk to People!

It may seem weird at first, just jumping in and asking a question, or introducing yourself to someone online without context, but, really, it's okay. That's normal on Twitter, where the conversations are public, so anyone can join in.

There's even specialized chats that use hashtags so you can follow the conversation with a simple search. Feel free to join in on a chat and learn what people have to say about topics of interest to you. Chats are another great way to find new people to follow.

These are all pretty basic things, but if you keep them in your mind as you get to know Twitter, you'll be well on your way to building an Amazing Network!
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