So I probably should have written this back when @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher) and @cnnbrk(CNN Breaking News) were having their much publicized race to 1 million followers back in April, but I really wanted the hype to die down before blogging about it and looking like I was just jumping on the bandwagon.
Twitter’s been around for a couple of years now and those of us in the industry have been using it (on and off) since then. Now that the cat is out of the bag and the mainstream’s starting to catch on, I feel like I should mention some of the reasons why it’s becoming so popular and why I use it.
First thing’s first
Twitter’s a micro-blogging site. Which means that instead of maintaining a full blog as I’m doing at the moment, with full articles, posts with detailed content or unedited ramblings, you’re limited to a scant 140 characters to express yourself. If the stuff you tweet (which is what we call these 140 char posts) is interesting or fun, people will follow you to keep on reading what it is you have to say. Similarly you may follow other people who interest you and read whatever it is they have to say. Pretty simple concept, and not too impressive when described so plainly, but it’s become a veritable force of nature.
Why it’s cool
The recent hype has revolved around celebrities twittering their every move basically skipping over the paparazzi and letting the public scrutinize their lives straight from the horse’s mouth. If you’re into celebrity gossip well that’s pretty much where twitter begins and ends for you. For those of us looking for something more, the involvement needs to go a bit deeper. See, the one thing newbies don’t get about twitter is that if you don’t tweet and don’t follow anyone, you have a site full of nothing. So if following celebs isn’t your thing it might be a bit harder to find good people to follow, but once you do you will have opened a door into the collective hive mind: Developers with new techniques, advertisers sharing research, industry experts talking about their “secrets”, and in general excellent people putting up amazing content that most of us would have probably not found otherwise.
It’s also the absolute best place to get breaking news. Michael Jackson’s death might be the most recent example, wherein those of us on twitter had gotten the news about 2 hours earlier than everywhere else, but it can be much more practical.
Since I’m followed by a lot of locals, and most people with a smart phone and a twitter account use a mobile app to tweet from the road, I’ve found myself asking my followers for traffic reports, for the state of a line at the movies, for reviews on all sorts of things, and many times I’ve gotten an answer, sometimes with pictures, seldom with live video.
Further it’s a fantastic place to meet like minded individuals. I follow clients, suppliers, competition, friends, and people I don’t know and will probably never meet. It’s been a particularly useful tool for organizing the local web industry. What started as a bunch of tweets amongst a group of pros very impressed with each other, is now coalescing into the Web Professionals Group of Puerto Rico, including various development, design, and e-marketing firms in the island.
Who should I follow?
First forget about hoarding followers. Too many businesses and individuals come to twitter with a half-baked idea involving a million followers and some harebrained advertising scheme. The best way to get eyes is by generating good content. This is truer on twitter than it is anywhere on the internet as most of the time you’ll be expected to converse casually with both your followers and those you follow. Also a lot people will follow you for following them as a common courtesy. If you or your company (or your client) is looking to become a productive member of the twitter community instead of looking for followers (they’ll come in time) focus on following good interesting people. A good place to start might be twitter’s own search. Write in a word or phrase and you’ll instantly find hundreds (if not thousands) of individuals tackling that particular topic. Find a couple of twitterers who say something interesting about said topic and follow them, odds are they’ll keep saying interesting stuff. You can also follow people you actually know, just ask around and you’ll find out a couple of your friends or contacts tweet as well. Once you have a decent base you can look at the people they’re following and cherry-pick those you like best. Finally, every Friday is Follow Friday. This fun little trend started a long while back and has become a staple of the Twitter community. Every friday people send out recommendations on who to follow from the list of people they themselves follow. Just look for the #followfriday tag and you’ll find a lot of good ones as well as some bad ones but you can always unfollow if someone gets too annoying.
Congrats! You should now be a productive twitterer. If you’ve no idea what to write about just take a sec to think about what you’re doing and write about that, odds are someone somewhere will find it interesting. Also there’s some lingo you’ll need to know to fit in here’s a decent primer straight from twitter. You’ll probably also want to use a good url shortener. Since you only have 140 characters to write your thoughts you don’t want to waste most of them on a long dynamically generated URL. So if for example you wanted to link to a beautiful 3 bedroom home on ClasificadosMejores.com, the best classifieds site on the web, you’d be better off using this URL:http://bit.ly/2m6R3A than this URL: http://www.clasificadosmejores.com/bienes-raices-clasificados-470.html.
My favorite shortener is http://bit.ly as it’s the least amount of characters allowed for a domain and it’s really easy to type and remember.
Also there’s ways to tweet without going to twitter.com, tweetdeck is my favorite solution for the desktop with tiny twitter on my phone for keeping everyone up to date from the road.
Finally here’s a list of great twitterers to follow so you can get started:
@pabloiv, @torlanco, @alantaveras, @robetoell, @albizu, @gcollazo, @jpadilla_, @fritzo, @redod, @mercedesnegron, @kolapse, @dhowell, @garyvee, @jasoncalacanis, @wiltonv, @lbenitez
If you already twitter and would like to leave some suggestions put them right there in the comments.