You can’t have a conversation about Twitter without someone claiming that it’s impossible to say anything significant in 140 characters. Yet communications professional James Howe of Kitchener says Twitter is “the greatest relationship building tool that exists.” Here are his tips for people who want to move beyond broadcasting to bonding.
Set up lists
Yes, it’s true – we don’t read every tweet we get. So how do we make sure we see the tweets of those we know or would like to know? Set up lists: those who are interested in your organization, for instance, or thought leaders who help your professional growth. Then make those lists your first priority for whatever time you can devote to Twitter. James, for instance, is on my “top reads” list. That’s how I found the article from which I extracted these tips.
Use searches, hashtags for keywords
Search for keywords that are relevant to the reason you joined Twitter. Or search for, and use, hashtags – the # sign that lets you tune into particular conversations (such as the proceedings from a conference you couldn’t attend) without following each individual participant.
Use a dashboard tool
The brilliance of Twitter as a tool doesn’t shine in the layout of its site. Other designers have made up for that by building easy-to-use dashboard apps like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite that you can download to your computer or mobile device. They let you set up columns for the lists and hashtags you want to monitor regularly. James recommends keeping your most-read columns on the left and checking the others – the ones on the right – once a day.
Interact at least once a day, on average. Reply to others’ tweets with your thoughts or questions. Retweet and add your comment to theirs. Respond when people reply to you, and thank people who retweet you.
Respond quickly by using alerts
Set up your dashboard app so that it alerts you whenever you’re mentioned and whenever you have a reply or a direct message. Then respond in real time if you can.
Conversation is the whole point of Twitter. If you don’t follow other people, you’ll have no-one to listen to – and no-one to listen to you. If you’re seriously interested in building relationships through Twitter, follow your key individuals closely and carefully so that you can get to know them just like you would if you were talking face to face.
Sound like yourself
Don’t go corporate, even if you’re the official Twitter voice for your company. Show some personality. Be conversational and identify yourself if you’re tweeting on behalf of an organization.
Make relationships a priority
Take the initiative to connect. Allow others to connect with you. Pick any of the above techniques, James urges, and start using it now. Then add another, and another. Soon you’ll be running into your Twitter contacts at conferences and other events. And that leads to James’ most important tip –
Meet in person
Self-explanatory. Good luck, get going, and keep an eye out for James @Communic8nHowe.