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2 de mayo de 2011

Twitter tips

Despite the success of Twitter (which has just turned five years old), it can be a struggle to initially get to grips with it. Starting from nothing, creating a following can be a challenge. But it's worth the effort - it's estimated that there are around 200 million Twitter users, pumping out around 65 million tweets a day. Here are some tips to help you join the conversation.

Short tweets, short username

Twitter isn't called micro-blogging for nothing. 140 measly characters are all you get to express yourself. Where this especially becomes a challenge is when you create tweets which you want people to retweet - to spread the word. You have to leave room for your own username in the RT (retweet) as well as the tweet itself. Common sense, then, says that it's best to choose a short username - and then keep your tweets tightly worded, with as many characters left over as you can. It also helps if you leave enough space for others to comment: quite a challenge.

Find your community, grow your followers

Twitter is all about connecting with like-minded people. But how do you find them? As in life, Twitter seems to naturally create its own communities. If you look at the followers of someone who is similar to you, or a company similar to yours, you'll see that the majority of people following share the same interests and are talking about the same things. So, think about following your customers, partners, vendors, suppliers, industry experts - and then check out their followers.

Converse, don't broadcast

A great mistake made by many people who use Twitter is to use it as a means to broadcast special offers, new products and services. This is a big turn-off for most people. It's called social networking for a reason - because it's social! It's also one of the big advantages of Twitter: a leaflet doesn't let you hold a conversation, but Twitter does. A leaflet doesn't let you create a relationship, but Twitter does. You don't have to sit on Twitter all day, but when you do make an effort to converse. You'll be surprised what the conversations can deliver. Be interested in what your followers have to say.

Be a good citizen

Twitter isn't a place to be angry or nasty - that's not going to endear you to anyone. It's important to be a good citizen, especially when part of your use of Twitter is to promote yourself. So, keep it light, support others, chat positively. If you do have a downer on it, making fun of something works better than tearing it apart. Yes, there are people on Twitter who make a career from aggression and some of them have big followings - but does that fit with your brand?

Mix business and pleasure

Some of the big corporates really struggle to 'get' Twitter. The reason for this is that they have corporate communications guidelines and policies; everything has to be 'on brand' and 'on topic'. That's pretty much the opposite of Twitter - where it pays to be the real you. Certainly, within your own personal guidelines of behaviour, but you nonetheless. It's a mixture that works well - a chat over coffee in the morning, then later on perhaps a little product push.

Get more followers

It's what everyone wants. Without followers, you feel like you're stuck in the kitchen at a party. But how do you get them? Top rule: be interesting. No one will follow if you're dull (note the above suggestions about being yourself and mixing business with pleasure). Be lively, topical and join in - start following people and then comment on their tweets. Let the conversations roll. Look for potential interesting followers among the people you're following - but don't follow too many each day. If you're following many more people than are following you, it looks off-putting. You can also use the search box to find followers (it's at the top of the page next to the Twitter logo) - key in relevant search words and find people/companies who share your interests.

Spend time on your Twitter profile

Your Twitter profile is where people go to check you out. Like tweets, you don't have much room to express yourself - 160 characters to be precise, along with a few short fields such as your name, location, website and image. Consider your profile to be like your elevator pitch: you get in a lift, and a potential (famous) employer is inside. You have 30 seconds to say what you do. Except, with Twitter, it's more like 10 seconds. Spend time making sure that your profile says exactly what you need it to, quickly and possibly with a little humour. Make sure your profile contains keywords that will attract followers - people who will be interested in what you do.

Tweet regularly

You don't have to tweet all day long but you do need to tweet most days. If someone looks over your profile, and you've not tweeted in a week or more, it looks as though you're not active; not worth following. It's a good thing to get into a Twitter routine, perhaps setting aside a few minutes several times a day - when you have a break perhaps. Of course, Twitter is global - you may need to respond to tweets at different times of the day, although if you don't they'll still be waiting for you when you get up the next day. Post your own tweets. Ask questions of your followers. Respond to questions and tweets - and retweet the tweets of others when they are interesting.

Make sure people know you're on Twitter

Promote your Twitter profile when you're offline too. Make sure there's a link to your Twitter account on your website. Put your Twitter ID on your business cards and in your e-mail signature, and, if you use them, on your brochures. When you meet people, ask if they're on Twitter, get their IDs and follow them.

Recycle your tweets

Your followers aren't going to see everything you tweet the first time and new followers won't see tweets that are a few days old. Don't keep rerunning and rerunning your tweets, but do make sure you repeat messages that are of value, rework, recycle - keep people updated on stories and developments from older tweets.

Editor: Alex Rojas writes articles related with technology, social media and marketing. Sponsored by Costa Rica Hotels, Motor de reservas en linea and Travel to Costa Rica 

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