This journal entry is our second to be guest-written by Mike Saunders, owner of Saunders Artwork Ltd. Mike's career spans two decades of creative production at the sharp end of the UK's top creative agencies, academic institutions and newsprint.
Mike has written a new person's guide to Twitter, from a new(ish) person. We hope you find it useful!
What's Twitter? I don't get it. Yes I looked like you said but it was all random gibberish. What's a hash tag? RT? FF? Followers? Nonsense. I don't understand it.
These are all quote from friends I’ve tried to get to “join the conversation”on Twitter.
I’m a big fan of Twitter. I’m nosey, I like meeting people and I talk way too much so Twitter is perfect for me. I’ve ‘met’ people through Twitter that I now consider firm friends. I’ve had plenty of work opportunities too and when I’m on a booking (I’m a Freelance Creative Artworker) if I get stuck on something technical… I ask Twitter. I feel informed about all the things I want to feel informed about. It’s great! But I didn’t always feel like that… in fact, at first I felt the same as my friends, I just didn’t get it.
So what changed?
Well, I was lucky enough to work in a creative agency with people who embraced the importance of this new medium and constantly extolled its virtues. But even then I still didn’t really understand.
Then one day, the penny finally dropped. I realised Twitter is many things to many different people, but for me it is:
1) Twitter is FUN!
2) Twitter is also SERIOUS!
3) Twitter connects you to literally EVERYONE!
4) Twitter is the INTERNET, but DISTILLED to your own preferences!
The problem with Twitter, is that it doesn’t really come with any kind of guide to get you started. You sign up, then you’re on your own. Nobody ever explained that I had to ‘follow’ people. It seems so obvious now but unless you follow a few people it won’t make any sense.
1) Twitter is fun!
It is you know. I follow people that make me laugh because I need that in my working life. When I’m immersed in stress and long hours, a little chuckle provided by my friends or a comedian is exactly what I need.
2) Twitter is also serious!
We can change real-life things really quickly. Remember when people used to hand long petitions in to No 10? It must have taken forever to get that list together… you can do it in a day now. Look at the recent News of the World (#notw) scandal. Outraged people targeted advertisers so quickly and in such volumes, the major brands all pulled their bookings for fear of being tarred with the same brush. The best-selling Sunday paper for decades was shut down in under a week. People power in action.
Superinjunctions? Not on Twitter. Enough people did an “I am Spartacus” to make it impossible to prosecute all but the highest profile law-breakers (although I do hope they get Piers Morgan).
Close BBC 6 Music? That was a done deal until all the celebs on Twitter got together, raised a mob, applied sustained pressure and reversed the decision.
Interestingly, MPs love Twitter. Follow an MP, they’ll often follow you straight back, which leads to my next point...
3) Twitter connects you to literally everyone.
It’s true. If you really feel like it, you can moan directly at @duncanbannatyne about the state of the showers in one of his clubs, tell your MP what you think about a particular issue, complain about bad service or praise good service for that matter. And while your intended recipient may ignore or simply miss what you’ve said about them, what you’ve said is ‘out there’, and someone, somewhere saw it. If you’re a business and someone has said something in your favour, you can gain free PR by re-tweeting it. If someone complains, you have a chance to put it right, if not for this time, then next.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter is open to absolutely everyone and it’s often astonishing how quickly exposure can snowball. Do something clever, and interest in your business can develop very quickly (for goodness sake though don’t do anything stupid).
Something else to consider about exposure. Where I work in the creative industry, your Twitter feed is considered ‘work’ where as Facebook is not (it’s more about chatting to your mates, isn’t it?) Many users have their feed on all day in the background but pay most attention around the time of natural work breaks i.e. late morning, either side of lunch, and the end of the working day. Play your numbers game right and your brand will gain the kind of exposure you’d pay a fortune for in above-the-line advertising.
4) Twitter is the Internet distilled, just for you.
For me at least, the days of surfing the net are gone. I choose to follow people who tweet links to articles I find relevant and interesting, without wading through acres of rubbish to get there. After all, I’m busy! And so is everyone else. I used to visit around 10 sites a day to get my news fix, now I just log onto twitter and the people I follow do it for me. I follow and un-follow people, based on their the relevance of their tweets to me. If I see anything I like, I re-tweet it and my followers see it, and maybe even share it themselves.
Are you convinced yet? Good.
How to get started…
- Open your Twitter account (or accounts, you can have more than one). Choose a username very carefully, try and avoid something with numbers on the end – that looks like there’s thousands just like you. Go for something short to leave room for re-tweets and replies (I’ll cover those in a minute).
- Choose your ‘Avatar’. That’s the little pic that appears by your tweets. A small, screen version of your company logo is best for business users. Think how it will look very very small. Never, ever leave it blank – nothing looks worse, especially for a business.
- Follow some people. Your friends are a good start. If they’re good friends they’ll re-tweet (RT) your words and help you gain followers. Follow your followers back, and thank them for following, they’ll love you for it.
- Don’t ‘protect’ your tweets – it’s a huge turn-off. You want as many followers as possible, good or bad. Take the nutters along with the nice ones (and boy they’re all out there). If they get really annoying you can always ‘block’ them.
- Be succinct. You only get 140 characters, and leave some space for RTs. It’s not always enough but that’s Twitter’s charm. We’re all advertising copywriters now, consider it a test.
- Be funny if you can. The whole thing’s fuelled by humour as far as I can tell.
- Be friendly, professional and polite. Think twice before you tweet anything. Never tweet while annoyed or tipsy (do as I say here, not as I do).
- Come back and thank me in 6 months. This has never happened before. Friends I have convinced to join, who now LOVE it, don’t remember how they got started. There’s always a first time though, eh? Better still, ask me to quote for some design work for you @saundersartwork thanks!
- Look for good examples of how to do it. You can contact manage my website if you'd like some examples specific to your business or interests.
This, I think is what puts people off Twitter more than anything else. And I’ll stick my neck out here and suggest that some Twitter people consider themselves superior to Facebook people because of it. They’re wrong. It’s so simple even I can understand it, so here is an average person’s explanation of basic twitter Terminology:
This is why Twitter works. When you see something you like and you want to share it with your own followers, you can RT it in a number of ways. If you’re using twitter through a browser, there’s a simple re-tweet button. This will go straight to your followers. If you want to add a comment, you’ll have to copy the message, type RT @the_person’s_username then add the message, with your own comment at the start. For example:
Good luck young man! RT@saundersartwork Big interview tomorrow!
You’ll get the hang of it… The best day in your Twitter life is your first RT, when someone re-tweets something you’ve said. It’s far, far better than a Facebook ‘like’. Like’s are, like, cheap, man. It’s good etiquette to thank someone if they RT you.
Hash tags (#) and trending
Hash tags aren’t strictly as necessary as they used to be on Twitter, but as a statement of intent, they show you’re trying to start, or contribute to a ‘trend’. Twitter is real-time. Right here, right now. There’s a column which shows what’s trending over on the right. You can filter this by location i.e. worldwide, UK, London etc If you have a comment to make on, for example, The Apprentice, you should finish any comment you make with #apprentice. People ‘searching’ under that subject will see your tweets along with all the others, even if they don’t follow you.
Mis-use of hashtags is a pet hate of mine. People using these in the wrong way, specifically to make a point in an irrelevant context i.e. on Facebook. I’m such a pedant about this, I’ve even de-friended people for doing it #justsaying.
Are you looking for what people are saying on a particular subject? There’s a search feature, either in your browser at the top, or elsewhere in your specialist application (I’ll cover those at the end). Say you’re in the business of wedding flowers. Search under flower, wedding and let down, last minute etc etc you’ll find someone who needs your help. Tweet them, and occasionally you’ll get a response. It’s got to be worth a punt. I recently complained on Twitter about an awful customer service experience with my mobile phone provider. Within hours I received a reply from Carphone Warehouse, who I’ll probably go to first next time.
FF, ff, #ff, #FF it’s all the same…
FF means Follow Friday, and it’s kind of in decline these days but basically it’s your chance to recommend to your followers, people you think they’d like to follow. You can only do it on Fridays. Getting an FF is even better than a RT. If someone FFs you, it means they like you, and recommend you.
Specialist applications for Twitter.
Everyone starts with a browser. The problem is, the browser interface isn’t very good and a few months in you’ll want to do more. That’s the time to consider a proper Twitter App, of which there are many. My personal favourite is Tweetdeck but I suspect that’s more of a bloke thing. I like seeing all my replies, mentions and Direct Message (DMs) in multiple, constantly moving columns. It makes me feel like I’m in The Matrix.
And that’s it. You really need to just get out there and do it. Why not go and have some fun first with a personal account? Chances are a few of your friends are on there already. That way you’ll know what you’re doing before you start your business account. Remember to come back and thank me in 6 months, OK?