This is the first in a series of posts that will explain how I use various social networks and tools. It is not meant to be a definitive guide, but an example of how one person uses them.
My usage of Twitter has evolved dramatically over the past three years. I was an admitted skeptic in the beginning. I didn’t get it. The hash tags, the weird rules and language, the scammers and spammers who were more prevalent in the beginning (though they do still exist today).
But I’ve come around. While I may have once been labeled a “Facebook Guy,” I use Twitter most often during a given day now. Below, I map out in painstaking detail (including some of my tricks) my usage of Twitter, both personally and commercially.
I’m probably not your typical Twitter user as I have a ton of accounts. But those I manage most actively are my personal account (@JonLoomer) and several Milwaukee Brewers related accounts (@BrewCrewLive, @TweetsFrom1982 and @TweetsFrom1987).
Now, something to point out here. In the beginning, I only used Twitter for personal use. I created @JonLoomer and used it to build relationships. Then I started getting more involved with it professionally, and I began managing multiple accounts. I also strayed from using Twitter personally because I preferred to keep my personal life more… personal.
Long story short, my friends were on Facebook and not Twitter. I built and maintained my relationships there. After building a decent professional network with my personal account, I abandoned it for a while to focus on my Brewers accounts. Now that I’m searching for a job, it’s time to rebuild my personal brand on Twitter.
I’ll tell you, it’s an interesting dynamic. I can’t type anything with @BrewCrewLive (close to 3,000 awesome followers) without getting a response. I have work to do with @JonLoomer. While I had an active network before I abandoned it, I often feel like I’m talking to myself now. I know that’s my responsibility, and it’ll take work.
This is a tricky subject. Let me be clear that I hate automation in most cases. I cover it more later. The more personal you want to be, the less automation you should use. I do not auto follow or auto direct message with any of these accounts. Way back in the day I did with @BrewCrewLive while it was entirely an RSS feed and I didn’t touch it. It was an accepted practice then, too, even encouraged. But the moment I started adding a personal touch — and the moment I realized I hated the practice — was the moment I removed auto following.
My personal account (@JonLoomer) has virtually no automation associated with it at all. I’ll occasionally schedule a tweet or two in the future to stagger my promotion of a blog post, but that’s it. When I schedule tweets, I use Tweet Deck.
Now the other three accounts utilize a ton of automation, but not necessarily in the way you’re used to seeing it.
@BrewCrewLive is meant to be a resource for Milwaukee Brewers fans, aggregating news about the team from around the web. As such, I use TwitterFeed to share the latest articles tagged as being about the Brewers. I also RSS all of the main local Milwaukee Brewers blogs. The format of those tweets gives attribution (via @___), the title of the article, the link and the #Brewers hash tag.
Initially, this was all there was to @BrewCrewLive. It was a good resource for Brewers fans. Now, though, I am extremely active with the account, providing my personal opinions and in-game commentary. So manual and automation are now split pretty equally. I have a lot of fun with it.
As Twitter accounts that retell historic seasons of the Milwaukee Brewers, @TweetsFrom1982 and @TweetsFrom1987 are handled in the exact same way. And since they retell history and I know what is going to happen in the “future,” automation is perfect for them.
I use a scheduling service called Time2Tweet (it is apparently no longer open to new users) that allows me to import CSV files of tweets. This is ideal since I have a very structured format for these tweets. On a daily basis, each account provides the standings, results of the prior day’s game, team updates from newspaper research, key play-by-play as the game would have happened and post game notes and quotes.
Since I can plan all of that in the future, this tool is exactly what I need. Something like Tweet Deck, where you have to schedule one tweet at a time, would not work for me. I can upload dozens, or even hundreds, of tweets at a time.
Now, just because I use this tool doesn’t mean I step away from the accounts. While these two accounts are largely automated, I also reply to tweets and interact with people as much as I can. If you haven’t seen it in action, I invite you to check it out. We have a great time with it.
I admit, I am not a big hash tag guy. I know it’s fun for some to create new hash tags and others will make silly hash tags that make no sense just because it’s all part of the Twitter culture.
To me, I use a hash tag if it has a utility. Whenever possible, I use a #Brewers hash tag in my @BrewCrewLive, @TweetsFrom1982 and @TweetsFrom1987 tweets because I know that Brewers fans check that search result and they can find me there.
But otherwise, you’ll rarely see hash tags in my tweets. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. To me, they often make a tweet more difficult to read. So when there’s an option to pick between #thebrewersareawesome and The #Brewers are awesome!, I’ll go with what is easiest to read and has the most utility.
You’ll never see me get cute with my hash tags. That’s just not my style (#thatsjustnotmystyle).
There was a big uproar back in the day when Twitter introduced the built in, “official” retweet. People wanted to provide their own commentary to tweets. The official retweet assured a direct quote and attribution.
I use both. When I read something someone says and think it’s either extremely informative or awesome, I’ll use the official retweet. I use the manual retweet most often when I’m responding to a tweet to provide context.
As a user who gets retweeted, I prefer the official retweet. Especially when managing my Brewers accounts, it allows me to monitor what types of tweets people like the most since the results are aggregated in the Twitter.com interface. It takes away the personal touch, but I don’t think that’s always necessary.
I often forget this even exists. I’m reminded only when someone favorites one of my tweets.
The times when I aim to use this are when I want to keep an account of the nice things people say about one of my Brewers accounts. This becomes a great resource when I want to create a page with quotes from followers about the feed.
Web and Desktop
If I only managed one account, I may just use Twitter.com. But since I manage multiple accounts, using a single-account web view just doesn’t make sense to me.
I use Tweet Deck. Right now, I have 32 columns (I know, right?) of feeds, mentions, direct messages, searches, scheduled tweets and new followers, making it very easy for me to post or respond to something quickly from any of those accounts.
Tweet Deck’s one shortcoming is around retweets. It shows me when someone uses the Twitter retweet for the first time, but I don’t get notified of future retweets. I’m pretty sure there’s a setting for this to view all, but that’s not the point. What’s nice about the Twitter web view is that it aggregates that information. I’ll occasionally go to Twitter.com for that.
I’m in between services at the moment. I previously used Tweet Deck for my Droid X, but I was becoming increasingly frustrated about it not updating or having tweets fail. I’m currently using the native Twitter app, but it’s not nearly as easy to manage multiple accounts.
It’s entirely possible that my issue is that I am hitting my API call quota when I have Tweet Deck desktop open, though this doesn’t explain why my Tweet Deck desktop application continues to update while my mobile app does not.
So if you have any suggestions here, let me know.
This is a big one for me and it’s a subject that has varying opinions. I do not auto follow. I think it’s impersonal and insincere. If you follow 10,000 people, you do not read tweets from 10,000 people. Chances are, you use lists and you only follow 200 or so. So even though you may “follow” me, my guess is that you only do so that I will follow and then continue to follow you (because we most often unfollow those who no longer follow us back).
I want numbers as much as the next guy, but I draw the line here. When I get a new follower and their interests are nothing like mine and they follow thousands of people, I do not follow them back. Chances are good they have a service that searched me out to begin with.
Even if our interests are in line, I rarely follow back these types of people. Unless I actually receive a personal message from them (or some sign that they are interested in my feed), I assume I am no more than a number. No thanks, I won’t help you pad your stats.
So with my personal account, I follow those people whom I find interesting. Some follow me back, some don’t. If it’s a “relationship” it needs to be mutual. If I follow for information, I don’t care if you follow back. Right now I follow 429 people.
With my Brewers accounts, I follow back anyone who appears to be a Brewers fan (I follow around 600 with both @BrewCrewLive and @TweetsFrom1982 while closer to 300 with @TweetsFrom1987). I no longer search people out to follow. I did that to get the accounts off the ground. But now that they are known, I let people follow me first. If it’s clear you have an interest in the Brewers, baseball and my information, I’ll follow you back. Otherwise, I’m not going to help you pad your numbers.
As you can see, this is a hot button for me. I hate the Twitter “game” of stats.
I haven’t been as good about this lately, but I try to thank everyone (who is a real person and whom I follow back) personally with a DM when they follow me. Again, not automated. I always make sure to include their name in the message so it’s clear I am taking time to thank them.
Otherwise, I use DM’s for two different reasons: 1) if a subject is semi-private and an email isn’t necessary, and 2) if I don’t want to continue a back-and-forth conversation publicly.
I like to use DM. It’s one reason I don’t follow everyone. Because, you see, those you follow can DM you. And if you follow everyone — thousands of people — something amazing happens: You get spammed. Once spam takes over your inbox, it is no longer useful.
As I mentioned earlier, when I created @BrewCrewLive over a year ago, it was a robot account that I didn’t touch and it followed everyone back. Once I took it over, I cleaned up whom I follow. Now I can actually use the DM’s. Otherwise, it would have been a useless tool.
Whether or not you use Twitter yourself, it’s important to integrate Twitter buttons into your websites. If you are a Twitter user, make sure you use buttons that allow people to follow you. On this site, it’s built into my Shell Lite theme. On the PastKast Network, I use the Share and Follow WordPress plugin.
Additionally, there needs to be a retweet button somewhere on all of your posts and even pages (where it makes sense). I use the Twitter branded retweet button here, and I again use Share and Follow for PastKast.
Every time I write an article or blog entry, I use Twitter to promote it. When I write a blog entry here, I’ll go to @JonLoomer and write a little blurb with the link to the entry.
The PastKast Network is a little more sophisticated. I RSS new entries into each of those accounts with the help of TwitterFeed. But the RSS is limited in that I can’t customize the message (it’s just the title, link and #Brewers hash tag) and I want to promote it several times.
So I also schedule (with Tweet Deck) one or two additional tweets either later that day or the next day so that they get the most eyes. I’ll also try a different message each time to see what works best.
I use a bunch of tools when measuring my activity and influence on Twitter: Klout, CrowdBooster, Twitalyzer, TweetGrader among others. The thing is, I find the algorithm to be flawed to at least some extent with each of these tools. It has nothing to do with thinking I’m more influential than they say I am (in some cases, I think they say I’m more influential than I am).
It just seems to me that they often measure the wrong things and make it easy to manipulate the scores. When you see people who are pretty openly scamming the system for followers come up with a high score, you know something’s wrong. And that’s pretty much the case for any of these tools, some more than others (though I find Klout to be the best measurement).
In the end, I use these tools as a reference at times, but they often just confirm what I already know.
How About You?
Alright, so that’s my use of Twitter in an enormous nutshell. How does it compare to how you use it?