It’s always nice to pick up an unexpected call from a friend or colleague you haven’t spoken to for a while. It’s even more exciting when you get no less than four in one day asking you about “this Twitter thing you keep talking about”. Since I’m a sworn enemy of reinventing the wheel, I looked for a microblogging guide for business development people. There’s a number of out there from Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Peter Kim, and Mike Mindel, but they mostly attempt to address the “why”. I’d like to address the “how”.
But First, a (Brief) Summary of Why.
If you’re already on Twitter, Jaiku, or Seesmic (video), just skip this paragraph and keep reading below. Microblogs are short messaging systems enabling open conversations anyone can join. I say short because messages (called “tweets” in Twitter) are limited to only 140 characters. It’s “open” can send a tweet via phone or web or application, and anyone can “listen” to me via phone or web or an application. This is not like email – by default, you don’t need an invite to listen in to my conversations, and I can follow yours should I wish. You’re welcome to see I’m talking about right now by clicking here and check out my “inbox” here. Go ahead – take the plunge.
Ok, Now Let’s Get To How to Use Microblogs ..
Follow What’s Happening – Right Now. Microblogs are where the bleeding edge of the bleeding edge is occuring with increasing frequency. In fact, Twitter was buzzing with activity seconds after a recent San Francisco Bay Area earthquake, becoming the defacto early warning signal among the web 2.0 cognoscenti (the phenomenon has been dubbed “Twitterquake“). It is much the same with Web trends. I found out about Microsoft buying a stake in Facebook first on Twitter. By the time stories like that hit media sites, they’ve been shared, analyzed and dissected throughly on a massive scale. Indeed, when I moved back to California mid year, Twitter was my primary means of getting up to speed with developments and trends.
Build a Personal Brand. Microblogs are a fantastic way to open up conversations to people with similar interests and build peer to peer following. The best community-building example I’ve seen recently is Seesmic CEO Loic LeMeur’s decision to lifestream his startup experience using his own product. By chronicling his day to day startup experience, he’s doing more than just building awareness of Seesmic. He’s making his name synonymous with video blogging and startups in general. Hugh Mcleod calls a microbrand; I call this branding you just can’t buy.
Hire, Get Hired, or See Who’s Hiring. Twitter and Jaiku are your directory of choice if you’re looking to hire the up and comers who are on the bleeding edge of what’s happening on the web. One prime example is my friend Jeremiah, who microblogged his passions for the web and transitioned that interest into a great career with Forrester (he agrees the conversation hot spot has shifted from blogs to microblogs). It’s perfectly natural for a serial microblogger to reach out to the network when in need of people or when looking for the next great opportunity. You can’t get any earlier insight into who’s moving and who’s growing than that.
Nurture Relationships Constantly. Microblogging makes relationship maintenance easier, since tweets and other short missives are much quicker to write up than emails or letters are. For a busy professional, this means maximizing the number of “touches” in a limited amount of time. Invite your network of friends into the conversation and make them a part of your lifestream – and find new relationships while you’re at it. It’s what you do for a living isn’t it?
And How Not to Use Microblogs ..
Don’t blatantly advertise. I know what you’re thinking, being the alpha type, Your first instinct may be to directly advertise on twitter, jaiku or seesmic. Don’t. Would-be followers will tune off the spam-stream quickly the way they tune out television ads. Instead, approach twitter as a conversation with others regarding things you find interesting or interesting things you’re doing. Try to build a personal brand as indicated above, and have people come to you to discuss matters of interest, and build a network of prospects that way instead.
Don’t Take Non-Subscribes Personally. You may find people you subscribe to don’t choose reciprocate. It’s generally considered good manners to do so, however, there is realistically no way someone high profile can follow thousand conversation starters in any meaningful way, so some may not choose to tag you back. Don’t worry, be happy.
Don’t Air Your Dirty Laundry. Remember: by default your communications are publicly accessible to the world. Hence, if you’re not comfortable with placing that microblog message on a large billboard off a densely congested highway with your name on it, you shouldn’t microblog it either!