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What is Twitter?
Technically Twitter is a microblogging platform that asks its users to answer one question ‘What are you doing?’ in 140 characters or fewer. In reality it is far more than that. Despite its simple premise and the strict character limit, Twitter has developed into a vibrant conversational tool. Those who use it value it as a way to share and discuss information, opinions, news and content with a wide-ranging group of followers. At the same time businesses are using it as a way of extending their customer service, keeping interested parties up to date on their latest news and giving exclusive deals to their Twitter followers. The benefits of Twitter are obvious for personal use but many companies are also using Twitter succesfully. Amongst other things, Twitter can be used to: • Complement existing customer service • Build relationships and networks • Direct people’s attention to good things • Listen to what people are saying about you - both good and bad • Respond to criticism and praise • Break news faster than other sources • Conduct surveys • Help with business development, if your prospects are online • Create a backchannel at events for instant feedback
Signing up for an account takes two minutes. Simply visit twitter.com and click the ‘Get Started - Join!’ button. You will then be asked for a username, your real name and email address. Once these are supplied, you’re ready to start tweeting. There are several different ways to post updates to your Twitter profile. You do it directly from the Twitter website, your mobile or a third-party application. While the functionality of the Twitter website is quite basic, one of the reasons for its success so far is that it allows software developers to create third-party clients, such as Twhirl and Tweetdeck, which can be used to refine and extend your Twitter use. There are also different types of update that you can make, depending on whether you are talking generally, responding to one or more people or sending a private message.
Types of update
@Mentions Twitter messages can be addressed to a specific person by using the @ symbol along with their name. Example: ‘@porternovelli Hey! What’s all the fuss about this Twitter?’ You can place the @Name in any part of the message, such as ‘So @porternovelli what’s new with you?’ and the intended recipient or recipients will still get it. You can include as many people as you want to in your message; just remember that each @Name takes up part of your 140 character limit. When you send an @Mention, only the person, or people, you have sent it to will see your message, unless your followers are also following them. Direct messages Twitter’s ‘DM’ function sends private messages between users. These messages are sent to the recipient’s direct message inbox and are not published to the Twitter stream for everyone else to see. You can send a DM to anyone who follows you but you cannot send one to a person you follow, unless they also follow you back. This is a measure put in place by Twitter to try and prevent users being spammed. You can create a direct message by placing a D or d at the beginning of a message followed by a space and then the recipient’s name. There is no need to use the @ symbol, though you can if you wish. Just don’t forget to include the gap between the d and the name, or your message will appear in your public timeline and those of your followers. Example: ‘d porternovelli So can you tell me off the record how to use the DM function?’ Bad example: ‘dporternovelli still trying to get the hang of how to DM!’ You can also send direct messages via the web page by clicking on ‘Direct Messages’ in the right hand column. This will take you to your inbox and you can use the drop down box to select who you want to send a message to. The various applications also have easy short-cuts to create DMs.
Retweets If a friend ‘tweets’ something you want to share with your followers, you can ‘retweet’ it. This simply means copying their update and putting ‘RT’ in front of it along with their username. You can retweet to share something interesting with followers, or as a favour to the original poster. So if Porter Novelli posts something you want to share, you could retweet something like this: ‘RT @ porternovelli Working on a new blog post about social media and PR. Thoughts?’ It is perfectly permissible to request a retweet from your followers but you should bear in mind that, in order to facilitate easy retweeting, you should keep your original message pithy; this is so the retweeter can easily include your name in the message without having to edit it. It is also perfectly acceptable to request a retweet by adding the phrase ‘please RT’ in your original message. An example would be ‘RT @Porternovelli revising PN Guide to Everything Twitter http://bit.ly/ VjJpO. Any suggestions? Pls RT - Thx!’ We suggest that you leave 10 - 20 characters of space when you compose your request. You can even add in ‘RT @Name’ when you draft your tweet to make sure you have left enough room for easy retweeting; just remember to delete it before you hit Update.
Hash tags You might occasionally see the # symbol in some people’s messages followed by a string of letters, such as #swineflu or #BGT. These allow people to track conversations around a cultural event, such as the final of Britain’s Got Talent or the threat of a new pandemic, without needing to follow everyone taking part in the conversation. Hashtag conversations can be tracked by using Twitter’s search page or you may see them appear on your Twitter home page if they are a current trending topic. Trends As with any large multi-ranging conversation taking place, there are certain topics that will be more popular than others at any given time. Twitter tracks these and displays the current top ten trending topics in the right-hand column of your home page. They are also displayed on its search page. While it is not necessary for a word or phrase to have a hashtag in front of it to trend, it can help identify a current meme or conversational fad.
Who sees what
Any tweet you send out will appear in your public timelines and will be viewable on your profile page, for example: twitter.com/porternovelli, unless your updates are protected.They will also appear in the timelines of your followers, unless you have sent a direct message or an @Reply. Direct messages can only be read by the recipient and the person who sent it. For the sender it will appear under the sent tab of the Direct Message page. Any @Mentions created will only be visible to people you follow if they also follow the person you have directed the @Mention to, unless you don’t put the recipient’s name first. Example: ‘@porternovelli Seems like the event was a huge success - well done!’ Would only be seen by @porternovelli and anyone who follows both you and them. Example: ‘Just saw that awesome piece of coverage @porternovelli, well done!’ Would be seen by @porternovelli and everyone who follows you. All public messages are fully searchable. Twitter does allow you to protect your updates if you so wish. You can do this by ticking the ‘Protect my updates’ tab at the bottom of the ‘Account’ tab on the ‘Settings’ page. Protected updates do not appear in the public timeline and people will have to request your approval to follow you. Only once you have approved their request, will your updates appear in their timeline. As Twitter is a highly social tool, we do not recommend protecting your updates, except in special circumstances. Unlike other social networks, such as Facebook, friendship is not automatically reciprocal on Twitter. It is entirely possible for you to follow people who don’t follow you and vice versa.
Friends Friends are people you have chosen to follow. Although a few users protect their updates, meaning you need to send a request, this does not need to be reciprocated in order for you to see their updates. Followers Followers are people who have chosen to follow you. Again, they can do so even if you do not reciprocate. Block It is possible to prevent a user from receiving your tweets by blocking them. When you block someone, you will stop following them and they will be removed from your followers list. They will still be able to see your profile, unless you have protected your updates, and they will also be informed that they have been blocked if they try to follow you again.
Getting more out of Twitter
As mentioned previously, you can make updates from your mobile phone; all you need to do is click on ‘Settings’ on your Twitter homepage and then ‘Devices’ to register your mobile number. You will be given a number to which you can send your tweets. If you are a Vodafone user in the UK, you can send your text updates for free. You can also receive free text updates from selected friends. To enable this, you need to select the Devices tab under Settings and enter your mobile phone number to confirm that it is a Vodafone number. You’ll then be texted a confirmation code which you enter on the site and you’re all set. The default setting is that you don’t receive any notifications by text from your friends, so once enabled you will have to select which of your friends you would like to receive text updates from. To do this, visit their profile (twitter.com/Name/), or your ‘Following’ page and check the box under their name which says ‘Device Updates On’. We recommend that less is more in this instance and that you select those who update sparingly. This is not just because Vodafone and Twitter have a fair usage condition for this service, but also because receiving multiple texts can become irksome. We also recommend that you make use of the ability to limit the hours you can receive notifications. This will save you from waking up to potentially dozens of unread texts. While Twitter is a basic service, there is a wide range of third-party applications and tools that make it easier to manage your Twitter presence(s) and get more out of the entire experience.
Twhirl (twhirl.org) is a desktop client which enables you to post from your desktop without visiting Twitter. Twhirl is useful because incoming tweets pop up in the corner of your screen, so you don’t have to actively check for updates. It also allows control of multiple Twitter accounts. This is useful if you control several company- related accounts for different product groups, for example. Tweetdeck (tweetdeck.com/beta/) is another popular desktop application that enables users to group their messages into topic or group-specific columns, giving a greater overview of tweets. There are three default columns - All Tweets, @Mentions directed to you and Direct Messages. Additional columns can be created using the group, search and Mentions buttons. The columns automatically update, making it easier to track all relevant messages. Tweetdeck can also integrate with your Facebook account, enabling you to make simultaneous updates to both platforms if you so wish. It also makes it very simple to upload and share images via Twitpic without having to leave its desktop dashboard. Seesmic Desktop (desktop.seesmic.com) also has this functionality but goes one step further and lets you see Facebook comments, ‘like’ updates, view Facebook photos and more. It also has multiple account management abilities and enables the easy sharing of images using Twitpic. It promises that video support is on the way.
There is a multitude of applications that will enable remote access to Twitter, such as Tweetie for the iPhone and Twitterberry for Blackberry users. You can also visit the mobile version of Twitter at m.twitter.com, although some mobile users recommend Dabr. Dabr.co.uk mirrors the functionality of the Twitter web page and also allows you to set up keyword searches. Twitterfeed (twitterfeed.com) is a useful tool if you wish to use Twitter to promote content that is being published elsewhere, such as the company newsroom or blog. It can be configured to tweet account updates automatically from any RSS feed you choose to share. Tweetlater (tweetlater.com) allows you to set up tweets and queue them up for publication at a specific time. This is useful if you wish to break news on Twitter but keep to an embargoed time. Tweetlater can also be set up to follow automatically anybody who chooses to follow you. If your Twitter account proves to be popular, this can save lots of administration time. It is also possible to set up auto-Mentions and auto-DMs using Tweetlater, as well as to opt out of receiving auto-DMs from other users. Visit twitter.com/optmeout for instructions. There are several tools that will give comparable statistics on your Twitter usages; Mr Tweet(mrtweet.net) does this, as well as recommending good people for you to follow and other relevant users.
Other web sites that provide statistics and rankings are Twittercounter (twittercounter.com/), Twitterholic (twitterholic.com/) and Twitalyzer (twitalyzer.com/). One of the biggest benefits of Twitter is the ability to listen to the real thoughts and opinions of real people. Twitter’s own search functionality (search.twitter. com) can be used to identify basic levels of sentiment as well as find relevant results for your search terms. Twilert (twilert.com) provides updates by email on your chosen keywords. While Twitter is a text-only medium, you can share images by using Twitpic (twitpic. com), which posts pictures to Twitter, via a shortened URL. People can then comment on your pictures. Uploads can be done directly on the Twitpic web site or by emailing from a phone. Several third-party applications, such as Twhirl, also support Twitpic functionality. Another useful tool is Twitpoll (twitpoll. com) which is a fun way of getting snapshot opinions from your followers. If your poll is interesting enough, it might get retweeted to a wider audience.
Overview of tools
Tweetdeck Seesmic Twhirl Tweetlater Web Interface Dabr Mr Tweet Twitterholic Twitterfeed Twittercounter Twilert Twitpic Twitalyzer • • • • • • • • • • • •
d s or earc Pr d h ofi l al Si e V erts m i u ew Sh ltan or eo u t Ph UR s m ot L ul o tip Fo s le llo ac w co G re un ro ts up com Bu in m en zz g da Fa Mo tio ce ni ns bo to r A ut ok U o R -fol pda SS lo w tes Sc he d R ule SS to Tw T eet w s ee t ey
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• A short username is better as this makes it • Use a URL-shortening service to tame lengthy links - such as tinyurl.com or bit.ly easier for people to retweet your messages • Make sure you have a bio as this helps people to decide whether to follow you - or not • Don’t just promote your own stuff • Don’t expect immediate results • You don’t have to read or reply to every • Make sure you have a relevant picture single tweet - a company logo works for corporate accounts; for a personal account, a closely • Remember that everyone uses Twitter in cropped image of your face is best a different way and for a different reason • Where applicable, you should include your company details in your bio • Using auto-mention and auto-DM tools is frowned upon as they are impersonal • Always use disclosure where and increasingly employed by spammers appropriate - example: ‘I think Porter Novelli is the best PR Agency ever! (disclosure - I work for Porter Novelli)’
Digital communications channels have come into their own. More people than ever before are sharing their thoughts, opinions and experiences on an increasing number of platforms.
Despite this not all that much has changed. The conversation hasn’t changed. Just because we can now hear what our customers are saying about our customer service or their experience of our brand doesn’t mean that they weren’t talking about it before. They were. All that has changed is that we can now hear them. This is both an opportunity and threat. What has changed is the sheer size of the conversation. This is the challenge we face. It can be difficult to know where to start listening. It is hard to work out to whom we should pay attention or whom we might reasonably ignore. And knowing how best to respond once you’ve started listening can be even trickier. Porter Novelli has developed a simple four step strategy that takes clients from listening, to responding through to then influencing and enlisting the online influencers who really make a difference to their online conversation. Our strategy is supported by proprietary tools that identify which are the most important web sites, blogs and Twitter users within a given group or area of debate. We know how to approach and work with these users because we are those users. We are bloggers, and reviewers, and twitterers. We are members of every social network you have heard of and all those that you haven’t.
Our digital services include:
Listen: • • • • • Social Media Checklist Keyword Planning & Analysis Online Influencer Identification Blogger Evaluation Social Media Monitoring
Respond: • • • • • Social Media Customer Relations Response Policy & Training Social Media Policy & Training Guest blogging Online Crisis & Issues Planning/Training
Influencer: • • • • Blogging Services Online Influencer Engagement Seeding, Distribution & Link Building Email list/Newsletter Management
Enlist Services: • Community Relations • Employee & Internal Relations • Customer Advocacy Programmes
For further information about Porter Novelli or our digital capabilities, please contact: Mary Baker Director, Porter Novelli Mary.firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0)20 7853 2209 direct line +44 (0) 7720 277139 mobile +44 (0)20 7853 2222 switchboard Kerry Gaffney VP, Digital Group Kerry.email@example.com +44 (0)20 7853 2248 direct line +44 (0) 7720 277169 mobile +44 (0)20 7853 2222 switchboard Twitter.com/kerrymg
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