Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Posts Tagged ‘Social Capital’

Celebrities and Twitter Trolls: To ‘Out’ or Not To ‘Out’?

If Twitter has a dark side, then it is surely the emergence of a species of shady, aggressive, socially impoverished tweeters known as trolls. Their appearance has, on occasion, transcended the world of celebrity gossip and made headline news. Just this week we’ve witnessed a flurry of racist tweets directed at the victorious President Obama. Perhaps even more sickening were the truly nasty tweets directed against the singer Adele and her new born baby. As with the Obama tweets, Adele’s legion of dedicated fans reacted with swift and righteous fury. In both these examples, what impressed me most was that the victims did not over react. Adele is not known for holding back when her patience is tested, but to her credit she did not engage in any ugly online sparring.

Not all celebrities have shown such grace. In the heat of the moment, many have fought back, and this has only ever fed the trolls in their need for the limelight. During this summer’s Olympics, we saw the inspirational young Team GB diver Tom Daley get pulled into an online spat with a single misguided young troll. Tom’s quick retweet of the original message to his vast group of devoted followers resulted in a huge escalation of the situation and to the eventual arrest of the troll by the police. This leads me to consider how we respond to trolls and to cyber-bullying, and in particular how celebrities (now including a huge number of celebrity athletes) need to be aware of their responsibilities.

For what it’s worth, my advice to anyone receiving an offensive tweet is DO NOT REPLY. Notice that I have not said IGNORE them. Nor did I say DO NOT RESPOND. The whole issue is more complex than it first appears.

Many people have asked about whether or not celebrities should be on Twitter or other forms of Social Media in the first place Of course they should! I have argued elsewhere that nobody should be on Twitter unless they are there to engage with and interact with their followers. Of course if you have tens of thousands of followers then meaningful individual engagement is just impractical. I do believe, however, that it is still possible to interact with them as a group, and some celebrities do this very well. A celebrity tweeter closes the gap between themselves and their followers in a way that they never could before. Fans get to know them both professionally and personally. We all get to peek behind the scenes in the lives of our favourite celebrities.

But Twitter does not offer any immunity from the realities of life. Just consider the whole group of real people that our paths cross in everyday life. There will be those who know, like, or love us. There will also be many who dislike us, envy us, criticise us or just say nasty things behind our backs because that’s what they do. Celebrities must accept that if they invite their fans into their lives they will experience all these things and possibly worse. They have to learn to take the rough with the smooth. Many people correctly see Twitter as a great way to promote themselves or their work.  They must accept that with this opportunity comes great responsibility. The way that celebrities deal with their detractors says a lot about them. They are ambassadors on many levels and they must act as such.

This year many athletes have achieved celebrity status as never before and social media has connected us in ways never dreamed of even at the time of the last Olympics four years ago. Recent news stories regarding athletes, particularly cricketers and footballers and their blundering use of Twitter, has exposed a situation which needs addressing. The unfortunate incident involving Tom Daley during the Olympics is a great example of why we need to step back and apply some common sense and find strategies to support a less antagonistic response to the trolls.

The Tom Daley incident is well documented elsewhere, and in retrospect it is easy to say that Tom should have ignored the original misguided Tweet. However, in all honesty can any of us say how we might have reacted in the heat of that particular moment with all the pressures of the Olympics resting on grieving 18yr old shoulders?  What it did for me was to confirm that celebrities need help, support, advice or training on how to handle the responsibilities and realities of Social Media and Twitter in particular. Of course whatever the outcome, the blame for such an incident rests squarely on the head of the troll. But at the end of the day, trolls seek the limelight and so the best response is to ignore them. DO NOT REPLY. Nor should you bring them to the attention of your followers. This, as we have seen, can turn them into a posse of vigilante cyber-bullies, no better than the troll who committed the original sin. I firmly believe that Twitter itself needs to take a stronger line in these cases and act much more speedily to close or at least temporarily suspend any offending accounts. Of course if the Tweets are racist, homophobic or seriously threatening then they should be reported to the police immediately.

So we need some practical suggestions, supportive guidelines for athletes and celebrities who wish to have an engaging presence on social media. Twitter in particular is all about instant, real-time communication. In moments of anger, frustration, madness or even elation, it is quite possible that things might be said which will be regretted when calm descends.

My first suggestion then is simply not to react. Pause and put the phone down or switch off the computer. Then go and find somebody to hug, have a good night’s sleep. The next day you can decide if the troll is worthy of any of your time, and I doubt that they will be!

I have elsewhere detailed my core principles for all tweets. Those who know me know all about F.I.R.E. where all your tweets should be Fun, Interesting, Relevant and/or Expert. If your intended tweet does not meet one or more of these criteria then don’t send it. If  temptation is still pulling at you, then try these ‘high level’ filters.

  • Would I say it to his/her face?
  • Do I still want to say it after a cup of tea?
  • Do I still need to send it after a real hug from a true friend?
  • Would I say that to my Mum?

Am I joking? Well, maybe. But does it work? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then don’t send the tweet! Sit yourself smugly on the moral high ground and get back to engaging with all those devoted followers who love you for your hard earned success.

The Value of a Smile

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sharing the joy.

Many labels have been applied to this year’s Summer Olympics, but the one which appeals to me the most has been “The Friendly Games”. Aside from all the phenomenal sporting achievements, it has been wonderful to soak up the genuine feel-good atmosphere of the games. The power source for this has been the widespread use of that universal indicator of happiness and friendship: the smile.

“The smile is the shortest distance between people.”

-Victor Borge

Genuine smiles can warm hearts, spread peace and light up cloudy days. Smiles do so much more than express happiness. A smile transmits clear messages about a person’s approachability, sincerity, trustworthiness, attractiveness and sociability.

Of course not all smiles are genuine, but fake smiles usually only involve the mouth, whereas a true smile, what psychologists call a Duchenne smile, involves the eyes also. For a long time this was considered to be the mark of a real smile but it is now known that even Duchenne smile can be feigned.

A truer marker might be the speed at which a smile develops. The fake smile (‘Botox smile’, ‘Pan Am smile’) can be switched on in an instant. A genuine smile, however, will spread across the face more naturally, appearing to draw in its recipients. Slow onset smiles are seen as more authentic, trustworthy and even more seductive.

If we use our smiles in the work or business context, does that mean that they will always be of the false (non-Duchenne) variety? Of course not. If we truly believe in what we are doing, if we are acting with honesty and integrity, if we genuinely love our interactions with other people in all their variety, then those smiles will be as warm and true as any.

Gold-medal-winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis.

The so-called “Friendly Games” were truly “The Smiling Games,” with athletes, spectators, officials and the amazing volunteers all sporting winning smiles. They pulled together a careworn nation, maybe even a tired world, in celebration of human endeavours and achievements.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; Slobber and they put you outdoors.”

– Snoopy

Much has been said about the legacy of these games. There can be no greater legacy than the memory of all those immense smiles and their continued use at every available opportunity.

 

Wealth Health #2: Financial Clarity

In this second part of my ‘Wealth Health’ series, I want to continue to focus on the reality of your financial situation. If you got through all the ‘Questions to Ask Yourself’ in Part 1, then you may have already started taking some action to clarify things. So much the better if you have!

Another way of looking at the reality of your personal finances might be to carry out a SWOT analysis of your current situation. For those who haven’t seen this before, it is a very common business planning tool which can be adapted to a wide variety of situations – including personal finances. SWOT = Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. In his book You and Your Money, Alvin Hall gives the following clear example:

STRENGTHS                                                    WEAKNESSES

Good spending habits                                        Bad spending habits

Knowledge of financial situation                          Emotions/thoughts (e.g. shame,  fear, anger)

Earning capacity                                               Lack of financial knowledge

 

OPPORTUNITIES                                             THREATS

Inheritance                                                      Lack of cash

Promotion                                                       Interest rate increases

Renegotiating Interest Payments                       Possible redundancy

 

This could be written into a grid of 4 boxes (2×2), or you could use the four headings written at the top of four pieces of paper and then add your own notes and ideas. Remember that as before, this exercise is for you alone, so be true to yourself when completing it.

While working through this task, you could start to ask yourself about your attitude to money and finances. What are your beliefs about money? This will be the subject of part 3, when we will look at some of your deeply-held beliefs and feelings regarding money.

In the meanwhile you can follow my tweets for tips, quotes and more questions regarding your personal or business finances. Be sure to also follow my #WealthWealth and #WedsWisdom hashtags!

Twitter Thursday #12: The Perfect Tweet – How

In the previous Twitter blog I looked the reasons why your Tweets need to be perfectly written. In this post, I’ll go through the techniques that you need to master if you want to craft the perfect tweet.

1. Be a Beacon of Excellence.

If you’ve been using Twitter for any length of time, you will have already started to become a selective reader. With no hope of reading all the messages streaming into your timeline, you will have started to scan the column for the avatars (pictures) or usernames of your favourite profiles. Even then you will not read everything written by your best friend or biggest client (although maybe you should). We are not Twitter auto-bots clicking on everything ‘just because’. Try to notice what it is that entices you to stop, read, and click on the link.

This same filtering applies to new followers. We notice their Tweets because they are new, but only if they write well will they become an addition to our mental list of worthy Tweeters to follow closely. Of course if the quality of their engagement falls off, we may lose interest and unfollow them – even if only in our heads. You need to be excellent to get noticed, but you need to be consistently excellent to stay noticed. The best beacons shine out in all directions. Your well-crafted Tweets need to get re-tweeted in all directions too.

2. Know Your Audience.

Apply FIRE to everything that you do on Twitter. Remember that you are writing for an audience of critical readers. This may seem obvious, but you are not the target of your own Tweets – your online community is.

Twitter itself is not your sales counter. Do not attempt to be a Twitter salesperson. Likewise, be wary of too much self-promotion. By all means provide links to your own content and use Twitter to drive people to your website, but be subtle. Any attempts at direct sales or blowing your own trumpet too loudly will lead to you being thought of as little more than a source of spam. As Jim Rohn says “Don’t blow your own horn, or you might just miss the music”.

3. Optimum Number of Characters.

Of course we are all well aware of the 140 character limit for Tweets but there are two very important additional considerations here.

Firstly, for your messages to be re-tweeted you need to allow enough space for the re-tweet details to be added. This may take 20 characters, so your message is now down to a total of 120. Secondl,y if you are adding a link this may need another 20 characters so you need to refine your message to be well-crafted and only 100 characters long!

Of course there may be times when the ability to re-tweet may be risked for the sake of good copy, but beware; if this happens too often, your community will stop trying, or worse, your perfect Tweet maybe deformed by “txt spk” before being sent on. Of course as a re-tweet, everyone will assume that you wrote the abbreviated version!

4. Grab the Attention.

You need to grab your follower’s attention, making them want to read your Tweets and click on your links. Remember, obvious selling should not be an option. Most people hate the idea that they are being sold to, especially in social media, so be artful and make it look like you’re doing something else.

No matter how consistently good you have been, your followers still need a good reason to read your work. Take a look at your Twitter screen. Things happen fast, and you will be faced with multiple Tweets, therefore multiple choices at any one time. More so if you are using groups and column feeds. Your follower need only refresh the screen once and your tweet is gone from their attention for over.

Remember that even if your only intention is to get people to read your latest blog, you have to ‘sell’ the link. You also need to be aware that people don’t buy products, they buy benefits, so what is the benefit (reason) that will get them to click on your link?

It is worth noting a couple of strange Twitter behaviours here. Firstly, well-written Tweets may well get re-tweeted even if your follower has not clicked on the link or read the content themselves. Take it as a compliment that they trust and believe in you that much. Secondly, by the same token I would warn against ever re-tweeting a link which you have not checked first yourself-unless of course you wish to be a friend to spammers everywhere!

5. Perfect Spelling.

Maybe this is the school teacher in me, but I believe that the next three points are fundamental to professional, readable Tweeting. I make no apology for this but if any of it scares you then number 8  below will hopefully throw you a lifeline.

Like it or not you will be judged on how you write and how you spell.  This may seem patronising, and you will say “but so-and-so has 2 million followers and they can’t spell”. This  may be true, but if ‘so-and-so’ is a celebrity, people will follow them no matter what they say or how they say it. You and I, dear mortal being, do not have that luxury, so let’s make do with excellence instead. Please consider typing your tweets into your favourite word processor first and spell-check them. Avoid ‘txt spk’. You may think it’s cool, but it can make you appear at best lazy and at worst in possession of a limited education.

6. Flawless Grammar.

  • Make sure that every Tweet and every sentence in a Tweet starts with a capital letter.
  • Give every proper noun (name) a capital letter. Please note that Twitter and Tweet are names.
  • Leave one space after every full stop.
  • Use apostrophes properly and learn the difference between its and it’s, your and you’re and also their, there and they’re.
  • Don’t type in UPPERCASE as it will look like you’re shouting.

7. Impeccable punctuation.

Whatever your personal feelings about accurate punctuation, it is the feelings of your followers that matter. Enormous numbers of people get very irate about incorrect punctuation. I’ve covered some points already, but in addition to correct sentence structure, use commas and speech marks correctly and avoid using too many exclamation marks. Also use hyphens and semi-colons sparingly but effectively.

A good self-check is to read your tweet aloud to yourself. Are the natural breaks and breathing spaces punctuated.

8. Find a Twitter Buddy

Be honest with yourself regarding spellings, grammar and punctuation. If you are at all unsure of your own abilities (and perhaps if you’re not), then seek out a Twitter buddy. This person will take on the role of your very own copy-editor, checking over your Tweets, where possible before you post them. A fresh pair of eyes will often see things which we have missed ourselves.

9. Shortening Links.

Twitter will automatically shorten URLs if you include them, but the bulk of the link will remain intact. In order to shorten the link as much as possible it is worth using one of the third party applications. For the serious user I would recommend using bit.ly for very clear reasons. Not only does Twitter handle bit.ly shortened URLs very well, but there are added benefits too. The stats pages are great and can provide a wealth of useful information about the use of your link. Scroll down the page to show your shortened links and then click on the ‘Info page +’ next to the link. This will open a new page of very clearly presented information about the link.

10. FIRE up your Content.

All this may seem like hard work when twitter is supposed to be ‘instant’ and ‘fun’. It can still be fun, but a little consistent work now will pay great dividends and the effort will soon become second nature. You will gain respect within your network and this will add to your online social capital.

Above all don’t lose sight of your twitter content. Make sure it passes one or more of the FIRE tests. Is your Tweet Fun, does it Inform or Inspire, Is it relevant and/or is it Expert information?

Twitter Thursday #11: The Perfect Tweet – Why?

One of the best things about writing my regular Twitter blog has been the questions which it generates. Indeed, the series has developed partly to respond to emerging themes in the feedback I’ve received. This current posting is a good example and comes in response to a host of queries about the finer points of writing Tweets. I’ve had questions about the importance of spelling, grammar, punctuation, number of characters, content, readability and when to include links. They all come down to the same issue: how to write the perfect Tweet.

I have argued previously that Twitter is pointless without engagement. Even your closest friends and followers may soon tire of your broadcasting if you have not made the effort to build your own interactive online community. In order for this to happen, as my regular readers now know, there are four guiding principles that I use for all Twitter activity. Yes, it’s FIRE again! Are your Tweets Fun, Informative, Relevant, or Expert? By testing against these principles, your Tweets will reach their two main goals, namely READABILITY and RE-TWEETABILITY.

Whether you have purely personal, social or business aims in mind, Twitter is now fast becoming the most effective platform from which to engage with real people online. These may be friends, colleagues or clients, but twitter has given us the means to engage with them all. We can start accumulating social credit with our community of loyal potential advocates.

Of course these same advocates can soon become jaded followers or even influential critics. To avoid this you need to know your readers and always give them the very best Twitter experience. Your Tweets should be given the same care and attention as a poet does to a well-crafted verse. Only then can you be sure that all your followers will read your words and want to pass them on.

By the way. How about a quick maths lesson to finish? Let’s say you have 1000 Twitter followers hanging onto your every word. Even if they only have an average of 500 followers each, if they read and pass on your messages then you have a potential readership of half a million people! Food for thought?

In my next Twitter blog we will look at how to craft the perfect Tweet:

· Be a Beacon of Excellence

· Know your Audience

· The Optimum Number of Characters

· Grab the Attention

· Perfect Spelling

· Flawless Grammar

· Impeccable Punctuation

· Shortening Links

· Get a Twitter Buddy

· FIRE up your Content

Twitter Thursday #10: Twitter Management Tools

You will not be using Twitter for long before you start to feel overwhelmed by all those tweets. There are several third-party twitter management tools out there, and I’ve had a lot of questions asked about them. So let’s take a look! Here are some of the most notable tools:

HootSuite.com: This is a great tool for managing multiple Twitter accounts as well as Facebook, LinkedIn and others. You can set up personalised columns for these feeds, and you can also compose messages before choosing which social account to post them to.

CoTweet: This comes in a standard free version and a paid premium version, and is aimed at the business market. CoTweet manages up to five Twitter accounts, allowing brand and keyword monitoring using Twitter search. There are useful workflow management capabilities for use with a group of co-users.

TweetDeck: This is your personal, real-time social media browser. It connects you with all your important contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google, Buzz and others. It’s also great for managing multiple Twitter accounts.

There are many other Twitter management tools such as EasyTweets, Seesmic, splitweet, Tweet-visor, Echophon for Firefox users and Silverbird for Chrome users. There is also MarketMeSuite, which I will return to later as it deserves special mention.

The extremely helpful Tweetdeck welcome screen.

My ‘dashboard’ of choice is TweetDeck, so that’s the one I’ll look at in more detail. It is also important to note that as of May 2011, TweetDeck has officially become part of Twitter after Twitter recognised its potential by purchasing the company.

Iain Dodsworth, a London-based programmer, set his mind to organising everything that was happening on Twitter. the result, in 2008, was TweetDeck, which comes in the form of a ‘dashboard’, allowing users to monitor in real-time what others are saying. Particularly useful for power-users, TweetDeck provides a platform from which to monitor and track all the real-time conversations that matter most to them. This makes true engagement with other Twitter users much easier.

The principle feature of TweetDeck is that the user can create groups and so extend the Twitter service. Through these groups, it is possible to check the Tweets of a subset of the user’s followers. These groups appear as columns on the screen, and they can be used to display Friends, News, Mentions, Business tweets or whatever group heading the user chooses to set up.

Additionally, TweetDeck now has the ability to synch groups and settings between the Desktop standalone version of the program and the free iPhone app. Thus you can access the same TweetDeck information at home or on the move.

I mentioned MarkMeSuite earlier. This is another Social Media marketing dashboard designed with business users in mind. As a great bonus, its premium service is now completely free. This application not only allows for Twitter management, but has a wide range of other tools, allowing such things as brand management and unlimited team members (multiple users). It is well worth a look for serious business users.

Twitter Thursday #9: Tweeting Images

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we have the ability to extend the Twitter limit of 140 characters with ease! We can add images to our tweets very easily and effectively.

There are now a large number of third-party services which allow images to be shared on Twitter. In some ways these have been superseded by Twitter’s own image sharing feature. There are, however, some good reasons to consider using a third party option to attach images to your tweets.

Flickr is a powerful image and video hosting site and only community owned by Yahoo! It’s popular with bloggers for hosting images embedded into blogs and social media.

pikchur allows you to upload pictures and videos, then shares them throughout your social network on Facebook, flickr, Twitter etc.

Twitgoo resembles twitter itself, but asks ‘What are you looking at?’ rather than ‘What’s happening?’

yfrog is a popular photo sharing site which now lets you chat with other users too!

By far the largest and most popular of the Twitter-related services is Twitpic, which grew rapidly in January 2009 after some of the earliest pictures of the Hudson River plane crash were shared on the site.

All of these sites are easy to join and easy to use, but it comes as no surprise that Twitter would want to add a photo-sharing service to its growing list of additional features.

With the web becoming more and more ‘real-time’, twitter is arguably the most important way for people to share content as it becomes available. We can of course (and many do) add links to images, webpages, blogs and YouTube videos to our tweets. But Twitter has now made it very easy to add images directly to any tweet you send.

In the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed two new icons appearing underneath your tweets as you type them. One of these is a camera symbol.

Note the new camera icon in the lower left-hand corner!

Simply click this and browse the files on your computer for the image you wish to add. Double click on the image and a thumbnail will appear under your message. Once you’ve added the image, the character count to the left of the Tweet button will update to allow for the number of characters used for the image’s link, which is how the image will appear to your readers once the tweet is sent.

The tweet contains 32 characters, yet Twitter is reporting that there are only 101 characters remaining.

As with all such features, the Twitter image service has its pro’s and con’s. Click on your ‘profile’ tab and you will see that all your recent images now appear as a gallery on your front page. This includes any images which you have retweeted. This can be great news if you have lots of pictures related to what you do. Share them all and they will appear to anyone looking at your profile. The downside, of course, is that if you tweet any images which go against your personal or brand values, they will now be out there for all to see.

How do you choose which images to post? You may well already know what my advice will be! F.I.R.E  your images! Are they Fun, Interesting, Relevant or displaying your Expertise? Then share away.

As with all these features, go play around with image sharing and have fun!

Happy Birthday to an Amazing 20yr Old!

Two days ago, on 6th August, my first tweet of the day included a birthday greeting to the World Wide Web. Is it really only 20 years old? The internet itself had already been around for over 30 years when the web was invented, but it was a tool of academia and the military. It was neither accessible nor comprehensible to the outside world.

After much hard work by a team of experts, a 36 year old physicist named Tim Berners-Lee published the first ever website on a computer at the CERN facility in Geneva, Switzerland where he worked. On 6th August 1991 the world changed forever. The website was info.cern.ch and the first web page, http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/www/theproject.html, was a very basic set of links to technical information about the project. The original page no longer exists, but a 1992 copy of it can be found on the World Wide Web Consortium website:

The inventor, now Sir Tim Berners-Lee, could never have predicted the way his baby has grown over the past 20 years. The Web permeates to every corner of the world and every facet of human behaviour. It took about 2 years before the web entered the public domain but its growth since then has been staggering. We tend to take for granted that the World Wide Web is now the place where people meet and engage, knowledge grows rapidly and creatively and businesses trade and expand. We see revolutions rise by the power of the web and of course we watch animals, children and drunks do the funniest things!

The web has many detractors and we are always being told that it is about to collapse under the weight of spam or porn residing on it. However, only 12% of websites are porn and 25% of searches are porn related. Legitimate (?) use far outstrips this. I think we can take great comfort from the fact that Sir Tim is still actively involved in nurturing his baby and he remains excited about its future.

Many are worried that a few large companies are dominating the web and even attempting to ring fence parts of it for their own personal gain. The history of the web, however, tells us that nothing is certain. One of the best features of the web is the speed at which new things can come along and very quickly change what has gone before.

It may appear that Google dominates, but there is always the rumble of the next big thing about to march over the horizon. It is a sobering thought that there are still some 6 billion web pages in Mandarin which are as yet not indexed by the search giant. In China the search engine of choice is not Google but Baidu which accounts for 75% of all searches. The ‘Twitter of China’ is a relatively new site called Sina Weibo which accrued some 40 million users in its first 2 months. The online population in China has so far this year risen by 6% to 485 million, but some two thirds of the population have yet to go online!

What of the future? It is impossible to predict what will happen on the World Wide Web over the next 20 years or beyond. Will ‘Apps’ or the ‘cloud’ be the vogue? One certain development will be the increased use of web addresses using other languages and other alphabets. The ability to access the web using languages other than English will open it up for a vast, as yet unconnected, portion of the global population

Developments in technology will allow the web to become ever more mobile and to be accessed by devices far removed from any traditional computer. Interestingly it appears that web developments in China tend to be about creative use of the web itself and not about any particular technology.

The biggest question being debated now is whether or not the Web is changing the way we think and behave. Is it changing the way our brain works? Are we moving away from learning a lot of factual information because we can always find it on the web?

The simple answer is yes! Technology has always had a hand in changing the way we think and behave. I would argue that every significant change in human development has been triggered by the development of new technology. Early on it was fire and the wheel. Then it was Roman roads allowing the spread of civilisation on the new ‘network’. Of course there was the printing press too. What defines us as human is our ability to reflect and to adapt; developing new skill sets to cope with these changes and to take advantage of them. We may no longer need to learn lots of factual ‘stuff’ but we need to develop our skills of review, critique and creativity.

One thing we can be sure of is that when we come to mark the web’s ‘coming of age’ a year from now we will be learning to use web based tools not even invented yet. Will I be writing a 21st birthday blog in a year’s time or will I have moved on to a newer way of engaging with you all? Whatever exciting new tool/app I use it will be dependent on an even bigger World Wide Web.

Twitter Thursday #8: Retweets and #ff

This blog series has generated many questions from readers and I have enjoyed responding directly to most of them. Many of the questions are similar, and so it seems sensible to cover these topics in a further blog posting. Today I will look at two recurring themes. One is about how to edit, or add text to a retweeted message. The other is about the use of the hashtag, more specifically the #ff which has generated more comments and questions than any other aspect of TwitterI have mentioned to date.

Editing Retweets

In Twitter Thursday #2 I wrote about the use of the RETWEET. This is a simple way of sharing a message delivered to your timeline with all of your FOLLOWERS as well as the person who originally sent it to you. Just 2 button clicks and it’s done. Occasionally, however, you get the urge to add a few words in support of the message. You will quickly find that it is not possible to edit the message during the standard retweet process. But there is a way!

Rather than clicking on RETWEET, highlight the message and copy it. Next you need to paste the message into your ‘What’s happening’ text box at the top of your timeline. It will appear as would any message you were going to tweet yourself, and as such it can be edited. First you need to type at the start of the message ‘RT<space>@Twitter name e.g. RT @timorahilly. This properly labels it as a retweeted message. Now you can add your own words to the message and click the Tweet button.

Of course you are still limited to a total of 140 characters. Don’t be tempted to delete the name of the originator to gain more characters. For this same reason, if you want to have your messages retweeted, a good tip is to keep your character count below a maximum of 120. This allows others to retweet your messages without having to edit them.

Follow Friday (#ff)

I wrote about #ff and other uses of the HASHTAG in Twitter Thursday #4, but have found myself replying to many questions and comments about it since then. First of all, do remember that nobody owns hashtags or has any control over their use. You can start your own hashtag at any time. Just use the SEARCH tab to see if it is already in use.

For the history of the #FF I refer to Twitter expert @markshaw who tells me that it began life back in January 2009 when Micah Baldwin proposed the use of ‘Follow Friday’ as a tool for those unsure of whom to follow. His idea was that a good way to start might be to follow those people who were recommended by others.

The theory is great but in practice, over time, #ff has lost a lot of its meaning and all too often I see the hashtag followed by a whole list of followers. As such I believe it is being misused! Lets get back to the spirit of Follow Friday. Be a real advocate to your valued followers and list them because you have good reason to recommend them to others. In each tweet, just mention one or two followers and give a clear reason why they deserve your advocacy. Here are some examples of my own #ff :

How do you choose who to list? That’s easy when you apply my FIRE principle. If their tweets are Fun, Interesting, Relevant and/or Expert then pay them the compliment of a well-deserved #ff. Give yourself the satisfaction of a positive and upbeat end to the week and have a great weekend.

Twitter Thursday #7: Searching

One of the most useful and yet underused features of Twitter is the Search Engine. From a personal point of view, it can it can be both a useful and a fun tool. For business purposes, when properly used, Twitter Search could become your most valuable marketing tool. (However, please remember everything I’ve said in previous blogs about NOT using Twitter for direct marketing or sales. That still applies here!)

When you have a product to sell or a service to deliver, you need to have a group of people who want that product or service and who are talking about it. You need to be involved in that conversation and to be seen as the ‘go-to’ person for those potential customers.

Remember also that these people may not be followers of yours yet. If you’ve stuck to my advice and built up a community which you help and support, they will become valuable advocates of you and your business. Therefore, their followers will have access to you through them. Just think about that for a moment: you do not need a huge list of followers, but they need to be people that you regularly interact and engage with. Now, add up all their followers and you will see that you can be influencing a massive group of people who are potential clients or customers.

How will the search engine help you to capitalise on this enormous social credit you have developed? First of all, outside of your Twitter home page, go to ‘search.twitter.com’ where you will find a simple search page of the type that you will already be familiar with from sites like Google. Now, the likes of Google are a great place to advertise your business or service, but you may have to pay a lot to be seen in a search. Building a community on Twitter is free. Also, we want to build social credit, not make direct sales.

Twitter Search

Twitter search will allow you to engage with those people who are talking about whatever it is that you do. For example, let’s say that a potential customer of yours is one of the lucky few who have purchased a bunch of tickets for the London Olympics. Soon they may need to start looking for accommodation for the time they will be in London. All the big hotels are already advertising on Google and elsewhere showing their ‘modified’ prices for August 2012!

You, however, might be the proprietor of a small independent hotel or B&B, or even a private homeowner looking to arrange a house swap for the duration of the Olympics. As it gets closer to the time lots of people will be tweeting about their needs. This is when you need to be searching them out and engaging in conversation with them.

This can be applied to so many areas and topics. Try a few random searches , like ‘lake district holidays’, ‘wedding venues’, ‘small business ideas’ etc. Once you have identified a tweet which interests you than you can simply start the interaction with an @reply. The conversation has begun!

Once you have engaged with somebody you need to start providing help and information, so an important first step is tio direct then to your website or blog.

On the search page you will also notice that there is an Advanced Search option. Clicking this will bring up a new page.

A small sampling of Twitter's Advanced Search features. Try it yourself!

This form allows you to filter and specify your search parameters by words, distance, dates, even attitudes.

For this to be successful you need to think like a customer, not like a business. Think about what questions they will be asking. If you combine your use of the search engine with the option to search for people and topics on your Twitter account, you have a powerful marketing tool – without a marketing budget!

Another big plus is that every time you return to the search engine you will find a new list of tweets. It just goes on and on so you can go back to it over and over rather than the more static search results of the traditional search engines.

Have a play with it and do take a look at all the options available on the search pages. Make friends and make them advocates.

Let me know all your successes!

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