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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!

Twitter Thursday #6: Managing Followers

Now that we have looked at whom to FOLLOW, it’s time to consider our FOLLOWERS and how to manage them. If you’ve been using Twitter for any length of time, you will have already started to follow a few people or organisations. You may also have looked with envy at some of the ‘celebrities’ you are following and the huge numbers associated with them.

I know that these are exceptional examples, but even so: Stephen Fry is heading for a following of 3 million whilst he chooses to follow about 53,000 of them. How many tweets can he be expected to read every day, let alone interact with? President Obama has close to 9 million followers, of which he follows 700,000. Really? Do you think he is sitting in the Oval Office engaging with the tweets of all those people?

It is useful from the start to have a clear strategy to help you to decide who to follow. Many ‘old hands’ on Twitter would have us believe that the only ethical strategy is to FOLLOW-BACK everyone who follows us. Yeah, right. Barrack Obama following 9 million tweeps makes a lot of sense. When you actually look at how these people manage their accounts, we soon see that the bulk of those they are following are confined to a general Twitter stream that is never looked at. Where are the ethics in that?

Let’s not forget that Twitter is SOCIAL MEDIA, and as such we surely want to build a community with whom we can ENGAGE and INTERACT.

When deciding who to follow, my strategy is very simple. It will come as no great surprise to my regular readers that I apply my FIRE principle here too. I want to follow people who are Fun because they brighten my day. I also want to read Interesting tweets on a whole range of different topics. Otherwise I want to read tweets that are Relevant either to me, my life or my business. Finally I want to follow people who are Experts in their chosen field. By applying this strategy I know that I am building a small but valued following who are adding value to my life, as I hope I am to theirs.

Yes, I do follow some people who are not so much engaging as BROADCASTING. That’s because they broadcast good CONTENT, so the FIRE filter is happy. I follow those who I respect as gurus in their field e.g. Social Media. A word of caution about gurus, however: I get to decide who they are, not them! If anyone declares themselves to be a guru then they are likely to be suffering from terminal vanity and not worth the follow.

My measure of value in all things is ‘have I learnt something’? From Twitter I am learning new things every day.

Some broadcasters are simply pushing themselves, their products, or their angst, so they fail the test of FIRE. These people are using Social Media for self-promotion and forgetting to be, ah yes…. SOCIAL!

I would recommend regular spring cleaning of your FOLLOWED list. I will happily UNFOLLOW anyone who has:-

  1. No picture – the ‘egg heads’
  2. No profile
  3. Not tweeted for a month or more
  4. Spammed

By spamming I mean anyone who

  1. Sends meaningless tweets
  2. Wastes any of their 140 characters on frequent profanities (we all have special occasions)
  3. Attempts direct sales/marketing
  4. Buys lists of followers – they are easily spotted.

If you are looking for likely FIRE worthy followers, then start by looking at the FOLLOW lists of those that you already follow. Also take note of anyone who they choose to RETWEET.

Of course you are now well on the way to the first 100 valued tweeps in your interactive and engaged community. You might be starting to wonder how you’re going to cope with all this Fun, Interesting, Relevant and Expert information streaming in. There are many third party software applications to help with this. My personal favourite is Tweetdeck…but more of that next time!

Twitter Thursday #5: Who Do I Follow?

If you’ve been following this blog series, you will hopefully be using your Twitter account to communicate Fun, Interesting, Relevant and Expert tweets to all your followers. But who are you following? How do you find followers and why do you follow them?

Usually the first people you follow will be a few friends or family members who are already using Twitter. You might then search out some ‘celebrities’ to follow. This can be fun for a while, but you will soon want to engage with people more fully and to start building your Twitter community.

A good way to start looking for people to follow is to click on the WHO TO FOLLOW tab on your home page. This will show you a list of suggestions for people to follow based on anyone you are already following. On this page you will also see a SEARCH bar and an INVITATION option too. The SEARCH bar allows you to look for topics or people of interest to you.

The 'Who To Follow' page. Note the outlined 'Who To Follow' link in the upper-right corner!

 

Here again I suggest that you apply my FIRE principle to anyone you might want to follow. Are they Fun, Interesting, Relevant and Experts in what they do?

The INVITE option allows you to search for friends or followers by name. If your search is successful, simply click on the green FOLLOW button and you are done.

Remember what a follower is:

  1. Once you choose to follow somebody, every time they tweet an update, you will see it in your timeline.
  2. When you choose to follow somebody, it does not mean that they are following you. They will have to opt for that themselves.
  3. If they do choose to follow you, then your tweets will appear to them too.

Of course once you have seen somebody’s tweets, you may feel that you no longer wish to follow them. This is easily resolved by simply clicking on their name and then on the green FOLLOWING button. That person will then become UNFOLLOWED by you and you will no longer see their updates.

It is worth noting that Twitter applies strict rules regarding aggressive following. By default, every user can follow a maximum of 2000 people. If you reach this limit, Twitter will then limit your following ability. This limit is different for everyone and is based on the ratio of your followers to your following.

Next time we will address the difficult problem of how to attract followers yourself. More importantly, we will consider whether you need a follow-back policy to help manage your growing community.

Twitter Thursday #4: More Tools

In the Basic Tools post a couple of weeks ago, we looked at the use of the HASHTAG or #. I’ve had a lot of feedback about this topic, and as promised, I’m returning to it in more detail.

To recap: placing a hashtag (#) before any word in a tweet makes it easier for someone to find it using the SEARCH function above your Twitter timeline. By using this tool, all tweets on the same topic (like #bigevent2011, say) can be found in the same place. It’s a great way to keep all contributions to a twitter conversation together. For this reason, hashtags are often used by the participants on training days or by delegates at a conference. Be creative about how you use this tool. What about implementing a family hashtag to use during a family Twitter conversation? Remember of course that all tweets in a hashtag group are still public, and your messages will still appear in your own TIMELINE.

Also remember F.I.R.E: be Funny, Interesting, Relevant and be an Expert in the topic you’re tweeting about!

I mentioned before that a popular hashtag on Thursday evenings is #BBCQT, which is associated with the weekly BBC’s Question Time programme. Another great example on Thursdays is #UKEdChat. This is a ‘virtual staffroom’ where hundreds of teachers all over the UK come together between 8 & 9pm to tweet about previously set topics.

A great new hashtag is one set up by the Twitter expert Mark Shaw (@markshaw). He recently decided to establish a mutual referral system, with the tag #rfr (requestions for recommendations). Mark sends out an #rfr request every day, so that people can gain new business while helping others to do the same. This is just the type of relationship-building which Twitter is great for.

For other ‘weekly’ hashtags, check out #musicmonday or #charitytuesday. I’ve also set up #wedswisom for my own weekly choice of inspirational quotes on Wednesdays.

An example of a search for the #wedswisdom hashtag. Try it yourself!

Of course, one of the most popular hashtags is #ff, or ‘Follow Friday’. Many people use this as a way of mentioning those followers who they wish to thank, promote or advocate to their other followers at the end of the week. The #ff hashtag itself should ideally be within the middle of the tweet somewhere, rather than right at the end or right at the beginning. Many people do #ff tweets with nothing but a list of mentions attached. In my opinion, this is a very poor way to acknowledge your respected followers. I believe that you should have just one or two mentions per tweet, with a reason given for nominating them. This ties in with the whole ethos of developing meaningful online relationships and with building social capital.

You may have noticed a list of TRENDS on the right-hand side of your Twitter timeline. This will show the most talked-about hashtags or topics across Twitter, and can be tweaked to show what is being talked about either globally or else filtered by local area. These are not linked in any way to your followers or your own tweets. Why not join in with some of these conversations?

What Is Coaching: The Wheel of Life

Since I first started this blog series, I’ve been asked many questions about the coaching process. One recurring theme in those questions has been ‘How do I choose my goals?’ or ‘How do I know which areas I need to work on in our coaching sessions?’ To answer these concerns, I’m going to look at a tool which I like to use with new clients early in the coaching conversation.

It’s called the ‘Wheel of Life’, and is a simple but effective tool which can quickly determine the level of balance (or lack thereof) in your life. This will also expose those areas which are less balanced, and which can be focussed on during coaching.

The Wheel of Life is probably the most widely used of all coaching tools. It has been adapted into many forms. The version I will use here is a generic wheel which you can use at home to achieve quick and useful results.

We will take 8 aspects of your life to measure on the wheel. In no particular order, they are:

  1. Career (e.g. work, business, school/university)
  2. Money (personal finances)
  3. Health/Fitness
  4. Friends and Family
  5. Relationships/significant other (partner, spouse or single status)
  6. Personal Growth (education, development, ambition)
  7. Fun and Recreation (leisure, hobbies, vacations)
  8. Physical Environment (home, office/workspace, desk)

These can be changed to suit the individual or circumstances. Occasionally clients like to add or even replace some headings, for example with ‘Creativity’ or ‘Spirituality’.

Draw your wheel as shown here, or e-mail me for a blank copy. Whatever version you prefer to use, it should have 8 ‘spokes’ and 8 segments. The spokes need to be numbered from 0-10, with 0 at the centre and 10 at the outer circle, so that the whole diagram forms a series of concentric circles. Now fill in the labels for each segment around the outside, and you’ll be ready to begin!

This wheel is a measure of your level of satisfaction with each of these areas. Grade your yourself in each area according to how satisfied with them you are right now. be honest with yourself and you will end up with a good snapshot of your own life balance as it is now.

Look at the wheel you have drawn and ask yourself a few simple questions. How round is your wheel? How large is it? How bumpy a ride will your wheel give you? Is a large or a small wheel more stable? Which will be knocked off course most easily?

The really important part of this exercise is what you now do with your wheel. You should look at those areas where you wish to improve your level of satisfaction. Begin to think what you might do about it and set some action Goals.

Twitter Thursday #3: What Do I Tweet?

Now that you are armed with all the basic tools to get going with Twitter, you need to think about what you’re going to tweet. This will depend first and foremost on your Twitter strategy – what do you want to use Twitter for? You can of course use it solely as a kind of online diary system by tweeting about your everyday life, or you can simply follow the antics of others without ever sending your own tweets.

Twitter, however, is much more than just a broadcasting site. It is a true communications tool which, and at its best, it can be used to create and develop real communities. Too many businesses sign up thinking that they can use traditional sales methods to market themselves on Twitter. Alas, it does not work like that. I would argue that anyone approaching Twitter with that kind of transactional thinking is doomed to failure. We need to develop a different mindset where we listen to others, add value to what they have to say, and then engage fully with them.

At its core, Twitter is about developing relationships. It is about creating followers, not customers, and it is about presenting yourself in such a way that your followers will become advocates. In order to achieve this you will need to be open, variable and supportive. Mostly you will have to be consistent and persistent, since none of this will happen overnight. Twitter success means a long-term commitment – not necessarily a commitment to hours of work, but rather to a little time every day. Your aim as a friend or a business user is to become memorable to your followers/advocates as a go-to person, both for your knowledge and for your willingness to share it.

We belong to a global community. More and more of our interactions take place on the internet. To be a part of this revolution you need to be out there engaging and sharing. You need to ‘go social’!

If your aim is to grow your business, you need to grow your social network and start gathering Social Capital through your online presence. Consider the kind of people you want to interact with and tailor your tweets accordingly. Be Funny, be Interesting, be Relevant and be an Expert in your own knowledge.

Start by retweeting others in order to build your confidence. Use hashtags (#) to start Trends, but be wary of the ‘Trending’ themes featured prominently to the right of your Timeline. They are often flippant, offensive (the worst of the internet tends to be represented in some of them!) and generally a waste of time. Also remember to never be drawn into internet arguments. There is no way to ‘win’ these, and they drain your credibility no matter what the outcome. Above all, write something every day – the internet has a short attention span!

Remember FIRE:

Funny

Interesting

Relevant

Expert

Go social, and have fun!

Weekly Newsletter

Hopefully you’ve been enjoying all of the content posted to the blog so far. If you find yourself missing new posts, don’t worry! You can subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed using Google Reader or your favourite news aggregator, or you can follow @timorahilly on Twitter and put some of my Twitter Thursday advice into practice.

But if you’d like to get more than just news of the latest blog posts, why not sign up for a FREE weekly newsletter? It will contain links to any blog posts made during the week, as well as news and information on the latest developments in the exciting world of Life Coaching. If you’re interested, just go to the front page and enter your name and e-mail address in the fields on the lower right-hand side. I look forward to hearing from you!

Twitter Thursday #2: Basic Tools

Here we are with part two of the Basics of Twitter. Having set up your account and sent your first tweets, you’re probably wondering what to do next. Below you’ll find some basic tools that you can use to improve your tweeting straight away, then next week we’ll take some time to look at what you should be tweeting, rather than just how you can tweet.

Firstly, the tweets belonging to you and your followers all appear in a column called your TIMELINE, on the left of your screen. If you hover your cursor over a tweet, four things will appear.

First off is the FAVOURITES button. If you click on it, an orange corner will appear on that tweet, which will then be saved. On the right hand side of the screen you will see a ‘Favourites’ tab. Click it to see a list of all of your favourite tweets. Remember, you can ‘favourite’ tweets from anybody, not just those from people you follow!

Each tweet that you send out is called an UPDATE, the most basic form of tweet. Next to the favourite button in your highlighted update is a button called RETWEET. You may have noticed that some of the messages you receive start with RT (or else a pair of arrows forming a square). This indicates that this person is sharing somebody else’s tweet with their twitter followers.

A tweet with FAVOURITE, RETWEET and REPLY buttons...

...and an example of a Favourited tweet!

To do a RETWEET (RT), just click on the retweet button under whichever tweet you want to share. The message will then appear in a preview window in the middle of your screen. From there, simply click ‘Retweet’ to make it visible to all of your followers, plus the person who originally sent it.

At the top of the timeline column there is also a retweet tab, where you can see all of your retweets along with the retweets of your followers and any of your own tweets which have been retweeted. This can be a handy way to see which of your tweets others find interesting enough to share around the internet!

The next button along is the REPLY tool. This is the public method of responding to a tweet. Once you click on the REPLY button, a new window will open on the center of the screen, giving you the opportunity to reply directly to the original message. Your reply will always begin with the @twitter username of the person you’re replying to – so if you decide to reply to a tweet by life coach Tim O’Rahilly (to use a random example!), your message will begin with @timorahilly.

Be very careful when using this, as the reply can be seen by the recipient, their followers and your followers as well. In other words, treat ‘reply’ tweets as public tweets, just as you would with any of your usual updates. You can see all of your replies by clicking on the @mentions tab at the top of the page.

This brings us to another type of tweet: the MENTION. If you place any twitter username in the body of a tweet, it becomes an @mention. The person whose username you included will be notified of the fact that they’ve been mentioned, but apart from this, the message will behave like any regular tweet. Their username will also act as a link to their public profile. @mentions can thus be a good way of networking with other twitter users, or of directing your followers to a twitter user whose tweets you find particularly informative or entertaining. If you have a lot of followers, @mentioning somebody can be  a good way of getting their attention!

A sample MENTION. Notice how the text above the message box has changed to 'Mention timorahilly'.

Again, you can see any tweets which @mention you by clicking the @mentions tab at the top of the page.

If you want to send a private message to somebody, one that nobody else will be able to see, you can send them a DIRECT MESSAGE. To do this, just go to your usual twitter box (the one you’d use to send any other tweet) and type ‘d username’, replacing the word ‘username’ with the Twitter username of the person you want to message. Then just type your message and click the ‘Send Message’ button. Easy!

Here's an example of a DIRECT MESSAGE. You can see that the text above the message box changes to 'Message timorahilly'.

Finally, let’s take a look at the ever-popular # or HASHTAG. If you place a # symbol before a word, it will make it easier for people to search for it. It is often used when large groups of people are tweeting about the same topic or sharing tweets at an event or conference. This allows all the related tweets to appear in the same place, or in the results for the same search.

For example, you might be a fan of BBC’s Question Time program. Next time it’s on, try typing #BBCQT into the search bar at the top of your Twitter homepage. This will show you every public tweet which also uses the #BBCQT hashtag, and will be updated live as new tweets are sent. Note that clicking on any hashtag phrase within any tweet will automatically show you any other tweets which have used it – so if you spot a tweet with a #hashtag that looks interesting, click it and find out what others are saying about the same topic.

Use of # leads to TRENDS, which you will often see listed on the right-hand side of your homepage, but we’ll come back to that!

To finish, here is one of the most popular hashtags: #followfriday or #ff. Check your timeline every Friday to see who is using this. #ff is a hashtag which many people use to recommend other twitter users who they think their followers might be interested in following.

Have a play around with it, and have fun!

Next time: What To Tweet.

Twitter Thursday #1: Twitter Basics

 

 

Welcome to TWITTER THURSDAY, my new blog stream. I have developed a passionate belief in the power and potential of social media in its various forms. While the Internet and Social Media in particular often gets a bad press, I believe that if used well it has the ability to bring people together in a very real way. Social media can build meaningful relationships, cement long-lasting friendships and build Social Capital for its users. (I will return in future to the topic of Social Capital, but this must not be confused with the transactional thinking of sales and marketing efforts via the social networks.)

The simplest of all the current social networks is the communication site TWITTER. This is instant, flexible communication and has become a global phenomenon with over 200 million users generating 65 million tweets a day. Twitter differs from the presentation sites like Facebook or Linked In since it was conceived of as a micro-blogging site. It is primarily a communication channel, allowing its users to post information or updates about what they are doing within a 140 character limit. Any other Twitter users who have chosen to FOLLOW you will instantly see your TWEETS. Likewise, updates from all those whom you have chosen to follow will appear in your message stream or TIMELINE.

 

 

An example of a Twitter Timeline in action! The tweets of everybody you are following will be displayed here.

If you want to be a part of this great community it could not be easier to get started. Over the next few weeks I want to show you the basics of how to get tweeting and then how to get the most out of your Twitter experience.

To make your Twitter account, go to www.twitter.com and look for the SIGN UP tab or use the sign-up field right on the main page. Here you can enter your details and very quickly get your account set up. At this stage you need to think about a user name. Take a moment to consider what you want to use your account for. If you are intending to use it for yourself or for your own small business, then I strongly recommend using your own name if it is available. Whatever name you decide on, it must also fit within the limit of 15 characters for Twitter usernames. I will come back to the power of your personal brand at a later date, and of course you can change your username at any time.

During the sign up stage it will also be worth taking a little time to work on your concise biography and on choosing a clear photo for your profile picture.

You may well already know friends who have Twitter profiles, so you might choose to start by following them. If you just want one user to get you started then my username is timorahilly, and I will be happy to help you learn the ropes. It is easy to search for other friends or even celebrities to FOLLOW, and you will quickly build up a small network. Once your account has been created, you will be ready to take the plunge and send your first TWEET. Spend some time looking at what others are Tweeting about. This might inspire you further. I tweet and RETWEET several times a day, but tend to avoid the ‘Just going for a shower’ style of messaging.

A sample Tweet. The number of characters you have left is displayed beside the 'Tweet!' button.

Next week we will look at the basic tools such as RETWEETS, MENTIONS, REPLIES, DIRECT MESSAGES, SEARCHES, LISTS and the power of the HASHTAG (#).

Future posts will cover all important strategies for following, attracting followers, using the Twitter search engine as well as using Twitter to promote you and your business

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