How To Build Up Your Presence On Twitter? (part 1)

by Etienne Besson on 12 August 2011

in How to use Twitter,Online Profiles

Lately I’ve been talking to a lot of people about Twitter. In this article I’m trying to answer some of the most common questions.

At first I just wanted to write a quick overview. But as it became longer and longer, I decided to split it into two parts. In part two I’ll talk about how you can use your time efficiently and will present a few tricks and tools. And I’ll also show how you can monitor your Twitter presence and measure results.

But lets start with part 1 first:

What Is Twitter?

It’s a social network that allows you to publish messages (called “tweets”) of up to 140 characters.

But I’d rather explain its possibilities based on the 3 principles of social media channels:

  1. grab: read what others say and follow the links they post to pictures, articles, etc.
  2. share: write your thoughts, opinions, information you come across or add links to resources you find useful and interesting.
  3. engage: start a discussion with other people and interact with them.

Why Should I Use Twitter? And Do I Have To?

First of all, you don’t have to. I see more and more articles stipulating that everybody should use social media channels – especially for recruiting – and that you’re basically doomed if you don’t.

I’d rather say that if you’re not interested and/or aren’t willing to invest time and energy in these new tools, then maybe it’s better to stay away for now. But otherwise: welcome to the club!

What Do you Want To Achieve?

This part isn’t necessarily fun, but I think it’s important to first decide what you want to achieve.

Do you want to just check it out and get a feel for it? Do you want to use it for recruiting (not as easy as some make it sound)? Or benefit from the knowledge and connections of other professionals by following what they’re reading and getting in touch with them?

And probably most importantly: how do you want to present yourself? Because Twitter has a lot to do with self presentation (and promotion). Don’t forget, it’s a public platform and not only can the whole world read your tweets, but they can also forward and comment them.

Unless you tweet specifically in the name of your company, I recommend to find a good mix between personal and professional or, as @fishdogs and @seiden like to say,  “profersonal”.

After all, you don’t want to come across as somebody who’s partying all the time (the “Facebook syndrome”). But at the same time nobody wants to read your tweets if you’re trying too hard to be super serious all the time.

Create An Account

Based on what you want to achieve, you can now create (or modify) your account.

Twitter handle
For most people it’s probably best to use their real name. Of course I’m a bad example with @HappyEmployee, but it was the name of my first blog so it has sentimental value.

Unless you already have your personal brand like Michael Long (@TheRedRecruiter) or your own business like Steve Ward (@CloudNineRec), a good question to ask yourself is: What would you use if you were creating an email address? And would you share it with somebody at a professional conference or mention it on your CV?

Take 5 minutes to quickly describe who you are or what you do. Many people won’t follow you if there’s no bio or one without any real information.

Please, please, please don’t keep the ugly egg thing. This is like going to a conference wearing a baseball cap and big sunglasses.

And same as with the bio, some people won’t bother following you if you don’t bother adding a picture.

There’s this director of a well-known recruiting agency who’s had a Twitter account since January 2010. And because of his egg thing I subconsciously assumed that he must be bald. The other day I stumbled upon his LinkedIn profile and was quite surprised when I saw his picture ;-).

Start Building Your Network

Try to quickly follow about 20-30 people. If you follow less your Twitter stream will stay empty and therefore boring.

At the same time, resist the temptation to start following everybody and their mother. This will fill up your stream with lots of things that don’t interest you.

Follow your favorite celebrities, news channels and companies if you want. But also try to identify individuals with common interests. These are usually the people who make Twitter truly interesting.

If you’re an HR professional in Switzerland, you might want to check out my “Swiss HR on Twitter” list as a starting point.

Also follow #earlyshift in the morning (if you’re in Europe) and don’t be afraid to say hello. You will meet HR people from the UK and a few other countries. They’re all extremely nice and very interesting people. Follow the ones you like best.

If you’re interested in HR and social media, then follow @BillBoorman and see who he’s talking to.

Start Unfollowing People

This is no joke. I’m absolutely serious about this one!

Like I said before, if you add too many people too quickly, there will be some that don’t contribute anything of interest to you.

So instead of having a Twitter stream full of things that you don’t want to read, follow new people for a while but don’t hesitate to unfollow them.

Remember: “it’s business, not personal” and “follow slow, unfollow fast”.

Start Tweeting

I was actually tempted to write a “10 things you mustn’t do on Twitter” list. But the only way to learn how to use Twitter is by using it. There’s no way around it.

Of course you can read articles, books and attend trainings. But you will still have to take the leap and start tweeting. So the sooner you start, the faster you will become comfortable with it.

But What Should I Say?

The answer is simple: whatever you want!

Keep your goals in mind, remember how you want to present yourself and then start writing about the things you’re interested in.

If you share a link to an article, add a short recommendation. I see dozens of links everyday and certainly don’t click every one of them. But if you tell me why I should read an article, then I might do just that.

If you see an interesting message, then retweet it. You don’t need to personally know the person who wrote it. In fact, re-publishing somebody’s tweet is usually seen as a compliment.

You can also make it more interesting by adding a comment of your own. This then becomes more of a reply than a RT. And you know what? By doing this you’ve just moved from “sharing” to “engaging”. Sometimes people will react, other times not. Don’t take it personally if they don’t and never let it discourage you.

What Now?

That’s it for part 1. I hope it was useful and please let me know in the comments. If you have questions I’ll try to answer them or might include them in additional articles.

[Update 10 June 2012: I’m sorry to admit, but after all this time I still didn’t write part 2.
Tools that help you be more productive with Twitter are Hootsuite, TweetDeck and BufferApp.
And of course, I hope that you still found this part 1 useful 😉 ]

And of course, you can subscribe to this blog via email or RSS. This way you won’t miss part 2!

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