You Can Tweet

I confess: I have had my Twitter account for five years with only an occasional tweet. I recently become more active, in part because I now help manage a Twitter account through work and also because more of my friends and colleagues are using the platform. You can follow me @PriceCynthia.

I figured a steep learning curve would await me so I signed up for an online class to learn more and quickly. If you are thinking of using Twitter or have an account – and like me – haven’t done much with it, here are a few things I’ve learned.

Twitter birdThe first thing you need to do is claim your Twitter handle. You can use your name, your company name or create something clever. Keep in mind that your handle is part of how you will brand yourself. Once you have done that, you should fill out your profile and upload an image. You should also create a Twitter background, which, if appropriate, should resemble the colors, format and logo from your personal or corporate website.

Like any communications platform, you shouldn’t use Twitter as a one-way megaphone. Instead, retweet (when you share another person’s tweet) and tweet relevant information with your followers. My friends were pleased when I shared “@Starbucks made #PSL available early.”

For those who are just learning, that line might not make sense. The @sign tags or identifies the handle of a person on Twitter. In this case, @Starbucks references the company based in Seattle. A pound sign is used to aggregate messages of a similar nature, and is known as a hashtag. My tweet with #PSL was about pumpkin spice latte. I already knew that the drink had a hashtag associated with it.

While there is a dictionary with some hashtags. You can make up your own, too. At a recent conference I attended we used the hashtag #NFPW14SC. Anyone attending the 2014 NFPW conference in South Carolina used this tag and anyone who wanted to know what was being said about the conference could search for this hashtag.

One word of caution about hashtags: Don’t overuse them as they can fragment the conversation.

Another tool to use on Twitter are lists, which are a great way to organize others into groups. You can make your lists private or public, and you can follow lists that others have already created. For example, I created a list for several publications whose content I fine useful. However, when I was following them, they were filling my Twitter feed and it was challenging to find content from others. I stopped following them and created a list. Now when I want to peruse the latest from these magazines, I check my magazine list and can find all the relevant stories.

Because tweets disappear quickly from a screen and because I don’t scroll through my feed frequently, lists are helpful for finding those who only tweet occasionally. I created a list that includes members of one of the professional groups with which I belong. This way, I don’t miss relevant posts.

I hope to see you on Twitter! If you are, feel free to post a comment with your Twitter handle.

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Cool Twitter Accounts to Follow

At a recent social media conference, we started talking about unique or cool Twitter sites. We weren’t talking about the ones that shared about life’s mundane events. Rather, these were ones that provided information in a unique way.

It’s amazing what can be shared in 140 characters – the maximum amount that a tweet is allowed to have.

Here are three that fascinated me:

  1. @cookbook: Maureen Evans is the author of the Eat Tweet cookbook. She tweets tiny recipes that serve 3-4. At first it’s a bit daunting but with the aid of the glossary she provides, it soon becomes simple. The New York Times called tweeted recipes quite possibly the “first great recipe innovation in 200 years.”
  2. @RealTimeWWII : This one features World War II tweets from 1940 and will continue for six years. Alwyn Collinson is an Oxford history graduate who tweets up to 40 times a day. He uses eyewitness accounts, photographs and video to make it feel as if you are there.
  3. @TVGuide: If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time channel surfing in search of your favorite show. I use TV Guide’s official page for TV news, scoops and live event coverage.

Do you have a favorite? If so, please share it so we can all enjoy it.

Trial by Tweet: Enhancing the Image of Virginia Wine

We all know social media is a viral, but if you are marketing a product you should not “discount the value of the tangibles in a virtual world.”

That’s according to Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office, who shared her experiences with enhancing the image of Virginia wine through social media to PR practitioners.

“Wine is very personal,” Annette told the group. “You make the product come to life.” She said it’s about tasting it, seeing it and smelling it. (To reinforce that, wine was served during the talk.)

Twitter was chosen as the platform to communicate about the Virginia wine industry because it’s for “people you want to know” as opposed to Facebook, which Annette said is for “talking to people you already know.”

Her team had to get up to speed on using Twitter, but also had to initiate Virginia wineries into its use, including registering their handles even if they weren’t ready to embark on Twitter.

The first Twitter event was for media wine bloggers in 2009. It was used to kick off Virginia Wine Month in October. Bloggers were invited as well as consumers, but the only way a consumer was invited was to tweet to get an invitation. From that one event, 600 tweets went out about Virginia Wine Month with a potential of 48,000 impressions.

“It really got us engaged with Twitter for the first time,” Annette said.

The event also was successful in terms of sales. The Virginia Wine Board reported an increase of 11 percent in sales that month.

Virginia decided to vie to host the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2011. When it was announced in California that Virginia had won, there were groans, Annette said. But Virginia knew the conference would succeed because of the strong partnerships throughout the state, including with the Virginia Tourism Board and the state wineries.

To increase enthusiasm for the conference four virtual wine tastings were held via blogging and Twitter. The conference itself featured seven mystery tours giving bloggers a taste of Virginia wineries and a firsthand look at the region’s wineries. Forty-seven wineries participated.

The conference sold out and included attendees from around the U.S. Of the 335 participants 30 percent were from California and 23 percent from Virginia. Of the 129 blogs written 61 percent were positive and 4 percent were negative, mostly about the change in venue. There were more than 15,000 tweets leadings to 43.5 million potential impressions.

The Virginia Wine industry is a good example of embracing social media while not discounting the tangible. Do any of you have other examples of such success?

Twitter Feeds — Good or Bad?

More than two years ago, I participated in a social media conference during which there was a live Twitter feed. As a speaker, I found it a bit distracting because there was so much chatter from the audience around the Twitter stream. The audience members were newbies.

Twitter feeds keep audiences engaged during conferences.

Twitter feeds provide real-time information during a conference.

Today, I don’t think twice about a Twitter feed when I’m speaking. In fact, I find it useful after I speak to go back and see what
audience members tweeted. I can see if my messages hit home or if I need to further refine portions of the talk.

As an audience member, I find the Twitter stream helpful. At a recent social media conference the speaker’s words generated an idea I wanted to capture. As I typed on my netbook, I realized I had lost the thread of the conversation. Not to worry, I just had to look up at the screen with the Twitter feed to see what key points I missed.

Twitter feeds also are great to keep the room engaged and present. And in between speakers it’s a good way to start a conversation with a colleague. At the social media conference you would expect strong engagement. What was particularly helpful was if a speaker quoted someone or referenced a book or movie but didn’t have all of the details. Invariably, someone in the
audience found the information and either tweeted it or tweeted the link so that everyone else could follow-up.

The National Federation of Press Women is gearing up for its annual conference, and we’re considering a Twitter feed – most likely for the social media seminars. A recent LinkedIn post generated many comments. Response has been mostly favorable with a few worried about the distraction of it. On the other hand, many members have not experienced a seminar with a Twitter feed
so this may be a good way to provide that exposure.

What do you think about Twitter feeds during a seminar?

Twitter Turns 5

Twitter turned 5 on Monday.

TwitterToday it has 200 million users and is a broadcast channel for major news events, including the plane in the Hudson River and the tsunami in Japan. It’s become a communications tool during political uprisings.

I confess, I am not a big Twitter user, but it has still impacted me, and for the very reasons that Twitter’s cofound Jack Dorsey said about Twitter in a Money CNN.com interview:

“The big thing I learned from Twitter are these concepts of immediacy, transparency, and approachability,” Dorsey says. “I think Twitter’s done a very good job for the communications industry.” 

When I’m communicating I write my headlines and subject lines of emails so that they are concise and that the meaning is clear. I think about what I would say if I had to tweet the article. If I can’t quickly identify the purpose of the piece, it needs to be rewritten.

Twitter may not be for everyone, but its lessons offer solid foundations for effective communications.

Don’t Fear Twitter

Okay, I’m going to do it. I’m going to start tweeting. Do you tweet? Are you thinking about it? If you’re a newbie, don’t fear Twitter. That’s some of the advice I heard as part of a panel presented by Social Media Summit.

Who to Follow…

Brian Clark (@copyblogger) suggests following people “relevant to what you are about and what your business is about.” He also suggests sharing more than just the content you have on your blog. “Sharing is a sign of status on the web,” he says.

Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) suggests listening for a bit before deciding who to follow. And he strongly recommends against sucking up to the big names, such as Ashton Kutcher. It’s not going to get you more followers.

Keeping up with Tweets…

Chris says you don’t have to read every tweet. (Halleluiah!) Even if you tried, he says there is no way to keep up with all the tweets.

He recommends using tools, such as TweetDeck, which is a personal real-time browser. You can also use Twellow, a directory of public Twitter accounts. And don’t forget TwitterSearch. 

Connecting…

Twitter is more than simply sending out 140 characters. Chris says it’s about building relationships and connecting. That’s why the @ replies are so important.

Says Darren Rouse (@Problogger), “Twitter is a relationship building tool.”

Are you ready to connect?

Social Media Much Like a Triathalon

Jonah Holland won a Shorty Award, which honors the best people and organizations on Twitter. She won for her work with Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond.

She’s passionate about gardening, but she’s also passionate about triathalons, which is initially how she became active in social media.

“I think people are best at social media when it’s completely based on their own passion,” she said during an interview at a coffee shop. “That’s how I came at it.”

She started blogging about triathalons and then expanded, including her gig with Lewis Ginter.

She first learned of the Shorty Awards last year, and this year she thought “it seemed like something that could be in reach.”

Voting for the awards is public by the Twitter community, and Jonah noted that the Richmond community was key in her and Lewis Ginter’s win.

Jonah likens social media to a triathalon. “You set a goal and you don’t know if you can attain it but you’re going to see it through,” she said.

For those new to social media, she recommends not starting with Twitter, but rather with a blog. “Twitter is just microblogging,” she said. “Blogging gets you in the right mind set to tweet. At first it can be confusing and nonsensical.”

But after some time blogging and posting to Facebook, Twitter allows a person to complete the social media piece.

Whichever platform you choose to begin with, Johan says, “Start with you passion because without passion you really don’t have very much. You have to feel strongly to have a clear voice.”

At Lewis Ginter, Jonah’s blog posts often start out as emails to friends. She uses Twitter to help promote the blog and connect other people who would be interested in the blog – and the gardens.

She enjoys writing about Lewis Ginter because she finds that plants “are a connection to your past,” she said. “I find meaning in plants. They remind you of certain times and people in your life.”

Snapdragons, for example, remind her of her Nana Ruby.

As she continues to pave the way in social media, Jonah said she’ll incorporate more video. She also will continue to partner with people. “You have to find like minded people and band together,” she said. “It’s important to work together.”

Ultimately, Jonah said it’s about “adding value to the community and reinforcing the connections.