Twitter is sometimes an enigma to the web-savvy and the web-illiterate alike. It’s part chat-room, part message board, part news feed, and part incomprehensible social network, all fueled by text message-style 140 character “tweets,” complete with odd punctuation and a “secret language” of abbreviated words and acronyms.
Twitter, like Facebook, can be a powerful tool in your Internet marketing toolbelt, but like other Internet marketing techniques, it requires some dedication and time to develop a network that’s actually useful. The first thing you should know about Twitter is that simply creating an account and posting tweets about your book will get you nowhere. Like any good cult, you must first cultivate a network of followers. This is done by participating in topical discussions on Twitter, by following other users in your field (and hoping they follow you back), and by adding a “follow me” link to your blog, Facebook, email and forum signatures, and in any other online communication that you participate in. Furthermore, you must keep the interest of your followers by posting regular updates that relate to your field of expertise. Users are more likely to follow someone who has a history of informative and regular tweets.
Communication on Twitter is entirely done through public text messages called “tweets.” A tweet is an individual 140-character (maximum) message which is visible publicly and which is distributed instantly to anyone who follows you. Once sent, a tweet cannot be edited, so compose and proofread your tweets carefully. A tweet can be as simple as a notification of an upcoming event, a web link to a recent blog post, a response to another user’s tweet, or a repetition of another user’s tweet that you believe your followers would like to see (a “retweet”). Tweets can also incorporate special words that have special meaning. These include hashtags (like #JapanEarthquake or #Obamacare) which describe the content of your tweet, mentions (like @JKRowling) that indicate to whom you are addressing, and retweets (a message preceded by the letters ‘RT’) which are tweets that you repeat for the benefit of your followers.
For more information on the types of tweets, see Twitter’s excellent help pages. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week.