10 ways to maximize Twitter

Tim Frick, CEO of Mightybytes
Tim Frick, CEO; photo courtesy of Mightybytes

Guest columnist Tim Frick, founder of Chicago-based digital design firm  Mightybytes and author of “Return on Engagement – Content, Strategy, and Design Techniques for Digital Marketing,” offers 10 tips for maximizing Twitter.

1. 125 or less.

Don t max out characters. ¨The little blue birdie only gives you a mere 140 characters in which to tweet, so keeping entries at 125 characters or less will allow others to easily re-tweet (RT) your content to their own followers with room for their name, and perhaps a short lead-in comment as well. Plus, if the end of your tweet is a link (which many are), using up all of your precious characters could break the link ”one of the most important parts of your tweet ”when it is re-tweeted.

2. Make the most of search functions.

Twitter advanced search is one of the social network most powerful tools. It offers a wide range of options to find information across the network from general to very granular. You can search based on date ranges, location, hashtags, a specific language, whether or not someone has asked a question, included a smile or frown emoticon, and so on. The original Twitter returned an RSS feed with every results page, allowing you to stay up-to-date on new tweets relevant to your queries in near real-time via your favorite feed reader. New Twitter gives you a tab for saved searches, and no longer offers RSS feeds.

3. Follow the right people.

I think the most common mistake people make on Twitter is randomly following anyone who follows them in the first place. Having 50,000 followers isn t going to offer any benefits if those followers don t care what you have to say and are only in it to amass thousands of followers themselves. Following people who share your interests, are industry leaders, and might actually be interested in hearing what you have to say in return makes it a lot easier to engage in conversation and build Twitter-based relationships that make sense for your business or organization. Likewise, if you are only in it to sell a product by constantly repeating one-way marketing or sales messages that often the quickest way to the unfollow button for others in your network.

The new version of Twitter suggests potential people to follow based on several factors, including people you follow and the people they follow according to Twitter blog.

4. Trends and hashtags.

Twitter offers a list of trending topics on your account home page that show popular subjects and hashtags being discussed on the network at any given time. The new Twitter also allows trends to be filtered by country and city as well as topic, which can be a great help if you want to engage people within a specific geographic area.

If you need more information relevant to specific hashtags, hashtags.org offers usage statistics on specific tags as well as a wealth of other information. These stats can be sorted by date ranges, number of uses, and so on. A list of tweets that utilize a specific hashtag can also be found by clicking through to Trendistic.com.

5. Content strategy.

I m a big proponent of having a solid, education-based content strategy that works for your business across as many online touch-points as possible: your website, social networking profiles, webinars, and so on. This of course includes your Twitter account as well. Entire books have been written about content strategy and several chapters are dedicated to this topic alone in Return on Engagement, so I m not going to delve too deeply into it here, other than to say that it is important to align the topics on which you tweet with those of your business or organization as a whole. This is especially critical in regards to keywords. Use them enough to help search engines categorize your content but not so much that your writing sounds robotic.

6. Use URL shorteners.

Link-building is an essential component of a good SEO strategy and adding links to your tweets is a great way to do this. However, URL shortening services are essential when your character limit is a mere 140. If possible, try to find one that offers metrics on click-throughs as well. Bit.ly, Su.pr by StumbleUpon, Ow.ly and Ow.ly with Hootsuite are a few good examples. These tools will give you an idea how well the links in your tweets perform. Bit.ly also generates a unique QR code for every link you create, handy if your links need to be scanned by mobile devices.

7. Don t stop at text.

A number of third-party tools can help push your tweets beyond mere text and links, offering the opportunity to increase engagement via richer content types. Most Twitter-based mobile apps offer support for adding photos, as do Flickr, TwitPic, yFrog, and others. YouTube, TwidVid, Twiddeo, and Twitc add support for including video links as well.

The new Twitter offers tools for easy video and image sharing as well. You can embed video within a tweet itself so users don t have to navigate off-site. A handy film frame icon reveals a slide-out panel that lets you view video and images. Twitter has created partnerships with sites such as YouTube, DailyBooth, DeviantART, Etsy, Flickr, Justin.TV, Kickstarter, Kiva, Photozou, Plixi, Twitgoo, TwitPic, TwitVid, USTREAM, Vimeo, and yfrog for this type of GUI-driven experience.

8. #NewTwitter Tip: Got TubeMogul?

A new feature launched by TubeMogul on October 14th lets you automatically update Facebook and Twitter accounts when your TubeMogul video goes live across the dozens of video sharing networks it already supports. For the New Twitter interface, TubeMogul updated its feature to automatically embed videos directly within a user stream.

9. Find old Tweets.

Sadly, Twitter doesn t save your tweets forever. If you are looking for information older than a few weeks, try FriendFeed. Users who have imported their Twitter account into FriendFeed will benefit from their content being indexed and stored for all eternity ¦or until FriendFeed decides not to store it anymore, whichever comes first. Until then, content on FriendFeed is searchable within the Facebook-owned social tool itself and indexed by search engines as well. Google also offers Twitter Search functions and Bing has social search features as well. Older Twitter content can give you a more comprehensive overview of a company, topic or individual you are researching.

10. Alert yourself.

@Mentions is the quickest and simplest way to track when you are mentioned on Twitter, but as noted above it doesn t keep track of older mentions, and in my experience, it isn t the most reliable. I have noticed on several occasions that mentions not tracked by Twitter itself are often picked up by other search and alert tools.

Google and other search engines of course track content from many social networking resources in search results. Tools like Google Alerts, Senseidea SocialSeek, and Social Mention can help you keep track of what is being said about you, your company or organization, and its key employees across multiple networks, including Twitter. Social Mention Alert, for instance, sends an email every day or whenever a tracked term or account is mentioned within the networks it tracks, giving you the ability to quickly respond to questions, mentions, and address any potential negative comments about your service or product swiftly.