Thursday, July 23, 2009

Social Media Conference...Twitter in a Nutshell Volume 1

You hear it on all the news channels, "follow us on Twitter"...it's as common to have your Twitter "handle" on your business card as your email address. If you're a business professional and have a need to market a product or service, if you aren't on the Twitter bandwagon, you should get on it as soon as you can. Period. Go directly to Twitter.com and sign up. Choose your user name and bio wisely as they are how many determine your clout and whether or not to follow you.

My colleague Erica and I attended a social media conference in Boston last month organized by the social media tech-savvy pros at Zipvo.com. I've only been using Twitter since December 2008 (still a newbie) and I wanted to attend because it was Real Estate focused on how to maximize social media in our field. There were quite a few sponsors and volunteers which made for a very nice turnout and overall success. I learned a few new tricks and ways to use social media, but most of all it solidified my feelings about its importance in business today. It also made me realize that I fall into the in-between generation of today's young techies and yesterday's old school agents and I refuse to let myself fall into the latter.

Below are two of the three founding members of Twitterqueens, Lesley Lambert (@LesleyLambert) and Diane Guercio (@HeyAmaretto), as they're known in the Twitterverse, teaching a session on Twitter 101. The third member @MayaREGuru couldn't make it). My Twitter level is probably a few steps beyond 101, but I knew it would be worth listening to the Twitterqueens - they are real estate pros in the know and they have fun doing it (they welcome new members) women and men. And not just those in real estate.

What I really took away from the discussion was the use of hashtags in Twitter (#). By placing the # directly before a word, it allows followers to create categories based on conversations of interest. For example, if I want to follow everything that is tweeted about Maine real estate, I would use the hashtag #MaineRealEstate or without the use of the hashtag, just the phrase "Maine real estate". I downloaded Tweetdeck as my Twitter program of choice.

Tweetdeck provides 10 customizable columns allowing you to organize your tweets. So my columns are 1) all friends (this is a default column of the tweets from all people one follows), 2) mentions (direct@replies to me), 3)#twitterqueens, 4)#rebcbos (this was the hashtag used for the conference I was attending, it stood for real estate bar camp Boston), 5) innkeeping 6) Maine news 7) Maine tourism 8) Maine real estate 9) Maine bed and breakfasts and 10) a new one I started #breakfastclub (I see certain people on Twitter in the morning while I'm drinking my coffee so I decided to use the hashtag #breakfastclub (for which I must give credit to @CandaceKaru for naming). When you reply to someone in a conversation containing a hashtag, that hashtag will remain in the conversation thread, so that anyone following the conversation can easily do by setting up a search for #breakfastclub (and on Tweetdeck, it's a column, other applications like standard Twitter are just under a search of that word. Tweetdeck allows you to view all columns (or conversations so to speak) at once. So each morning I open up Tweetdeck I read the posts about Maine news, Maine Tourism, what's professionals in my field are saying, as well as watching what some of the Primetime news anchors are saying. Many times they'll use Twitter as a way to post only the headlines, with a link if the reader chooses to follow. It's customizable, global news.

Hashtag or no hashtag in your search columns? Think of it as broad search vs. specific search. If I want to follow all posts that have all three terms in no specific order - maine+real+estate, then I will use the words with spaces and without a hashtag. If I want to follow a specific conversation such as my #breakfastclub, I will use a hashtag. One is broad, the other very specific.

To take Tweetdeck one step further, I learned about PeopleBrowsr.com from someone I met at the conference, Joe Cascio (@JoeCascio) - I saw it on his screen during a session and it was fast moving, lots of colors, many more columns and much more customizable. OH I MUST USE THAT! However, it does move faster than I was comfortable with, so for right now I've decided to stick with Tweetdeck. PeopleBrowsr is Tweetdeck on steroids!

That said, once you follow people with common interests, you will begin to grow your followers. Search amongst your follower's followers. Your pool will eventually grow. Once you start tweeting AND retweeting (which is simply re-posting what someone else tweeted to help spread their message, and is very important, but I'll save that for another post!), you will see Twitter as an invaluable tool. Imagine customizing the news so that you only hear what matters to you, in short blurbs, and are able to share that knowledge with others easily and quickly. Period. THAT is Twitter. And let's not forget that it is free advertising. But you have to engage others to want to follow you before you start marketing in their face. Don't just talk at people on Twitter, listen and comment, there's an enormous difference.

Twitter help for beginners
Tweeple Pages allows you to find people to follow by interest
Getting retweets from Mashable
Download Twitter for Real Estate Twits

Twitter for Innkeepers? Oh absolutely! Talk about enticing followers with your fabulous menu? Or by sending links to local events? Oh the possibilities...we offer an in depth session during our Get INNspired Innkeeper Bootcamp.

My next post, Tweetworthy Content and getting your tweets re-tweeted. Stay tuned...

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