I’ve been picking around the periphery of Twitter for a good while now, trying to make sense of it all – chirping more than twittering. It doesn’t help that right outside my office I’m frequently visited by a veritable aviary of finches, blackbirds, blue tits, song thrushes, wrens, and assorted other avian artistes twittering away in a not so virtual way. Sometimes when I’m on the phone I need to explain that yes, I am working, and not slinking off to be an undercover bird watcher – not that there’s anything wrong with bird watching, you understand, but if I’m supposed to be building strategy for world-domination, the background twittering might have people thinking I’m ‘off with the birds’ so to speak.
However, back to the virtual twittering, as opposed to the real twittering.
Twitter is really simple – and that’s the beauty of it. There are really only two categories of things you can do. (1) Follow (Listen), and (2) Be Followed (Talk). When combined, these turn into a conversation, and that’s when real value emerges. As with any conversation, the better way to contribute is to listen more than you talk. However, much of the advice on how to use Twitter is focused on how you should promote yourself, and I think that overlooks the value of Twitter as a research network. So, I’d like to share how I’ve refined my listening habits over the last few months.
There are many topics I’m interested in. For example, I always want to learn more about what’s going on in the CRM space, what others are saying about Sales 2.0, what’s being said by my key customers, what’s being said about them, what’s the latest thinking or trends in social media for sales and marketing, and as a self-confessed technology addict – what’s the next cool gadget.
When I first started using Twitter I followed (listened to) some great minds like @guykawasaki of whom I’ve been an admirer for a long time. However – and I don’t know how he manages to do this – Guy can tweet up to 70 times a day, and I just don’t have the time to monitor that level of activity. So, to filter out some of the noise from my main Twitter account I’ve had to un-follow @guykawasaki. I just go to his website when I have the time to see what he’s up to.
Instead, I’ve used the Twitter Search capability (different from Twitter Find People) to find tweeters who are talking about my topics of interest. Say, for example, I want to stay on top of what’s going on in the CRM market, I can simply type CRM into the search box and see who is saying what. Then by looking through the profiles, I can choose who to follow. My first filter: ignore all of the Twitter accounts that seem to be primarily about self-promotion. I want to hear opinions, get links to interesting URLS, or just eavesdrop on the water-cooler type chat that goes on in Twitter-land. That way I can get really up-to-the minute insight on what’s going on, and can engage in the conversation if I have something to add.
People I follow, seem to follow me back; and that’s an opportunity for me to share my thoughts and opinions with folks I’d like to engage with. For the most part, anyone who is really interesting in Social Media, Social CRM, or other general Sales 2.0 topics will be active on Twitter – and I can learn from their musings and tweets, and that helps me provide good and up to date content for this blog.
Make no mistake, Twitter is a really valuable source of information, and with the upcoming search capability going beyond just the Tweet to the links attached to the tweet there may well be a magnitudinal shift in value.
Photo credit: PhotobirdIreland