Twitter Translated from Geek Into English

twitter_logoTwo years ago I posted how twitter was a “complete waste of my time”. No one I knew used it. Searching was clunky. They didn’t even have a model to generate revenue (still don’t).

But the tipping point has arrived. It caught my eye in the form of an article from ClickZ titled “Twitter Surpasses Facebook as Top Link in Email.” Really? What! That silly little tweeting thing actually has value?

Indeed. That same article linked to a report that linked deep social engagement to revenue and profit. A big part of that “deep” social engagement is Twitter. All 4 case studies in the report (Starbucks, Toyota, SAP, and Dell) use Twitter as a key piece of their media strategy.

So it’s clear — there’s a benefit. But now what? What are some ways the average Joe/Jane can use Twitter…without feeling overwhelmed? As a self-professed “non-techie”, here are some ideas and resources for you, along with answers questions you probably have.

How does Twitter work?
You have 140 characters to answer the question “What are you doing right now?” Your response is called a “tweet.” If you provide interesting content, people will want to “follow” you. This means that whatever you post shows up on their homepage. Getting followers is a good thing.

What makes my content interesting?
Genuine content = interesting content. Being authentic = intriguing. If you’re too self promotional (or heaven forbid, a spammer) no one will want to follow you. In fact, you’ll be shunned. I find interesting content to be: 1) a link to an article or blog post (tinyurl.com will be your friend) , or 2) a peek into your expertise or personal life

Why do people care what I’m doing?
Two reasons. 1) Connection. People gravitate towards people who are like minded. Having stuff in common is the first step towards forming a connection.  2) Curiosity. It’s like when you’re traveling through a neighborhood and people have their windows open. You look. Not because it’s creepy but because you’re curious. Plus, the open window invites you. It gives you permission to glance, but not stalk.

Isn’t it just a bunch of nonsense and noise?
Nope. It’s a way to meet people who you might actually like, enjoy, do business with, get a job from, be entertained by, or gather information from.

Here’s an example:

My brother Brian (@GouletPens) makes Pens for a living. He went to a directory of twitter users called wefollow.com and typed “pens” to find people who were also passionate about pens. He started following @Dowdyism, a “pen addict extraordinaire”. @Dowdyism noticed Brian and started following him.

Now, you would think that these two pen fanatics would bond over their writing instrument obsession, but that’s just what got them in the door. They corresponded over Wii. Here are the screenshots:

Brian posted this to Twitter

Brian posted this to Twitter

and then, a few minutes later…

...and dowdyism (a potenital influencer for Brian) responded

...and dowdyism (a potenital influencer for Brian) responded

It’s a connection that probably wouldn’t have occurred if Brian had used DM, email, TV, radio, or another traditional marketing channel. But now, looks like he’s in.

What are all those crazy RT, @, and # things all over the page?

RT – This is a Retweet. It’s something that someone found on another twitter page. Let’s say Amy posts a really useful article. Ben sees it and knows his followers would really enjoy reading it, too. Ben copies the tweet, but inserts RT @Amy (or whatever her Twitter name is). Why do this? 1) It’s polite. It also shows transparency (which is a very good thing in social media). 2) It let’s Amy know her tweet was helpful to you so she is a) more likely to tweet more about that and b) sees who her biggest fans are.

@ – This links a twitter screen name.  If you start your post with @soandso, the person who has the screen name “soandso” will see your message, and it will show up as a tweet on your home page (but not on all your followers). You can also send someone a direct message (if you follow each other), which is kind of like a shortened form of email.

# – This is a hash tag. It’s sort of like a keyword so you can sort by categories. This helps you organize and find information more easily. According to Wild Apricot,

Hashtag etiquette is still evolving, so let good social manners be your guide. It is a rare “tweet” that deserves a hashtag, so tag only those updates that you feel will add significant value to the conversation. One hashtag is best — two are permissable — but three hashtags seem to be the absolute maximum, and risk raising the ire of the community. Tag sparingly, and with careful discretion.

How do I find people to follow?

Here are several ways:

  1. When you sign up for Twitter, it can automatically port your contacts from Gmail, Yahoo! or AOL. Mighty convenient and worth taking the extra 20 seconds during setup.
  2. You can also click “Find People” in the top right corner when you’re signed into twitter.
  3. Check out a twitter directory. There are several. If you need to find some, just google “twitter directory”. The best (to date) is wefollow.com.
  4. Click on who’s following you — right under your picture in the top right of the sidebar. Is there someone interesting?
  5. Click the @yourscreenname link just below that. This will show you tweeters who have mentioned you in one of their tweets.

Yikes, people I don’t know are following me….what should I do?

Step 1: Don’t freak out. You don’t have to “open the window” any more than you’re comfortable. If you don’t feel okay sharing something on Twitter, then don’t. It’s that simple.

Step 2: Remember your role. You’re publishing and sharing content for people to read. If you wrote for a magazine, people who you didn’t know would read your article and maybe write a letter to connect with you. Twitter lets you do the same thing. You publish content that you find valuable, and people who find it interesting read it, subscribe so they can read more, and might even contact you to comment on it.

Step 3: Adjust your privacy settings. If you don’t want people who you don’t know to follow you, go to Settings and click “Protect My Tweets”.

Step 4: Block spammers. If someone is spamming you, or you don’t want them to follow you, block them. Show ’em who’s boss.

How often should I tweet?
Tweet when you have something you want to share or say. Don’t just tweet to hear yourself type. Remember, this about connecting with people, not shouting about how great you are. You can ask a question, link to an article, or type a musing…it’s up to you. Expert tweeters post anywhere from 1 – 20 times per day. More than that, and you’ll start clogging your followers feeds. That annoys them.

Resources:

Here are some places I went to learn what I posted here  (thanks Sean, Carmen & Marvin for helping me find these!):

http://business.twitter.com/twitter101

http://www.businesspundit.com/10-essential-twitter-tools-for-business/

http://www.cio.com/article/492019/Twitter_Bible_Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Twitter

http://followontwitterlists.com/

Happy tweeting!

Oh, you can follow me if you’d like. @andreagoulet

Flesh Out vs. Flush Out — Either way it’s disgusting

Recent conversation with co-worker:

Me: This has been a great brainstorming. I’m going to go back to my desk and flush out some of these ideas.

She: Sounds good. Wait. Did you just say ‘flush out’….that always makes me think of a toilet. Ewww…I’m pretty sure you meant ‘flesh out’.

Me: ‘Flesh out’? No. I don’t think so. That makes me think of a deer carcass that someone is skinning. I’ll take the toilet image over mangling Bambi any day.

So what’s the correct answer?

Here, here, here, here, here and here say that the correct idiomatic expression for “adding details to an idea” is….drum roll….flesh out. Looks like I was wrong on this one. (groan.)

But wait!

Here, here, and  here, indicate that flush out means to “bring something that is hidden to the surface” (search this term on Google and you’ll find all sorts of strange references from hunting to earwax.)

So….

Here’s some rationale for using “flush out” for specific writing tasks (because I simply can’t concede that I’m wrong):

As a copywriter, my job is to go through a big thick creative brief, brainstorm 50+ ideas, and then bring the best parts to the surface so the message is no longer hidden among the rest of the unecessary details. Therefore, I “flush out” the concept.

Totally up for debate. What do you think?

Authors: Create More Buzz for Your Book with a Virtual Book Signing

Here’s a way cool idea on how to use social networking to build an audience.

My friend and first time author Carmen Shirkey is harnessing the power of facebook, blogs, twitter, you tube and the gads of other social media powers to promote her new book, “The List”. It’s an integrated campaign without an agent that’s cost effective and viral.

Here’s the deal:

Visit her blog through Sunday and you can purchase a signed copy of “The List” at a discount. She’s also thrown in a fabulous prize for comments, too  — a gorgeous Peggy Li necklace (her jewelry has been featured on numerous TV shows including, Buffy, Without a Trace and CSI). For complete rules, click here.

The buzz is definitely building for Carmen, and it can for you too. All it takes is a little link love.

McCain’s missing market share

I have difficulty understanding how McCain is targeting the millennial generation. When I look through my lens, it’s like he doesn’t even exist. His marketing campaign is so skewed that his presence is invisible to me.

Barack Obama on the other hand, is overtly present. Every time I log on to facebook, my sidebar is adorned with some sort of pro-Obama promotion. A quick 20 refreshes on my profile, and Obama’s presence was there a whopping 17 times, compared to McCain’s zero. And in case you’re wondering, I don’t indicate any sort of political preference in my information.

I, like most of my generation, rely heavily on social media sites. I’ll check facebook an average of 20 -30 times per day. When I watch TV, it’s digitally recorded, so I skip through the commercials. Actually, I get more of my entertainment from places like Netflix and hulu.

To me, it’s like McCain doesn’t even care about my vote. If he did, wouldn’t he want to interact with me? I’ve told you how to reach me. Now where are you? I’m an undecided voter, a prime target. But you’re spending your advertising budget in ways that I’ll never see you. Barack seems to care. He’s interacting with me. So you’ve essentially given my vote to him simply because you didn’t show up.

So just what does this impact mean? Well, there are 42 million members of Gen Y who could vote this year. According to a recent survey from MeriTalk, 73% of Gen Y respondents plan to vote in the next election.

That’s over 30 million votes that John McCain is ignoring.

Not smart marketing if you ask me.

Reconciliation

Since coming to Capital One in December of 2007, I’ve struggled to find a balance for this blog. For the past year and a half, I used this blog as a marketing tool for my freelance business. Now that I’m not building a business, I found it difficult to see why I should bother continuing to post. Hence the sabbatical.

Here’s the realization I’ve come to over the past few weeks.

1. I have a passion for small businesses. I genuinely believe that small business is the coal that keeps the American economy blazing. My (and lots of other marketers’) ideas and experiences can help small businesses thrive.

2. I’m proud of where I work. Capital One is a world class brand filled with smart marketers that I learn from every day.

3. Even though I work at a company, doesn’t mean I can’t still help small businesses. In fact, I’ve learned more since working here than I did in the years I freelanced. My experience is more valuable than ever.

4. Thanks especially to Brian, Juli and Becca for helping me see the value of my writing. I’m so inspired by your initiatives.

5. In the changing economic landscape, GREAT marketing is more important than ever. ROI, ROI, ROI!

How to Get More Customers (Even If You Hate Selling)

www.gardenplantmarkers.comMy mother created what I think is a purple cow. An avid gardener, she was frustrated with the market’s lack of a quality garden plant marker, so she set out and created her own. Every gardener she’s shown it to flips over how great these things are – so simply showcasing the product should be enough to create a selling frenzy, right? Wrong.

“If you build it, they will come” may have worked for Kevin Costner, but if you as an entrepreneur embrace this laissez faire philosophy, prepare to watch the product to which you’ve dedicated so many hours die on the vine. Selling is a simply a critical skill to success.

However, if you’re like my mother – the thought of selling is overwhelmingly intimidating. Over homemade chicken soup on Sunday she expressed how, “I’m simply not wired that way. I get nervous and the words just don’t come out right.” Sound familiar?

If so, read on for ideas on how you can pitch your product without feeling like you’ve underminded your integrity.

Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Norman Vincent Peale was right – if you can’t get excited about your product or service, who will? Do you believe you’re the best? Deep down in your gut do you know that someone’s life will be just a little better because of what you’ve created? Then let those feelings show. Passion is contagious. When you’re genuinely happy and wholeheartedly believe that your product is the best on the market, that confidence can help your conversion rate.

Action: Often when we get excited our hearts beat stronger, we talk faster, louder or softer. However, these are signs of being nervous and uncomfortable – not self-confidence. Set up a video camera to record yourself. Sit down, stare directly into the camera and answer this question – “Who is someone special in your life and what are the qualities that make you love them.” Pause. Get a glass of water. Sit down and stare again while answering this question – “What is your product/service and why should someone buy it.” Then watch the tape. Do you notice a difference in the intonation and inflection of your voice? Chances are you were more comfortable talking about your someone special than your product. Continue recording until you are equally as comfortable with your product.

Use a Net – Not a Pole
If your product is fulfilling a specific niche (which it should) blasting your message and seeing who bites may not be the most effective use of resources. Instead, go to places with a high density of potential customers. Think of catching fish in the ocean with a single pole versus catching fish in a barrel with a net. The “barrel” might be a chat room, blog, forum, conference, or event where people are saying “Help – I have this problem and need a way to fix it.” When they ask for a solution and you provide it, you’re not selling – you’re solving.

Action: Brainstorm places where your potential customers might hang out in high numbers. Think beyond the tried and true and attempt to uncover unconventional places to market your product or service. Then go there with your I’m-here-to-help-you attitude.

Sell by Referral
Form relationships with other entrepreneurs who offer a complementary product or service and cross-pollinate your prospects. For example, when I was a freelance writer, I spent a fair amount of time meeting with graphic artists and graphic designers. Why? I knew that a potential client would most likely seek out their profession first when a project arose. By educating my partners on the value I brought to the client, they happily recommended me when a client needed help with their writing.

Action: Who are your potential partners? Write down a list of products or services your customers use in addition to yours. Then, seek out places where these referral sources congregate, go there and begin to make friends. Often time these relationships take time, so be patient and give these new relationships the care they deserve.

Related Links

7 Lies that Prevent Your Great Idea from Becoming a Real Business – by Greg Go

How Sales Techniques Work – by Lee Ann Obringer

Marketing For the Deer-in-the-Headlights Crowd – by Dawn Rivers Baker

50 Ideas to Immediately Combat Writers Block

Help image

Writer’s block – the dreaded enemy of all authors. This post features ideas on how you can scale it, get over it, and be on your merry way in a flash.

1. Read blogs about your subject.

2. Cover your computer screen and go stream of consciousness.

3. Get some fresh air and go for a walk/run.

4. Visit a museum.

5. Browse photos at istockphoto.com.

6. Interview people regarding your topic.

7. Visit an online forum and see what others are saying.

8. Change your scenery. Move your writing to a coffee shop or park.

9. Look around your house and make associations with inanimate objects.

10. Organize your workspace. A clear desk means a clear mind.

11. Draw instead using storyboards.

12. Ask a question to your network on LinkedIn or Facebook.

13. Take a bubble bath.

14. Go to a busy place and people watch.

15. Meet with other writers using meetup.com

16. Mind map your subject.

17. Browse Youtube for videos regarding your subject.

18. Go to the library and check out books.

19. Use the visual thesaurus to get ideas for new words.

20. Talk to a kid.

21. Stare out a window.

22. Record yourself talking – then transcribe your thoughts.

23. Go to itunes or napster. Type your subject into the search box & listen to those songs.

24. Paint or draw a picture of your subject.

25. Cook a meal that your character or target market would enjoy.

26. Take a nap.

27. Outline the big picture.

28. Write about your goals for this project.

29. Meditate.

30. Work backwards. Write the ending first.

31. Read inspiring quotes.

32. Listen to “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield.

32. Dance.

33. Look at a lava lamp.

34. Write a list of nouns synonymous with your subject.

35. Write a list of adjectives that describe your subject.

36. Write a list of verbs that your subject would do.

37. Lie down in a patch of grass & watch the clouds go by.

38. Call a friend or family member and get their opinion.

39. Braindump all of your “to dos” onto a piece of paper to clear your mind.

40. Eat a stalk of celery.

41. Paint your toenails a pretty pink. Not your thing? Try using a powertool to make something.

42. Sing at the top of your lungs.

43. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths.

44. Stretch.

45. Balance your chakras.

46. Visit freerice.com & expand your vocabulary

47. Change your font or writing instrument.

48. Work on a different project.

49. Change the lighting in your room.

50. Add your idea in the comment section below, bookmark this page & reference it again the next time you have writers block.

Related Links

Top 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block – by Ginny Wiehardt

Overcoming Writer’s Block: 5 Writing Exercises – by Genevieve Thiers

Generating Story Ideas and Overcoming Writer’s Block – by Mignon Fogarty