Tweet smart!

Sure, it’s easy to use Twitter. You just sign up, put in a few details about yourself, and away you go. But if you want to be a — dare I say it — “power-tweeter,” there are a few basic tricks and tools that can really help your tweets take flight. Pun intended.

Behold the Power of URL Shorteners

Bit.ly, or tinyurl, or is.gd, or whatever your URL shortener of choice may be can go a long way towards helping you squash your thoughts into 140 tiny characters. They’re also a lot shorter to type, which can help your non smartphone-enabled Twitter followers out if they can’t click on links. Not only that, but some of the more advanced ones (like bit.ly, my personal favorite) can track the number of times people have clicked on your links, so you can tell if that video you found of the hamster playing piano is really popular or not.

Say It Now, Send It Later

HootSuite (and similar services) help you tackle that familiar problem: sending messages out regularly, but not all at once. Raise your hand if you have a day job that prohibits you from sending tweets all day long (note: I can’t actually see you, but I’m willing to bet the majority of people reading this blog fall in this category). Enter HootSuite. Not only does it let you manage and tweet on multiple accounts at the same time (great for managing a business with a social media presence), but it lets you schedule tweets ahead of time. This simple feature can be incredibly powerful, as in just a few hours you can queue up a whole week’s worth of content.

Greed, speed, and need: 3 types of social media postings

speedSocial media users have content expectations! I know it’s difficult to understand a user’s expectation of ROI for spending 5 seconds reading your 140-character tweet. So as you’re diligently working on your social media strategies take some time and actually think about your content.

I’m a techie, and by nature communications isn’t my forte. But I would propose there are three types of social media posts that fill some very specific human emotional needs.

Greed – I rail against using social media for direct marketing but I’m also a cheapskate. When Chipotle offered free burritos via Twitter I was hooked into being a follower. My greed motivates me to follow my favorite companies and they reward me from time to time with great deals or discounts. Trust me; if I wasn’t getting something I’d kick them out of my circle of friends in a hurry.

Speed – Inquiring minds need to know, and now they want to know instantly. I simply just don’t have time to seek out information, but I have a personal need to feel that I’m in the know. I’ve become competitive in information collection, and I use my social network as my competitive advantage.

Need – Belonging to something and having relationships with others are the reasons it’s called social. This was the primary benefit of social media and sadly it’s the one that is least often addressed now that social has become mainstream. Unlike greed and speed, it’s nearly impossible to over saturate the need to be connected to others.

Now think about your social strategy. Is it comprised of simply pushing links out to your friends and followers? Are your messages balanced, and do you have solutions in place to actually respond to real needs? Is your content balanced in a way that you are addressing the types of messages you need for long term success?

OTHER QUICK TIPS:

  1. Have a profile image that is easy to pick out of the stream
  2. Keep messages up-to-date so you don’t appear stagnant
  3. Space messages into appropriate times, don’t fill up an entire stream

As always I welcome comments. Feel free to agree, disagree, or simply add your own tips about social media.

Calling The Fail Whale!

fail-whale copy Twitter how you disappoint me! Where is your loyalty to those of us who stood with you through the tough times? Instead of feeding me news you are a constant stream of useless babble and popularity contests.

Don’t believe me? This week’s twitter trends were horrible – primarily focused on the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber. Is this what we thought Twitter would become? 

Once upon a time, Twitter had great promise as a news and information service. An endless collection of real time information that freed countries and saved imprisoned journalists. Information that could be used to gauge the pulse of news in the world. It was what was important to humanity in real time.

Well maybe it’s not all Twitter’s fault. Perhaps it’s humanity that disturbs me. Get a grip people. Boy band drama isn’t what’s important. Let’s try to focus. Then again maybe it’s just me. Perhaps we have become so shallow as a species that this stream of crap is what consumes us. If that’s the case, I’m calling on the Fail Whale to save us all!

Has Twitter jumped the shark? If you’ve abandoned Twitter for a different social news stream let me know where you’ve gone. Still a loyal Tweep? If you still think Twitter is great let me know why.

Advantages of “my time” working when sick

I’m home sick this week, and while I feel like death there is a positive to all of this misery. My week at home gives me some time to do backed-up tasks uninterrupted. I find I’m actually more productive when I’m home sick. Yes, I know the majority of employees take sick time to rest but for me working is relaxing, especially when it’s on my own time.

That’s what technology enables – working on my time, my terms, or what I refer to as, “my time” working. For example I’m sitting here in my comfy chair with my blanket draped around me writing this blog post. If I were in my office, I’d be sitting in my desk chair and most likely be disrupted by others or at least distracted by activity. My time allows me to try new technologies and communication techniques.

When I started working with technology my real love was machine-to-machine communication. I was mesmerized by the fact that you could get those ugly boxes to talk to one another. This week has allowed me to stay connected without infecting my co-workers. Services like Skype, Google Docs, Adium (Instant Messenger) and others all fill out my toolbox for “my time” working.

Skype allows me to see who on my staff is available for contact and create quick ad-hoc conference calls. Adding video to the mix gives me a unique perspective on the meeting, and if I can’t get my point across a quick screen sharing session lets me show my concerns. I find that I’m a little impatient when I’m ill and the tone of my voice might be a tad more aggressive than intended. Seeing the reaction of those on the other end of the conversation helps me adjust my tone.

Google Docs helps me get the help I need. While you might not know it from these polished posts, I’m not an excellent writer. In fact if it wasn’t for technology and editors I’d be in pretty poor shape. Google Docs allows me to collaborate and share documents with my staff. My original version of this post will forever be stored, but soon Kristen will come along and clean this up via document sharing. Another great use for Docs is meeting notes. That’s right, I get to miss the meeting and have live time access to the information presented.

Adium is my favorite IM client as it allows me to merge all my IM services into one window. I have a presence for MSN, Yahoo, Facebook and more all in one quick view. If I need some quick information I have a friend to reach out to. Sadly Adium doesn’t connect the LCS (My corporate IM) so I have Office Communicator to detect who in the office is available.

Then of course I have my news and entertainment services. Google Reader, Twitter, and Facebook all offer me a view of the news from around the world. I can catch up on current events, attend virtual conferences, and view comments as I see fit. Pandora offers me soothing tunes to drown out the side noise of the children, Dora the Explorer, and the dog.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the social aspect of the office and I wouldn’t want to be home all the time but I do enjoy the “my time” work now and then. Sitting here and reflecting back, I’m impressed to see how far we’ve come since the 90’s. Web 2.0 sure beats the BBS I was running…

What are your favorite tools for remote work? Do you find yourself still working from home when you’re sick?

Twitter Tuesday: Twitter’s getting business friendly

In a blog post by Twitter this week, it was announced that Twitter has some special features in the works for businesses that tweet. The Contributors feature, which will allow multiple users to tweet on behalf of an organization, enables users to have more engaging and authentic conversations with their followers.

The feature would attach the contributors Twitter username to the tweet – making whoever posted the tweet identifiable and allowing for more engaging conversations.

tweet

Twitter asserts that after some user testing, the Contributors feature will be released soon, along with several other business developments in the works!

12/16 ETA: Mashable just published an article featuring some wonderful screenshots of Twitter’s Contributor feature. Check ‘em out! 

Polleverywhere fun and effective resource for speakers

For anybody that has frequent speaking engagements, Polleverywhere could be a great tool for you. Polleverywhere is an easy and effective way to poll your audiences, a la Who Wants to be a Millionaire’s, Ask the Audience feature.

Speakers can instantly poll their audience by using a poll that has been embedded into their PowerPoint presentations; or by using the Polleverywhere website. On the flip side, presentation attendees can vote on the poll by texting their answer and a voting keyword to a pre-determined number or through Twitter by adding @poll to your tweet.

The best part about Polleverywhere, is that the responses are displayed on-screen in real-time. This is a great way to move a presentation forward by anonymously gathering the thoughts and opinions of those in your audience.

Types of polls

Polleverywhere doesn’t just stop at multiple choice polls. In fact, the website allows for free text polling, which allows participants to answer more open-ended questions, such as, “Do you have any further questions for the presenter?”

Presenting at a fundraising event? Use a goal poll to show the audiences’ instant contributions using a rising thermometer. Participants to contribute a pledge just like they were texting in a response to one of the polls mentioned above.

How much does it cost?

Polleverywhere has six plans to choose from for business and non-profit use, ranging from their free Basic Plan to the Platinum Plan for $1,400 per month. Depending on your class size, the Basic Plan boasts some great features, including 30 votes per poll, PowerPoint polls, web voting, widgets, downloadable results, Twitter and Web-phone participation, and more.

Polleverywhere also has several free and paid plan choices for teachers in K-12 and higher education.

This just scratches the surface of what Polleverywhere has to offer. Check it out today.

Move over TwitPic – there’s a new kid in town

TweetPhoto is a free photo sharing service for Twitter and Facebook. TweetPhoto lets you share photos on Twitter and Facebook, and allows interaction with any user or photo.

Like TwitPic, TweetPhoto lets users upload photos by e-mail, through the web, or on their mobile phones, but the similarities end there.  tweetphoto

Some new features that TweetPhoto has to offer include the ability to see who has viewed your photos, the option to favorite or retweet any photo, and the ability to filter photos posted by your Twitter or Facebook friends. All photos posted are automatically geo-tagged which allows for later searching of photos, and the ability to see trending tags.

Check out TweetPhoto at www.tweetphoto.com.

Twazzup

twazzup

Twazzupis an efficient way to search and follow Twitter trends. It’s exceptionally good for following events and conference tweet streams. It offers a fast live streaming interface with the ability to filter and sort content within the stream. If you’re looking to mine information from Twitter I strongly suggest you try Twazzup.

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My Tweet-Up Experience at #MDSocial

No doubt I’m not a social creature. After all, I’m a techie who would expect anything but anti-social behavior. Recently I took the plunge into online social networking thinking it would be safe, completely lacking any real human connection. To my surprise, I found myself making real connections within only a few days. I was communicating with someone, rather than just machines. Conversations with real people, with real opinions, from all over the world streamed down my screen.

My favorite Social Networking tool was Twitter. With a 140 character message limitation, it delivers information in a format that worked well with my ADD based personality. As time passed I was tweeting up a storm, completely comfortable in my online relationships. That’s when it happened, The Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants sent out a “Tweet-up Invitation”.

I’d been on Twitter long enough to know that these “Tweet-ups” where an opportunity for Twitter users to gather in “real life” and network. Just the thought of attending brought back memories of hiding under the bleachers at my middle school dance. “I’ll just ignore it, nobody will notice if I don’t respond” I thought to myself.

With the date for the Tweet-up rapidly approaching, and no further mention of it, I believed I’d dodged the bullet. Of course just when I was comfortable, the invite came again, then hit a ReTweet stream, then DM’s with questions from friends about my attendance. What was I to do? I caved and decided to toughen up and make an appearance.

Wow, is about all I can say. The MACPA Tweet-up wasn’t painful like some of the other networking events I’ve attended. People who arrived had something in common, we all utilized online social networking. Not everyone in attendance was connected on Twitter, some folks didn’t even use Twitter. Several people in attendance found the Tweet-up via a Facebook posting, others were hauled in by spouses. The MACPA did a wonderful job at hosting, providing food, beverages, and nametags with our online names as well as our real names. TweetChat was used to allow those who couldn’t attend to join the discussion.

Discussions were a mix between personal and professional topics, just like those you find within the on-line community. At one point Tom Hood, with the MACPA started a round of introductions where we all shared our names, organization, use of Twitter, and our best Twitter stories. What I found most interesting about the introductions, were the different use of the tool. Among the 20-30 attendees answers included collecting information, communication, public relations, crowd sourcing, intelligence and more. My mind was spinning, this one simple tool I used for knowledge collection had so many unique uses!

The discussion continued with Twitter client discussions, how-to information, best practices, and other related topics. Francine McKenna (@retheauditors), Rick Telberg (@CPA_Trendlines) and I discussed the importance of your Twitter name, renaming, squatters and alter egos. Jeff De Cagna (@pinnovation) discussed a new BlackBerry client he was using called Social Scope. Several people discussed how Twitter had been discussed on and utilized in mainstream media as well as strategies for presenting your message properly. So much information was exchanged during the two hours it’s impossible for me to document everything I’ve learned.

“Extremely valuable”, is how I’d sum it up. While I have a hard time doing it justice in words, I’ve had an experience I won’t soon forget. Perhaps @BillSheridan will do a better job of reporting the details. My best advice would be next time you see that Tweet-Up invite you your stream jump on it. It’s fun, informative, and valuable!

While @kvitartas will cringe, I’ve made this post without the Editors “net” at the request of @dahowlett. Spelling and Grammatical errors are all mine in this one RE: dahowlett@chris_jenkins I’ll take whatever YOU choose to share. YOUR gig, YOUR terms etc. Make me want more.

Social media, find your voice

Remember when a Yellow Page ad was enough to promote your business? How about the days of broadcast faxing, or starting up a website (and if you didn’t you were obsolete)? Technology has a way of shifting and knocking us off our feet. The social web is just another such shift.

Just as organizations scrambled to build a web presence in the 90s, they are quickly adopting to the social web. Those who do it well see a huge shift in business, those who do it poorly are frustrated, and those who ignore it are becoming obsolete. Social is here and it’s changed the way people think, work, advertise, and purchase. It’s no longer good enough for an organization to have and publish a story. Now you need others to verify and restate your story.

Those of us who have been around this tech stuff for a while will remember the popularity of the BBS (bulletin board systems). These systems pre-date the Internet and were a great way to mine information and make friends online. Many organizations had bulletin board systems, and when the Internet came along they joined the Internet rather than attempting to build a new one. The same concept applies to social communities: I suggest organizations join existing communities rather than attempting to build new ones. I understand the concern of building external, publicly accessible sites where customers congregate. The "what ifs" seem endless and the risks may seem insurmountable. Trust me; inaction is far worse than any risk you can come up with.

Take every "what if" you can muster, then ask yourself, "Is someone else already taking this risk in my space?" Most likely they are, most likely they are successful, and most likely they have the opportunity to become a competitor. So hold your breath, close your eyes and jump in!

Unlike the rush to build websites, "Social" is more than a presence: it’s a relationship, or several relationships. It’s about building a personality for yourself and your organization, and maintaining a voice. Just as you might go to a cocktail party and share experiences while listening to others, you will need to build the ability to electronically mingle and become "charming" via text. It’s amazing that the same people who are so charming in person, can work the crowd, and value in-person social events often struggle with social technology. It’s actually as simple as going to a networking or social event, you blur the lines between professional and personal. You listen, share, add and learn.

Technology based "cocktail parties" are happening right now on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You’ve all been invited. Are you attending or just shunning your customers? Perhaps you’re that uncomfortable guy in the corner just waiting for someone to engage you in conversation. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be the life of the party, you can make it through this.

First find your comfort zone, find those folks you know and trust and tag around with them. If you don’t feel that you have anything interesting to say, just listen. If you find topics you have an opinion about, it’s a great opportunity to strike up a conversation. Perhaps you find something so interesting you want to share it with others – which is encouraged. Perhaps you think it’s stupid that people are reporting they’re attending a sporting event, or catching a plane. But how many cocktail parties have you gone to where everyone is completely focused on work? Remember this is social, and you won’t offend anyone by posting your activities. In fact, it shows you’re a real person and spurs additional interest. So what do I post, "I’m sitting on my porch and two deer just ran by, nobody cares!"? Yes, exactly, comments like this combined with professional conversation allow people to know you’re real.

You have to build your voice – you can’t be automated and business only, people in the social world recommend others based on relationships. You can’t automate a relationship. You can’t build a relationship with a website, marketing brochure, or product. Building relationships isn’t easy but the loyalty and word of mouth (in this case) is well worth it.

If you’re a CPA firm, association or non-profit who needs help finding your voice and building a social strategy, DM me on twitter, or message me on Facebook and we can discuss strategies at no cost to you.

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