If you’ve been around these bloggy parts for even a few weeks you’ll know that I’ve been wrestling with the whole 2.0 world. The social networking world which these days revolves around Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc. At times this wrestling has been more like a death match and more than once I’ve been left gasping for air and ready to give in. I haven’t because I think it’s worth the trouble to figure this stuff out.
Right now I am up to my neck in social networking, affiliate accounts, and things like AmazonConnect. My book comes out in 6 weeks and I want to get things in place to really do a proper job of promoting it. So I have a reason for all this frantic social networking stuff. But so do many of you.
Social networking, Web 2.0, whatever you call it, is nothing more than a set of tools. For some of you it’s a set of toys and you’re content to litter the information superhighway with details about your cat or your breakfast. I guess that’s ok, too. But the business applications for these tools are immense if you (1) use them with intent and (2) use them well. Not easy.
So, let’s talk Twitter. I use it because it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a chat room, a newswire, a polling service, a micro-blog. It can be a tool to connect you to more people faster, and give you opportunities to go deeper. But it’s not magic. You gotta learn to use it. Here’s what I’ve learned after a couple weeks of living and breathing this stuff.
1. Be Relevant. For the love of all things good, PLEASE ask yourself this one question before tweeting: Who Cares? Seriously. If the answer is limited to you and your cat, keep it to yourself. If you’re micro-blogging as a professional then stupid tweets about absolutely nothing will only dilute the way I think about you. Perception is reality and if you’re Twittering makes you look vapid and silly, sorry, you’ve just become vapid and silly.
2. Know Your Audience. Who are you talking to? Professional photographers? Amateurs? All photographers? This guides what you say and how you say it.
3. Be Yourself. But be a carefully edited version of yourself. What you say on the Twittersphere and the rest of the internet ripples a long way. You can’t control where it goes or how it gets used, only what you say. So be mindful. Careers have crashed and burned.
4. Be Community-Minded. If you are looking to be a leader within a community you have to interact with, and serve, that community. Web 2.0 is fueled by reciprocity. For every person that follows you, follow them (unless numbers don’t matter to you). For every tweet you throw out to the Twittersphere, comment or respond to another. Re-Tweet.
5. Know The Limits And Move Past Them. Twitter can only do so much. It’s like an internet dating site. You find the girl, you chat with the girl, but if you don’t graduate from the online service to a face-to-face encounter, y’ain’t dating. Twitter is great for meeting and chatting, but you can’t live life at 140 characters all the time. Don’t be afraid to take it further. I’ve already had coffee with folks I’ve met on Twitter, in fact I have one tomorrow morning. And the more conversations you have, the more opportunities you find.
6. Get a Reader, like TweetDeck, to make heads or tails of Twitter and keep your head above water. What it took me a while to understand is that Twitter is a reciprocal numbers thing. If part of your goal is more followers, then you need to follow more people. But no one can keep track of all this noise, so Tweetdeck allows you to create columns for favourites, and groups. So I’ve got one just for photography in which I place the folks who generate actual content. Keeps me sane. Not everyone wants numbers, but I’m experimenting with something so that’s part of my goal. Tweetdeck allows me to do that and remain sane. Without Tweetdeck I’d have jumped ship.
7. Repeat The Tweet. I don’t do this, but probably should. If you want your tweets to reach the most peeps (what the heck kind of language is this new technology encouraging?) then you need to repeat your tweets a few times a day. I guess I’m I just don’t care that much because this seems like too much work. But if you’ve got something important to say repeat it, and ask people to RT.
8. Remember Your Purpose. If your purpose is to direct people to your blog, then do that – intentionally point people to new posts, but consider this: if you come off as too self-promotional, as more of a taker than a giver, the community to which you appeal is likely to be smaller than if you also point to great related content on other blogs. If your purpose is just to make a name for yourself then the usual rules of celebrity management/leverage apply, but here’s another: be a fan, not just a celebrity. The more you point people to others, the more valuable you are to others. People like folks who are givers.
9. Extend Your Brand. If I go to your Twitter page will I find your logo? Do you have a great avatar? Your web 2.0 activities are marketing activities, little chances to say Here’s Who I Am! The usual rules apply – be creative, consistent, and congruent with your brand and core values.
10. Please Control Yourself. You need to update Twitter a dozen times every hour? Seriously? Do you know that makes me want to poke my eye out with a fork? Remember tip #1 – Be Relevant – but please, be relevant IN MODERATION. The more you say the less impact each thing you say will have. More signal, less noise. Please.
Got a great tip for using Twitter as a photographer? Comments are open.