Social Media Week: The Advancement of Twitter

by Katie Creaser on February 4, 2010

FacebookLinkedInTwitterGoogle+PinterestRedditShare/Save

What have you learned so far during Social Media Week? Our next social media-themed blog post comes from Jonathan Mathias, senior account executive at Johnson King. Johnson King, our partner, is a European technology PR agency headquartered in London.

The Advancement of Twitter
By Jonathan Mathias

Since signing up to Twitter two years ago, I’m now following over 400 different accounts – something which recently led to an alarming crisis of confidence and a subsequent overhaul of how I use it.

It’s always been clear to me that Twitter would be a powerful tool, but given its ever-changing nature, the question of what you can do with it is much harder to answer. This makes it difficult to create a comprehensive Twitter strategy and has doubtlessly prevented many from investing the time needed to fully get to grips with it.

Any Google search will find you a million Twitter tips, most of which can be summed up in one sentence: “post regularly, with useful, relevant, interesting or personable content and always interact with your audience” – common sense, no?  Conversely, you’ll also find a multitude of blog entries debating why anyone would use it in the first place or whether there’s any real business value in using it (which rather misses the point – whether you like it or not, millions of people are using it to communicate every second of the day).

But, aside from what to do and why, with more and more businesses and their audiences clocking-on and signing up, how to manage Twitter has become far from straight forward.

At a very basic level, you can log on to the Twitter website, see what’s going on, search, post your updates, send private messages, etc..  Depending on how often the people you’re following post updates, this will probably work just fine up to about 100 people.  As you go past this figure – 200, 300, 400+ – it becomes very, very chaotic.

By logging into my account from the Twitter webpage at any one time, I’ll only see updates from the past five minutes or so.  If I want to see anything that happened before five minutes ago, I’ll have to go onto page two and beyond.  What about the vitally relevant tweet that was posted an hour ago?  In all likelihood, I’ve missed that chance.

Yes, you can search Twitter with relevant keywords in the hope of finding conversations you may have missed – but, if it’s anything, Twitter is immediate – and not very many people can afford to sit there on it all day doing that anyway.

A way to tackle this issue is to employ a Twitter client that specifically helps you to cope with large numbers of updates – like TweetDeck or Seesmic.

I’d dabbled with these in the past but until recently they seemed a little like overkill and over complicated – and, to the casual user, they are.  But, if you want to develop a worthwhile presence on Twitter, you’re going to want a manageable insight into what a lot of people are saying – something which is very difficult to do from the Twitter website alone.

I’ve just gone through a very long process to configure and learn how to interact with Twitter via a popular client.  This is not to say that applications are badly designed – they’re very necessarily complex, as they’re very powerful tools.

I’ve grouped the people I’m following into lists/columns (and handily added in LinkedIn and Facebook feeds), making it much easier to digest or catch-up on what’s going on at a glance.

Although most brands will have, at the very least, registered a Twitter account by now, many will be cautious users, content to wait and see just how big, useful and profitable it will be.  But some brands are already electing to use more advanced tools to manage Twitter.  And, given my experience, they are wise to do so.

Basically, to get the most out of Twitter, you need to be following a lot of people (and hopefully have a lot of followers) and you’re at an advantage if you use a client to manage the flow of information this generates.  Twitter’s user-base growth and the incorporation of it into day-to-day business seem to be pointing towards a future where Twitter could one day become a truly ubiquitous method of communication.

What’s certain is that Twitter has evolved massively in a short time, with new features and innovative ways of using it coming to light on a daily basis.  Will Twitter ever be a lean, mean, worthwhile business machine? Perhaps, but what’s sure is that if you want to be there when it does, you’ll need to put in some legwork now.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan 02.05.10 at 6:49 am

Interesting news from Gartner on projected business use of social networking – http://www.computing.co.uk/computing/news/2257184/social-networking-replace-email

I think the most important point is the projection that most projects will fail if they focus too much on the IT solution, rather than looking at the wider purpose and goals from a social perspective.

Vanessa 02.05.10 at 11:09 am

Great insight Jonathan!

You’re so right, we often look at “what to do” and “why” with Twitter – and as a result fail to consider the “how”. The how is critical to success on so many levels, both business and personal.

Like you, it’s taken me years of revising my approach to embrace a flexible one that makes Twitter manageable and perhaps more importantly valuable. Third-party clients are a huge time – and sanity – saver. I’m not sure what I would do without TweetDeck – and still *cringe* whenever I’m forced into having to use the actual web version of Twitter, ek.

Used in conjunction with TweetDeck the additional element that’s really helped me with maintaining a digestible work flow has been focusing on two primary types of Twitter time management: one task based and the other time based. Both have been employed based on my needs, time availability and intended outcomes.

Task based at its simplest has been doing the following three things daily:

1. Check most recent @replies
2. Review most recent conversation threads
3. Respond to any new @replies or DM’s

Right now, I’m utilizing a more time centric approach based on my availability and goals. For instance, I set aside one to two hours daily as “Twitter Time” and use that to lurk, monitor, respond and publish. This time management breakdown is covered in greater depth (with a range of time options) during a comprehensive session presented to Cambridge, MA area nonprofits by Cambridge Community Television (full presentation can be found on SlideShare: http://bit.ly/avcc4F).

All of the advice above is super simple, but wonderfully manageable. I think making Twitter manageable and therefore more valuable is a very potent combination.

Though perhaps the biggest point, which you definitely hit on, is that the way people use and interact with Twitter has changed, is changing and will continue to change. Therefore people have to be willing to adapt and find new ways to make the work flow work for them, their clients and the goals that they are trying to achieve to ensure value and effective allocation/management of time. Establishing the work flow now will only ensure great adaptability and success later.

Thanks again Jonathan! Great topic, post and insight.

Katie Safrey 02.05.10 at 1:02 pm

Thanks Vanessa and Jonathan! I think that anyone that’s a regular Twitter user has faced a lot of the issues and hurdles that have been mentioned here.

For me, one of the biggest challenges in using Twitter for business (and from an agency-standpoint) is managing multiple accounts on a daily basis. It can be frustrating to try and “listen” to diverse conversations and respond in a timely manner.

I wanted to share some tools that I regularly use to manage multiple Twitter accounts and social media platforms:
1. Postling (www.postling.com) – to post to multiple accounts, across multiple platofrms
2. Social Oomph (www.socialoomph.com) – to schedule tweets
3. Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com) – for monitoring keywords and conversations

My dream is that someone will create a platform that combines all of this functionality so that I can become a lean, mean tweeting machine.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>