As Twitter prepares for its initial public offering in the coming weeks, internet pundits are feverishly discussing the potential growth of the company and the various opportunities it could provide to advertisers. While the future of Twitter may hold some changes, there are many current benefits that you can take advantage of as a professional.
Twitter, much like LinkedIn, is a vast network that allows you to tap in to a wealth of information. Some of it may not be so useful – like Charlie Sheen’s latest rants or tweets about what Kanye West had for dinner last night. However, creative use of Twitter can help you improve your professional brand and learn more about your industry. Here are a few simple tips to get you started:
1. Brand Yourself Professionally
One of the first and most important considerations for Twitter is your professional brand. You should decide early on whether you want your Twitter account to be geared primarily toward personal or professional use. While you will still want your personality to come through in your tweets, you want the majority of your content to be centered upon professional topics. Avoid flaming or getting into too much detail about your personal life.
You should also create an account that is clearly tied to you as a professional and a bio that neatly summarizes your personal brand. For example, make your Twitter handle some variation of your name (mine is @andrewcrain) so that it can be easily be linked to you in search engine results. The photo should be a clear and professional headshot, similar to your LinkedIn image. For an added touch, include the URL to your LinkedIn profile in your Twitter bio so that interested viewers can find out more about you.
2. Connect with Thought Leaders
After you get your account started, you should begin trying to connect with thought leaders in your field. There are a few ways to go about this process. I suggest starting with some good blogs relevant to your interests – do a Google search to find some, and then see if the authors also have a Twitter account you can follow.
Once you find some users who are making good use of Twitter, browse through the lists of their followers or the accounts they are following to find more potential connections. The list may include professional associations, recruiters, company accounts, bloggers or independent consultants, leaders in your field, or even co-workers. I also have found a few profiles that generate inspirational or humorous content (such as @MeetingBoy), which provides some additional incentive for me to spend time looking through my Twitter feed.
Overall, your goal should be to follow a set of users that will push meaningful content to you on a regular basis. Twitter is a great way to passively collect information and build your network. At any given time, you should be able to log in and catch up on the latest discussions or events that are happening in your industry. Plus, users with a strong Twitter presence can serve as role models for you – emulate the way that they interact on the platform to quickly become a master yourself!
3. Create Dialogue
Finally, remember that your ultimate goal on Twitter is to create dialogue. You don’t want to simply be a parrot and constantly re-tweet the content of others, no matter how good that content might be. Instead, make your posts a balanced mixture of re-tweets and original posts, such as sharing an article you found, a blog entry you wrote, or a comment on a topic/event relevant to your industry. About 10-20% of your posts could be related to exhibiting your personality, such as sharing an inspirational quote or commenting about your workday.
Think carefully about any potential opportunities to create dialogue. Rather than just reading the content on your Twitter feed, take steps to engage with others and start a conversation. Perhaps this means reaching out to someone you follow to thank them or ask questions about content they shared or tagging colleagues in your posts when you share relevant information. Engaging others on Twitter is one of the most challenging pieces of the platform, but it is essential if you plan on using Twitter to enhance your network!