If you’ve spent any time at all on the internet looking through different blogs and websites, you’ve undoubtedly noticed an explosion of buzz-words or icons that make little sense to a casual observer–“Follow me,” “Link to Me,” “Friend Me,” and more. There’s no shortage of social networking sites and communication applications with strange or cutely misspelled names (Twitter, Jaiku, Facebook, Flickr.) It’s easy to believe there must be a load of spam, or worse, attached to the link asking you to “click here!” Scary, indeed, especially for the techno-peasant (thanks, Judy) in many of us.
[singlepic=136,320,240,,right]Well, I held my breath one day and actually did click on one of those links, and I found this wonderful little gem with the weirdest of names: Twitter. Twitter is a cross between a blog and an instant message program, and frankly, it doesn’t really look like much when you first sign up for it. But, after you begin to find and follow other people, you can become quite consumed! The idea behind Twitter is to post a 140 character answer to the question “What are you doing right now?” Those posts, from you and all those you follow are called “tweets” and they are displayed in a constantly updated feed on your home page. “Why?”, you ask. Different reasons for different folks.
Hey, Follow Me!
I signed up for Twitter because I wanted to find out what the noise was all about. I also wanted to discover more from someone whose blog I read regularly (props to Reggie and Nik_Nik @ MTO). I was still clicking through different people I found on Nik-Nik’s page when I was notified that “Tiffani was following me!” I clicked on Tiffani’s picture and read a short description, and found we really had little in common, except that we were both in Fayetteville, NC. When I entered “Fayetteville” in the search box, I found a small list of people who were also using Twitter.
The Aaah-Haa Moment!
As a Keller Williams Realty agent, I am ever lead generating. It was a no-brainer that this was an opportunity for me to prospect and network. As I visited the bios and links of different people, I discovered so much more! I began to follow people with whom I felt some connection, and I found a rich resource for me to really get to know my audience. In fact, I realized that Twitter could benefit me in 3 key ways that would make both my personal and professional life better:
- I could more quickly get a sense of what my audience was feeling and what captured their interests;
- I could connect to people for advice, professional growth, and personal reasons; and,
- I could more easily stay in touch with more contacts, more efficiently, and more inexpensively.
$700 Billion Bailout Boos
It didn’t take much time for me to find people in my hometown, in my profession, and with my interests to follow in Twitter. Evidently, I follow a pretty good cross section of America. It’s a real hoot to watch a presidential debate with one eye on the television and one eye on Twitter! Some tweets are hilarious, some are profound, but at least on my timeline, they were pretty equally supportive of one candidate or the other. The same can’t be said about feelings over the “rescue plan” for the banking industry. Overwhelmingly, (except for real estate agents and mortgage brokers) the people I follow were very unhappy with it, even though they understood that failure of its passage might mean personal pain. I have found that almost any breaking news gets to me first on Twitter, as well as why it is important to my Tweeple (Twitter-speak for “the people I follow”), and a sense of how people feel about it. There is no doubt I could get the same information by catching the news, reading my RSS-feeds, and going through the newspaper every morning and then setting aside time to discuss that with my colleagues and friends. I simply don’t have time to do that. Not to exaggerate or give too much credence to Twitter; nonetheless, it is clear that I now have a quicker, simpler and more usable tool to help me sort through my very busy world and all that’s happening. I also have a tool that opens up my world to new ideas and insights, instead of my sometimes self-absorbed view of things. Want to bet that’s important to me as a Realtor® in a shifting market?
Connecting Locally – A Nurse, How-To, and Storyboard Felts
Meet one of my favorite Tweeple: bluedevilmsn. Her name is Tuesday and I found her in Twitter when I searched for “Fayetteville, NC.” I saw her homepage and laughed so hard it hurt. I followed her, enjoyed her updates about her church and her work, and even asked her once how she felt about the bank bailout. Then one day I passed out cold in my office and was rushed to the local hospital. After they got me feeling a little closer to normal-for-a-pregnant-woman (THANK YOU, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center), I sent out a tweet to let everyone know what was going on. One of the first responses I got was from Tuesday, who saw my update and offered to help me in any way she could. How wonderful for me–she works at the local hospital in the recovery room! I was just so touched! I really am a stranger to her, but it was such a comfort knowing that if I needed help in that rather scary place, she was right there and she would have helped me if I’d asked. That is a real connection, not a “networking success.”
Here’s the heart of the Fayetteville tech-smart crowd: techsassy, fsamuels, chutry, mduprey. They are funny, bright, sometimes a bit clique-y, and very different from me. But, I learn a lot from them. I read their blogs when they update them, I listen to their advice and reviews about different technology and gadgets, and I get a new perspective from those in an audience I want to reach out to. Why should I care to “follow” them? Their opinion and concerns are very much like those of people who had been using my website (over 3,00 user a month) the last few years, but who I lost because my template site wasn’t keeping up, and neither was I. Additionally, they are very good at using Twitter; they are on the cutting edge and I really like learning “how-to” from them. Their coverage of the recent Obama rally in Fayetteville included live updates of what was happening, where to be and not to be, and they had pictures released before anyone else did. That’s impressive to me as a broker who wants to be that far ahead of my competition!
Lastly, I found Taless. She is a Mom who is building her own business selling Story Time Felts, a story telling activity that stimulates children’s creativity. She also has a son who is autistic. She is a real inspiration to me. I know I am incredibly busy with two businesses, am battling a difficult pregnancy, and have a 2 year old who can be a handful. Still, when I read some of her updates, my heart aches for her. But, more than that, I admire her, and I like her even though I’ve never met her. That’s important to me, and that’s the reason that I plan to buy from her for Grace’s birthday and for Christmas. She has a product that I like, and I’ll buy it from her rather than online or from someone else. She has a Twitter success story and I have a connection to some person rather than some store or some website.
Lead With Revenue
Okay, I’m a business person, so let’s bring this around to the bottom line. I have built my business through reaching out to a database of clients, friends, and contacts and by geographic farming in a few select neighborhoods. Any Keller Williams agent can tell you about the 33-Touch program. Generally, the marketing theory is that it takes 33 “touches” per year to get or to stay in the top of someone’s mind as their “agent.” A touch is a phone call, an email, a piece of mail, a gift, or something that makes them think of you and make the connection between you and real estate (or whatever other business you are in.) I’ve always gone for quality “touches” over quantity when it comes to my clients. I’d rather send them a gift or a card than a Just Listed postcard. Still, touches are a marketing activity, and that means they are an expense. A refrigerator magnet costs money, as does a Joni Erickson Christmas Card. I’ve been taught that you should not market on credit, but budget already earned revenue. Wait, how much does a tweet cost? Does a tweet, or a “follow” count as a touch? I have already begun bugging my clients, friends and contacts to register for Twitter. I want to follow them, and I want them to follow me. I’d like to be more involved in their lives, even if only 140 characters at a time, and I want them to think of me every day. Forget 33 touches, and forget expensive! Needless to say, I have a lot of hope for Twitter!
Cuidado – Use With Caution!
Before we go, I really must caution you of a few things. First, nothing, and I mean NOTHING can fritter away time like Twitter. In the past, I’ve lost blocks of hours just clicking through links, and now I have to limit myself the same way I do with email, or professional reading. There is a time for Twitter, but it isn’t ALL the time.
I’m careful of who I follow. I saw very early that for some people Twitter is a game of how many people they can follow and how many can follow them. I may be short-sighted, but I think that misses the whole point for me. I want to meet people and connect, not get a gold star for the most times clicking through to a link.
Also, please do not sign up for Twitter and start posting “JUST REDUCED” ads, or non-stop tweets. The surest way to not be followed, or to lose a follower is to tie up someone’s timeline hawking your wares.
Lastly, be polite, and be selective. So far, I have found a remarkable absence of profanity, pornography or spam on Twitter and I am so grateful! Yet, I have people who follow me whose bios and links make it very clear to me that I don’t want to follow them. I don’t feel any obligation to return a follow if the person does not appear to be someone I’d like to meet face-to-face.
Twitter is a great resource for me, and a lot of fun. On your right in the sidebar is a link to follow me. I’d love to hear from you!