Twitter provides a place for people to tell the whole world what’s on their mind. So far, I can distinguish three major groups of Twitter users:

1) Follow me because I’m bored,
2) Follow me because I’m famous, or
3) Follow me because I want to show you something.

Today, I have no advice for first two groups; Group One should find a better hobby and Group Two doesn’t need advice. But for the bulk of us who fall into Group Three, I want to share with you a few insights I have gathered since playing on Twitter.

Before we get to the insights, I need to make two points. The first is the difference between friends/followers/contacts and actual human relationships. It might come as a shock to a few of you to learn that there is a difference between a real friend and someone you follow on Twitter. Therefore, I want to use a phrase to describe the many accounts we follow on social media as electronic connections.
The second is, since you’re not trying to make real friends or have long, meaningful conversations with most electronic connections, why are you trying to connect? The answer is simple: brand awareness. I use this term in the loosest way possible since some of you seek to promote a product or service, others want to sell a book or a song, still others seek to rally people to a particular cause. In all cases, the goal is to make as many people aware of your brand–the symbol that represents your product/service/cause.

So, when you put it all together, electronic connections serve to promote brand awareness.

Back to Twitter. As one of the largest social media networks in the world, Twitter provides a unique space for brand promoters to fill. With millions on the site every day, it’s like walking onto the world’s largest convention floor and floating an endless sea of vendors. The goal in such an arena is to stand out, which is no simple task for even the craftiest of brand promoters.

As is the case with any room filled with people, you’re going to want to hang out with the handful that you know. You’re looking for friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Twitter is no different. You find folks who share common interests or folks who might benefit from your widget and you hang out with them.

So, having set the stage, here are the only two insights I gleaned from using Twitter over the past two years:

1. Be Who You Say You Are – If your Twitter account is specifically for a business (Awesome Widgets Inc.), then tweet as though YOU are the business. That means tweets about what you (the person) had for breakfast the nature of morning traffic has nothing to do with Awesome Widgets. Tweet about industry-related thoughts or a promotion you’re working on. Offer bits of your expertise to show your authority as a seller of widgets.

If the Twitter account is YOUR persona (celebrity, personality, author, etc.), then you can tweet more liberally. Tell us about any and everything that persona thinks about, even if it is not specifically related to your vocation.

That is not to say that you should use your freedom as an excuse for a total free-for-all since your persona is the public image you are trying to project. If you had a fight with your spouse or your mother-in-law stayed a little too long at your house, those have to do with the real you (the private you), not your persona. Remember, the underlying point you are trying to communicate is, “Follow me because I want to show you something.”

2. Follow Your Followers – That’s not to say that you shouldn’t follow a wide variety of Twitter users. Influential people in your industry or celebrities can be good to follow since so many others are listening to whatever they have to say. But by following those who you seek as readers, customers, clients, donors, etc., you begin to school yourself as to what’s on their mind. You get insight into how they feel about politics or sports or faith. As you interact with them (retweeting their tweets, replying to things they say, etc.), you can plant your electronic connection as the seed of something deeper and long-lasting: professional trust.

Honestly, I’ve learned a lot more than two things, but I don’t know how much of it relates to everybody as opposed to just me. For example, I learned that hashtagging certain words and phrases can generate more interest in a tweet than not using them at all. The problem is, I am never sure which hashtag to use or when to use it. I suspect it’s a little like an art form in which my artistic talent is still pretty hit-and-miss.

Be who you say you are. Follow your followers. I’ll break 1,000 followers this year with little more than the knowledge of these two truths. I hope that helps.

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