Whenever a bunch of tech folks get together, as we did this weekend at PodCampAZ, talk soon turns to Twitter and its uses. While the discussion is wide ranging it eventually turns to the use of Twitter as a branding, promotion and business tool. Everyone has their own idea about how Twitter should be used. Some want no business or promotional messages and others see it only as conduit to reach potential customers.
As with most things in life, the effective use of Twitter is dependent on balance. A balance between systematic and unsystematic uses. I think a combination of both yields the greatest ROI for you and your followers.
Systematic uses include the automatic tweeting of blog posts, new Flickr pictures, reminder and more. When I first started using Twitter I had to make a decision whether to use TwitterFeed.com to automatically post a tweet when I posted something new to my blogs. In thinking about this, I realized that it was ok for me, as it still directly answered Twitter’s main question, “What are you doing?” The fact is, the last thing I was doing was posting to my blog. The same went for photos and other content I may have posted elsewhere. What I am doing online is part of my life (a large part most of the time) and I want to share it with others.
Of course, I think my Twitter stream would be incomplete with unsystematic uses. Unsystematic use of Twitter includes the random thoughts that occur to me about where I am and what I am doing. I don’t typically tell folks what I eating or drinking, but a review of my Twitter stream turns up lots of posts about coffee. Most importantly, unsystematic use also includes engaging in the on-going Twitter conversation. @ replies to comments from the people I follow and others often bring out information about my thoughts and ideas that others might not know. They help to “fill out” my personality to my followers and give a more complete picture of who I am. One rule I use on Twitter is this…if I would lean over to a friend to say something, or if I find myself shouting something at the television screen, then it is probably worth a personal tweet. If I would comment back to someone in a face-to-face conversation, I would think this a great reason to @ reply on Twitter.
I believe that in order to enjoy the most benefits from using Twitter you have to have a balance between these 2 uses. Constantly twittering offers from your business, links to your business or links to other sites misses the conversational side of Twitter and can leave followers with a limited view of who you are, what you do and what you are trying to accomplish. Look at your Twitter stream and try to get a feeling what others might feel when they see your stream for the first time. Would you follow yourself if you stumbled across your stream?
Of course, you can engage only in unsystematic uses of Twitter and still have a great time and build some great relationships. It is just a more social use of Twitter and that is perfectly fine. That said. if you are not using systematic tools to include some of your other content in your Twitter stream, you are missing out on some great opportunities to tell folks more about yourself. Whether these systematic uses includes business pitches or not, followers will be accepting of them if they somehow give them a better picture of you.
Balance in all things is difficult to accomplish, but seeking that goal in life and on Twitter is a great way to share your life with others. I think that mixing business and pleasure is one way to make Twitter the most useful to you and your followers. Give it a try.