Are you a twit or a twitter?

Many politicians are familiar with being called a twit, as would be some front line staff of many organisations large and small. Not many would be familiar with the term ‘Twitter’.

So what is twitter, and should you be twittering?

Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service allowing members to send updates which are text-based posts, which can be up to 140 characters long, to the Twitter website. Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and instantly delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them.

Updates can be added to a twitter by a wide variety of ways including via the Twitter website, short message service (SMS), instant messaging, or a third-party application such as Twitterrific.

Those wanting to keep up-to-date with your twitter can receive updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, email or through an application. Your twitter alerts can either be open to anyone to subscribe or you can create a closed group of approved subscribers.

You may think that this is pointless, or great fun. The majority of twitters so far are people just wanting to keep up-to-date with what their friends – but does Twitter offer opportunities to politicians or businesses.

For politicians there are several opportunities, twitter could be used to keep voters updated on what they are doing or update supporters on their campaign. Twitter alerts could be used to alert voters to the need to vote, and which party to vote for.

For businesses twitter could be used to alert subscribers to special offers, new products or updates to their website.

For a charity this could alert supporters to new campaigns or updates on fund raising efforts.

For a television company they could remind fans of a particular programme to alert fans to when their favourite programme is going to air.

For music artists they could tell their fans where they are playing or highlight a new release for downloading online.

Twitter could be used to alert members or employees of internal messages, though if you have a closed list you will need processes to identify and remove those who move to another organisation.

As with all subscriber services those setting up twitters for either political or business purposes need to remember that if you spam your audience they can and will unsubscribe. As with email marketing you must ensure that a message goes out soon after your subscribers come on board, if you do not send an update for several months after they joined the subscriber may have forgotten that they subscribed and see the message as spam.

140 characters gives similar challenges that those writing for Google Adwords, especially in German language where the words are typically a lot longer.

So why use Twitter as opposed to an SMS delivery service? Twitter is a social network with, if your updates are open, others able to discover and subscribe to your updates from their Twitter account. Adding a Twitter button on your site will attract your visitors that are already Twitter users to subscribe to your alerts.

You can monitor how many ‘followers’ you have, send direct messages to individual followers and followers can send direct messages to you.

How to create a Twitter account
This is very easy – simply visit the Twitter website and register. Think about your username as this will be associated with the messages on your feed.

Twitter to your Facebook
Often when I advise politicians on how to best use the web to communicate with their constituence they tell me how they have no time to maintain so many sites and to communicate in so many different ways. One of the great developments of Web 2.0 sites is the convergence of features from many different websites as they allow each other to feed into them. With the Twitter Sync application you will not only send out messages to your ‘followers’ but update your Status Profile on Facebook at the same time.

How to add your Twitter to your WordPress page
You can see my twitter on the left hand side of this blog. To do this yourself after setting up a twitter account go to the WordPress dashboard, select presentation, widgets, drag RSS 1, click within RSS 1 to configure, from the bottom of your Twitter page right click on the RSS button and copy shortcut, put this shortcut in the configuration box for RRS 1, you need to save changes and then should see this in your WordPress page. If it doesn’t work check you’ve saved at every stage and that you see the confirmation that your blog has been updated. Other blog services also have widgets that enable this.

Should you really twitter?
Many years ago in the United Kingdom the telecommunications company ran a campaign featuring a character a chatty bird called Buzby. If Buzby was still around today I am sure he would be twittering away – if you don’t other’s will be twittering louder, and reaching those you need to twitter to.

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