How to Twitter: Part 1 – Getting Started

For many, Twitter is the least understood social media platform. Before I started using it, I didn’t know why I should care to know about when people were “sitting on their patio.” I soon learned Twitter is a lot more than that. It offers a great way to build an online reputation, promote a blog, engage in constructive dialogue, learn, share, and make friends. One important goal is to engage with as many relevant people as possible. This series of posts will explain a way to get started doing that. This specific post will describe how to get started on day one.

Getting started with Twitter can be a bit daunting. When one first creates an account, it has no followers and follows no one. There might be an immediate sense of loneliness as tweets are cast into the wind heard by none. Let’s fix that. Backtracking a little bit, you will need to start by setting up an account.

Create an Account:
First you will need to pick a user name. It should be:

  • Short: Because messages can only be 140 characters including mentioned names.
  • Have no special characters: Because these are hard to type, especially on mobile devices.
  • Describe you: So people know who they’re talking to. They will want to engage with someone who sounds like a person.

My first username was @great_marketer. This violated all of those rules, so I switched my name to @herskos. Choose the right name now and avoid having to switch later.

Immediately upload a picture. No one wants to talk to an egg. Even if you represent a business, your face is preferable to a logo, because the medium is a personal one.

Fill out you account description to tell people about yourself. You should include your Website here if you want people to visit it.

Congratulations. You now are set up to use Twitter. For now, use the Website (native client). You will probably switch to another client later.

Here are the basics:
A Message (Tweet) is sent by typing it in the message box and hitting ‘Tweet’ or Enter.

Tweets may be no larger than 140 characters in length. Abbreviations are your friend. Do a search if you find one you don’t understand.

All tweets are completely public except for Direct Messages (DM). There are privacy settings, but I’d recommend ignoring them unless you have specific concerns. Just be careful what you say instead.

Following someone means you will see their tweets. Unlike with most social media, you do not need permission to follow someone (or vice versa). People you follow are your ‘friends’. People who follow you are your ‘followers’. People in general are ‘tweeps’.

Spoiler: Hash tags are a powerful way to find people and categorize the content of your tweets. These will be covered next time.

Your Streams:
There are three main streams you should worry about:

  • Timeline (Main Stream): Everything you or anyone you follow Tweets.
  • @Mentions stream: Every message where your name is mentioned. If responding to someone else this is also called a @reply.
  • Messages: Private messages sent via DM.

Assume your account name is You and know the following users: Mom and Friend. The first thing you will do is Follow both Mom and Friend. Search for their account in the search box. When you find them, there will be a button to let you follow them. Presumably, they will follow you back, because they know you. However, the best way to get anyone to follow you (or follow you back) is to talk to them.

There is no point tweeting a message if it is not directed at someone or you are at least followed by people who read your tweets. Remember that Twitter is a social medium. To use it effectively, you should tweet regularly with content others might find valuable. If you do that, people will eventually read your tweets and, more importantly, respond.

How to actually Tweet:

  • Anything you, Mom, or Friend tweets will show up on your main stream.
  • If you include @AnyName (do not need to follow them) as part of your tweet, it will show up in @AnyName’s @Mentions stream.
  • Similarly, if anyone includes @You as part of the text of their 140 character Tweet, it will show up in your @Mentions stream.
  • Direct messages can only be sent to a single person at a time who must be following you.
  • DM’s are sent by typing a d followed by the username. (eg. “d Mom”).

Another important concept is ReTweeting (RT). When a message is retweeted, it is shared with the followers of the person who RT’s. In the native Twitter client, a RT repeats the message exactly as typed to your own network. In other clients, it can be edited first. To RT from the native client, just click on the Retweet button after selecting someone’s Tweet.

Searches and Lists are also visible on the main stream. These will be covered in a future post.

That leaves one more important topic for starting out – Etiquette. I’m sure I’m leaving things out (respond below), and these are not everyone’s rules, but here are rules I’ve found useful:

  • Do not spam or exclusively broadcast self-promotional messages.
  • If someone tweets something you find interesting, either RT the message or @reply to it.
  • If someone @mentions you or RT’s something you’ve tweeted, @reply to them with a thank you.
  • If someone follows you, unless they look like a spammer or some other type of miscreant, follow them back.
  • Don’t post your Foursquare check-ins (boring to others and not safe for you).
  • Do not auto-DM (will cover another time).

Next time, I will describe how to find people to engage with, increase your number of relevant followers, and start using some tools. I am sure this post is not 100% complete or clear, so please post any questions or comments below.

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Why Social Media Needs to be an Enterprise-wide Commitment

Social media is a great way for companies to engage with their customers.  When done correctly, it can help build loyalty and drive sales.  However, in isolation, social media cannot accomplish these goals (or anything else).  Further, without an enterprise-wide commitment, it is likely to do more harm than good.  I will illustrate why by describing an experience I had last week with Best Buy.

First I need to say, Best Buy as a corporation definitely understands social media and uses it to provide genuine value to its customers.  Second, I think it is a good company, and one store probably had a bad day.  Third, there were both good and bad aspects to my experience.

That said, here is what happened:

Last week, I noticed a Best Buy offer in ShopKick (location-based social media) for a $10 gift card with the purchase of tax software.  I needed tax software anyway, so the promotion accomplished its goal and got me to go to the store.  I brought the tax software and some other items to the cash register and showed the cashier the offer in Shopkick.  At that point, I was informed it could not be honored (confirmed by a manager).  I was given two explanations:

  1. The offer was online only.
  2. There was no offer code associated with it.

I had several problems with the explanations both as a customer and as a marketer:

  1. I fulfilled all of the terms of the offer and was rejected at point-of-sale.  This is unacceptable regardless of where the legitimate offer came from.
  2. ShopKick is a location-based service, which means its offers are for physical brick-and-mortar locations – not for websites.
  3. If an offer code is required at the cash register, one should have been included with the offer.
  4. Best Buy has a formal relationship with ShopKick, so I would expect it to just work.

At that point, I left everything at the register and walked out of the store.  Later, I tweeted this:

@shopkick like your app. Just wanted to let you know a #bestbuy store refused to honor an offer yesterday.

The only things I hoped for was an explanation and for the problem to be fixed.  Two interesting things happened.  First, no response from ShopKick.  Second, I received a very quick response from Best Buy’s @Twelpforce.  Twelpforce is Best Buy’s Twitter customer service representatives and help force.

The Twelpforce was very professional and did a spectacular job in its interaction with me.  I had great experiences speaking with both Coral and Justin.  I was asked to send an email explaining my issue and received a response within 24 hours.  Without asking, I was offered the $10 gift card in return for proof of purchase (had I made it).  My concerns were also passed on to upper management, and Justin spoke with the store’s PPM and arranged to have him contact me within a couple of days with an explanation.

It is now five days later and there has been no contact.  I do not intend to pursue this further, because as I said, I didn’t really want to accomplish anything personally, and the offer is no longer on ShopKick (although it was until it expired on Sunday).  The lack of contact is just another example of a strong social media engagement falling apart in a different part of the enterprise.


Social media accomplished everything Best Buy could have hoped for.  It got me into the store with the intent of purchasing the item it incentivized.  While there, I was prepared to make additional purchases.  Afterward, it allowed me to engage with the company and explore solutions to an obvious customer service problem.  It allowed Best Buy to make things right and provided it an opportunity to leave a positive final impression.  However, things fell apart outside of the social media team’s control.

When I was in the store, I left without making a purchase out of principle – it was not because of the $10.  Had the offer never been made, I might have eventually purchased the software from Best Buy anyway.  My experience cost the store a sale and possibly future sales.  I will not be boycotting, but I will be more skeptical, and it will take more to get me to shop at Best Buy, particularly at the location I visited last week.

Social media needs to be just one part of a larger strategy.  It is important to remember the direct social connection with the customer is at least as critical as any virtual one.  Without an enterprise-wide commitment to consistency and execution, social media is likely to do more harm than good.

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Net Neutrality Solved?

The US House of Representatives recently moved to overturn the FCC’s rules on net neutrality.  (One might argue whether the rules actually accomplished that goal, but that’s another discussion.)  Net neutrality at its essence means Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cannot block content from or show favoritism towards any content source.  An expanded view involves how much data costs and who can be charged.  For example, ISPs would prefer to charge content providers that use excess bandwidth for the privilege of using their ‘pipes’.

In my opinion, net neutrality in its purest sense is an important goal for a free society.  Everyone should also be allowed to make a reasonable profit.  Here’s a simple solution:

Increase competition – Market forces are needed to establish a fair price for bandwidth.  With an oligopoly, there isn’t enough competition for that to happen.  In practice this requires lower barriers to entry for new competitors (less regulation) and lower switching costs for customers (looser contracts).

Data should never be paid for twice – Content providers should never have to pay for data sent to any customer with a flat rate data plan.  Bandwidth from any content provider that pays an ISP should not count against any customer’s metered plan.

Neutrality – ISPs shouldn’t block content from any source.  ISPs shouldn’t be allowed to charge different per terabyte rates to different content providers.  Content providers should be allowed to choose not to pay (instead letting the end user pay).  I understand providing the content providers the option of paying the ISPs may give larger ones that can absorb or pass on the cost a competitive advantage.  However, I think this is better for consumers, and because the fee is volume-driven and the same for everyone, I think it’s fair.  Increased competition is essential, though, to ensure the correct prices are charged.

What do you think?


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The 5 W’s of #SocialMedia

If a reporter were writing a story about you, they’d start by trying to find out your 5 W’s – Who, What, Where, When, and Why.  Since most of us are unlikely to be interviewed, we need to tell our own story.  Fortunately, social media can help us do that.  For each of the 5 W’s, there are social media tools we can use to get our message across. This is important whether we want to tell the story of our products or ourselves.

WHO – Facebook is a great tool for telling the world who we are.  It shares our pictures and describes our background, friends, affiliations, and interests.

WHAT – Twitter allows us to quickly express what we are thinking at any given moment.  This not only captures our state in the present, but over time, also lets us tell our followers what we are about.

WHERE – Foursquare literally tells our network where we are.  It also tracks the places we’ve been and how often, creating a pattern.  This enhances our story by putting it in a setting.

WHEN – LinkedIn allows us to create a chronological story of our past accomplishments.  It also describes when we met the members of our network and what our future goals and plans are.

WHY – The answer to ‘why’ is almost always long and complex, because reasons are rarely simple.  Despite the larger effort required, it is important to answer ‘why’.  If we don’t, our audience will read into our motivations and answer it for us.  ‘Why’ is also often our product.  The best tools available to help answer this question involve content.  That means WordPress blogs, email, YouTube videos, message boards, and a variety of other content tools.

So why should this be important to you?  Ultimately, you want your audience to consume your content (your Why).  Whether you are trying to find a job or market a product, your viewers will want to understand your complete story and know why they should care about you.  For that reason, it is crucial to be active in all social channels and to manage those media effectively.  Only by answering all five important questions, can you portray the correct complete impression about yourself.


What do you think?  Does the analogy make sense to you or can you think of a better one?  Are there any great standard tools to capture ‘why,’ or is content king?


1.  There is some overlap in what the services above can do.  Facebook, in particular does a little of everything.
2.  I know I didn’t cover ‘How’.
3.  While I may have mentioned a single specific service for each W, there are other great ones.  This is particularly the case with location-based services like Gowalla, Shopkick, SCVNGR, etc.
4.  I missed additional services in disclaimer #3.  Which ones did I miss that you like?

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#Apple #Magazines Deal Good for Everyone

I have great respect for Apple.  The company knows how to make intuitive products that consumers want.  And when it comes to business, they are extremely tough negotiators. In the case of the recently announced deal for magazine publishers, I believe Apple gave the publishers everything they wanted and could have been even tougher.  Overall, I think this is a good deal for Apple, but the real winners are the content producers and consumers.

Under the deal, Apple will collect 30% of revenues for subscriptions originating from the iTunes store or from in-App purchases.   Revenues from subscriptions made outside of the App store are entirely kept by the publisher.  There are other stipulations in the deal.  In-App purchases need to be quick and easy.  The price of subscriptions need to be the same (or cheaper) from within the App as they are outside it.  There is a restriction on links directing customers to the publisher’s website to subscribe.  Also, Apple will not share customer data with the publishers unless customers opt-in.  On the plus side for publishers, it is still permitted to provide free access to users with print subscriptions.  On the surface, this seems like an onerous deal for publishers.  30% seems like a large cut for Apple.  This is particularly the case in a troubled industry with relatively low margins.  There are some other factors, though.

Printing and distribution costs are eliminated in this model.  That doesn’t necessarily make up 30%, but it is something.  Presumably, another variable cost – (non-Apple) sales will be lower for this distribution channel.  Most of the remaining costs are fixed, so the more subscribers the magazine has, the lower the per customer cost.  What that means is from a customer who would not have subscribed to the magazine without Apple’s help, the magazine is essentially getting 70% of the sale for free.  The issue, then (aside from data), is with customers who would have subscribed directly but who will now subscribe through Apple.

It is also important to remember the majority of revenue for publishers comes from advertising – not subscriptions.  Advertising revenue is not an issue there, but the lack of customer data (which allows targeting) is more of a problem for publishers.

It comes down to this:  Either 30% is fair or it is not.

If it is not fair, publishers are going to get creative and fight back.  From an economic standpoint, if someone is told a company is going to take 30 cents for every dollar they earn unless they do X, they are going to spend at least 29 cents to make sure they do X.  In this case, publishers will make sure customers subscribe from them directly.  I haven’t seen the exact text of the new arrangement, but there are undoubtedly many loopholes in it.  I can think of a number of possible ways after just a few minutes of brainstorming.  Publishers have a larger incentive and more time and resources to direct towards this.

One thing publishers can do is advertising.  This could take two forms.  They can either make an emotional case or try simple education.  Apple’s cut might be fair, but the publishers can undoubtedly make a compelling argument against it.  This would most likely result in free PR, so it is likely to be effective.   If they don’t want to “go negative,” publishers can just use ads to educate consumers how to sign up for subscriptions from their websites instead of signing up with Apple and explain that they need the revenue to continue to produce quality content.  I can also easily envision a cancel and resubscribe campaign around this concept.

Publishers could also choose to give their 29 cents back to the consumers directly by bundling promotional items with directly purchased subscriptions.  Examples might include a print yearbook edition, wine glasses, a blanket, or any number of things. They could even reverse their current practice and bundle the print addition of the magazine with an iPad subscription.  For those who do not want to deal with recycling, publishers could also allow customers to donate their print edition to charity for a tax break.  This skirts the rule requiring parity for the direct and App purchasing options, but it’s unreasonable to expect content producers to ship items to Apple’s customers.  Not only is it unreasonable, but fulfillment would be impossible.  Apple is not sharing customer data with them.

Another option is to circumvent the “no links to the website” rule.  While an App might not be approved if it has a link back to the publisher’s website, there is nothing Apple can do about content.  A link and a plea could be couched in an editorial on the first page of the free sample edition of the magazine bundled with the App.  I’m pretty sure Apple doesn’t want to be accused of censorship, so there is not much they could do about it.

The other possibility is that Apple’s deal is fair to publishers.  That means Apple is adding value equal or greater than the amount they are charging for it.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume subscriptions double as a result of a publisher’s App.  The publisher still gets to keep 100% of revenue from its existing customers.  Revenues then increase by an additional 70% from the new subscriptions.  Since most of the costs are fixed, this is mostly profit.  That sounds pretty good.

There’s more, though.  Because advertisers pay by CPM, ad revenue essentially doubles.  The number might be a little lower, because targeting is not quite as good (less customer data), but this is still a good thing for publishers.

Whether the new rules announced by Apple may or may not appear fair to content producers, they accomplish something very important.  Electronic subscriptions are now possible on a device and in a format consumers want.  This can only be a good thing for the industry.  Both Apple and publishers will make some money.

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Dropped call for HP

This is a simplification, but…

A company creates a mobile operating system (OS) and bundles it with hardware.  The hardware is sold with a data plan.  Third-party developers create apps to use on the device.  Whichever OS is easiest to use, has the best data plan, and has the best apps sells the most devices to consumers.  The most successful one produces the most money and data for the various partners in its ecosystem.  This allows for better upgrades and also creates scale for third-party developers.  This induces them to produce more apps for the most widely used OS.  In turn, more consumers adopt the OS/device/data plan/apps, and so on.

I’ve been thinking about the Microsoft/Nokia deal.  What I’m mostly thinking about is the missed opportunity for HP.  I believe HP should have licensed WebOS to Nokia and announced the deal at the same time it announced its forthcoming series of phones and tablets.  Btw, HP also plans to put WebOS on computers, printers, and other devices.  I have confidence it will succeed in many of these endeavors.  However, I am less optimistic about its efforts with cell phones.

HPs newly announced product offerings have specs competitive with today’s modern smart phone.  The problem is no release date was given.  By the time the products come to market, they will be competing with the next generation smart phone.  Palm was not ahead of the curve since it came out with the Treo 650 in 2005 and it released the Pre two years too late.  There is little history to indicate that HP can do any better when it comes to cell phones.  They do not have the carrier relationships or enough of a reputation to create consumer pull for their phones.  They are known for their computers and printers.

I am not saying the HP shouldn’t try to sell phones.  What I’m saying is it should follow the original strategy of the Palm OS (and the one followed by Android now) and license its OS to competing hardware producers.  Perhaps one of them will produce a phone worthy of WebOS.  Perhaps HP can do so itself.  It doesn’t matter which occurs.  Either way, WebOS gains acceptance and use.  This means more users and more third-party apps (resulting in even more users and even more third-party apps).  If that occurs, HP will have a much easier time selling WebOS tablets, printers, and computers.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-13

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-06

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-30

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-23

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