999 Followers, or How my Twittering has Changed
Hi there, I thought I'd celebrate my 999th Twitter follower with a little blog post I've wanted to write for a while.
Back when I first started using Twitter, I treated it mostly as an extension of my blog, a marketing channel for announcements and customer service in case someone wanted to contact me that way.
Then I discovered Summize (now search.twitter.com) and the fact that you could get RSS feeds of the search results, and was amazed by its great marketing potential.
I started scanning Twitter for mentions of keywords related to my product and sent @-messages to people who I thought would benefit from using it. To make it clear I was trying to sell them something, I would start my Tweets with $$, a convention I came up with (and that I've seen a few others pick up, but it never really spread). Here's the full blog post about it: "$$ tag for Twitter ads? I want to pay for Twitter!", in which I declare that I'd be willing to pay Twitter $1 for each of these $$-tweets, thus solving Twitter's elusive business plan in the bargain. ;)
The best idea to came out of that whole post came in a comment by guruz from p300.eu, who suggested that 50 cents of that dollar could go to Twitter but that the remaining 50 cents should go to the receiver of the unsolicited Twitter message. Now that would be nice: getting paid to be advertised to? I want to live in such a World! :)
I have to say I felt like I was threading a fine line with the $$-tweets, so I was as cautious as I could be with them - I think I sent maybe a dozen total, and from a separate @balsamiqads account, as you can see for yourself. Nonetheless, my idea made some waves and I was even interviewed by Bob Walsh about it for his "Twitter Survival Guide" e-book.
As a way to be able to get to read the book for free ;) I also did an editorial review of it for Bob, and that's where my Twittering really turned a corner.
The best part of Bob's book, IMHO, are the interviews (minus mine, I guess, sorry about that). Specifically the one to Ben Metcalfe (@dotben) made me realize that I really wasn't getting Twitter at all. Buy the book just for that interview, it's worth it.
My use completely missed the social and collaborative nature of Twitter. In other words, why should anyone follow me when everything I do is pimp my product or spam people with unsolicited tweets?
At the same time, I started following @timoreilly, and noticing how much I was getting out of it. Most of his messages are Re-Tweets (RTs) of news that are interesting to me, he is acting as a human filter for his followers. What was I doing for my followers? Not much.
So I started slowly retweeting UX-related Tweets and others that I thought my be helpful. At some point someone pointed out the excellent TwitterSheep, which generates a tag cloud based on the Twitter bios of the people that follow you. Here's mine:
Now that I know that most of my followers are web developers and software entrepreneurs I can cater my retweets to them and provide a better service.
Another aspect of Twitter that I was completely neglecting is the fact that Twitter can be so much better than Google sometimes. For instance, I once vented on Twitter about having spent hours setting up a mail server on my server. Within minutes I received a bunch of tips and links which would have saved me an afternoon of pain had I asked beforehand.
Asking for the Twittersphere's help is still not second-nature to me, but I'll try to remember to do it more in the future. I believe people generally like to help others, and I know I've answered a few questions in the past.
I have also started to have very interesting conversations about my product via Twitter, but I suspect FriendFeed might be a better venue for those (I have to admit I still don't "get" Friendfeed yet, no matter how much I listen to @scobleizer rave about it).
Last but not least, just today I searched Twitter for Freshbooks before deciding whether to subscribe to their service or not, to see what people thought about them. I was pleasantly surprised to find @freshbooks had an active account, and impressed that they responded to one my tweets, and with a sense of humor, too! I am now a happy Freshbooks customer.
In case you're wondering about the $$-tweets, I have completely stopped with those, for three reasons:
- I have seen others use Twitter this way (I was even on the receiving end of a marketing tweet), and I gotta say, it's pretty yucky. Even if you have the best intentions, you're intruding into someone else's semi-private lifestream without asking first. Now, if recipients got 50 cents or more out of it, I'd be OK with it (you're paying for your intrusion)...but as it stands, I'm not going to do that any more.
- I don't have time to scan Twitter for much of anything any more, my time is much better spent elsewhere. In fact, if you have time to do $$-tweets, you're either a community manager at a large company or you're desperate for attention (which I was when I just started). Sadly, it shows.
- I am blessed with a large fan-based who's very vocal about their love of the tool! :) It's so much more powerful too!
In a way this is very conforting, it means I can go back to focusing on making the best product possible (a product worth suggesting to your friends and followers), leaving the marketing to take care of itself.
...all applications I can't seem to live without but that I love to QUIT, as it means I'm getting ready to get productive for a while.
All in all, Twitter rocks. Thanks for changing the World for the better @jack! :)
Update: the fine folks at TwitterCounter.com were kind enough to send me a csv with my Twitter followers history over time, here it is with annotations: