A while ago an entrepreneur and investor told me that to him a founder or entrepreneur who is not on Twitter does not exist. He complained that especially in Germany far too many entrepreneurs ignore Twitter and totally miss out on the advantages of being on Twitter.
And he is right.
Twitter seems to have a huge problem that many people fail to understand how it works and how they can profit from being active on Twitter. Again and again, I come across articles – even from marketers – claiming Twitter would be for news. And entrepreneurs tell me they registered on Twitter and poked around for a while, but they do not understand how to get something out of it and get easily frustrated.
And that is not only if they want to market their new business. You do not have to do marketing to profit from using Twitter. I have written multiple articles on how to market on Twitter – but so far we have totally left out how to use Twitter apart from marketing. And it cannot all be marketers on Twitter. Otherwise, Twitter would not be such a great tool for marketing at all. We as marketers would be talking to marketers all the time – which we are not and which we don’t want to. Twitter is the one social network where you can reach out and talk to people from almost any niche.
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1. Connect to people
Twitter makes it very easy to approach people you have not met before. If you have a legitimate reason to get in touch, most people will readily provide you with a point of contact as an email address – or refer you to the right person within their company. You can use Twitter to exchange the first words and give some hints on why you want to get in touch.
Examples for reasons to get in touch could be: A proposal for cooperation, ask if they take guest posts for their blog, ask if you can interview them – you will probably have some ideas of your own.
Twitter does not guarantee a response, especially the huge accounts are sometimes harder to reach on Twitter for the simple reason that they get so many mentions and replies, they are more likely to miss yours. I confess I am guilty of that myself. Not because I do not want you to approach me, simply because I fail at watching all conversations with me, even though I try.
If you need some advice on how to make people notice your tweet and that you want to talk to them, I covered that in my recent article The One Mistake That Costs You Your Twitter Success.
2. Be approachable
This is the other way round as #1: People can approach you. You provide an accessible point of contact for people who try to connect or have a proposal for you. When you are an entrepreneur you want to be approachable, but you do not want to be spammed. Twitter takes some effort for others to make you notice them (yes, you can probably game it and use some tool for automated spam mentions). Especially if you do not have a huge following the number of times, your account gets mentioned on Twitter is probably manageable. But you still are present where a lot of people try to connect and conduct conversations. If you do not want to be active and check your Twitter account all the time for new mentions, you can simply let Twitter send you an email every time someone wants to talk to you.
As I mentioned before, Twitter is a place where people connect with people they do not know yet. Getting in touch via Twitter is not intrusive, and you can quickly take the conversation to another medium if you need more than the Twitter-specific 140 characters.
3. Have conversations or Chat
Of course, a conversation on Twitter is never entirely private. But many business communications do not need to be, and they still are an excellent way to connect with people from your niche and area of interest. The simplest way to use Twitter chats is to join chats others started. Most of the time they use a hashtag, by following this hashtag you can see every tweet related to this chat.
There are some tools that make monitoring and participating in chats easier:
- Tweetdeck allows you to set up a feed for different hashtags or keywords. Just monitor this feed and join the conversation by including the right hashtag into your tweets.
- TweetChat also works with hashtags but provides some additional functions as a chatroom and filter options to filter out spammers.
4. Look for information
Getting information on particular topics or updates from people I am interested in has always been one of the most important use cases for Twitter for me. Especially when I started out and did not know so many great bloggers from my niche (content marketing, social media marketing, and blogging), Twitter was the best content discovery tool imaginable – and an excellent tool to find awesome people from a niche. There are multiple ways of finding the best information and people for your needs here are some of them:
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- Follow interesting people: The first I did was follow the people I knew from my niche. That will help you get started and fill up your Twitter feed with valuable information shared by people you know and trust. After a while, you will notice that these people do not only share their own content, but they also share content with people they know and trust. Often they will mention the author of the shared content either as “via @author” or “by @author”. This way you will get to know more people from your niche
- Set up lists of Twitter accounts for different topics. Now, you will most likely be interested in more than one topic. You may even have some hobby or private interest, which you want to follow on Twitter. To avoid your Twitter feed getting crowded and too overwhelming with different topics, you can set up a list of Twitter accounts for each of your interest. To set up a list, go to your Twitter profile and click on the lists, choose to create new list.
Now you can monitor the feeds for each list (=topic) with tools like Tweetdeck. Lists are an incredibly useful tool to manage your Twitter feed, once you start to follow more than a couple of accounts.
- Follow topic lists. Many people have already created Twitter lists on various topics. Try your competitors or influencers from your niche, check their lists. You can follow/subscribe to lists created by other Twitter accounts
- Search for hashtags. Many people on Twitter use hashtags to make obvious what their tweet is about. You cannot only use hashtags to join a chat, but you can also browse for information by using a hashtag. You can do that to follow news or sports events that usually have their own hashtag.
- Follow keywords or phrases. Not everyone on Twitter uses hashtags. And if they do, they may not use the hashtags that you thought about. You can also search for keywords or phrases on Twitter and follow these on Tweetdeck. You can even combine such a keyword search with a location. Example:
(if you want to know more about Twitter search operators and advanced search, check out our guide to Twitter advanced search.)
Twitter has this great new feature to ask the Twitter community for their opinion. Of course, it is much easier to get many people to vote for it if your audience is already big. But combined with a matching popular hashtag or within an active chat polls can quickly provide you with an impression of what Twitter users think about your question.
To illustrate this, I made a quick poll for this article, asking my Twitter followers why/how they use Twitter. And it does not come as a surprise that most of them do not use it for marketing. As you can see only 10% of my followers – or the people answering the poll in the last couple of hours are on Twitter for the main purpose of marketing. Many more are having fun or browsing for information.
Even though nowadays my primary purpose for using Twitter is to market our business and share our blog content, I still use Twitter in many other ways. And I am not alone. Many of the influencers and the people with the huge following still using Twitter personally and take an active part in the Twitter conversations. Not being active on Twitter means missing out on an enormous opportunity to join the conversation.
And besides the interest I have in Twitter from my professional life, I have a lot of fun in my private life on Twitter, too. At major events like sports, elections or even catastrophes I find Twitter one of the best and broadest news sources I can have.
I am sure there are multiple other ways to use Twitter without trying to market anything. Feel free to tell us how you use Twitter in the comments below!
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