THERE IS A LITTLE BIT OF A LEARNING CURVE to using Twitter effectively. You would think that a service as widespread and popular as Twitter would be really easy and intuitive. It sorta isn’t. But don’t let that discourage you in the beginning! It’s OK! Another thing that’s interesting about Twitter (and many social media tools) is that there aren’t a bunch of rules set in stone either—so, over time, you will develop a Twitter “style” all your own. However, having said that, there ARE a few really smart rules of thumb that you should focus on when you first enter the Twittershpere.
In this short post we are only going to talk about the most basic components of Twitter. They’re basic, but they’re all you need to know to get started. Just start out slow. It’s OK. But start!
There Are Two Types Of Tweets
Here’s the simple way to think about it as you start using Twitter for dentists. There are two types of tweets:
1. Public Tweets
Within public tweets, there are two kinds. Tweeting a message with no special punctuation, like this:
AND tweeting a message that includes the “@” symbol in front of somebody’s Twitter name, like this:
BOTH of these kinds of tweets are public and show up for the entire world to see. When people follow you, all of your public tweets show up in their stream.
The difference is that when you use somebody’s Twitter name (prefixed with a “@” sign as in the second example above) it is considered a “reply” (even if that person was not expecting a reply). You greatly increase the likelihood that somebody will see that you mentioned them if you include their @TwitterName because it will show up to them as an “@mention”. People tend to not see a ton of stuff in their congested Twitter stream, but most people pay attention to and see their @mentions.
2. Direct Messages (private tweets)
The most important thing to remember about Twitter direct messages is that both parties must be following each other. You cannot send a direct message to somebody who does not follow you. By replacing the “@” with a lower case “d” and a space (as shown below) these messages do NOT show up in the public Twitter stream and will only be sent directly to the specific person:
What is an RT?
RT stands for “retweet”. It is similar to forwarding an email that you like along to other friends. In essence, by retweeting somebody else’s tweet, you are saying, “I liked this, and I thought it was meaningful enough to pass along to others I care about.” And since many of the people you follow likely do not follow each other, it’s usually fresh content for them.
It’s easy to retweet. Just use “RT” plus a space in front of anything you’d like to pass along. Here is an example from my personal Twitter account. I retweeted something said by somebody I follow, @SocialMedia411:
People appreciate being retweeted. It demonstrates that you noticed something they did. Most people will then take added interest in what you are doing, and may even return the favor sometime.
Users can “virtually attach” their tweet to groups of other tweets by using something called “hashtags”—a phrase or word prefixed with a “#” sign. So, for example, if you created a tweet about invisible braces, you might include #invisiblebraces in your tweet. This would allow people anywhere to search the entire Twittersphere using #invisiblebraces to read posts about this topic.
Twitter will now automatically shorten your URLs so that you don’t use up so many of your 140 characters with a long URL. You’ll see how it works as you tweet.
“What Devices Do I Use?”
If you are on your desktop or laptop, I recommend that when you are starting out you just use the main site, Twitter.com. Later, once you’re comfortable, there are a number of third-party desktop dashboards with a lot more bells and whistles. Most are free. They include Seesmic, Tweetdeck, HootSuite, and others. But again, for now, don’t make it any more complicated than it needs to be. Baby steps…
If you have a smartphone you may want to use it to tweet. The nice thing about tweeting from your phone (and reading tweets on your phone) is that you can do it between other activities which saves you a lot of time. It’s fun too. For example, instead of wasting 5 or 10 minutes listening to Top 40 radio while sitting in the bank drive-thru, you could read a short article that somebody linked to from a tweet. Or, you could give a shout-out to a patient. Even better, you may discover—using one of the GPS-based Twitter applications—that somebody in the car next to is using Twitter! Follow them (on Twitter, not in your car) and connect with your next prospective patient!
Effectively Using Twitter For Dentists Means Never Use An Auto-Follow Service
They suck. There are some social media “experts” out there who will tell you they’re OK. They aren’t. Care enough for those who follow you to check them out before you follow them back. Then, if they are worth following back, follow them back with purpose. Send them a personal note (or two, or three) and start a conversation. There is NOTHING worse than having somebody follow you, then having your auto follow send them back a message that says, “Thanks for the follow! Now buy our stuff! (with a link)”.
Here’s an example from just a couple days ago where I reached out, and then got an auto-follow reply:
Here are the titles and links to the other 4 related posts:
Post 2 of 5 – Twitter Objectives In Dental Practices (the “why”)
Post 5 of 5 – Using Twitter To Engage With Local People (the “who”)
As our valued clients and friends…
We strongly encourage you to carefully read each of the posts in this series. Then, start using Twitter. Give it some time and be consistent. You’ll look back one day and be glad you did.
And finally, if you’re really consumed by Twitter right now, and you just can’t get too much information, you may want to look around Mashable’s online Twitter Guidebook.