Guest post by Neal Chambers
Most technologies that are easily adapted and made widely popular are usually improvements of things that already exist. Mail replaced messanger services; the telegraph replaced mail; email replaced mail; Google Wave (might) replace email. It is the same with Twitter. Twitter replaced online chat which (kind of) replaced parties. There are some key differences that Twitter adds to the table though. For example,
A) You can join anyone’s party, and anyone can join your party. If you have your feed unprotected, and you do have your feed unprotected right?
B) You can throw anyone out of your party if you need to. You usually don’t but it’s always nice to have the one button option of doing so.
C) People from around the world can join your party.
D) The party is going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
E) People are asynchronously enjoying your party. One conversation can last a day, weeks, or even months.
With all these changes in mind, it’s still important to understand that it’s a party and it’s your party. You should keep in mind to be successful you need to be a good host. Let’s go over the basics:
Send Out Invitations
Every good party starts with inviting people over for a drink. This can start with listing yourself in the various Twitter directories out there on the Internet. I just recently published an article on the matter – 14 places to find good quality followers. There I have listed all the major directories and follower recommending websites. It should be a great place to jump start your following.
There are other options though. Something that I regularly do is look at my friend’s ‘following’ list. These are Twitter users that your friend has actually chosen to follow. This usually comes up with better results than the ‘followers’ list because they might be spammers. When looking at this ‘following’ list, be sure to click through to the user’s profile and read their bio, last few tweets and check out their blog if they have one. Then add a few people you like.
Greet your Guests
Okay, now the party is starting. Guests are arriving at all times of the day and night because after all this party is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s important to try to acknowledge any newer followers. It might be good to greet them and ask them where they are from and make sure they don’t need a drink or something.
There is a current trend right now to do this with an automatic DM or auto-DM. These can be okay if A) it’s not overly generic (e.g. Thanks for the follow! Look forward to your Tweets!) or B) You offer free stuff or more information about yourself through a link.
Personally, what I TRY to do is look through a user’s profile and ask a semi-personalized question like – How is teaching in Detroit? or I love the layout of your Teaching blog. This way they know I’m not just sending them a generic auto-DM. It shows you are actually taking the time to get to know someone which is one principle behind having a PLN.
You know those fancy parties where you show up and some guy in a fancy suit announces to the party that you’ve arrived? Don’t worry if you’ve never been invited to one, because now you can live out that experience on Twitter. When someone logs on to Twitter the first time, chances are they don’t know anyone at the party. They’ve come because they heard it’s where all the action is or where all the cool people are (that’s us right?).
So, it’s good to give them a proper welcome by introducing them to all of your following. Be sure to include a relevant snippet about them in the Tweet and their username. You can do this as soon as they get online or wait for #teachertuesday or #followfriday.
Help the Confused-Looking Guy/Gal in the Corner
From time to time, people will need help. After all, that might be one reason why they came to the party in the first place. You can help these guests out by filtering your Twitter stream with a ‘?’. This will give you all the Tweets of people asking questions. Sometimes you will come up with a few rhetorical questions, but more often than not you’ll find a friend in need. This is what having and building a PLN is all about, spreading information and helping others solve problems.
You can also use a neat little service called twithive.com This web app allows you to filter your stream by questions, conversations, links or retweets. It also packs in a few more features like Tweet clouds, which are clouds of the most popular terms for your stream. I find it offers you a way to look at your Twitter stream from a different angle.
Pop your Head in When it Counts
Since the party is going on all the time, it’s literally impossible to be at the party at all times. Many have tried and all have failed. Don’t be a Twitter addict. You have to pop your head in every once in awhile and make sure every one is still enjoying themselves. The key to this is to know exactly when to do this. There are a couple metrics you can look at to see when your following is online.
1) Click counts – If you use a URL shortener (and you should) then you’ll be able to track your click counts. I really good service for this is j.mp (AKA bit.ly). Take note of when your links are being clicked on the most and what links are more popular.
2) Tweetstats.com – This site can give you some stats on when a particular user is online. It breaks down tweeting frequency by days of the week and even hours of the day. You might want to check the stats of people with a big following and see when they are online the most. However, the more tweets someone has made the longer it will take for tweetstats to compile the data.
Enjoy the Party
It’s important to remember that Twitter is just a tool and not a lifestyle. It’s okay to step away from time to time and take a break. It’s also okay to let your personality and opinions shine through and add to the melting pot. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s party after all.
Neal Chambers has taught in Japan for just about 5 years despite graduating in video production. He is currently teaching at a private English conversation school in Osaka. He is a regular teacher contributor at EnglishSpark.com where he writes the series Teacher Stumpers about difficult and odd grammar. He enjoys attempting to climb mountains without injuring himself.