THE BLOG

Follow Me, Follow You - How Twitter Is Changing the World

19/03/2014 13:27 GMT | Updated 18/05/2014 10:59 BST

Whatever people feel about Twitter (answers in 140 characters or less, please) there can surely be nobody who has not wondered about how or whether to apply it to their lives. Even the Pope squeezes it in.

Previous ages produced technologies that percolated gradually into the public realm. Between the Wright Brothers proving the principles of flight and the first commercial trip - with one passenger - was a gap of 11 years.

Digital technologies involving social media, arguably developments as profound as the printing press, are different. Offering everyone everything and all at once is now the standard.

Twitter equalises opportunity between large and small, famous and unknown. It's a useful democratisation of contact opportunities; a showcase of professional skills that is highly effective for building profiles.

Twitter is also a social media accessed by traditional media, but not dependent on it. This is good news for those of us who do not choose to work in large corporations, but still have opinions and insights we want to communicate to reporters and others.

It takes time and commitment, naturally, but the professional and personal rewards can be high to a tweeting life.

It works, too. I helped embarrass a cruise operator that had given its passengers food poisoning, along with glorious sunsets, into a rather more effective show of remorse than at first proffered. How? My tweet on the subject was picked up by a broadcaster and the operator faced serious reputational damage.

Analysts of customer care, such as Alistair Niederer at Teleperformance, the world's largest contact centre operator, believe social media is now at the heart of relations between businesses and those they deal with.

If Twitter can get refunds, and raise and collapse corporate reputations, it can surely help to shape our business lives.

Social media, in my view, allows us to become our own personal business development managers.

Here are eleven truths and tips for Twitter happiness, based not on tutorials but my personal experience:

Set aside time to build your profile. Your biography should include professional interests, something about passions outside work, a link to your work website and twitter account (subject to company policy), your location and an interesting and appropriate photo and backdrop.

Getting started is hardwork. Building followers takes time and persistence. Initially you will be sending tweets into space and getting little if any feedback. You have to be prepared to generate regular content over several weeks to get established. Success is not about number of followers but relevance of followers. (Don't be tempted to buy them) Many followers are silent so don't assume the lack of response means your comment isn't appropriate. Follow others and thank them for following back.

Aim to send about 5 tweets a day and think about the timing. For professionals, commuting times or lunchtime seem to be most effective. The same message can and should be retweeted as your followers will view twitter at different times in the day

Use an App like Hootsuite to set up tweets to be published over the next day or two.

Vary your tweets to include retweets (start with RT), the occasional image, links to blogs, invitations to events and webinars, and to your firm's website material.

Identify key sources of news from which you can share material and set these up on your iPad or laptop; for example: news sites, professional organisations, blogs, company websites

Be courteous at all times and proof read your tweets

Consider sharing appropriate material on LinkedIn and Twitter simultaneously.

Use hashtags to flag content that is topical to assist others to search and find it, such as: #tax, or #conveyancing or #familylawyer.

Don't forget that messages starting @hotstonmoore are private between the sender and recipient and their mutual followers, so for public tweets don't start with the @ symbol.

And finally, to send a private direct message the recipient must be following you.

The trick to Twitter is to reflect your personality whilst staying on professional message. But the rewards can be significant. It was much harder for the Wright brothers to build a flyable aircraft than it is to build a reputation.