Perhaps you’ve been working in digital measurement for a few years, or maybe you’re new. You keep hearing about Twitter and wondering whether you should jump on the bandwagon. Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Why should I join Twitter?
- To learn: Step outside the sandbox of your own company, your own analytics solution, and your own challenges. Your eyes will be opened and you’ll start thinking about the bigger picture, and bring your what you learn back to your organisation.
- To engage with others: It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet and build relationships with others in the industry. You can debate, discuss challenges, throw ideas around and form connections that may benefit you in the future.
- Get help and help others: The web analytics community on Twitter is an amazingly generous group of people. Take @usujason or @VABeachKevin, who respond to fellow analysts’ Omniture questions on a daily basis. Oh – did I mention neither of them even work for Omniture?! Having a problem with Google Analytics? Throw it out. Others may have tackled this already and can give great advice.
So how do you get started?
- Create a Twitter account. You can sign up at http://twitter.com/
- Advice for choosing a username:
- Twitter can be a great opportunity to create your “personal brand.” Using your name, or something close to it, is a good idea. Using your name also helps when it comes time to meet people in person, as they’ll recognize your name from your twitter username.
- Try to keep your username separate from your current place of employment. (E.g. @TomSmith instead of @TomAtCompanyX.) If you change companies in the future, it’s easier to not have to change your Twitter username. (Obviously though, if you are using Twitter on behalf of your company, this will be different.)
- Keep it short. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, so the longer your username, the harder it is for people to retweet you. (I can’t really throw stones here, as my username is pretty long, but at least try to keep it on the shorter side.)
- Set your Twitter photo (because being a Twitter new user “egg” is totally uncool.) Try to pick one that will help others identify you, should they meet you in person. That means no blurry artsy photos, or pictures taken from a mile away. It can be helpful to keep a consistent photo across networks (e.g. Twitter and Linked In) and try not to change it too often. Remember, Twitter isn’t Facebook – people don’t know you personally, so changing your photo often will often mean they suddenly don’t recognize you.
- Create a bio: This will tell people a little about you so they can decide whether to follow you – so make it informative.
Now for some Twitter basics:
- Retweet: Reposting another user’s tweet, either as-is or with your own comments, indicated by using “RT” or “via.” For example, a retweet with comment might look like this: “Great article! RT @useryouareretweeting: I like this article: http://www.somearticle.com” Keep in mind that while a retweet isn’t technically an endorsement, but it can be construed as one, so add your commentary if you are retweeting something you don’t necessarily agree with.
- Mention: A mention involves you referencing another Twitter user. Mentions can go back and forth as you have a conversation with someone on Twitter.
- Hashtag: Twitter users will preface a term with a # symbol to allow easy searching for tweets on the same topic. For example, “@user: I love #knitting”
Next, you’ll want to find people to follow.
A good place to start is by finding the main hashtag used by a community. For web analytics, this is the #measure hashtag. Start reading the #measure hashtag, and follow users whose content you find interesting.
You may also want to look at the hashtags for vendors you use. #Omniture (or #OMTR) is a popular one for Adobe Omniture users, but you can also check out #webtrends, #coremetrics, etc. In fact, following the vendors themselves can often be a good place to get started – most typically have a corporate Twitter account and post industry news.
Do I have to follow someone if they follow me?
No! Twitter is not reciprocal like Facebook. Just because you follow someone doesn’t mean they have to follow you, and vice versa. This makes it easy – follow someone if you want to read what they have to say. Don’t follow them if you don’t. It’s really that simple.
Keep in mind, one of the benefits of a mutual follow is that you can send each other Direct Messages (DMs.) These are 140 character messages that are “private” between you and the person sending it. However, while these messages don’t show up in a Twitter stream, applications can access DMs, so to be safe, don’t include anything truly private in them.
There are lots of Twitter users who just lurk (read but don’t post) but to get the most out of it, start posting. Throw in your viewpoint into a discussion (if they’re happening on Twitter, they’re not private, and no one will complain that you’re butting in!) or post links to interesting content you think others would enjoy.
You can also ask questions. You would be surprised who participates in the #measure discussion and is willing to take the time to answer. You can ask questions about the analytics tool you’re using (e.g. “How do I do XYZ in #Omniture?”) or even just a general “Has anyone seen any research on XYZ?” The #measure community is an amazingly generous community who really do help each other, so start asking – and answering others.
From Twitter.com to Clients to Apps
You can choose to use Twitter via the main twitter.com site. However, many choose to use a Twitter client such as HootSuite or Tweetdeck to allow them to customize their layout. For example, you may want to be able to view your home feed (the tweets of everyone you follow) plus a list, plus a search, all side by side. Check out some of the different Twitter clients and see what strikes your fancy. You may even bounce back and forth between different clients.
There are also great apps for your smartphone or tablet. On the iPad or iPhone, my favorite is Echofon, but there is also the official Twitter app, HootSuite or Tweetdeck. On Android, I primarily use TweetCaster, but you have HootSuite, TweetDeck and many other options too. Play around with a few to see which works best for you. Most have a free version with ads. Once you find one you like, you can pay a few bucks for the premium version for ad-free tweeting.
Once you start following users, you may choose to start creating Twitter lists. A list is a group of Twitter users that you group together. That way, you can read just content from your list, rather than from everyone you are following. For example, maybe you would have a “Web Analytics” list vs. “Social Media” vs “Email Marketing.”
I have a list called “Favs” – I follow a lot of people, but these are my “core people”, so if I’m busy and don’t have a chance to read what everyone I’m following is posting, at least I will keep up with my must-read folks. Feel free to check it out: http://twitter.com/#!/michelehinojosa/favs
“But I don’t have time!”
We’re all busy, and in the case of web analysts, normally overloaded. After all, it’s hard to hire good people so most companies are strapped for resources.
My advice if you’re “too busy”:
- Start small. Just follow 5-20 key people. It’s not hard to keep up with a small number.
- Check in regularly, for short periods of time, to break it up. It’s easier to find five minutes at a few times than an hour block of time.
- Mark posted articles to read later, when you have more time.
- Use Twitter to actually help you do your job. If you’re struggling with something, seek out help from the community. (Make sure you are abiding by your company’s social media and non-disclosure policies, of course.)
- Smartphones can help, by turning time you’d be wasting in a doctor’s office or waiting for a friend into valuable catch-up-on-Twitter time.
So what are you waiting for?
About the Author
Michele Hinojosa is a self-confessed analytics geek. She is currently the Director of Digital Analytics at Red Door Interactive, and was previously the Manager of Web Analytics for Kelley Blue Book. When she is not reading, writing and thinking about analytics and engaging with the web analytics community via Twitter (@michelehinojosa), she can be found teaching Les Mills group fitness classes and cycling.