As a working artist and speaking coach, I have found Twitter to be an effective tool for producing a greater quantity of interested contacts and providing thought-provoking conversations. Here are a few basic tips you need to know.
1. Add in your photo, your location, bio and URL.
Those little pieces of information help you to become a "real" person to those who might be interested in following and getting updates from you. If you are using Twitter just to play around, then put whatever you want in those slots. If you are using Twitter to build relationships around your brand or company, then put real answers in there. A photo is necessary if you want your profile to be taken seriously. I do not follow (have the regular updates of others directly posted to my page) those who cannot complete their profile.
Hint: After you have logged in to Twitter, you will find the place to make all these changes when you click the word "settings" in the upper right-hand corner.
2. Frequently check the "@Replies" and "Direct Messages" for your account.
@Replies are messages that are sent to your attention that everyone on Twitter can read. Direct Messages, usually abbreviated as DM, are messages that are sent only to you and can be read only by you. Once you are logged in, you can find the links to both of these sections on the far right-hand side of the page.
3. Use the @ feature to engage in conversations.
Twitter is no longer a one-way posting system. There are conversations taking place. Please participate. You have two ways to respond if someone Tweets (sends) a message that interests you. First, you can use the built-in feature to reply. Next to the Tweet (the short message) to which you want to respond, to the right edge of the message, are two symbols that appear when you mouse over the edge of the Tweet. Click on the round arrow that points to the left. This will automatically put the original poster's name in the "What are you doing?" box at the top of the page as well as provide a link back to the original post. You then just fill in your comments right next to the name of the original sender and then press the "update" button.
The second way to respond to a Tweet or initiate a conversation is to directly address an individual. You do this by using the @ and the user name. For example, if you wanted to send a message to me with the user name of "storyteller," the first thing you would type in the message box is: @storyteller. Notice there is no space between the @ sign and my user name. A message to me would look like this:
@storyteller Thanks for the Twitter Tips!
Remember that the @ function is public. Always keep your postings professional and civil. Twitter is not the place for schoolyard fights and name-calling. Always let your postings reflect the best of who you are and what you do.
4. Grow your followers naturally instead of playing the "counting" game.
I follow people on Twitter because what they say interests me or somehow applies to my work. In most cases, I will also follow anyone who sends me an @ message as that means they have actually read my postings. I do not follow everyone who follows me nor do I expect that everyone must follow me back. I think it is also disingenuous to say you are following thousands of people. There is simply no way to keep track of thousands of followers. "I have more followers than you" is a game that you do not need to play. Your followers will build slowly and naturally as you Twit (post) your ideas.
5. Tweet about what you know, sharing links and resources rather than trying to sell something.
You will frequently read about "adding value" to the Twitter conversations. Be a Twitter giver. Be an expert in your field rather than trying to get the rest of us to buy something from you. Ask real questions and watch the answers flow back @ you. If you are adding good content in order to build relationships and conversations, you will hear from those who will want to know more about your work and career.
6. Bonus Tip: You are not limited to answering Twitter's "What Are You Doing?" question.
Spend some time watching how others use Twitter. You will find very few folks who are only talking about their activities. You will find lots of good conversations, interesting links and growing relationships.
You will find that Twitter can is a way to improve your communications and even create new opportunities. There is so much more to the Twitter service than I have touched on here and I hope this article gives you a way to get started.
Sean Buvala (http://www.seantells.net) is a full-time, professional storyteller and presenter coach who will teach you to use the power of story to increase your bottom line and increase employee satisfaction and retention. He also trains other working artists how to create their own effective marketing campaigns via his 'Outside-In Artists' Marketing Boot Camp."