By Cat Saunders
When it comes to the subsection of cyberspace known as Twitter, or alternatively as the Twitterverse, Twittersphere, or Twitosphere, I am a new face. In fact, I only started posting in January of this year. But several months have gone by (and about 500 tweets), and I feel like I’m beginning to get a handle on Twitter as a social media vehicle. Are you considering starting a professional Twitter account but not sure of where to begin? Let me share with you some advice that may make your first steps as a Twitter rookie more confident.
Before I dive in, I wanted to acknowledge that beginning to navigate the Twitterverse can be overwhelming. It is easy to feel bombarded by the sheer volume of content in Twitter, sometimes from people with hundreds or even thousands of followers. The flow of spam doesn’t help either. Let me normalize your anxiety by saying that sharing that I had these feelings too. Those of you who considered ita breeze from the start are made of stronger stuff than I.
What’s Your Goal?
Your next step is to figure out why you are on Twitter. Are you looking for a job? Do you want to network with professionals in your industry? Do you want to build your personal brand? Maybe you want connect with friends and family. Your answer to these questions will determine the content and focus of your tweets. Make sure all tweets are in line with the goals that you have set for yourself. At this point, you may also be wondering what a personal brand is. Which leads me to my next point . . .
What’s Your Personal Brand?
This is a term that gets thrown around a lot, and to be honest I am still wrapping my head around it. As I understand it, your personal brand can be summed up as the package of characteristics and attributes about yourself that is being consumed by others. Whether you put effort into developing a personal brand or not, an image of who you are is out there and it reflects on you. For this reason, I suggest considering what you want your personal brand to be and make sure that all your tweets are consistent with how you want to represent yourself. There are endless resources online on this topic, but I found the following articles to be particularly helpful:
Don’t Be a Megaphone
Now that you have your goals and your brand in mind, it is time to tweet! This can include both new content that is completely your own and “retweets”, which allow you to share posts by other users that you found engaging. However, if you are only posting your own thoughts and interests without interacting with others, something has gone wrong. This is called being a “megaphone”, and you don’t want to be a megaphone. Twitter is a wonderful environment for sharing, so don’t hesitate to hit “reply” when you have something entertaining or informative to share that is related to someone’s tweet. This will allow you to connect with others and lead to a much richer Twitter experience.
Find Your Voice
People on Twitter respond well to someone who appears authentic, so don’t be afraid to inject your personality into your tweets. Find ways to be entertaining and informative based on your interests. However, I do suggest that you exercise some degree of caution. I always ask myself “Would I tell my supervisor this if we ran into each other in the break room?” and “Is this in line with my personal brand?” before I post. Of course, what is considered appropriate is going to vary based on the culture of the company you work at (or want to work at). Regardless of what you decide to post, simply make sure you are making a conscious decision about it and own it.
Finally, I recommend creating lists. There are multiple advantages to this. For one thing, it keeps who you are following organized. These lists can then be used in programs like TweetDeck or HootSuite, where you can look at lists individually instead of having everything piled into one feed. A secondary advantage, and one that I stumbled upon by accident, is that it can open you up to more exposure on Twitter. When I created a public list to keep track of people posting about career development, many users contacted me to thank me for listing them and followed me back. Please note that lists can be public or private, and you don’t want to mix up the two.
More Like Guidelines
My final bit of advice is that there are no hard and fast rules to tweeting. This may seem counterintuitive because you’ve been reading advice from me on how to tweet, but I would think of what I said as guidelines rather than rules. There are lots of opinions out there on how to best utilize social media, how to conduct a job search on Twitter, how to manage your personal brand, and even how, when, and what to tweet. As far as I am concerned, Twitter is an evolving social media platform and there are no absolutely right or wrong ways to tweet. The Twittersphere is full of conflicting opinions. I encourage see what folks are saying and come to your own conclusion about how you want to put yourself out there.
For me, figuring out how to use Twitter in a professional capacity has been quite a learning process. I hope that this guide will help make your introduction to Twitter easier. Happy tweeting!
Cat Saunders is a recent graduate of UCSB who now works as a Vocational Counselor in the Santa Barbara area. She can be found at www.catsaunders.com.