On March 8th, I attended the Featuring140 – The Twitter Conference right here in Seattle. The event was put together (very well, I might add!) by The Parnassus Group. Knowing that Twitter is out there and that you need to be on it is different than knowing what it takes to get into social media effectively. Topics covered included things such as how to grow your followers and how to gather and analyze data from Twitter. Here, I have put together a few notes from the esteemed speakers at the event.
Keynote Address: A Conversation With Ben Parr
Keep in mind that social media is a tool. Many people use Twitter for personal or fun reasons. However, many more use it for business networking. Twitter is about PEOPLE. It is what you make of it… good or bad.
What we do in the social web is all about gestures we make. Information moves in real-time. If you don’t respond as quickly, things can blow up. This makes for a good opportunity to make a company more “honest”. Let’s face it… we often hear about breaking news on Twitter far sooner than we do anywhere else. It’s that real-time capability that makes Twitter such an amazingly hot commodity.
March Microfinance Madness: The Vittana Education Challenge with Kushal Chakrabarti
In most developing countries, student loans just don’t exist. Even if you have the best grades in your school or already been accepted to the best law school in the country, if you don’t have the money, you just can’t go.
Kushal talked to us about how the Vittana community is making great strides towards changing this. They have built some of the first student loans in developing countries, and have raised a lot of money to this end.
Mining and Monitoring Twitter with Steve Broback
Basic search on Twitter is not enough, due to the limits that are there. There are, however, many free search tools that can help you make sense of the data on Twitter.
- Twapper Keeper – This is an archive built from hastag searches. You can use the tool to archive and download the findings for off-site analysis.
- BackTweets – You can find tweets about you and/or your competitors. It shows you what’s going on and what has been said.
- SocialPing – SocialPing displays charts and graphs on various topics on Twitter. Service is still in beta form.
- People Browser – This one isn’t free, but it is very good. People Browser allows you to go back in time with Tweets from Twitter.
- TweepSearch – You can search for people via their bio’s, using keywords or hashtags.
When you’re a small company, using Twitter can seem like a real no-brainer: grab your brand name account, talk about what you’re doing, interact with the crowd. Large brands face a whole different world on Twitter as they seek to deal with location, scale, and security.
Shauna – It’s very important to find the right person in the company to tweet. The wrong person could cause serious damage to your brand and reputation, without even realizing it. If you’re going to use networks such as Twitter, you need a goal. For her company, it’s all about customer service, and how they can improve in general.
Jesse – Some companies have set up customer service programs, others are focused on marketing messages. Those doing it best understand that you can’t easily segment the types of conversations that are happening. Over time, there will be a lot more people engaging in social media for organizations.
Rich Before you do anything, focus on your objective. Be careful about not automating your twitter presence (it castrates its value) – it’s a conversation space!
Shauna Be generous. Don’t use Twitter for marketing… it’s a friend and networking tool. If you market to me, I’ll likely unfollow you or block you. Also, don’t ask people to RT you. They know they can, and will if they feel the tweet was something worth passing along.
Brad – Don’t deal with negativity on Twitter, and don’t fight! Take it “offline”, so to speak. Handle problems like this via email, telephone, or in person.
Shauna Make sure the person in your company chosen to handle the social media scene has a thick skin. There are a lot of positives, yes. But there will also be negatives and rude comments. When you get those, just smile (virtually) and ask how you can help.
Lastly, realize that the company executives don’t have to be on Twitter themselves if they don’t choose to be. However, they should definitely be involved in the feedback that is being received on Twitter, and a part of deciding how to proceed with the data at hand.
Twitter’s latest major feature push – Lists – brought a whole new social dynamic to Twitter. Lists allow people to build out subsections of their followings, keep tabs on topic verticals, publicize a set of personalities, and a million other things.
The basic idea is to segment the people you’re interested in. You don’t even have to be following them to add them to a list. Twitter only gives you 20 list slots, which is a good reason to have more than one Twitter account (personal and business, for example).
Twitter and Google are looking into being able to integrate list titles into importance of tweets in search results. You can actually remove yourself from others’ lists, but in order to do so you must block the user. The downside is that you’ll not be able to follow that user’s tweets. You can always re-follow them immediately.
Writing code comes naturally to Seattle. This city has become a hotbed of Twitter development over the past year, giving birth to some of the earliest and most pervasive Twitter applications, including Twibes, TweetStats, TweepSearch, and Hotwall.
As a business-savvy developer, profit and risk will be the first things that come to mind. Whether or not a dev should start off with freeware and then charge for add-ons or subscriptions (or charge a flat fee out of the gate) is really a matter of personal preference.
The key is to rise above the noise. Although pricing is tough, trust and personal brand allow a premium charge. Many times, scalability is a problem, once an application becomes popular.
Niche solutions can be ideal for a small development company, which is something that a large corporation may not necessarily pay attention to. All of the panelists agreed that Twitter is still hot. It’s the best public place to experiment. Social equity can be extremely important, leveling that playing field.
Twitter is more than just 140 characters. Twitter is a platform that grows more powerful every day, as developers, entrepreneurs, and people with too much time on their hands create thousands of tools and services that do everything from sending direct messages to tweeting on behalf of your houseplants. Here is the list of applications that the above panelists cannot live without.
- Trendistic – Allows you to track trends over time, via hashtags.
- TweetBeep – This is a simple system that allows you to enter search terms, and has advanced search capabilities. You can have your search alerts sent to your email.
- CoTweet – CoTweet allows businesses to collaborate on Twitter through one interface. You can have multiple accounts, which you control the access levels for.
- SitBy.Us – This helps you discover panels and share where you’re sitting. It creates a personal schedule. It’s not a Twitter app, but it engages the Twitter community. It also imports and exports to iCal.
- Brizzly – This allows you to manage multiple Twitter account logins. It’s simple to use and allows stream filtering.
- HootSuite – HootSuite is the best client for business and productivity. It can manage accounts for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Foursquare. You can have multiple editors open at once, by using tabs or columns.
- Twitgoo – This is a product from Photobucket, allowing you to easily share photos on Twitter.
- Twilk – This nifty little application makes you a Twitter background out of your followers, and / or the people you’re following.
- Conversationalist – This application builds a list of users you interact with, and refreshes itself automatically.
- TweetMeme – This allows you to browse links and stories that are popular on Twitter at any given moment.
All in all, the conference was fantastic. Even for a power Twitter user, there was much to be learned, and a lot of excellent points made to help us all out.
Thanks SO much to the people who were kind enough to use to help take notes during this event: Kathy Gill, Danny Minick and Kristin Marshall.