Thursday, June 2, 2011

Twitter 101 Day 4 When will you be on Twitter?

This is the fourth (and final) in a short series of posts designed to help newbies understand some social media strategy behind the professional use of Twitter. (See the links below for the earlier posts.)

Now that you’re set up on Twitter and you’ve figured out why and how you’ll use it you need to think about when you’ll use it.

The "when" falls into two categories – literally the time of day you’ll be active on Twitter and the stages in your personal and/or business life that you’ll use Twitter.

Let’s deal with the time of day first since there are numerous tools that can help you figure which times are best for you to be active (assuming you’re interested in engaging with people, growing your follower count and getting your tweets re-tweeted). And a quick note: Your results will always be different from anyone else’s since they depend on where in the world your Twitter followers reside and the types of people who follow you (9-to-5-workers vs. college students, for example).

But, maybe the first thing to try is to just experiment with Twitter itself. Try reposting a few different high-quality tweets (newsworthy or in some other way likely to attract a retweeter) over the course of a few weeks. Do this by changing the time of day one week and the days of the week the next and so on. You should repeat the experiment a few times until you start to see trends in retweets (and an attendant jump in follower count).

Some other things to consider include the # FollowFriday effect (there’s a spike in Twitter activity each Friday because of this) and hashtag chats related to your industry (when there will also be a spike in activity among people who are likely highly relevant to your business).

But if you want to use some free tools to help here’s a quick look at some of them (and I freely acknowledge that there are dozens of others out there):

TOOLS

Whentotweet analyzes the time at which your followers tweet and gives you a recommendation on when the best time of day for you to tweet is. The app analyzes your follower data to determine the time of the day your followers are most active and displays the results as a helpful fever chart by time of day.

Tweriod examines up to 5,000 of your followers and generates a report based on the time zone attached to your Twitter profile. The report, in fever chart format, can be selected to show activity on Weekends, Sundays, Mondays, Weekdays and Combined. You can also look at "general stats," "hourly graphs" and "@replies" – all excellent fodder for deciding when to be on Twitter.

Favstar is a site that tracks what you, your friends and everyone else is favoriting on Twitter. This will show you which of your tweets others have found valuable enough to tag as a favorite. The downside, of course, is that not everyone tags all good content as a favorite.

Timely analyzes your past 199 tweets and figures out the best time slots for future tweets. It then uses this information to auto-schedule tweets that you’ve posted to Timely. If this sounds a little creepy or too automated for your tastes, that’s OK, but mow you know it exists.

14 Blocks randomly selects a subset of your followers (500 for the basic plan) and analyzes their recent tweets (past two weeks) to determine the likelihood they will be online at a given time. This is not based on the followers’ activities with you (RTs or @replies), but rather on their activities in general.

In addition to the above tools you can also use link/URL shorteners that offer tracking such as
bit.ly and su.pr from Stumbleupon, but that may be getting a little technical for a 101 class!

STAGES:

So now that you’ve figured out the time of day and day of the week it is most likely you’ll connect with others on Twitter. How do you decide when to use Twitter for professional purposes? Obviously the answers are as many and varied as there are individuals on Twitter, but here are a few you may not have considered:

Offering help/Answering a question: The No. 1 way to get a good "rep" on any social network is to be helpful. So by watching your Twitter stream and offering to help or sharing an answer to another Tweep’s question you will earn a lot of goodwill.

Asking for help/Asking a question: Used rarely and strategically, asking a question or asking for help can also help you build relationships. Since Twitter limits response to 140 characters people are more inclined to help in this limited way. They may also see value in helping beyond the 140. Ask and you will receive – it’s a Twitter thing.

Testing an idea: You don’t have to give away the farm, but you can use Twitter as a sounding board for a new service or a new product or even just to discover a need. Just be careful to ask the right question.

Planning a trip or an event: Need to find a hotel in your price range in a city you’re unfamiliar with? Want to know if that airline deal is as good as it seems? Need to know what to do with that extra day in London? Need help to plan a conference? There are plenty of people on Twitter who would be happy to help. Just remember that some of them also represent a particular interest (which just a little snooping usually reveals).

Finding collaborators or employees: Need physical help? Twitter is also a good place to spread the word about your needs. People are usually willing to retweet or pass along your information to others they know who can help.

Of course there are many, many more, but I don’t want this blog to become
War & Peace!

So, there you have it a few tree-top-level tips on how to figure out when to be on Twitter. And that ends your fourth (and final) Twitter 101 lesson. If you read the series, congratulations for graduating with honors!

What do you think? Will this series help a social media strategy newbie figure how they’ll use Twitter? Should I plan a follow up series called Twitter 102 for later in June?

Earlier posts in the series:
Twitter 101 Day 1: Why are you on Twitter?
Twitter 101 Day 2: How will you use Twitter?
Twitter 101 Day 3: Who will you be on Twitter?

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