According to Wikipedia: “Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users’ updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length which are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (known as followers). …  Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications.”

All right, so now that we know what it is, what exactly is it for? More importantly, why should you care? Well, Twitter is actually used in numerous ways by various individuals and organizations. Here are some ways it is currently being used:

Social Messaging:

  • Quickly organizing small, previously unplanned events with a group of people in various social circles.
  • Keeping friends and associates in the loop on what you’ve been doing (or where you are.)
  • Passing along quick thoughts you just feel like telling someone, such as “just saw a really good movie…” or “you wouldn’t believe what this person in line just did…”

News Reporting

  • Usually when an unexpected disaster/event occurs these days, somebody seems to be on hand with a camera phone and Twitter getting the details out to the world. While you will likely not follow that person, big news tends to get “re-tweeted” throughout the community very quickly.
  • Everyone from Oprah Winfrey, CNN, to the CBC, and local news anchors are on Twitter these days putting out short updates on major stories or on issues effecting their communities.
  • Large conferences, festivals, speeches, and other events are often “live tweeted” so that those at work or home can follow along with the latest announcements or revelations. Tweets coming out of these events are often tagged with a code for the event, such as #macworld (see hash tags below).

Business Tool

  • Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool which can help build your brand and strengthen your relationship with customers, if done right.
  • Social networking allows you to develop a 1:1 relationship with clients who can easily send in questions and interact with you (or your office.) Twitter allows you to quickly respond to direct or indirect client inquiries with helpful tips, links, or other feedback.
  • Twitter encourages quick and efficient communication with clients. As one example, Redman will be utilizing Twitter to post real-time status messages on our services, provide quick tips or ideas on both our services and using internet tools in general, and to announce just launched features (prior to those announcements reaching our news letters or blog.)

Making sense of it all:

twitter-birdSo now that we know what Twitter is, and how it is commonly used, there’s still the “getting your head around it” factor. The first thing to keep in mind (especially when considering the “business tool” factor) is not to overly self-promote. If all you’re using Twitter for is to re-post your latest blog entries, new listing, and other such “advertisements” you’ll find a lot of people either stop following you (or never start in the first place.) Try to post things that real people are also going to care about, like interesting news stories, insights, and observations. These comments can relate to the real estate industry such as mortgage rates, an interesting home article you read etc. People who see value in what you tweet will keep following you, and will be more inclined to follow a link you post to your own materials when those materials deserve special attention.

When getting started it is a good idea to follow a wide variety of people, not just potential clients. The scope of people you may wish to follow can include friends, associates, local media (individual personalities or the outlet itself), bloggers, authors, celebrities (big and small), and businesses. Don’t be shy about following and interacting to these individuals, and don’t worry about having to one day “un-follow” them if you find yourself not interested in their messages for whatever reason. Being followed is no obligation that you should have to follow that person back. Finding the right fit of people you will want to watch on twitter is always a bit of a tweaking process: at the end of the day you want your Twitter stream to be filled with things that are relevant and interesting to you.

In a follow-up post we’ll be discussing some Twitter terminology and tips. This will include a discussion on the value in using a Twitter client (on your desktop and/or mobile device), and some insights on the power of utilizing Twitter’s powerful search features.

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