Let’s face it: even the most prolific writers run dry now and then and can’t think of what to write about. Same thing happens to us all in Twitter. We aren’t all as witty as other Twitter-ers like Boris:
Not to worry! If you can’t think of something witty or profound to say, it’s perfectly acceptable to pass along other people’s content in your tweets, (and highly encouraged) as long as you link to the original post and, ideally, include the person’s Twitter name, too. (That’s called “Re-Tweeting” or doing an “RT”).
Where’s the best place to find content to Tweet? Simple: read blogs
Here are some tips to help you keep your Twitter stream flowing with interesting topics, links to helpful blog posts, and also some questions you can ask to get convo’s (conversations) going.
First, set up your “Listening station,” which is what Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) and Julienne Smith (@Julien) call it when you have one place where all your blog subscriptions are stored (from their book: Trust Agents).
I like using Google Reader as my “listening station.” Before I set it up, I was bookmarking blogs the old-fashioned way and never remembering to go back and read them again.
Here’s what you need to do so you can have your own listening station (thanks to @ChrisBrogan and @Julien – please buy their book “Trust Agents”…trust me: you’ll love it):
- Go to Google.com and set up a free Gmail account. This gives you access to a wide variety of Google tools, including Google Reader.
- Invest one hour in finding blogs you like. Go to Google Blogs (http://blogsearch.google.com/ ) and type in keywords that describe your interests and your customers’ interests. Search for topics related to your industry and area of expertise and search for a variety of topics you’re interested in, such as technology, education, sports, government, entertainment…anything of interest to you and your Twitter followers. Also, find a good inspirational quotes website that you can occasionally Tweet quotes from to inspire your followers. (You never know when a quote you Tweet will lift someone’s spirits. I know that’s happened to me numerous times.)If you like the subject matter and the style of writing, subscribe to the blog. Be sure to choose “Google Reader” when prompted. If you’re like a lot of people who don’t understand the RSS thing and you happen to click on the RSS feed, please read this helpful article by Michael Bloch: http://www.tamingthebeast.net/articles5/rss-web-feed.htm
Now that you’ve got about 100-300 blog subscriptions in your Google Reader (aka: listening station), you’ve got a wonderful assortment of information to tweet about whenever you want and conveniently located in one place. The next step is to actually do it.
Here’s the process to use to send an interesting blog post along to your Twitter followers. It will take you 10 minutes after you do it a few times:
1 . Open Google Reader and quickly review your blog subscriptions, which are all listed in the left column area.
2 . Click on a blog. Now you’ll see that the blog’s latest posts appear in the main area of your Google Reader. You’ll also be able to see how old the posts are in hours, minutes, and days. This is important to know because if the blog post is days old, you might not want to Tweet about it because, chances are, it’s been tweeted about by others and you might appear to be behind the times.
I know how silly that seems but remember: Twitter is real time information. On the other hand, that blog post might be so valuable and interesting that you want to share it with the many people in your Twitter community (your followers) who might not have been exposed to it yet. Use your own judgment when it comes to this.
3 . Quickly read the post. Learn to read fast. You simply have to if you want to learn new information that you’ll continually come across, not only in your Google Reader but in your Twitter Timeline (the flow of Tweets appearing on your Twitter homepage) as well. TIP: If a post is interesting enough to bring up as a topic in conversation then it’s interesting enough to Tweet about. Since you’re the original source of information about this blog post, there’s no need to give credit to anyone else. But if you saw a tweet that linked to something so interesting that it was worth sending along to your followers (this is called ReTweeting: RT) you MUST give credit to the original person who tweeted it first.
At first, those steps might seem like a lot to do in order to have stuff to tweet about but after you do it once or twice, you’ll find it’s extremely easy. You can also schedule these types of Tweets to appear at certain times later on in the day when you use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite.com
Other ways to find stuff to Tweet about:
- Monitor Hashtags in PeopleBrowsr.com/commandcenter, Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and respond to questions or comments made by people who are Tweeting about that hashtag (topic of conversation).
- Observations of life: if it’s remarkable enough to say aloud, to yourself, to your loved one, or even to your cat or dog, think about tweeting it, too.
That’s what’s known among some groups of people as “Trivial” stuff in life that people tweet about. But, my dear friend, that trivial stuff is exactly what pulls us together as a community and endears us to each other. When we share the every day things that happen to us, whether they be as unimportant as running out of half-n-half creamer or what a box of oranges smells like, we become closer as friends, believe it or not. We become a community. Bottomline: be authentic and human to your degree of comfort.
Do remember that whatever you talk about in your social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, many, many people are watching and listening to you. Though it might seem like no one is, trust me, there are dozens (eventually hundreds and then thousands) of people who read your tweets and never respond but continue to form an opinion about you; to silently cheer you on and become more deeply entrenched in your Twittersphere (your Twitter universe).
When Should I Tweet?
- Re-tweet other people’s tweets if you think their messages are worth repeating to your followers. This shows you’re supportive and informative, which your followers appreciate. Twitter is a “Help thy neighbor” environment.
- When you get a warm-fuzzy feeling about something. Chances are that most of your followers will relate to what you say. You might lose some followers if you do this too much, depending on your strategy .
- Write a blog post and tweet about it (include a shortened link).
- Wield your power wisely. Call in favors only when you really need to bring traffic to your blog or website, like when launching an eBook, video, or other product. Or when promoting an upcoming event, webinar, workshop or public appearance. Caution: be sure to promote your friends, too, even if they’re in the same industry. Supporting each other is what this is all about.
- Quote from a book you’re reading (include the author’s name).
- Quote from an overheard conversation if it’s something worthy of repeating to your followers.
- Quote a loved one, with their permission, and if they’re entertaining or inspirational. You never know: you might end up with your own TV show and book deal, like Justin Halpern did. Seriously. Read about the TV and book deal: http://www.wired.com/underwire/2009/11/shit-my-dad-says/ Visit Justin’s Twitter page: https://twitter.com/shitmydadsays
- Rant once in a great while. I think I’ve only done this once or twice since I joined Twitter three years ago. But that’s me. I usually don’t publicly complain or rant in real life either. Try to do it in a nice way so as not to turn off people. No one likes to listen to complainers. Twitter has been used by celebrities (@ThatKevinSmith) and bloggers and other people who are influential, as a sounding board for bad customer service they’ve received.
- Tweet during conferences, while listening to speakers: Quote their wisdom. This is called the “back channel.” Your followers will appreciate your sharing highlights with them. If you’re a speaker, encourage your attendees to tweet about what they’re hearing and give them a hashtag (a topic name) to include ahead of time. It’s free publicity for you and helps establish your expertise.
- Tweet while you watch TV: During live press conferences, important moments in history as they’re happening, and even during your favorite TV show (find the Hashtag by entering a keyword in your Twitter search box in the right column to see who else is tweeting about it).
Caution: you might lose followers if you tweet a lot during a TV show because they may have become a follower for your niche expertise and not your opinions about American Idol or Monday Night Football. So, go easy and try to provide value and entertainment, rather than too much fluff. Remember: a potential client might be monitoring you before deciding to do business with you.
- Answer the Twitter question “What’s Happening?” As a beginner, you think you’re supposed to answer that question all the time, right? Well, you don’t have to. In fact, your Twitter stream (your Tweets) will be more interesting (thus, building your community of followers) when you include a variety of several types of tweets. But many of your tweets should answer this question if it’s part of your strategy to mix up the personal (but not too personal) with the business side of you.
- Seeing a movie tonight? Tweet about it. Or ask your followers what movie you should rent. People love to share advice when asked. Remember your etiquette. Be sure to thank people who responded and you can also send a Tweet letting everyone know what you ended up watching and what you thought of it. Note: the movie industry has been significantly impacted by the opinions people Tweet about a movie immediately upon leaving the theater.
- Out for a morning walk? Snap your picture with your phone’s camera and tweet it. Capture the scenery in the background behind you or take a picture of what you’re seeing on your walk. Heck! Why not take a photo of your worn-out sneakers and send a caption saying “Breaking in my weekend warrior shoes.” Don’t laugh: remember it’s those types of tweets, done sparingly, that endear you to your followers. Upload your photo to your Twitter account by using TwitPic.com. It’s fun to see how many people are paying attention—you can tell because TwitPic shows the number of views of that picture.
- The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, once tweeted a photo of a slice of pizza he was warming on an iron in his hotel room. He added a humorous caption and further deepened his bond with his followers. People LOVE this stuff!
- Remember to listen. You don’t have to say much, just listen and offer solutions, encouragement, and/or empathy depending on the things your followers are tweeting. Be the person who whispers instead the one who blows hard. People will listen to YOU more intently.
- Just experienced a heartfelt moment? If you’ve chosen to be yourself in Twitter, then why not share this moment with your followers? But remember: don’t tweet it if you would NOT say it In Real Life (IRL). Remember what @Boris said about how Twitter is like being in a sauna…”we’re all in the same space, we show everything but we’re not really looking at each other…” well, some ARE looking at you and deciding whether or not to follow and/or do business with you so be yourself, be real, be human and be nice.How do YOU find stuff to Tweet about? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Happy Tweeting!