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If you read my last post, you know a little about “Twitter Power” and all the potential it has for you or your company. So how do you get started? You computer wizards are not going to have any trouble going to twitter.com and putting in the few details to establish your Twitter profile. On the other hand… things that appear simple can have “ramifications” under the surface. So let’s look at a few of the basic decisions you’ll have to make.

First of all, ask yourself this: Can you or an assistant devote at least a half hour a day to Twitter? That would be very minimal…. but for some small companies it can work. I probably spend 30 min to one hour a day managing my followers, reading tweets and organizing my community into manageable groups that I can benefit from without going into overload. So plan to devote some time every day or two. As you gain followers and “see the vision”, you’ll want to devote more time.

If you need to spread the responsibility to others in your company/group, try using an application like Hootsuite.com or Tweetlater.com. In THE TWITTER BOOK, the authors suggested assigning a code (>B for bill) for each person to append to the end of their posts. Show pictures and the associated code in your custom Twitter background so people have a face to associate with the code.

At first you will be putting more time into setup, creating (or directing) a custom Twitter background and writing your initial tweets (140 character posts). Here’s a good outline to follow:

NAME: In the settings dialog…. make sure you fill out your real name… not your company name. In most Twitter clients (programs used to access Twitter) your name will show up with your company name. So at least use your real name here.

CHOOSE A USERNAME: Your real name and username (screen name) will show up every time you “speak” on Twitter. If you’re tweeting for your company… the username might want to be the name of your company. Another approach is to merge your real name and your business arena…. like, in my case, it could be @DesignerBill (darn…shoulda done that).

I think the main thing is to think globally. Your identity should be the same or nearly the same across the web. If someone finds your blog or web site first, they should be able to recognize you on Twitter or Facebook. Ideally, if you’re a business, it should say something about who you are or what you do, if possible. This is not critical, but it is the first of many decisions you will make about FOCUS. If you are a busy person, you’re probably not here to chat all day long. You’re here to meet potential customers, like-minded thinkers, suppliers and consultants and learn new things. So stay focused! Make it easy for viewers to understand what you do. Yes… it’s branding. Just can’t get away from it. Help yourself stand out from the crowd and make your identity consistent across the web. You can see how we’ve maintained consistency between our Twitter background and our web site at greyvisual.com.

FILL IN YOUR URL. Make it your blog or web site….. or your Facebook page, if you have one. Now that Facebook will allowed the registration of simpler page URL’s instead of numbers…. this will be easier.  You can also put a short URL at the end of your One Line Bio if you have more than one important web presence.

AH YES, THE ONE LINE BIO: Be a little creative here. Don’t just say “make a million” or “I’m really great, follow me”. Have a little respect for your potential followers. They will generally look for people with similar interests. If you’re serious about expanding your community… then tell the world a little about yourself; your interests, passions…. your business. It’s a virtual networking party…. introduce yourself in a kindly way. Tell people the kinds of things that YOU would want to know before following someone. It’s always about the Golden Rule.

THE PICTURE TAB: At the very least, post a nice engaging photo, a creative logo…..something you can carry through to other social media across the net. Once again, look for consistency. You are actually branding yourself in a new web community and thousands (potentially hundreds of thousands) of people will see you over time. How do you want to present yourself? I suggest posting an engaging photo or really fun cartoon icon of yourself. Something that creates a connection with your readers… that makes them feel as if you’re ready to engage with them. This is all very personal and should reflect who you are… or the goals of your company. I recommend, for single Tweeters, that we stick with friendly photos. This is a social networking party. If you went to a Chamber of Commerce function to meet new people and someone approached you with a mask on… or a big logo on their tie…. how would YOU feel?  That’s kind of what happens when you use a graphic or logo instead of a photo. But, once again, this depends on your goals for using Twitter; your Focus. There are so many permutations here, so many nuances. One can use a photo and then flesh out the company ID and mission with a custom background. Nothing is wrong if it works for your audience. If it works for them…. it works for you.

THE DESIGN TAB: Here’s where you can show people a little about your life, your company or your cause. At the very least, change the colors of the interface and use one of the alternate backgrounds provided. DO NOT USE THE BLUE DEFAULT TWITTER BACKGROUND!! (yes, I shouted that 🙂  You need to stand apart and give people a reason to follow you….right? So at least change things from the default. You can have a designer do the work and hopefully create a Global Identity when doing so. But you can also save money by going to some of the available Twitter background providers (Just Google “twitter backgrounds”).

Naturally a custom background will say more about you. But you know what?  Many people never go to the Twitter site to see what a follower’s profile looks like. They are accessing Twitter through iPhones, mobile phones, Tweetdeck, Eventbox, Seesmic Desktop and so many other Twitter access tools. Many of your potential readers are FAR less concerned about your creative background than the nature of your posts. So in the next blog post, I’ll talk about WHAT to write.

As I go “out the door”…. let me say, in passing, that you should set up ALL of the above before you start following people. Then go to my next article and use that advice to post at least 10 or 15 tweets before you begin the “Follower Safari”. OK?

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