Twitter. Let’s face it: the site makes a poor first impression—unruly and random data, fleeting thoughts, inspirational quotes, news teasers, celebrity gossip, cacophonous and tangential dialogue, and more. And yet, negatives aside, Twitter has become a booming business hub that isn’t going away, as these truths indicate:
The #1 fastest-growing opportunity for employment (per Indeed.com)
The word of the year last year by the Global Language Monitor
The #2 most-searched phrase (behind Google)
Tweets now archived in the Library of Congress
More than 105 million users with 300,000 new users added every single day
Time magazine’s cover story referencing Twitter “will change the way we live.”
Interestingly, Twitter originated as a way for employees inside a company to communicate with one another. It has spawned applications far beyond internal usage, of course, since that time. Let’s explore how Twitter can be used inside organizations, whether to service coworkers/customers/students or to grow one’s own career.
Check the policy and expectations first. Ask about your company’s policy for tweeting, and then adhere to it. Some organizations look unfavorably on employee tweeting, and with good reason if the employee is using it for personal purposes and eating up productivity on the job. If your company does allow tweeting (or other social media) on the job but doesn’t have a formal social media policy, get clear expectations, in writing, with your manager about how much time will be acceptable for tweeting.
Learn from others. If your company does not have a policy for tweeting, consider spearheading a team to discuss the idea. Check out this post from Mashable.com at http://mashable.com/2009/10/02/social-media-policy-examples/ to learn how leaders such as Kodak, Intel, and IBM have crafted their social media policies.
Get a name. Decide whether tweets will go out under a company/department name, under your personal name, or both. Give careful consideration to the name chosen for the organization’s account. When tweeting under your own name to advance your career, use professional-sounding handles, such as @JaneSmithSPHR or @OhioCareerCoach.
Tweet with discretion. Be aware: even if you are not using Twitter for career advancement and are tweeting outside of work hours, it’s very likely that your employer would know (or find out) about your personal tweets. If tweeting for your organization or even for yourself professionally, never tweet information that is confidential, sensitive, or has even a hint of negativism about your organization or others.
Choose a professional photo or avatar. If tweeting for your organization, consider using the organization’s logo or a photo representative of the school. If tweeting as an individual but with the primary purpose of promoting your organization, use a professional photo. Avatars may also be used, as long as they are on-brand—these sites are great starting points for avatars: http://www.bighugelabs.com/ and http://www.southparkstudios.com/.
Use a Third-Party Application (API). Twitter can appear disorganized and confusing. APIs such as http://www.tweetdeck.com/, http://www.hootsuite.com/, and http://www.seesmic.com/ help organize tweets into columns of your choosing, such as those that reference your organization’s name, those that contain a relevant hashtag or keyword (such as #jobs), or a list of followers you are particularly interested in.
Don’t Rush to Follow at First. When you follow people on Twitter, it’s likely they will consider following you back. If your history of tweets (your “tweet stream”) isn’t interesting or it’s non-existent, you’ll lose the opportunity to gain new followers. Instead, put out some interesting tweets first.
Lurk and learn. You don’t even need a Twitter account to get a feel for how Twitter works. Twitter just announced its “Fast Follow” function that allows you to follow other users before ever establishing an account. Watch how other organizations and individuals are using Twitter. Here are a few who are doing it quite well:
@LoriCatesHand (www.twitter.com/LoriCatesHand), acquisitions editor for JIST Publishing, America’s Career Publisher.
@RobynGreenspan (www.twitter.com/RobynGreenspan), Editor-in-Chief at ExecuNet.com, tweeting on everything you wanted to know about executive career issues.
@PennCareerServ (www.twitter.com/PennCareerServ), University of Pennsylvania Career Services featuring advice, news and information for events on and off campus.
@tomfUVA (www.twitter.com/tomfUVA), Tom Fitch, Assistant Dean for Career Services at the McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia.
Some General Tips about Tweets:
Tweet On-Brand. Tweet primarily about things that relate to your profession and/or your organization. Read news feeds, blogs, and other resources for relevant, fresh content. Let people know the good things that are happening in your organization. Comment on regional/national/international news that is relevant to your industry.
Set Up Google Alerts for Tweet Content. Go to www.google.com/alerts to set up alerts for industry trends, relevant news, and more sent directly to your email. You can then be the first to tweet about it.
Follow People with the Power to Influence and Support Your Career. The people you follow will likely follow you back. When they do, they will come to know, through your tweets, your thought leadership, innovations, insights, style, etc. Think long-term when it comes to career advancement, as you might be forming a relationship and building trust with someone on Twitter today who may have the power to hire you two months or two years down the road.
Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, But Don’t Get Sucked In. Be careful that your time on Twitter is focused and productive. Consider a 15-minute-a-day model where you spend five minutes in the morning, noon, and afternoon. During that time, you might tweet about an interesting industry trend, retweet someone’s tweet that would be interesting to your followers, and send an “at” (@) message to someone based on an interesting comment in their tweet stream.
Shout-outs, Applause, and Retweets—The Highest Form of Flattery. Retweet (RT) interesting tweets from your networking contacts. Imagine how impressed others might be when they see that you’ve retweeted information that will promote them, their department, their organization, etc. Shout-out and applaud others—watch for opportunities to tweet a kudos to team members. They’ll appreciate it, and it will build camaraderie and good will.
Schedule Your Tweets. In some cases, you’ll want to schedule your tweets in advance, whether to announce an upcoming event or to keep an active Twitter presence during a day when you’ll be tied up in meetings. Most third-party apps (http://www.tweetdeck.com/, http://www.socialoomph.com/) allow you to do so.
Use Hashtags. Hashtags, represented by the # sign in front of a word (e.g., #accounting, #finance, #healthcare), are used on Twitter to help users find all the tweets with that hashtag. Create short hashtags and use them regularly. You can create hashtags for anything (conferences, programs, activities, topics). Remember to make them short (e.g., #OCR10 might stand for On-Campus Recruiting 2010).
Create Collaboration. Reach out to people in other organizations to share best practices, form a tweet-up or tweet-chat, and more. In social media, sharing is caring. This can also boost your personal career since it allows you to network beyond your current organization.
Create Lists. Working in a career services department? Create a list of top-notch resources that your team would find helpful, or your students would appreciate. When you curate your own lists, you look like a subject-matter expert. Check out http://www.listorious.com/ to find lists of people with similar interests. Likewise, check out the lists that other Twitter users have created.
Create a “Twelp” Desk Twitter Account: A combination of the words Twitter and Help, it’s an account established to help provide answers to questions that occur. Twitter users can send an @reply to your Twelp desk account and then receive the help they need. Best Buy has led the way in innovation on this concept.
Bonus Tip: Give, Give, Give Before You Go Asking for Help. As in all networking, look for ways to be of help to others before asking others for help or tooting your own horn. Think of a 10:1 or even 20:1 ratio of helping/sharing/giving to others before asking/self-promoting.
Finally, if you’re new to Twitter, do keep an open mind! Although Twitter has a learning curve (true for all good things), you can find value from Day One, whether just dabbling as a n00b (shorthand in Twitter for newbie) or committing to becoming a power user! (And, follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SusanWhitcomb - I’d love to connect!)
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Twitter. What additional ideas would you add to the above for using Twitter within your organization?
Susan Whitcomb is the award-winning author of seven career and job search books, including Resume Magic, Interview Magic, Job Search Magic, 30-Day Job Promotion, The Christian’s Career Journey, and, most recently, The Twitter Job Search Guide co-authored with Chandlee Bryan and Deb Dib (all titles published by JIST). A respected authority on career coach training, Susan is founder of The Academies (www.TheAcademies.com), including Career Coach Academy and Job Search Academy, where hundreds of career professionals have earned their certifications in career coaching, job search strategy, Twitter, and, branded career communications. Susan’s passion is equipping career professionals with the tools and tenacity to make a living at what they love. Susan can be reached via CareerCoachAcademy.com or Twitter @SusanWhitcomb.