I created my Twitter account @_KenKaufman on December 26th, 2008. After one full year, this is what I have learned:
Twitter is like every other form of connecting with people (yes, I'm excluding all non-person driven Twitter accounts). Whether it be face-to-face, over-the-phone, through social networking, or via some other medium, connecting with people professionally and personally is about BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS. That's it. No secrets or amazing revelations. But here are some thoughts on how Twitter has helped me to build more and better relationships during the last 12 months.
As my vision for my Twitter usage began to take shape, I found that there were some people with whom I wanted to connect that did not seem to feel the same way towards me. It did not take me long to realize that they had nothing against me, rather, they did not understand the need to create and foster relationships. They thought Twitter was a race to gain the most followers and that somehow that would be fulfilling. Let's be honest...most of those people have gained thousands, if not tens of thousands, of followers only to find that they were getting a lot of noise, or tweets, but they really didn't have anyone with whom they could connect and create anything of value. A lot of these folks have even written blog posts about how they have either unfollowed everyone to try and de-clutter their account and start building real relationships or they have started completely new Twitter accounts so they could start fresh with relationships, not numbers, as their focus.
Whether in business or in personal matters, just building relationships is highly ineffective. You end up knowing a lot of names but aren't able to add much value to any of them. Building relationships of TRUST generates very effective relationships, the kinds of relationships we all want. Twitter is a tool; it is still up to each end-user to build the best kind of relationships. So, here is a brief list of the some of the key elements of building relationships of trust and how we can apply them to our relationships on Twitter.
Consistency - Be a regular, even if it is for a short time each day. Respond to your @replies and Direct Messages (not the sales-oriented and spammy ones).
Add Value - Do not just listen to the conversation. Jump into the fray and communicate. Add value to what others have to say. Say things that are valuable in the first place. Re-tweet the really good stuff you come across. Add value to the conversation.
Be Genuine and Real - There is no faster way to destroy trust than to fake it. Be yourself. If you do that, you will be happy with the relationships you have built. I sure am after my first year.
Stay Away from the Trash - Yes, there are certainly some undesirable Twitter accounts. Just block them and move on. Filter and flourish.
Help Others - Think about what others are trying to get out of Twitter and help them get it. If they want exposure, then help them with re-tweets and #followfridays and whatever else makes sense. This is an old concept, but it applies to Twitter just the same - help others get what they want and they will help you get what you want. Sounds a lot like building relationships, to me. If your only Twitter efforts are self-promoting, then you're not going to attract many trust-based relationships.
Use the Tools - I love using Tweetdeck. The search tools help me stay on top of my keywords and accelerate my efforts to connect with the right kinds of people. There are many other applications and tools for making your Twitter experience successful. Find what works best for you.
In conclusion, let's consider the many advertising and marketing initiatives we have seen on Twitter. Some have gone very well, and others have left a bad taste in our mouths. Just like any other broadcasting medium (by the way, all of their revenue models are built around marketing and advertising), the ones who are building relationships of trust are the ones we listen to and the ones from whom we buy. If that is true, then we need to try and be just like them.