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Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging network allowing users to post updates of 140 characters – these might include links, images, videos or just text updates. Users ‘follow’ each other – but there is no obligation for users to mutual follow each other, which is different from becoming friends on Facebook or connecting with someone on LinkedIn.

Twitter users who want to share another user’s tweet can retweet (commonly referred to as an RT) it to their followers, which is a great, social way of taking part in Twitter and passing on information you think your followers will appreciate. Users who follow one another can also send direct messages (commonly seen as a DM) to communicate more privately.

Hashtags and mentions are particularly important aspects of Twitter. A hashtag is a word or phrase with the “#” sign in front of it (e.g. #warwickgrad). Users can follow specific events, communities, topics or items by following a specific hashtag and you can create your own tags for people to follow. You can mention or tag another Twitter account in your posts with an “@” prefix (e.g., @warwickuni).

 

The business case

With more than 640,000,000 users signed up, sending around 58 million tweets per day (as of 1 January 2014), Twitter is another serious player in the social media world. Add to that the fact that the site is attracting 135,000 new users per day and there’s a great chance that you will be able to find people to connect with.

Twitter is fast paced and digestible – updates are limited to 140 characters (including any links you include), which should help users focus their updates and get their points across succinctly. This makes it a great platform to dip in and out of for gathering news. It also forces you to think about how you want to phrase your tweets in a way that is engaging and interesting.

Twitter is a great channel for connecting with individuals, without any expectation or assumption that you actually know the other person, which can be the case when adding people as a friend on Facebook or connecting with them on LinkedIn. This makes it really easy to engage with your audience – whether that might be prospective students, fellow academics/researchers, alumni, local stakeholders.

Best practice

  • Go steady
    Twitter can be a little daunting at first, so take time initially to just listen, i.e. follow a few people and read what they have to say. It’s estimated that around 40% of Twitter’s users only ever listen, so you wouldn’t be alone. Once you feel more comfortable with the platform, start adding your own tweets, or retweet interesting things from other users.
  • Crowd source
    Asking questions is a brilliant way to encourage engagement on Twitter, and can really help set you up to have conversations with other users.
  • Share
    If you see a tweet that you particularly like or think your followers would find interesting, retweet it. Retweeting is a key part of what makes Twitter work and will help you build relationships with other users.
  • Be thankful
    Some Twitter users will make the effort to directly thank people for following them or for retweeting content. Essentially, this is just really nice and is therefore a good thing. Why not give it a go?
  • Use #hashtags
    Hashtags really found their feet on Twitter and are still a big part of it. Users can follow specific events, communities, topics or items by following a specific hashtag and you can create your own tags for people to follow.
  • Tag people
    You can tag other users by prefixing their username with the @ symbol – this is particularly useful if you want to credit someone for an interesting link/picture and is a fantastic way for to point your followers in the direction of other users.

    Just remember that if you start your tweet with the @ mention, that tweet will only be seen by the other user and people who follow both them and you – this is commonly called an @ reply, as it is a tweet aimed at another user. To turn this into a tag as part of a tweet that goes out to all your followers, either put the @ mention later in the tweet (e.g. ‘Joe Bloggs from @warwickuni is here talking about…’) or put some form of punctuation at the start of the tweet (e.g. ‘.@warwickuni student Joe Bloggs is here talking about…’).
  • Use lists
    One downside with Twitter can be working out how to filter through the noise and find the useful stuff. Thankfully, there is a built-in feature that can help – lists. You can organise the people you follow into lists, making it easier to find their updates. Going a step further, you can also use third party dashboard programmes like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck and have your lists displayed prominently as a dashboard column, making it even easier to keep a track of them.
  • Shrink your URLs
    URLs – web addresses – can take up a huge chunk of your 140 characters, so use a URL shortener like http://goo.gl or http://bit.ly to shrink your links. Also, if you sign up for accounts with these sites, you will be able to access stats about how many people have clicked your links. As an alternative, Hootsuite has its own URL shortener built in.

Advertising

Twitter offers two types of advertising – promoted accounts and promoted tweets V and their names offer a pretty clear steer as to what you might expect from each type.

Promoted tweets will focus on an individual tweet you send, which are ideal to push a particular message, whereas promoted accounts focus on individual accounts, so are the best paid way to attract new followers.

You can opt for two kinds of targeting with advertising on Twitter. The first is by keyword, which will allow you to target those who search, tweet about or otherwise engage with a specific term. You can also target by interests and followers, reaching people who fall into certain broad interest categories (e.g. a particular academic subject) or who follow specific accounts — for instance, if you’re looking to promote a general message aimed at student recruitment, you might want to target users who follow UCAS. You can also limit your targeting to certain devices, like BlackBerry, and by gender.

You can then set lifetime and daily maximum budgets for your ads, to help you keep an eye on spending. If you're running a Promoted Tweet campaign, you set the amount you're willing to pay every time someone retweets, replies, favourites, follows or clicks on your tweet. For Promoted Account campaigns, you pay per follower.