Monica Guzman of Big Blog fame gave an informative lecture at the Seattle PI on using Twitter and RSS feeds to inform and distribute your reporting.
In addition to many of the ideas already posted in my previous post Why Bother with Twitter, Monica had a lot of great advice for new Twitterers:
1. If you can't imagine how you'd use Twitter professionally, jump in and just start doing it for fun. Get a couple of your friends to join, and use it as a way to chat with them. As you use the tool, you'll start to see how cool it is just to be able to be in touch so easily. Or you'll find it really annoying. Either way, you'll answer that nagging questions: Is Twitter for me? Just get in there and splash around.
2. Monica gave a handy list of dos and don'ts for new Twitterers:
a. Don't auto post headlines. Twitter doesn't like a feed that's robotic. Show your human side.
b. Don't *just* post links to stuff you're blogging. It starts to feel a little spammy if that's all you're doing.
c. More generally, don't just use Twitter to promote stuff.
To this list I would add: Don't post TOO much. You'll fill up people's inbox, which is annoying. There's some folks I would love to add to my Follow list, but dang, they're posting like 20 times a day. Who has time to read all that?
People in the class asked:
Question: What should I Twitter?
Answer: You don't need to answer the question that's at the top of the screen (What are you doing). People post a wide variety of things. If you're unsure what to communicate to your Twitter followers, just follow a few folks and watch them for a while before you get started.
Question: How long does Twittering take?
Answer: As long as you want to give it. If you just posted once a day or once a week that would be fine.
Question: Who do I follow? How do I find people to follow?
Answer: If you have an interest you can go to search.twitter.com to search for people who are posting on that interest. Type "aerospace" or "rollerblading" or whatever it is you're interested in into the search box, and then click around on the people who are posting on your topic. If you like what a person is posting -- follow him. You might find in a few days you don't really like his feed. But if you do like him, step two: Go to his page and see who he is following.
Eventually, organically, people will find and follow you. Follow them back, just to check out their feed.
After a few months, or maybe sooner, you may find that you are following too many people and can't keep up with the conversation. If this happens to you, just get into your list of people you're following and weed some people out.
Question: What's the point of this again? Twitter seems silly.
Answer: Twitter is possibly silly. But many people who didn't expect to (myself included) find it useful and sometimes even fun.
Best of all, Twitter is free, so what do you have to lose? Try it. If you don't like it, walk away, don't look back.