In a conversation this morning, another small business owner and I discussed the power of Twitter's Reply Command, and how few people take advantage of it. This post is designed to help you make better use of your time on Twitter by using the Reply Command in a more proactive and constructive way.
Twitter is a conversation between you and everyone else who follows you on Twitter. While the Reply Command allows you to direct conversation to a specific person, choosing it over the Direct Message command, which allows you to talk with a specific person in private, means that you want everyone who is following you to know what you said.
A Twitter Conversation Is Like Other Conversations
Pretend you are sitting at a table with 20 people. There are several conversations taking place, but you are chatting with the person next to you, and she shows you a picture of her new baby. What might you do?
Of course, you'll say how lovely the baby is. If you only want your friend to hear you, you'll adjust your voice accordingly. But if you want everyone else to hear you, you might loudly exclaim how lovely the photo is. But would you then not let everyone else at the table see it? Of course not. You would say the baby is beautiful and then, with your friend's permission, share the photo with everyone else at the table.
Now, let's transfer these social principles to Twitter.
Example No. 1
I Tweet a photo of me and my friends at an exercise class. Then, you Tweet a reply that says it looks like we were having a lot of fun. If you don't include in your Tweet a link to the photo in my Tweet, then your Twitter followers cannot really benefit from your Tweet. Unless they take the time to click on my Twitter page and then search for the photo, your Tweet is not really helpful to them.
Twitter conversations have the same nuances as in person group conversations, and the same sort of social structure applies. When you are in a group setting and someone shares a photograph, you want to see it too, right? Especially if other people say it looks interesting.
To address this on Twitter, you have at least two easy options. First, you could cut and paste the photo link into your Tweet and say something like, “@indiebusiness: Wow! That exercise class looks like fun-http://twitpic.com/6fq6g. I'll have to try it sometime.” That leaves you with 29 of your 140 characters to spare. With that many characters left, you could also expose your Twitter followers to a health and/or fitness article you posted at your blog. This adds value to the conversation for your followers because it gives them an opportunity to enjoy the fun photo. It also naturally invites visitors to your blog without shameless self promotion on your part.
Example No. 2
I Tweet the importance of every business owner knowing some HTML code. Then you Tweet back your heartfelt agreement with the statement, without also sharing what it is you are agreeing to. This is not helpful to your Twitter followers because they have no idea what you are talking about.
But if you used the opportunity to not only agree with my statement, but also share that you offer web design/coding services or that you found knowing code useful when you designed your own blog (with a link to your blog of course!), then you are not only speaking to me but you are also speaking to your Twitter circle and adding something of real value to the discussion.
Here are some principles to remember.
- The Reply Command is Not Always the Best Option. If you want to reply to someone without going to the trouble of cutting and pasting their photo link, etc., then reply to them using the Direct Message command. They will know exactly what you're talking about and it won't leave your Twitter followers in the dark.
- Choosing the Reply Command Invites Your Twitter Followers Into Your Conversation. This requires you to consider what you are saying before you say it, not only to be polite but also to attract more people to you and what you have to offer. It's a fantastic opportunity to be relevant, contextual and professional so people who visit your Twitter page see you as an easy to understand resource for helpful or interesting information.
Twitter is a form of publishing. Twitter publishes everything you say to the entire world. It can serve as an effective mechanism to disseminate your ideas, passions and products, but only if you use it that way. If you are a small business owner, you want your Twitter page to highlight the interesting, thought provoking business leader that you are! Make it easy for everyone to see and experience you at your best by creating content at your Twitter page that is informative, helpful and fun, and which showcases your unique personality and gifts.
Question: What do you think? How do you use the Reply Command on Twitter to keep your followers engaged and in the loop?