You don’t need to be paying that much attention to social media to realize that Twitter is no longer the “in” platform. It hasn’t been for a long time, as competitors like Instagram and Snapchat have niched down in areas where Facebook and Twitter were once the only games in town. But even before then, only a small minority of Twitter’s users understood the best, most mind-blowing aspect of the platform: the ability to connect and converse with anyone. Yes…anyone!
Twitter always has been the best platform out there for interacting with people across the digital world. Celebrities, friends, entrepreneurs…just by having someone’s handle, you can send them a personalized, 140-character message, and maybe (probably more often than you’d expect) get a response. Others may even join in the conversation. That’s why Gary Vaynerchuk so appropriately describes it as the “cocktail party of the internet.”
As a self-described “Serial Event Planner” I’m disappointed in myself for not jumping on the Twitter bandwagon earlier and truly taking advantage of the connecting power of the platform. But even as a relatively short-time tweeter, below are 5 ways that I use Twitter to build genuine connections with anyone. And you can too! This might seem like an odd time to be highlighting the best use cases for Twitter – when platforms like Snapchat and video-centric content are all the rage – but now seems as good as anytime to provide a quick refresher course:
Starting a Conversation
This should be obvious, but most Twitter users are more focused on projecting their own thoughts via generic 140-character tweets / announcements (“Hey everyone! This is what I have to say!"), while ignoring the interactions that may come afterward. I’ll hardly ever send out a tweet if I don’t think it could serve as a conversation-starter. Whether it’s about business, social media, travel, punk rock, or anything else on my never-ending list of interests, I make sure that it has potential for further discussion. More often than not, my tweets are @mentions or an @reply directed at a single person or a group of people. For example, just last week I was chatting with some folks to get some ideas for an upcoming blog article on my cheeky budget travel site Hostel Apostles:
Engaging in or starting a conversation is one of the best ways to pay-it-forward on the platform, and shows that your more interested in the 2-way interaction, rather than the 1-way “Likes” you may or may note receive.
Asking a Question
Is there an influencer out there whose opinion you’re looking for on a particular topic? This is the best spot to do it. Not only does it give you the opportunity to interact, but who knows who else might chime in:
On a lighter note, this is the same way I go about communicating with my favorite bars in town, whether it’s simply asking them what time they open, or trying to score a free drink:
It was worth a shot...I mean a beer...I mean, this tweet could have been worth a beer if they went for it. Oh well...the point is, the possibilities of connecting on Twitter are practically limitless!
Participating in a “Twitter Chat”
Speaking of asking questions, Twitter Chats are like Q&A sessions on steroids. These reoccurring digital shindigs are when people get together on Twitter at a pre-designated time to discuss a particular topic (denoted by a set hashtag such as #RTWchat or #MillennialChat). These are usually hosted by an individual or brand, with a weekly guest host / MC to throw out the questions and facilitate the discussion. Topics range from blogging to marketing, from technology to travel. The image below is what the start of a feed in a typical chat might look like:
I’ve participated in a numerous Twitter Chats over the past couple years, and the range of participants can be vast. Some are on the small side, with maybe no more than 20 participants (which can be more conducive to conversation). Some of the more popular ones can have upwards of 100 tweeters. Size-aside, if you want to gain legitimate followers and make some genuine connections related to a topic you care about, there is no better tool than a Twitter Chat.
For a nearly-comprehensive schedule of many of the Twitter Chats the internet has to offer, check out tweetreports.com for a schedule that you can sort by date and topic.
Networking at Conferences
I have to say that this is where Twitter still seems to shine above all the other players in the social media game. If you want to get some true followers that are influencers in your field, make sure you are tweeting your face off using the conference-approved hashtags at whatever conference you happen to be attending. This does not mean just tweeting throughout the entire keynote and quoting everything the speaker says. I hate that quite frankly, and will tactfully but cheekily mock that approach at every conference I attend:
I’ve said it before: Twitter is a connection tool when used correctly. A couple of the concrete ways you can use it to build relationships at conferences include:
- Creating the “Twitter List” for the conference – Having this list is not only helpful during the conference, but it’s especially helpful for keeping up with contacts well after the conference has ended. What’s the point of making a bunch of connections on Twitter if you’re not going to keep up with them? A Twitter List is the perfect way to revisit those contacts for future “micro-interactions” (i.e. likes, retweets, and conversations).
- Setting up meetings with folks you’d like to meet – Once you realize a prospective client, partner, or someone you’d just like an introduction with is at that conference and active on Twitter, shooting them a @mention or Direct Message on Twitter is one of the quickest ways to grab their attention and lock them down for a time to catch up between sessions.
Following-Up and Saying “Thank You”
If you’re leaving said conference and you did in fact network your face off, you likely have a massive list of business cards and follow-ups to take care of. Whether it’s a conference, dinner meeting, or networking event in your own town, a quick tweet or DM will often do the trick. Sure, some of your bigger conversations and connections will still require an email, but a handful of 140-character follow-ups with your new contacts can just as easily do the trick for the majority of your connections.
How are you using Twitter to build new connections and maintain old relationships? Please provide your thoughts in the comments below so we can keep the conversation – and the connections – going! If you'd like to see me practice what I preach on a more regular basis, let's connect on Twitter as well: