Using Twitter to Reach Nirvana

The concept of nirvana as a condition or rest and stability is appealing to those of us who live through the hurly-burly of the tech world day to day. Twitter has swept upon the scene and upset the applecart for many; however, I’ve found that it can actually help stabilize and automate a number of activities. Have you felt like you’ve maxed out the benefits of Twitter? If so, you might not be taking advantage of tools and techniques that relieve the “always on” stress while increasing Twitter’s value.

Twitter is a wonderful networking and statusing tool but many twitterers struggle to get into the mix of things. Two key features can make the experience positive. First, set up Twitter itself to be kept fresh and lively. Second, use Twitter to update a variety of social networking tools to keep your presence on all those sites active and engaging. The only warning is to know your networks well enough not to irritate them with updates that are too frequent or too self-indulgent. There are also a variety of tools available to let you know how you’re doing on Twitter, also.

Set Up Twitter for Daily Feedings

You can use RSS feeds to make your Twitter stream more fresh and lively. An easy way to start is to set twitter up to draw traffic into the things you already do online. The Twitter beast is hungry for current info, so most long-term twitterers rely upon a variety of tools to keep up a presence on twitter even on days when they can’t check in.
You can use RSS feeds to make your Twitter stream more fresh and lively. An easy way to start is to set Twitter up to draw traffic into the things you already do online. The Twitter beast is hungry for current info, so most long-term twitterers rely upon a variety of tools to keep up a presence on Twitter even on days when they can’t check in. Your preferred social bookmarking service (Technorati, delicious, or Digg for example) likely offers an RSS feed which you can use; also your Web site’s RSS feed is a good candidate.
twitterfeed offers a nice way of pulling in your latest RSS feed posting, complete with an ability to preface certain types of posts with a remark, to schedule the frequency of updates, and/or filter out certain remarks. A lot of bloggers were using Twitter to update their networks about blog posts already when twitterfeed became available; twitterfeed simply automates that process in a simple package. Kudos to them for using OpenID for login so that one doesn’t have to establish and remember yet another password.

Set up Twitter to Feed the Masses

Next, set up your Twitter feed to update your status on the various networks to which you belong. Plaxo and Friendfeed offer synchronization with Twitter. Friendfeed will pull in your Twitter posts to post to your Friendfeed profile, or allow you to push your entries to Twitter. Plaxo will sync your Pulse status with Twitter, and gets high marks from me for allowing user control for both update directions.
Note that twittering for a network is different than twittering in general; your Facebook friends may not appreciate the “I’m eating-I’m tired-I’m bored” posts that go unremarked on Twitter. For that matter, your tweeple may not like that very much either, but are too kind to say so. Facebook users are sensitive to being over-statused; so be careful to gauge your network and see what level of status updating is acceptable and stay within those parameters.

What’s My Score?

If you’re in a competitive business (and who isn’t nowadays?), then keep yourself on top of your game by seeing how you are doing in your social network. Twitter Grader will score your Twitter profile based on certain criteria, such as the completeness of your profile, the frequency of your updates, and your proximity in social networks to their CEO. Actually that last one I made up, but it could in fact be true because their scoring algorithm is proprietary and super-secret.
Another grader is Twinfluence which breaks down the score at a more granular level to include Centralization, Velocity, and Social Capital. Reach and Social Capital are the most useful; Velocity predicts the growth of your network and seems to be highly sensitive to spikes which can give wildly optimistic predictions for network growth. Social Capital totals up the contacts immediately in your network, and your contact’s contacts. Centralization is more interesting in that it assesses how much of your social capital is based upon a few very connected persons, or whether you have a wide diversity of network connections.
Check out your relationships using Twitter Karma or Friend or Follow to see which of your followers are reciprocating the attention by following you. Don’t stress if you have a few people who you are following who are not following you, that’s fairly normal.
But there are some abnormal people on Twitter though: spammers. Check out Twerpscan to make sure you aren’t inadvertently endorsing a spammer by letting them stay in your followers list. Check ’em out and if they are twerps—boot them, with prejudice.
The simplest way to check out the way the Twitter community sees you is to subscribe to a search of your user name using RSS; simply use “search” listed at the bottom of the Twitter home page and enter terms of interest to monitor. Good candidates are your Twitter ID, your real name, and your company name. The search results will be shown with an RSS feed provided for ongoing updates. Grab that, and you can monitor Twitter for any time those terms are tweeted. One phenomenon which has resulted from this is that people will hash tag their tweets to associate them to an event, a meme, or a cause. For an example, see the #election2008 tweet search results.

In the “In” Crowd

Sometimes the grading tools will suggest some actions one can take to improve one’s grade, which are useful. They will identify, for example, missing profile elements. I like to use the grading systems to see who they suggest as savvy twitterers for my city, and then I keep up with local news by connecting to them, if I don’t already know them.
Twitter’s Find People tool also is useful for this. Use with caution though—Twitter elects to default to have you follow all the people you find in your address book, and that may not be right for you. Try the tool again from time to time to see if any of your contacts have come on to Twitter since the last time you checked.
Don’t commit the newbie faux pas of begging for followers; it is grating to the people who have followed you to see a series of tweets imploring others to do so. The best way to get friends is to be one. Look for people who generate interesting tweets and follow them, and often they will follow you in return. Then follow their lead and generate some interesting tweets yourself.
Additionally, check out the followers of people you follow; you have a common point of interest in one person, so you may have other interests in common. This latter strategy is particularly useful with the hyper-connected people in Twitter who have 1,000+ followers. MrTweet is particularly useful for that kind of networking; but be patient with Mr. Tweet when waiting for your report, as it may take a few days.
Look for people whom you share a common interest with: has a Hoosier Twitosphere community for finding fellow denizens of the Hoosier State, which is helpful for a heartlander like me. Another service is—I hear the Maine group is pretty active.

Show Me the Money

Monetizing Twitter is a tricky subject for some, so this is ground on which to tread carefully.
Ad revenue is available from Magpie to monetize your tweet stream; my dog is twittering and shilling on her twitterstream now, to raise money to promote dog adoptions from the Humane Society of Indianapolis. None of her followers have objected to the not-for-profit option she’s taking, but I think that they might have if “she” hadn’t declared her not-for-profit purpose. She’s a pretty advanced canine.
There is also a service, Twittad, that will rent out your page background image to advertisers.

A Twitty Conclusion

The Twitter community is constantly spawning new ways of doing things and new tools, most of which begin with TW. An overview of Twitter thus is subject to criticism seconds after its publication, due to the difficulty of documenting an organic, volatile phenomenon with a point of time snapshot. Share your thoughts and reactions here as comments to make this snapshot more inclusive of anything else you feel needs to be highlighted. I’ll be watching for your tweets—just hashtag them #twirvana.

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