It’s raining tweets

Once you’ve been on Twitter for a few months and are following a few hundred people (and, I hope, have a few hundred people following you), most people feel the need to get organised.

During peak times in working hours, the tweets rain down my timeline at the rate of about one every five seconds.

How can I possibly keep up with all these nuggets of wit and wisdom, read all the links to the latest development in the worlds of crime, drug treatment (and social media)?

Well of course I can’t, nor do I try to.

I quite often work from home, sat in front of a computer all day. But even I can’t afford more than half an hour a day on social media.

So how can you make effective use of Twitter and make sure you don’t neglect your day job?

By getting organised.

I have three golden rules for getting organised on Twitter:

  1. Maximise your downtime
  2. Set yourself goals
  3. Get a Twitter utility that lets you filter and schedule

Maximising your downtime

Now that you are a practised Tweeter, you know it only takes 20 seconds to fire off a Tweet.

Five to ten minutes of browsing your timeline 2-5 times per day can help you keep up with the news, engage in interesting debates and contribute your thoughts and ideas.

There are many such gaps in the average working day:

  • Anyone who commutes by public transport has an ideal opportunity, especially if you are tweeting by mobile phone which you can use in even the most crowded carriage. I frequently travel to London by tube for work, which takes an hour. The first 25 minutes are above ground with a good signal, so I browse and tweet to my heart’s content, leaving me 35 minutes to plan for a meeting or do some work on my netbook.
  • If you are in the passenger seat on the way to a call or meeting, that is prime tweeting time.
  • If you are waiting for other people to turn up to your meeting.
  • In a two hour meeting of which only one agenda item relates to you. (Be Discreet.)
  • Some people tweet over their morning coffee.
  • Others when they go outside for a cigarette break.
  • Some people set aside 15 minutes of their lunch break for social media.

If you look at your day, you are almost bound to find these dead spots.

Twitter addicts like myself can even use social media breaks as a reward for good behaviour. Every time I finish a chapter of a report, I allow myself a 5 minute Twitter-break.

Set yourself goals

Yes, I know that sounds like the dullest form of management speak possible.

And I know that a large part of the fun of Twitter is just to surf along and be surprised, intrigued, infuriated, amused or appalled by whatever pops up.

However, if you are Tweeting as part of your job, you need to be clear why you are doing it.

I try to give myself a different goal every week and make sure that at least one of my Twitter-breaks each day is dedicated to it.

I try to vary my goals, here are some of my recent ones:

  • Follow journalists who write about drug and crime issues and add them to a Twitter list.
  • Advertise the fact that I am looking for good quality guest posters. (This is a current goal. @Zoestaffsgmpt set the bar high with her post on being a probation officer (2nd post out this Friday) and @drbrianstout has written a great post about biometric monitoring of offenders in the probation service, out next week).
  • Seek out online responses to the probation review and tweet links about them.
Please note that  I don’t set myself goals about increasing my number of followers, or the number of times I get re-tweeted.
As I have said many times in this series, there are only two components to being a successful Tweeter:
  1. Tweet things of interest
  2. Tweet in an individual style
There are lots of automated bots and methods to artificially boost your numbers, but these are a short-term fix, it’s much better to build online relationships with people you find interesting.
Making progress towards your goals helps give you a focus and make you feel that the time you spend on Twitter is worthwhile (as well as fun).
The last post in this series will show you how to measure the impact of your tweeting so that you can also justify that time to your boss.

Choosing a Twitter utility

Choosing a Twitter utility or application lets you organise yourself. The most common ones are:

Hootsuite (available as standalone,  browser and mobile versions for windows, Mac, Android, iPhone and Blackberry)

Tweetdeck (ditto, now owned by Twitter itself)

Seesmic (ditto)

There are lots of others, but these are the big three and I have personal experience of Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.

The best thing for me about Hootsuite and Tweetdeck is that you can organise your Twitter into as many “streams” or columns as you want.

The best thing about these columns is that you can do anything you want with a Tweet directly from the column: re-tweet, reply, send a direct message. Best of all, you can re-tweet and add comments – which the main Twitter client doesn’t allow.

I generally run about ten columns which include my Timeline, mentions of my twitter name, Direct Messages, any tweets I have scheduled, my favourite tweets, and then, most importantly, a mix of:

My lists

For example, I have all the tweets from everyone on my list of probation Tweeters in one column so that I can catch up with key issues, topics and debates of the day by just scanning down the list. Not only is this much easier than scrolling through a lengthy timeline, but I can see debates and conversations and join in if the topic interests me.

Keywords

I have a column which gathers all mentions of certain #hashtags – Hootsuites lets you put three terms in one column, so I have a column which picks up #paymentbyresults, #socialimpactbonds and #probationreview

The columns only take a minute to set up or edit. When the BBC Public Enemies series was broadcast in January this year, I had a column dedicated to #PublicEnemies so that I could keep up with what the Twitterverse thought of this depiction of the modern probation service.

 

Obviously, the lists and columns that you choose will reflect your goals. If you are seeking to make local politicians aware of particular work your police or probation service does; seek them out on Twitter and put them into a list (see last week’s post on building a Twitter following) and then put the list in a hootsuite/Tweetdeck column so that you can get a sense of them, engage with them and push your messages out when appropriate.

The other main way that these utilities help you organise your Tweeting is their scheduling facility. They allow you to schedule Tweets, simply by composing your tweet and then selecting a day and time for it to be broadcast – see post six in this series for why you might want to schedule.

In terms of which utility to choose, Tweetdeck is tied more tightly into Twitter (since they are owned by the same company), Hootsuite has one or two added features like allowing you to save drafts of Tweets, and analysing how popular your tweets are. It also enables you to integrate your social media platforms – you can post to Facebook, LinkedIn and mailchimp mailing lists from the same utility while Tweetdeck only lets you do this with Facebook.

Get organised

If you are spending more than 5 -10 minutes on Twitter a day, I really encourage you to get organised.

It only takes about 10 minutes to set up either Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, and best of all – they are both free.

Next Wednesday: Livening up your Tweets: Twitter and multi-media

Have a good week till next week.

Russell is running a series of half day courses for people who wish to tweet on behalf of their organisation or business.

Full details of Twitter for Beginners.

Full details of Taking your tweeting to the next level.

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