Technology

How To : Add Relevance When Searching For New Tweeps

Posted on April 13, 2009. Filed under: Technology, twitter | Tags: , , |

I am not a big advocate of the numbers game played by an increasing number of Twitter users these days. However, I do believe that it is important to continually grow your Twitter network to get the most from Twitter as a tool. Where the difference lies between gathering large numbers and growing your Twitter network in a postive way is in relevance to you.

Simply using a tool to auto follow everyone who mentions a key phrase, or worse still paying a monthly fee to a service to provide you with thousands of followers will not enhance your Twitter experience. Most of the users of these services are either too lazy to grow an organic network or are so hung up on the numbers that they miss the point of Social Media networks, engagement.

TwitSeeker from Guy Hagen, the creator  of Twinfluence (a tool I reviewed some time ago), allows you to search for specific phrases from either a Twitter users Tweets or their profile.  The results are then shown to you as a grid of users complete with a snapshot of their bio and whether you are already following them or not, if they follow you back and how many followers they have. It auto-selects all the users you aren’t following so that, with the click of a button you can follow them all. You can also choose to unselect some and just follow the remainder.

Below is a walkthrough of how to use TwitSeeker:

twitseeker_front

Twitseeker has both a simple search and an advanced search, unsurprisingly the advanced search is very similar in style to search.twitter.com advanced search. For the simple search enter the term you are interested in, enter your screen name and then select either from tweets or from bio then click search.

What you will get back is a results page similar to this:

ts_search-results

What I like about this is that it shows me who I am already following and being followed by (full green circle), who I follow but does not follow me (half green circle) and who I am not following (black circle). Rolling over the twitter bird will give you a snapshot of that users profile, rolling over the cloud icon gives you a cloud tag of recent tweets, clicking on the users name gives you a detail page for that user.

Overall this is a great tool, there are a few bugs, such as you can’t search by keyword and location at the same time, but I am sure these will be ironed out eventually. The key to this is that you are able to find Twitter users that you aren’t following by keyword from either their conversations or their bio – this adds the relevance to your searching and provides you with the first step in engagement.

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How To: Use Multiple Accounts with Twitter

Posted on January 8, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , |

One of the questions I am asked by clients is how to achieve more with Twitter with the same resources that they already have. Quite often this is one person, who also has a bunch of other tasks they are doing so trying to manage multiple Twitter accounts becomes an increasingly difficult challenge. In these cases you can forget the standard web-interface, that is definitely not going to help you. There are downloadable tools to make managing Twitter easier, such as Tweetdeck & Twhirl. Of these only Thwirl has multi-account capablity but even that doesn’t really meet all the needs of a business user. I recently encountered two tools that have positioned themselves as business user Twitter tools – BrightKit & Spiltweet (thanks to @julialilly for the tip on this one). I took them both for a test drive and this is what I found.

 

  BrightKit Splitweet
Statistics Yes No
“Brand Tracking” No Yes
Ease of Setup Yes Yes
Scheduled Tweets Yes No
Follow from Tool Yes No
Multi-Account Support Yes Yes
Multi-User Support Yes No
Search Yes No

 

Statistics

Any tool that is going to position itself for a business user needs to be able to provide some form of stats.  There are external tools available that can help measure Twitter activity but it is nice to have the capability built into the tool that you are using to message from. Admittedly BrightKit’s statistics only apply to URL’s shortened with their proprietary URL shortener ow.ly but nonetheless the stats it gives you are excellent. Showing geographic data, and referrer link – e.g. whether the link was clicked in Twitter or someone else – this is a great way of seeing when your message is being seen outside of Twitter, e.g. through Friendfeed, on Facebook etc.  Splitweet lacks this functionality or anything similar so definitely loses points for that.  I would like to see BrightKit take their stats further but for now this is a great start.

Brand Tracking

This is a feature specific to Splitweet. Whilst I understand what the intent was of this functionality, to return results on a predetermined search string, I don’t think it is sophisticated enough to be of much use. It is a pretty blunt, fixed phrase search for the most part. I do like the way the results are shown in a sidebar on the mainscreen but I would like to see a much more sophisticated search setup for this.  Twitter allows for geographic, user & even attitude elements to be searched. Its one thing to return the fact that a group of users have mentioned your brand name, but if you can’t immediately see if those messages were positive or negative you still have your work cut out for you.

Ease of Setup

Both tools were very straightforward to setup, and both allowed the addition of multiple accounts easily. Included in this is the UI. They have different ways of dealing with the same issues but overall it would come down to personal preference in terms of the UI’s they are both very clean and uncluttered.

Scheduled Tweets

Of the two only BrightKit has this feature. There is a lot of discussion about automated tweeting. I am not going to get into that discussion in this post. If you want a tool that will put out a tweet at a set time, then this is a great way to do it. Not least of which because unlike some of the other tools that do this, it allows you to include a link that is pre-shortened (and therefore trackable) along with the scheduling.  You can also opt to have a confirmation email sent to you when the tweet goes out (I did have to retrieve mine from the spam folder, but that was the only issue).

Follow from the Tool

This feature I loved.  Especially when used with the search functionality. Unfortunately again only BrightKit has either of these features. Perform a search for a particular phrase, brand name, anything and then simply click the follow button on a particular user – done. Unlike other tools it doesn’t bump you out to the Twitter home page.

Multi-Account Support

Both tools provide this support. Both make it very easy to set them up and to switch between accounts. In Splitweet it is simply a tick box, in BrightKit it is a dropdown. Again this comes down to personal preference in terms of the UI as the functionality is pretty much the same.

Multi-User Support

This feature is only available in BrightKit, and its great. You can setup a Twitter administrator and then appoint Editors to individual accounts.  This is particularly useful for companies managing brand based accounts or for agencies setting up proxy users for clients.  This means that you can use more resources from within the same tool but at the same time retain better control.

Search

Again only BrightKit has a search function, and again its possible to do this outside of any tool that you are using, but the question is why would you want to?  I like the fact that this functionality is included in the tool.

Overall

In conclusion, I think both tools are a good attempt at providing business users with a better Twitter experience. I like the fact that they are both web-based meaning they can be accessed from anywhere.  The fact that Splitweet actually refers to itself as “Multi-Account Twitter Management for Corporate Users” leaves it open to a lot of criticism given the paucity of features, especially when compared to BrightKit.  My recommendation – BrightKit is the clear winner, at least for now.

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HOW TO:Connect LinkedIn to Twitter

Posted on December 11, 2008. Filed under: Observations, Social Media, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Someone recently expressed the hope that some day there would be a way to connect LinkedIn contacts to Twitter.  Actually what they asked was if there was an application that did this.

I set to thinking about this and after a few hours figured out the solution – ok when you see the solution you will probably wonder why it took me several hours – I was doing other things at the same time.

So here it is, in all of its ugliness, its not the neatest work around but it does actually work.

First thing I suggest you do is create an alternate email address with one of the following services:

  • Yahoo
  • Hotmail
  • AOL
  • MSN
  • Gmail

Why these, because they are the ones supported by Twitter for contact import.  If you already have an account with one of these services you can use that but bear in mind you are going to add your LinkedIn contacts to it and then you would have to figure out who of your contacts came from LinkedIn and who already existed, hence my suggestion that you create a new account. I have only tested this with Gmail, I don’t know if the other webmail services support contact importing, so from here on it only applies to Gmail.

Ok having setup your new email account (or not). Go to LinkedIn.  Go to Contacts. Scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find “Export Connections”.  Clicking that will take you to a screen like this:

li_export1

Select Microsoft Outlook – .csv file.  Save the file somewhere you can find it again.

Go to your Gmail account and select Contacts and then Import (should be on the top right hand side of your screen).  Import the file from LinkedIn.

Now you can return to Twitter.  Go to “Find People” and enter the details for the account you setup:

twit_findWhich will look something like the image above.

Twitter will then import your contacts and show you how many are currently using Twitter.  Of the 454 contacts I imported 88 were using Twitter.  Having selected which ones you want to follow you are then shown a list of those contacts who are not on Twitter.  You can choose to email them an invite or skip that stage.

And there you have it, your LinkedIn contacts are now being followed on Twitter.  Overall I would say it took me a little under 5 mins to carry out these steps, of course it will depend on how many LinkedIn contacts you have.

Know a more graceful way to achieve this, tried it with another email service, let me know.

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Mr Tweet: Virtual Networking Assistant?

Posted on November 26, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Social Media, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , , |

This week saw another rising star in the Twitter apps, Mr. Tweet. Still in Alpha, Mr Tweet offers to scour your Twitter network and make recommendations for two different groups of people for you to follow.

  1. Influencers beyond my network
  2. Which of my followers I should be following back

This is an interesting concept, better executed than the auto-follow model used by Twollow, which was based on keywords that you specified.

Influencer?

Option one is to find “Influencers” beyond my network. A few people have already asked Mr. Tweet on Twitter what the definition is of “Influencer”, I haven’t seen a response as yet. When I examine who is recommended to me the top 5 are all the usual suspects. They are people I would expect to see in any list of top Twitter users. Under each name are the list of people that I am following that are also following the recommended user. The feature that I really like though, is the “Characteristics” information. This gives you the avg number of Tweets, and perhaps, at least for me, the reciprocity of the user, whether they follow back or at least respond to non-follows. If I am going to follow someone it is because I believe they have something informative to say, not because they made the top of a list somewhere. I also want to know how engaged they are with their followers and the Twitter community as a whole. These numbers give me a reasonable insight into that and help me make a decision about who to follow.

mr-tweet1

Follow Back

Option two gives you a list of people that are following you that you should follow back. This presents an interesting situation. The reasoning for following your followers varies from user to user. Tim Ferris, author of the 4-day work week, is famed for not following people. He explains his rational in this video, basically he only follows those people he has a connection with in real life. At the other end of the spectrum is Guy Kawasaki, who auto-follows anyone who follows him.

These two users would have wildly different results on their pages, Guy’s page would be blank, one would assume. While Tim’s page would be extensive. The difference is in the manner in which a user chooses to engage or use Twitter. Everyone has an opinion about how Twitter “should” be used. The point of Twitter is there are no rules. Twitter is different for every user.

The Review

I have been using Mr. Tweet daily for almost a week. My initial impressions are that it is a useful tool for both new and more experienced Twitter users. It has one of the ugliest UI’s I have seen, but the functionality is there. I would like to see the ability to mark recommendations as “viewed” so that they don’t maintain their position in the recommendations list.

For me what has really set Mr. Tweet apart is the use of Twitter itself. When they lost service due to a server issue, they immediately tweeted about it. They have continued to ask for feedback, and to acknowledge comments, observations and praise for the tool.

Have you used Mr. Tweet? What was your experience, did your list contain any surprises?

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Twollow: SOLD

Posted on November 25, 2008. Filed under: Sales, Social Media, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , , , |

twollowlogoLast week I posted a review of the Twitter tool Twollow. I was interested to see that it almost immediately went under the auction hammer. The tool that took 24 hours to build, took only 7 hours to sell. Bidding started at $25, with the tool finally being sold for $1,750.00. I am surprised by for two reasons, one, it was developed in 24 hours which means the developer realized $72 per hour. Second, it was obviously built for sale. This is an interesting trend. Almost akin to the House flipping market and I wonder if it will follow the same pattern.

Tools for Sale

Will we now see a rush of tools for Twitter brought out simply for resale? I will be interested to see what happens to Twollow – there is no disclosure of who bought the tool. Considering it was really a work in progress and needed quite a bit of remodeling it might not have been the bargain that someone thought.

The model that was used was very interesting. Build & launch a tool. Garner blog coverage for it, on the auction site there were 6 different blog sites with articles about the tool, including this one. Then put it on an auction site like Sitepoint.

Facebook reportedly offered $500m for Twitter this week. An offer that was turned down by the Twitter team. $500m is not a bad offer for a company that is barely 2 years old with a tool that has really only started to gain popularity in the later half of 2008. If we take the interest by Facebook as an indication, tools that support Twitter and extend its functionality and usefulness, will ultimately attract the same type of attention. Tools that support business functionality are already starting to appear, last week I posted on Mashable a HOW TO using the Xpenser tool, which utilizes Twitter functionality to track business expenses.

Twollow had none of these to offer. There was no business functionality, no extension of existing Twitter use and yet it managed to attract both publicity and bids. One can only imagine the interest that a tool with both business and personal functionality might attract.

Tweetlater is a good example of one such tool, and one to watch.  It has been extending its functionality over the past couple of weeks.  Going from its original one trick of allowing you to schedule Tweets to adding Keyword tracking and @replies digests so that you don’t miss important replies.  I think that Tweetlater would raise a lot more than $1,750.00 if it came under the hammer.

Twitter Tool Realtor

Perhaps there is an opening for a Twitter Tool Realtor? After all Twollow was a single function tool, the software equivalent of a Shotgun Shack, and that sold in 7 hours. A Twitter Tool Realtor could bring together developers with purchasers who could then take the tools to the next level.

What Twitter tools would you buy, and how much would you be willing to pay for them?

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Guest Post: Twitterberry – Caryn Brown

Posted on November 24, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , , |

Blackberry in Repose

I realized recently that although I had been reviewing a lot of Twitter apps I had missed out on a complete section of them – the Mobile apps.

I decided that this would be a great area to open up this blog to guest bloggers. This is the first in a series that are being written by other authors who have agreed to post here. All of whom responded to a Tweeted request for guest bloggers.

Caryn Brown describes herself as a system administrator and helpdesk goddess (which means I’m a geek) with 2 crazy sons and a wonderful husband. Oh yeah, I’m a HUGE foodie, cosmetics junkie, and twitteraddict. You can find my it’s all geek to me blog at http://helpdeskgoddess.blogspot.com

These are her thoughts on Twitterberry:

Once I discovered twitter and really got into “tweeting”, I knew that I was going to need an application to run on my blackberry to let me use Twitter more easily when I was away from my laptop. After some searching, I decided on Twitterberry from orangatame software. It was very easy to use, and I got up and running with it very quickly.

Improved upgrade

The first version of Twitterberry that I installed was the 0.6 version. It worked pretty good, but it was limited. Basically for me, the only real advantage to Twitterberry was that I could easily “tweet” and read my friend’s “tweets” from my phone.

Recently, I upgraded to twitterberry 0.8, and I am very impressed with it. The first thing that I noticed and liked about the new version was the ability to ‘favorite’ a tweet from within twitterberry. This is really nice if there is something or someone you want to look into more when you have time and aren’t working from your little blackberry screen.

Another improvement with this version is that it caches your updates. When you go into your friend’s timeline, your replies or your direct messages, you will see what was pulled down the last time you connected. While you are waiting for your new updates, you can look though the updates from your last connection.

The increase in the list of tweets it displays from 20 to 200 is a great improvement.

The last new function I have used in upgrade is the integration with twitpics. You can take a picture with your blackberry and tweet it with a link to the picture through twitpics.

What Mobile Twitter app do you use? Have you had experience with more than one? Would you like to share those experiences here?

Image by Tojosan via Flickr
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Twollow: The 24 Hour Tool

Posted on November 21, 2008. Filed under: Social Media, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , |

twollowlogoAnother new Twitter tool appeared this week. It was reviewed on Mashable.com. According to the overview the application was created in just 24 hours. The point of the tool is to auto-follow users who use certain words in Twitter. I love testing out new Twitter tools, but I have to admit I was confused as to what the point of this tool was.

I decided to take for a test drive. The first thing you notice is that it is incredibly easy to use. No doubt about it, it was designed as a simple tool, and the interface supports that. There is even a “How To” video on the home page, in case you are confused. The idea is to setup keywords that interest you, with certain limitations, generic words are excluded.

There are several tools that will perform keyword tracking in the Twitterverse – Tweetlater added that functionality this week, Tweetbeep has had it for a while. Where Twollow differs from these other tools is that instead of reporting the use of these keywords, it auto-follows the user that Tweeted the keyword.

I tested it with a few keywords that I felt would provide very limited results and not mean I ended up following thousands of new users overnight. I used Austin, Expedia & IncSlinger. I selected these based on location, Brand name and Personal Brand. Over a two day period I “auto-followed” less than 10 people. A few of them have actually turned out to be very informative and useful people to follow that I probably would not have found.

Who Would Use It?

I can see this tool being useful for people who have very specific, very focused interests or who want to follow people who are commenting on a particular event or news situation. I can also that the tool could be used by fake marketers – spammers, to find their next 10,000 targets. By setting up keywords that ensure the people they follow are talking about something relevant to them, could be Vacations, could used cars, hair products, it would be fairly easy for people sending out this type of Tweet to locate their next group of targets.

What It Needs

If this tool were expanded it could have a much greater use. Some features that would make it useful to both personal and business Twitter users include presenting the Twitter users who have used the particular word in columns – similar to TweetDeck’s columns. Then rank them by the number of times they used that keyword. The user that Tweeted it most at the top and so on down. Including the “in reply to” functionality would allow a user to then further review the use of the word for context sensitivity. Then allowing multiple selection of users to follow.

That functionality would make this tool much more useful, would appeal to both personal and business users and would limit its effectiveness for Spammers. Of course I am sure all that functionality would take a lot more than 24 hours to produce.

What would you build into this tool?

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Tweetlater adds new features

Posted on November 17, 2008. Filed under: Social Media, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , |

twlogoTweetlater is a Twitter integrated tool that allows users to do exactly what the name implies, Tweet Later. Other features include the ability to auto-follow other Twitter users and to Post blog articles later.

There is much written about auto-responders and their place in Twitter. Some people feel they are very useful, some feel that they are so un-human that it takes the Social completely out of Social Networking. Guy Kawasaki admits that he autofollows everyone on Twitter that follows him. Others send an auto-response with a link to a welcome video (an idea I quite like) but it isn’t for everyone. Some users feel it is rather like going to a mixer and having a taped message that you play to people who come up to you and say hi.

Now the developers of Tweetlater have expanded their offering, taking their tool from being a one-trick pony to something that has real potential. Twitter used to have a feature that allowed you to track particular topics and be alerted via email or IM. This functionality doesn’t exist in the main Twitter.com tool anymore but others have provided it Tweetbeep has had this functionality for a while. This is all it does and it does it well. Allowing a user to define alerts, how often the Twitter stream should be scanned and whether @replies, specific users and even location specific information should be excluded or not.

Tweetlater’s keyword alerts has a less friendly UI than TweetBeep’s. It basically allows for the same functionality but only if you are familiar with Boolean operators – the standard in advanced searches. While they do provide a link to a how-to for people who aren’t used to using these it would be nicer if they simply built the functionality into the UI.

The other new feature that Tweetlater has built which is interesting is the @replies digest. This allows you to have an email sent to you with all the @replies to your account at user specified intervals. This is a great feature for people who get a lot of replies to their tweets and who don’t get the opportunity to be logged into Twitter all day scanning for replies.

With an option to have the digest sent at intervals ranging from once an hour to once a day its flexible enough to keep up with most users. I can see this feature being really useful for users who are travelling and don’t want to arrive at their destination and have to scroll through pages of @replies looking for specific Tweets.

I think the addition of features to the Tweetlater toolbox is a good move. There have been many cases of one trick ponies in the Twitterverse that have already ceased functioning. Like any new offering there is still some work to be done on the UI, especially for the Twitter alerts, but if they keep adding to the tools, Tweetlater could become the ultimate one stop shop for serious Twitter users.

What do you think? Do you want a one-stop shop for Twitter tools?

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Twitter for Small Business

Posted on November 3, 2008. Filed under: Business, Social Media, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Social network

Image via Wikipedia

Social Networking is the buzz these days.  Big brands are investing heavily in Customer / User generated content.  Dell reportedly has 34 heads dedicated to brand management in the Social Networking sphere.  With sites like Twitter, Plurk, FriendFeed and others generating a whole industry of Social Networking consultants small & medium businesses might feel that once again the big guys are going to corner the market.

This of course couldn’t be further from the truth.  Small & Medium businesses have always known that customer feedback is the core of their business.  They usually have a much more personal relationship with their customers than the big brands.  Most Social Networking tools are simply trying to replicate that “personal” feel that people look for from smaller enterprises.

Small businesses have used networking tools for a long time, whether its national based professional organizations or local Chamber of Commerce small & medium business owners and leaders have generated business and brand awareness through these direct tools for a long time.

So do small & medium businesses have to be bothered with online social networking tools?  I say definitely.  But they don’t need the vast array of expensive tools and consultants that the bigger brands are investing in.  They most likely already have the skill set in house – good listeners, people who are responsive to the voice of the customer.  After all its harder for a small business to come back from a bad customer experience because they are dealing with a smaller customer base to start with.

Communication Tools

First decide how you are going to send your Tweets.  You can start with the basic Twitter interface but you are likely to find that you out grow this quickly as you increase the number of people that you are following and as your own following grows.

If you want to stay using a web based interface then I recommend using iTweet. It has a better organized interface than the original and allows you to view more information on one page than the original.  However, if you are ready to move away from a web interface then you are better off exploring either Twhirl or TweetDeck.  Having used both I have a preference for Tweet Deck, but you will find your own reasons for using a particular tool.

Where is everyone?

Ok so now you are able to Tweet. Great what next?  First you should find people to follow.  The best way for a small business to do this is to use to Twitter Search.  The advanced option is where you want to focus your efforts. This allows you to make selections based not just on keywords, which of course are important, but also on the type of Tweet – was it a positive comment, a negative comment or a question, Geographic location, did it contain a link.  By using these options combined with phrases that are unique to your business you can find people who are talking about your business.  Having found them you can follow along for a while before you start joining the conversation.  Small businesses are good at this type of communication.  Listening twice as much as they speak (you have two ears & one mouth).   Once you start to understand the way in which Twitter conversations happen you can expand your ability to find conversations that make more business sense.  Tools like TwitterBeep which allow you to set up email alerts for particular keywords. 

So how do all these tools come together into a cohesive Twitter plan? The communication tools will allow you to start joining the conversation.  The search tools allow you to find people to followers and the alert tools allow you to find conversations that matter to you.

As a test I set up alerts to find Twitter conversations where people were asking for recommendations for a Mechanic in Austin (where I live).  Twitter search returns results 15 to a page.  I gave up counting after 8 pages of results!  Had I been a mechanic shop, I think I would have found enough new business prospects to keep me busy for at least a week of Twittering.

Brian Solis maintains a great list of Twitter tools that will get you started.

Are you a small or medium business that is having success using online social media tools?  Share your story here and let everyone know what worked for you and what didn’t.

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