You can actually manage Twitter

The biggest problem with the standard Twitter web application is that you only see the main Tweetstream.  In order to get the mosst out of Twitter, you need to keep an eagle eye on your replies and Direct Messages as those are the direct conversations with your followers.  This is where the value of Twitter lies. What are the Tweeple to do?  Are we forever stuck with the limited features of  Of course not.  There are a tone of client applications that will help you actually manage Twitter.

Your TweetStream - To start with, download TweetDeck.   TweetDeck is a client application that helps you sort all your incoming tweets into columns so you can see what’s going on.  You can sort by Direct Messages, Mentions, Hashtags (#) and now with LinkedIn and FaceBook feeds as well.  Plus it keeps the last 500 tweets in each column so you have a longer running history.  The screen has a continuous right hand scroll, so you can set up different groups and their tweets will appear in that column. You might have a group called “best friends” and another for “gardeners” for instance.  That way you don’t miss important tweets from people who are more important to you than others. At the time of writing, Tweetdeck is probably the most widely used application for Twitter and I would highly recommend it to you.

Your Tweets - Start getting some tweets into the system now. On the Twitter home page, it asks What You Are Doing?  Quite frankly many people don’t care until you have built a relationship with them as a result of following.  If you’re just getting started try some of these ideas to get things rolling.

Start by tweeting links to interesting blogs posts (either yours or someone elses) with a link to the post. For example: “Interesting post on pest control in tomatos. Link”. Make sure you always include http:// in the link and not just www so the link is clickable in the Tweetstream.  If it’s a long link, Tweetdeck has a facility to shorten it to a small url.  Tweet a link to an article in an online newspaper – the WSJ or NYT have great stuff and are easy to link to.

Another good way of starting out tweeting is with quotes.   Here’s one I just found in the Tweetstream as an example: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle.  There are thousands of these all over the internet that you can use, but use these sparingly as they can become repetitive if all you do is tweet quotes.

Whatever you do, at no stage of your Twitter career start posting sales tweet after sales tweet.  Your career will be shortlived if you do and people will unfollow you very quickly.  Twitter is about engagement, value and a social experience. A constant flow of sales links is just not cool.  By all means post links to your products or sites, but keep them to around 5% of your total tweets at the most.

Another good idea with your tweeting is to keep religion and politics out of them. These subjects can only alienate followers and you can lose them.

Replies – You can reply to someone’s Tweet simply by putting the @symbol in front of their name. This makes the tweet stand out to them as it appears in their reply column or page instead of in the general Tweetstream. It is a very useful way of starting conversations with people in order to build relationships. Simply comment on one of their tweets. TweetDeck has a feature when you hover over the user’s avatar to put their name and reply symbol straight into the posting area.

Retweeting – People appreciate retweets and it is a good way to get noticed by others.  All you do is put RT in front of the @username. Using TweetDeck, hover over the user’s avatar and it will put the whole thing in the posting area. Separate their tweet from your comment if you have one.  I usually put two pipes, which is holding down the Shift key on the character.  This will produce “||” which clearly shows the end of the other person’s tweet and your reply or comment.

If other people retweet your tweets, make it a habit to thank them.  It’s common courtesy. Simply tweet @username Thanks for RT :-) and send. After all, it’s all about making connections, building relationships and learning more about people.