Using Twitter for Work
Using Social Media Effectively
Twitter can help you with professional development.
When some people hear the word "Twitter," they automatically
think of wasting time. After all, how can you have time for
work when you're updating your followers about what you had for
lunch, or the gossip from your 2 p.m. staff meeting?
It's true that Twitter can be a distraction . But it can also be
an important resource for both personal and organizational growth.
And knowing how to use Twitter effectively, and the common mistakes
to avoid, is vital to getting the best from the service.
In this article, we'll review how to use Twitter to grow your
career and benefit your organization. We'll also look at the basics
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a
social networking site that allows users to connect with each other
and send short messages, or "tweets," about what they're doing or
Your "followers" see your tweets in a rolling feed, called a
timeline, when they log into the service.
Tweets can be trivial – we've all heard the "what someone
ate for breakfast" example – or they can be significant and
valuable, for example, when they highlight key news, or articles
written by thought-leaders in your industry. It's up to you to
choose the type of information you follow!
Here are some useful definitions for new Twitter users:
- Tweet – a post on Twitter.
- Timeline – your "feed" on Twitter, where
tweets made by people you follow are published.
Hashtag – The hashtag symbol (#) can help
people track different topics to find information easily. Simply
put the # symbol in front of your tweet's most relevant word, or
use it to "tag" a tweet under a certain category. For example,
#leadership or #mindtools.
You can search for other tweets tagged with a particular hashtag
by clicking in the hashtag when you see it in your Twitter
- Followers – These are your friends or
connections – the people who are following your tweets. Your
tweets will appear on their timelines. (All tweets are technically
"public" and searchable unless you decide to make your account
private. Be careful what you say!)
@ Replies – If you want to tweet to
someone else, use @ right before that person's username. For
example, tweet "@Bob45 I saw your tweet. Interesting!" – and
your follower Bob will get the message in his timeline (if he
follows you) or in his "@mentions" column (if he doesn't follow
If you put the person's name at the very start of the tweet, as
in the example above, only you, him, and people who follow both of
you will see the Tweet in their timelines.
If you put his name elsewhere in the message, everyone who
follows you will see the tweet. For example, this would happen if
you tweeted "Me and @Bob45 are working on a new marketing
- Profile – Potential followers may read
your profile, as well as your latest tweets, to decide if they want
to follow you back. There's also space on your profile for a web
address, and you can customize the colors and images.
Retweet – Retweeting is when you tweet
someone else's tweet to your followers. This helps your followers
find useful information. It's also a sign of respect, and it can
help you build credibility and develop your network on Twitter.
To retweet, simply type RT @ and the person's username (to give
the person credit), and then copy or type the tweet. For example,
type "RT @Bob45 CEO will make big announcement today. Stay tuned!"
You can also retweet directly on the Twitter website without the
need to copy or type the tweet.
If you want to give a person credit for a link or idea, you can
also say "via @Bob45" in your tweet.
Before you retweet, make sure it's on a subject that you want to
be associated with. Don't just retweet for the sake of it!
Although it's easy to find yourself spending too much time on
Twitter, the site offers some great benefits to help you grow
professionally. For example, you can:
- Stay informed about industry trends –
Follow people or organizations that lead your industry. This allows
you to stay updated about your field. Trade publications and
magazines often have informative Twitter accounts as well.
- Network – Establish and strengthen
professional relationships. Twellow can help you find industry-specific
groups and people to follow on Twitter.
- Brainstorm – Ask your followers for
ideas – or, if your team is on Twitter, brainstorm back and
forth. This is especially useful when you're working with a virtual
team, or when you don't want to spend time getting together for a
meeting. (If you want a more secure environment for brainstorming
or information sharing, take a look at Yammer.)
- Advance your career – Some people use
Twitter to find new jobs or training opportunities. Organizations
often post jobs on Twitter, so this is a great way to quickly see
openings. Networking through Twitter can also lead to some great
career and learning opportunities.
If you're concerned that Twitter will distract you from other
work, specify certain times to check your timeline, or use Twitter
to take a break from other more demanding tasks. For instance, you
may decide that you'll only check Twitter just before lunch, and at
the end of the day.
There are several ways to use Twitter to help market your
- Branding – Help to establish and grow
your organization's brand and image.
- Engagement – Get feedback, run contests
or giveaways, and respond to customer questions. This personal
engagement will build trust and loyalty with customers and
- Marketing – Publicize upcoming changes
or promotions in your organization.
service – Use
Twitter's search feature to discover what people are saying about
your organization. Once you discover a conversation, you can handle
any customer complaints or thank people for their feedback.
- Recruiting – Advertise open
So, what's the secret to success for using Twitter effectively
for your organization?
- Identify yourself – When you set up your
organization's account, identify who you are in the company
profile. Potential followers like to know with whom, specifically,
they'll be communicating.
- Use Twitter regularly – Don't send a
dozen tweets and then not log into the site for a week. Instead,
set specific times, every day, to communicate with followers.
- Leverage other media types – Twitter is
"viral" in nature. So make sure that you promote your Twitter
account on your organization's other communications, such as email
signatures, web pages, brochures, and so on. This will give you the
best chance of gaining a good following.
- Be careful about what you write – Tweets
can stay on the Internet forever, even if you delete them. You may
also want to consider creating a
procedure or guidelines if various
people will be involved in your organization's Twitter account.
Some companies also post a disclaimer.
- Align Twitter with the other parts of your
organization – Make sure that your use of Twitter is
aligned with your organization's overall strategy, and its other
- Be patient – It can take time to build a
following on Twitter, and to understand how to use it effectively.
So start off slowly, and be patient as you build your
Use the following guidelines when creating your tweets:
- Use a strong headline – Most followers
simply scan Twitter, so your "headline" should be effective and
authentic enough to capture their attention.
- Keep it short – Twitter allows only 140
characters, so your messages must be simple yet powerful.
- Stay well below the 140-character limit if
possible – Try to stay at 120 characters or below to
allow room for followers to add comments to any retweets.
- Write clearly – Use the same good
writing rules you would use when writing any professional document.
Grammar and style – and proofreading – still matter
with Twitter. Our Bite-Sized Training Written
Communication can help you with this.
- Link to further sources if required –
Your tweets are limited to 140 characters, but you can link to
further sources such as web articles, blog posts, or images within
your tweet if you need to. (URL shortening services such as
bit.ly or TinyURL are
useful for this.) This is also a great way to generate more traffic
to your organization's website.
It's natural that if you use Twitter, some co-workers may think
that you're not doing "real work", or that your time could be
better spent doing other tasks. If co-workers or your boss are
skeptical about Twitter, ask them to read this article! Our
Bite-Sized Training session on Winning Support
for Your Project can also help you get their support.
Etiquette and Common Mistakes
There are some unwritten "rules" for using Twitter
- Don't automate all of your tweets –
People want to hear from other people, not from automated messages
sent several times per day.
- Thank people for retweeting – If
practical, thank people who take the time to retweet one of your
- Use Direct Message (DM) for long conversations
– If an @reply conversation with someone goes beyond one or
two tweets, then use DM.
- Be personal, but professional – Your
followers want to be engaged with you or your organization. So, be
funny and witty if that's appropriate. Be personal, but avoid
uninteresting tweets such as "Staff meeting at 2:00!" Be authentic
- Keep it useful – If you tweet a link or
share an article, make sure it's something that your followers will
find useful or valuable.
- Don't self-promote too much – Remember,
you want to engage your followers, not sell your company so much
that your followers no longer want to pay attention. Balance your
promotions with genuinely helpful information, advice, and
Although many people think Twitter is just for fun, it's also a
rich source of information for professionals. Use Twitter to
network with others in your industry, find a job, or improve your
organization's brand and connect with customers.
It's important to use Twitter effectively. Log into the site
daily, and send information that's relevant to your followers. Be
personal and interesting, but write carefully – tweets may
stay online forever. And always try to thank followers who retweet