6 Sneaky Ways to Use Twitter That You Didn't Know about

I recently wrote a long post about how to increase your Klout and I promised to be diligent about working to increase my own as well. One of the most important ways to accomplish this is to improve your influence on Twitter. Of course, even if you don’t care about Klout, if all you want is to get more Twitter followers, this is also for you.

I found a whole bunch of different extensions available for Twitter along with some really clever ideas to make Twitter do so much more than just let you share 140 characters at a time. For example, I posted last time about the Buffer service which allows you to schedule tweets similar to the way HootSuite does.

Today, I’m back with a whole bunch of new ideas to help you get the most from the microblogging service. Here’s what you need to know:

Check Out the Competition

One of the best things that you can do when running a business of any kind anywhere is to check out your competitors and see what they are doing. These are the people who are most likely plugged into what the buying public already wants because they are (presumably) making some money doing what they do.

I mentioned last time that following influencers in your area of expertise is a great way to do this. Well I recently discovered a few new services which make this even easier than finding people on Klout.

So one of the services I checked out is called We Follow. In essence, these guys are kind of like a specific version of Klout. They give real time rankings to Twitter users for specific keywords that you ask about. I popped in a topic I’m interested in; personal finance and they gave me a list of people with rankings from their own system.

I’m not sure just how accurate this is though because I didn’t recognize everyone in the top of the rankings. Mind you, that doesn’t mean these people are not necessarily influencers on Twitter in this subject but it is suspicious since I do know quite a bit about personal finance and who is important in this world.

I also checked out SEO and found a few oddball names that I don’t recognize so take the recommendations here with a grain of salt. To their credit though, I did find that around 90% of the recommendations in both sections were people that I have heard of in the field so I suppose it’s possible that the oddballs are just people who are new but rapidly rising stars…

Another service I found for spying on the competition is called Twello. This thing is really a bit different though because it’s much more about gaining new followers for your own area of expertise as opposed to finding the competition.

Still, they do organize people into categories based on the publicly available data about you and what you have posted so it’s a good way to find out what the competition has to say. Of course, don’t forget that you can also check out Klout to find out who your competitors are in your business. Then simply follow them on Twitter and see what they have to say.

By the way, just because you run a local business doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t find the competition online. If you happen to be a dentist and your local competitor isn’t around on Twitter or just has a handful of followers and a quiet tweet board, you can simply look for other dentists in other cities.

Ultimately, your goal here is to get ideas about what your potential customers want to see and not necessarily to bludgeon your competition with negative tweets nor to simply retweet what they have to say. Thus the most important thing to do here is research as opposed to simply trying to find or attract followers.

Use Direct Messages

Twitter, as anyone who has used the service extensively knows is a microblogging platform. Ultimately, this means that your job on Twitter is to share your ideas with the world and hope that someone else is going to look and comment. Unless you are Jenna on MTV’s Awkward you want to have your tweets open to the world.

However, there are also times when the mass approach just won’t do. Sometimes, you want to have a more personal approach to things. That’s where Twitter’s DM service comes in. Direct messaging is exactly what it sounds like – you can send a message which will only be seen by the person to whom you sent the message.

Now the odds are good that you have seen some direct messages from others who have sent them to you when you followed them. I’m going to go a bit against conventional wisdom – don’t use an automated DM. They tend to look incredibly tacky and no matter what you write, they tend to be the sorts of things that people desperately want to ignore.

Instead, I recommend taking a different approach. This will require a lot more time but it is also likely to result in real, engaged followers as opposed to a bunch of bots following you while you follow them with your automated service. Go into Twitter and check who just followed you. Look at some of their recent tweets and then actually write a DM where you comment on what they said.

Ultimately after all, your job on Twitter is not to have a bunch of people list you as someone they ‘follow’ when in reality, they ignore everything you have to say. Instead, what you want to do is to build a relationship with them. What better way to do that than to show these people that you actually care about what they have to say and want to engage with them?

There is also another added bonus here. When you take the time to check out who is following you, it’s much easier to see whether it’s a real person you actually want to engage with or it’s just a spam bot which is looking for followers. If it’s a real person, you can follow them back and if it’s a spam bot, just ignore it and don’t even bother with a DM to them.

Oh and also, it’s possible to have Twitter reject many of those spam bots by using a service which will require users to verify themselves before they can follow you. This ensures that the automated services which follow 20,000 people at a time hoping to attract some worthless Twitter followers will not waste your time.

Create Twitter Lists

Yet another powerful and often overlooked feature of Twitter is the Twitter List feature. In essence, this service allows you to create lists of Twitter users whom you want to group together. You could use this in all kinds of ways. For example, you could create a Twitter list of the most important people in your industry or you could create lists of customers in specific areas.

You can even use Twitter lists to stay in touch with specific groups of people as opposed to everyone on your Twitter list by asking your customers to check out the Twitter list you created for their specific area. While your tweets will still be available to everyone, by getting people onto a Twitter list, you’ll be able to keep that group more informed.

You can also sign up to follow Twitter lists created by others online which means that you can usually find lists of people who have particular interests so that it’s easier to find the powerhouses in your industry. There used to be a really cool service available which would allow you to actually create lists automatically based on keywords but it went out of business.

I have been searching for an alternative to the now defunct formalists but so far to no avail. I did find a nice little free service which lets you more easily manage your own Twitter lists though.

Twitlistmanager is a nice little service which allows you to manage your Twitter lists and to more easily create new ones. While it doesn’t appear to have the ability to automatically create lists based on keywords, the service at least can fetch a list of all those you follow and then allow you to create a custom list based on that.

No, it’s not ideal and I do wish that Formulists was still around but this is not a bad alternative and it is 100% free without even a nag screen or any advertising.

Try a Twitter Chat

This is another new thing for me that I found when researching this article but I think it is totally awesome and something I look forward to trying out. Twitter chats are in essence real time tweets going back and forth about a specific topic of interest.

Basically, the way it works is that everyone involved in the chat will tweet using a specific hashtag which relates to the subject. You can then follow the conversation in real time, ask questions from the hosts, who are usually quite knowledgeable and hopefully gain some new followers by making insightful comments which others who participate will find interesting.

It’s basically like attending a webinar without actually attending a webinar. Plus, with Twitter chats, you are able to actually participate in the thing as opposed to a webinar which is often a one sided experience where you listen and someone else talks. There are a number of listings of Twitter chats available. Here’s one I found which seems to be pretty well updated.

Of course, the flip side of this is that you can also host your own Twitter chats once you have a significant number of followers. The key here is to ensure that you’ll have enough people participating in your chat so that you don’t end up with the one or two outsiders who show up wondering why nobody else is talking to you and saying something as part of the chat.

I also found a really helpful article over on PC World about how to successfully participate in or run a Twitter Chat. There were some really cool ideas here so I won’t waste your time going over it in detail.

Try a Twitter Newspaper

This is another great use of Twitter which I recently ran across. Paper.li is a way to create your own customized newspaper by pulling together material from a wide variety of sources about specific topics that you are interested in. It will grab headlines and news from all over the web and then aggregate them into a newspaper that you can share.

However, what I like about it is that it can also grab tweets. Imagine creating an entire newspaper with nothing but useful tweets that come from all over the Twitterverse and that are about your particular area of interest. You can then tweet that ‘newspaper’ out to your followers and gain instant credibility by providing them with a useful conglomeration of all the interesting tweets in their area of interest.

Of course, you can also add in material from elsewhere on the web so that you are able to make the newspaper even more valuable to you and your followers than simply a collection of tweets. Then again, I do love the idea of a newspaper with nothing but tweets in it.

Get Others to Retweet You

Tribber is another really nice service which basically creates ‘tribes’ of like-minded people who all get together and agree to share each other’s posts with their followers. In essence, this gives you instant credibility by getting hundreds or even thousands of others to retweet you. Of course, you do need to stay involved in the group and help others as you are helped but I love the concept here.

Oh and did I mention that by using Tribber you’re also likely to grab some additional followers who are interested in whatever it is that you tweet about? Not only will those in your ‘tribe’ be interested in what you have to say but their followers will likely be interested as well, allowing you to amass a much larger following than you otherwise might have been able to amass.