Tuesday, December 08, 2009

ConversationList

Are you following me on Twitter?

I'm amazed how fast nifty tools are coming out that are making Twitter Lists more useful. One of my own favorites so far is ConversationList. I'll give you a rundown on what ConversationList is.

ConversationList creates a dynamically generated daily list of people the list creator communicates with on a daily basis.

To create a ConversationList of your own, you can go to ConversationList's website, use Twitter authentication and then you'll be able to adjust your settings. You can choose whether you wish to include only those people you have sent actual @ replies to (as opposed to those mentioned elsewhere in your tweet), you can choose how often you need to mention someone before they are included and you can also choose to always exclude or income specific users.

Note: Twitter has a cap on 20 Twitter lists created per person. If you are at this limit, you will need to delete one before you can use ConversationList. You do NOT need to create a list called ConversationList. This will be automatically done for you.

Here's why I think ConversationList is a great idea: it will show your followers who else you follow that actually engage with users. If you have a large following yourself, it is a great way to give exposure to newer people using Twitter. If your newer and interact with others, it can help you get exposure as you get added to these lists. I think it's a great way to encourage people to interact with others too.

There are a couple of cons to ConversationList: There is a limit of 25 people that can be included. I communicate with 100+ a day so I'd love to see the number higher. Like with anything else, there is potential for abuse. Since the list is dynamically generate each day - this means that every time you get added to a list (or re-listed), their ConversationList will appear at the top of the lists you appear on. Given the 25 listing limit, I don't think this poses a serious problem.

What are your thoughts?







Thursday, November 05, 2009

How to Follow A Twitter List

Are you following me on Twitter?

Whether you love or hate Twitter lists, it's likely that you'll agree one feature that would make it much more useful is the ability to follow someone's list. There is a way to do it - and the great news is that it will take only a couple of minutes.

There are 2 ways to do this - short way:

1. Go to http://tweepml.org/ and create an account if you don't already have one then log in.

2. On the main page is a box "Follow a Twitter List" - copy and paste the URL for the list - for example: http://twitter.com/SharonHayes/music-blip-etc/members

3. Click on the "Follow" button & it will create a page where you can choose who you would like to follow.

Here is the results page for the above http://tweepml.org/@SharonHayes/music-blip-etc

Here are the steps for the long method:

1. Go to http://tweepml.org/ and click on the yellow icon "add it to your site"

2. In the "Enter Twitter Users Box" put in the full URL of the list you want to follow. For example: http://twitter.com/SharonHayes/inspirational/members

3. Click on the "find" button next to where you entered the URL. It will then populate the box below with all of the users from the list.

4. If this is just for you to follow a list, you don't really need to worry about a description. If you want to share the list with your followers I suggest putting a description in.

5. If you have an existing Tweepl account, you'll need to enter your information in the box otherwise you can create an account.

6. Tweepl will use OAuth to verify your account with Twitter.

7. You'll need to verify your account if you haven't use Tweepl before.

8. Boom - you can now go to the list URL and follow everyone at one time.

Here's an example of the list I set up for my "inspiration" list:


Note: as of writing this, Tweepl.org can only import the first page of members of a list. Hopefully they'll figure out a way to handle multiple pages in the future.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Measure Social Media's Effectiveness


I've followed many debates on how the term "ROI" is being misused in social media. Josh S. Peters (one of my partners on Branded Tweets) has written a couple of posts about ROI. In the first, he explained why it was being inappropriately applied to a campaign The Gap had run. Josh followed up with a post that concluded the use of KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) is a more relevant way to measure the effectiveness of social media usage. I was originally going to comment on his latest post, then realized it was worthy of an entire post on its own.

The same debates about social media are ones that happened over a decade ago with online marketing in general. In the mid-90's, banner advertising was popular. Some people believed that all banner advertising campaigns needed to have an associated ROI. Others believed that banner advertising had to have a call to action otherwise it wasn't effective. The reality is banner advertising back then - and still today - can serve a variety of functions where ROI isn't even an immediate factor. The same kind of rhetoric is being spouted about social media today.

ROI has never, and will never be, the single most important metric that can be applied to marketing. This is true both offline and online. Consider Superbowl ads. The costs of producing and running an ad are enormous. Where does ROI come into play for Superbowl ads? In the short-term, it doesn't.

I agree KPI's are important - what I don't agree with is that KPI's are relevant on their own to social media. Benchmarks, metrics tied into business goals, other kinds of data that are quantifiable and that can be tracked back to social media efforts. But KPI's typically refer to the overall marketing efforts of an organization. Unless a company is *only* using social media for marketing and no other marketing methods, the metrics associated with the impact of social media are just part of the arsenal of what a company does to market.

Here's an example: let's say John sees your ad on TV for the Gizmo - a new product your company is offering. John uses Twitter and asks if anyone has used Gizmo. As part of your company's social media efforts, you have a monitoring campaign tracking mentions of Gizmo. You engage John, answer his questions and John buys Gizmo.

What metrics should you consider here? More importantly, what data should be gathered?

Where things become even more challenging is that it's rare that a company that uses social media will just have one objective. It's more likely that a company will have multiple objectives when using social media - some of which may not even come under the umbrella of marketing. Two examples: customer support and recruiting. Where it becomes even trickier is that business/organizational use of social media is becoming increasingly complicated.

We can compare the evolution of social media to how the Internet itself has progressed. Whereas ten or twelve years ago it was acceptable to just slap up a website - the build it and they will come mentality - things have changed and the same is true with social media. It's not simply enough to have a presence on Twitter, but you need to have objectives for using Twitter. Having a Facebook fan page isn't enough. There has to be some strategy behind it.

With an increasing number of Internet users and organizations looking to social media to get answers, conduct research etc, is it really even necessary at this point to consider social media in isolation when it comes to any kind of quantitative analysis? Would it not be better to look at things from an overall integrated campaign perspective where social media may be just one component? Then under the umbrella of social media, shouldn't we look at individual sites and applications and the metrics just as we would look at PPC advertising, banner advertising, etc?

Consider this question: what distinguishes "social media" from everything else that existed before? I first got started online when I was 16 years old - 25 years ago. What did I do online? I used forums on bulletin board services. Over a decade ago, I started to work with clients on ways they could engage prospects and customers. The term "social media" may be relatively new but what it means isn't.

What has changed is three-fold: 1. the speed at which information/news can be disseminated; 2. the strength of some very dominant presences not tied to specific companies (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc) and 3. the voice of the consumer has more impact. The end result is that consumers today are much more empowered than they were even a few years ago.

Where we are now is that a lot of traditional marketing/corporate folks are just plain confused about how to handle it. There is simply too much conflicting information about what social media really is and there's this unnecessary "push" to look at it in isolation - which is completely unnecessary. From an organizational standpoint, you should be defining what kind of social media presence you want to have. From there, you should then be looking at your use of social media in conjunction with everything else for individual campaigns - your website, your blog, your email marketing, your PPC advertising, your banner advertising, your online PR, your offline advertising, your offline PR, and so on. Now with this more integrated approach, reliance on KPI's is relevant - with social media being just one part of overall efforts yet with individual benchmarks being relevant to individual social media activities.

As more and more consumers become involved in social media activities, I think we'll see a natural progression where organizations almost automatically integrate social media into their business models. Whether this will happen in three, five or ten years - I have no idea. But it is coming. And sometime between now and then the accepted standards will evolve to where "social media marketing" as we know it will no longer be a catch-all phrase.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things To Know About Twitter's Lists


Twitter has started to roll out the much-anticipated Lists functionality. Here are the highlights:

  • Lists allow each user a way to group some or all of the people they follow by assigning them to a list.
  • It also helps with discovery: When you go to a user's profile, you can see which lists they have created and follow relevant people. You can also see which lists someone belongs to and follow the others on that same list.
Note: if you do not see lists yet, don't worry! You'll be getting access to it soon!

I jumped the gun and created my lists rather quickly. Here are some tips:

  • Carefully consider how you want to structure your lists before you start to set them up.
  • You can only create 20 lists.
  • Each list cannot have more than 500 people.
  • If you want to edit a list's name, go to: Lists You Follow, Click on List Name and on the right hand side towards the bottom is an "edit list" link. That will allow you to change the name of a list OR change it from public to private & vice versa.
  • If you want to delete a list, go to: Lists You Follow, Click on List Name and on the right hand side towards the bottom is an "delete list" link.
Note: at the time of posting this, neither the edit nor delete functionality are working.

Hope this helps!


Friday, September 11, 2009

More Twitter Tips

Are you following me on Twitter?

A few months ago, I posted a ton of Twitter tips on this blog. That post represented a small fraction of what I know about how to use Twitter most efficiently & effectively. I thought it was time to give up more of my secrets ;) I hope you learn something new!

Color Counts

Take a few minutes to make sure that the color of your tweets and the background for them is easy to read on both desktops & via mobile web access. I look at every new person I follow back and see that maybe 1 in 50 are using a color combination that make it unreadable to read the tweets. It's best to use contrast - i.e. use a dark color on a light background or a light color on a dark background.

Why is this important? Most Twitter users manually follow people back. They want to have a look at the tweets of those they follow. If people have difficulty reading your tweets, it might reduce the likelihood they will return the follow (if that is important to you). There's another reason: often people will go to a user's profile page to catch up with them or because they want to see exchanges they have with other users. Again, why make it more difficult for people to read your tweets than it needs to be?

Your Avatar

Try and avoid changing your avatar unless it is necessary. If you do change it, try and keep a similar look. I made a major change in April with my avatar from a glam-style photo to the one I use now. Six weeks after the change, I was still getting tweets from people who hadn't recognized me. People reading their stream look at avatars more often than names. A major change in your avatar can make it difficult for people to realize it is you.

If you do want to make a major change, make sure it is to something you can be consistent with from that point on or that at least you can be recognizable.


DM Hygiene

If you delete a DM from your sent folder, it will also delete it from the recipient's inbox. Since many Twitter users do not receive text messages or emails of DMs, this means if you delete an unread DM, the recipient will never know you sent it.

Every few weeks I will tweet this as a tip & there are always many long-term Twitter users that aren't aware of this so I thought it was worth adding to my blog :)

Getting Behind In Mentions

If you are away from Twitter for an extended period - let's say vacation or you've been too busy with other things - be aware that if you are using tools that access Twitter via API, there is a limit of 200 mentions that can be retrieved per API call. If you know you were up-to-date with replies the last time you logged on, retrieve your mentions and check the date of the oldest one that shows. If the date/time doesn't coincide with your last tweet, then what you may want to do is use Twitter search. Twitter search also has limits on how many tweets it will show per request. However, if you go to advanced search, you can specify a date range. (This was partially covered in my previous post but I neglected to mention the API limitation.)

Using Twitter Search

Be aware if you are using Twitter search on your own mentions or for some other reason, many tweets do not show up in search. Aside from those that have protected tweets, the tweets of those people who are not appearing in search will not show up. I estimate that in my own case around 1 in 15 mentions do not appear in search.

Bio URL

I strongly recommend you do not use a URL shortener in your bio. If people do not know what they are clicking on, they will often not click. I did a short test with this and found that my click through from bio with a URL shortener vs domain name resulted in less than 50% of the clicks.

Follower Hygiene

For personal reasons, I choose to follow back everyone that follows me. (Although I may start to change this policy soon with new followers.)

I am awful with removing those that unfollow me. I did a few batches of 100-200 a few months ago and have done nothing since. Part of the reason is because with the number of people I follow it is tedious to consider doing manually via the Twitter pages. Also before Twitter changed the page numbers for following/followers, I had blank pages so none of the tools would work on my list. There were many inaccuracies.

Last week, I went to FriendorFollow.com, entered my username and then exported a list of "following" - ie people I was following and who were not following me back. There were almost 2,000. This was way too many to get rid of manually at one time so what I did was this: I added an extra column in that divided the following into followers and then sorted on that column. This let me see right away who was "pumping and dumping" - ie building a following proactively only to dump many/most of them once they were happy with their numbers or for some other reason. I've unfollowed around 500 since then. The rest I'll eventually get to :)


Miscellaneous Tips

  • Don't include a personal url when sending someone an @ reply. It's perceived as spamming. By this I mean tacking on your domain name to a tweet that has nothing to do with your business.
  • Don't tweet everyone new that follows you or that you follow. It's really annoying for your existing followers and you'll likely lose people.
  • If you want to greet new followers, take a minute to look at their bio and tweets to use "something" to start a conversation with. Too much effort? Then why follow people unless you intend on building some kind of relationship or network with them?
  • Create goodwill - if you share something someone else has tweeted, make sure to give attribution to it by using either RT or via. :) See my last tips post for more on retweeting.
  • If you will be away from Twitter from an extended period - whether it is 12 hours, a day or a week, try and make sure your last tweet or two is representative of you. I've noticed huge fluctuations in how many new followers I get based on the tweets I leave up when I am not around.
See you on Twitter!


P.S. If you feel you could benefit from some professional Twitter training, check out my Twitter landing page for what I am currently offering :)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

New Twitter Landing Page + Training

Until now, I've always linked my Twitter profile to this blog. However, with the growth in the number of followers I have, I'm finding that I get a lot of the same questions over and over again and I thought it was time for a change. I set up a page at http://www.sharonhayes.com that answers many of the most common questions I receive from followers. Hopefully it will allow me to avoid being repetitive and to focus on providing new, fresh content on a continual basis. :)

This page is a definite work in progress. I have tons more to add and will soon be offering an inexpensive consult on a by question basis for SMBs that may need help. This will be provided in conjunction with a live show I'll be starting very soon :)

On a daily basis, I have anywhere from a few to a dozen people ask if I provide any kind of Twitter training. For the most part, this is from small business owners who want to learn how to use Twitter more effectively. Until now, the training I've done has been primarily high-end - and out of the reach of the "little guy." I'm currently working with Joshua Denney and Josh "Shua" Peters on a comprehensive group Twitter training program we'll be rolling out very soon.

In the meantime, I am making myself available to take on a very limited number of clients for 1 or 3 hour one-on-one training sessions. This is at a fraction of the rate I have performed any work at in years. I've generated 7 figures of income from Twitter this year - without openly promoting any business. I do it by following rule #1 of social media: being authentic. If you find yourself struggling with Twitter in any way... if you want to grow your follower base..if you're having a hard time translating Twitter into $... if you're having trouble positioning... or just learning how to use Twitter effectively... this may be just what you need. This is NOT an out-of-the-box program but will be customized training based on the responses you provide to a questionnaire. I have been helping clients for 2 decades make more money and have fun doing it.

My schedule right now is very tight and I can only offer approximately 20 hours of training over the next 4 weeks. I suggest if you are remotely interested in this, don't delay. I will never offer one-on-one Twitter training again at this price.

Sessions will be conducted by Skype and can be coordinated to meet any schedule/time zone. Here's how it works: choose one of the 2 payment options below. Payment can be remitted easily via Paypal. If you cannot use Paypal, contact my staff via email asking to be invoiced for either the 1 or 3 hour Twitter training via Google Checkout. Within 12 hours of when payment has been received, you will receive an initial client questionnaire. This will take you anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to complete. When you have finished it, you will return it via email and we'll then schedule your training session(s). If you order the 1 hour training, you'll receive a 45 minute session and then one follow-up 15 minute session. The 3 hour training is comprised of 2 x 1 hour sessions and 2 x 15 minute follow-ups. If you order the 1 hour training, you'll be able to receive a credit against the cost of the group training should you feel you need more assistance. If you order the 3 hour training, you'll receive the group training for free which will also include your additional 30 minutes of one-on-one assistance.



Monday, September 07, 2009

New personal blog

I just set up a new personal blog at http://iWeightTrain.com. The blog will tackle some emotional issues I am dealing with right now. The first post is "Putting up Walls." In the few short hours since it has been up, I've received several comments publicly and a few dozen privately. Many people have commended me for being honest and open. Most people seemed to be able to relate to it in some way. Read it and let me know what you think. It's a huge move for me to go public with this given that I'm generally a very private person.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Twitter Time Management Experiment

Are you following me on Twitter?

If you are one of my followers, then you likely have observed a few things:

  • I make an effort to respond to every tweet,
  • I tweet a lot,
  • I haven't automated anything on Twitter (even followbacks I manually do now),
  • and if you've had exchanges with me, you'll see I rarely am able to tweet in real time
As my follower base has increased and along with it, the incoming tweet load, I've run into a few problems:

  • Although I'm typically "light" on Twitter, I do take business seriously. There are often full days where I am on overload with work which prevents me from spending any time on Twitter. Since I work on the Internet, I also like taking downtime entirely away from the computer. Both of these things mean it is easy for me to get behind in responding to tweets. I've been as much as 2 weeks behind in responses at some points!
  • When I get far behind, I often have to resort to using search rather than Tweetdeck for responses. This means missing tweets from those tweeps who don't appear in search entirely.
  • For productivity purposes, it makes more sense for me - on those days I am able to tweet - to spend 1 or 2 solid chunks of time responding to tweets. The issue here is that I don't want to flood the stream of followers with responses. Also, Twitter has implemented a time-out period where if you tweet too much in a given time, you are unable to tweet for an hour (and sometimes more).
  • I've not been able to look as much at the streams of my friends because of time limitations.
  • I love live interactions/exchanges with people but with getting behind all the time in responses, it's rare that I'm able to engage in "real-time" like I used to.
For those of you that know me from Twitter or have been one of my coaching clients, you'll know that my philosophy has been to avoid automation. It defeats what is at the heart of social networking and social media. At the same time, the way I have been handling things simply isn't working for me. Twitter has turned more into a chore for me and something I have to do rather than something I want to do.

I don't want to change some parts of how I handle things. Primarily I want to make sure that I do respond to tweets. I know most other high volume users look at this differently but for me it is important. I don't want people to feel ignored. I really do care.

I'm going to be running an experiment for the next 7-10 days. I am going to schedule blocks of time to handle responses and use CoTweet to schedule sending them out on a staggered basis. I am hoping the benefit will be that I am able to interact overall with people more fluidly, that I will be able to engage in live exchanges and be more proactive in communications. I hope that this will work better for followers as well since they will no longer get hit with 50-100 tweets in a short period of time. The offside of this is that I will not always actually "be there" when people see me tweeting. I am hoping this doesn't cause too much confusion for people.

I believe transparency and being authentic are important in social media. By openly sharing what I am doing I hope that this adds to - rather than detracts - from the way I am seen in the community. The impact of this on my followers should be a positive one since I don't often have chances to converse in real time on Twitter to begin with.

I may post an update at some point on how this experiment works. Please DO post comments sharing what you think about this approach.

Friday, June 12, 2009

How to avoid the #FollowFriday problem


One of the challenges with Twitter is finding ways to meet people. Real people who want to interact and not just number collectors/spammers/broadcasters. It used to be easier before. You had the option of seeing @replies of everyone you follow. This gave you the ability to see conversations with people you didn't know and to jump in. Now Twitter has removed this option so it's made the hunt a little more difficult. 

For several months, #FollowFriday has been used as a way to share great tweeps with your other followers. But there are 2 problems with #FollowFriday: 1. It's really lost a lot of it's effectiveness. Most people continue to list a bunch of tweeps without providing a reason. Very few people will actually follow people listed like this. 2. In spite of the @reply change having been made many weeks ago, many are still doing #FollowFriday incorrectly. If you start off the tweet with a person's username, only that person, any other users listed and anyone those people follow will get to see the tweet. It more or less defeats the purpose of doing #followfriday since those not following won't even see the tweet.

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll know that I started to change how I did #followfriday's. Instead of tweeting individuals, I decided to do a blog post providing a more extended description about people. This worked - for a while. It took a lot of time to put together.  Time I could be spending communicating, sharing, interacting with followers. 

Many others since have started to go the same route - blogging recommendations (like @ConcertReviewer's blog) or providing a permanent list of recommendations (like @KimSherrell 's list). Kudos to those that do this! 

I'm starting to see more people tweet individuals with info about the person they are recommending. This provides value. It's easy for anyone to do. But it still does take a bit of work. There's also the guilt complex: ie if you give someone a recommendation one week, does that mean you need to give one the next etc.

The problem with tweeting #followfridays is that they have a very short shelf life. Pretty much only people online around the time the tweet goes out will even get to see it. It's not a very good bang for the buck.

The Great News is..... there is an fast, easy way to show your appreciation for other Twitter users that takes as little time as doing a #followfriday tweet. It provides lasting value AND you only need to do it one time.... 

....This is by using MrTweet.net for making your recommendations. Now MrTweet.net is certainly not something new, but I really think it is being underutilized. 

MrTweet makes suggestions of people you aren't following based on people within your network and recommendations they have made for others along with who they communicate with. You get to see a nice summary of each recommended person and you can choose to follow them (and/or send a tweet to them) directly from MrTweet.

You can also make recommendations of others via MrTweet. When you do so, it gets saved permanently & improves their visibility when others use MrTweet.  Recommendations that you make are also tweeted to your followers.

To get started with MrTweet, sign up by following MrTweet on Twitter.

You can then log in at the MrTweet website - discover new people to follow and make recommendations for others.

Recommendations for people to follow are updated daily.

Three tips:

1. You can make recommendations for others by going to:
http://mrtweet.com/username?rec - for example if you want to make a recommendation for me, you'd go to http://mrtweet.com/sharonhayes?rec

In the white text box - just type what you want to say about an individual after the word because. Make sure to leave the first part the way it is so that the recommendation will "take". Unlike a normal tweet, you have more space to provide details. Your outgoing tweet recommendation will have a link back to MrTweet.net. Once you are happy with what you wrote, you can click on the "Recommend him/her" button.

2. You can tweet your own recommendation list on #FollowFridays (or any day for that matter). People can see your page by going to http://mrtweet.net/username?me= - for example for me you'd go to 

3. You can share discoveries you have made via MrTweet.net by tweeting this link: http://mrtweet.net/share/username?user= - for example http://mrtweet.net/share/SharonHayes?user=

There are a couple of other things you can do to help those in your network:

1. Send a tweet anytime about a user to your followers with a reason why they should follow. Just remember it's important not to start the tweet with the person's username.

2. Make introductions between 2 or more individuals that you know have something in common. Again, don't start it with @username and try to explain why you are introducing them in the tweet. This may allow others that follow you to find new people too.

I hope that you've enjoyed this post and that it's given you some new ideas!



Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Twitter Funnies

One of my followers, Kim Brame, needed some cheering up so I put out an SOS for others to chime in with some funnies. Rather than RT them all I thought I might share them here. Since I didn't do a #followfriday blog post this week, this might help some of you find some new people too.

MaraBG @KimBrame @SharonHayes Fed Govt has sent an email re: swine flu warning about canned pork... Don't worry, it's just SPAM!!

ClaireBoyles where's @darraghdoyle when u need him? :) <-- apparently a very funny guy ;)

arthurtaubo @SharonHayes, @kimbrame, listen to this one, http://tinyurl.com/lzu68y, and look at this film Kim, http://tinyurl.com/ml3crv

mikeconaty @SharonHayes @kimbrame took a while to find it again: http://bit.ly/19f9t1 | Makes me chuckle anyway :-)

personified @kimbrame: As a child, my mother found me one day with a mouth full horse manure -- I thought it was chocolate? (funny @Sharonhayes) :P

Linda_Sgoluppi @KimBrame @sharonHayes Re Kim's cheerup, light relief, read in Glasgow accent, canna shove your granny off a bus http://tinyurl.com/ab2x29

merlebowers @SharonHayes @kimbrame Horse walks into a bar, bartender says, "Hey buddy, why the long face?" @SharonHayes @kimbrame Mafia put a contract out on Einstein, apparently he knew too much.

thenewpast @kimbrame @Sharonhayes a joke for the smiles - http://tweetmic.com/p/ordwsa7ufl4


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Twitter Tips

One of the things I love about Twitter is that it is up to us to decide how we want to use it. I want to share with you a variety of different tips. All of these are based on how I use Twitter. Hopefully you'll discover at least one new thing & find it worth sharing with your own followers.

Replies on Twitter

About 10 days ago Twitter made a change in how replies are handled. Replies are tweets that start with @username. Previously you had the options (via your settings) whether or not you wanted to see replies your followers make to those you are not following or not. Now you can only see replies your followers make to those you are also following. 

Twitter claims that only 3% of users had this feature enabled. Personally, I think that those 3% were likely amongst the most active users. In any event, being able to see @replies was great for those of us who are looking to expand our network, find more like-minded people and to be able to find others to engage with. As my own follower base grew, I know that it helped a lot of my own followers connect with others. Now when I have an exchange with someone that I think may interest other followers, I will RT their tweet and respond to that or I will reply and put a "." in front of their user name.

The change in replies has made #followfriday a bit of a mess. Even though we've now had our second Friday since the change, many of the more active users don't understand how making recommendations to others is almost pointless if they start with @username. The reason is that only that person, those following that person already and anyone else mentioned in the tweet will see the recommendation. A way around it is to start off with anything other than @username.

Retweet is King

Aside from exchanges on Twitter, one of the great things about it is the ability to share information. Retweeting is used to pass along useful things you see your own followers tweet.

If you are a follower of mine, you'll see that I do a considerable number of retweets each day. I do it not just to pass along information to others but also so that my own followers can find other people that share useful information on Twitter.

I don't suggest going retweet crazy but try and take the time to share information you think others may be interested in. The benefit of retweeting others is that your own followers will see you do it and you just may find your own tweets get retweeted more often.

There are 2 ways to handle retweets:

RT @username [Tweet]

[Tweet] via @username

In both cases, make sure to include a space before the @username so that the person you are retweeting will see it (and it will also make their profile clickable for your followers).

I personally prefer using the second method. This makes it easier for tweets I pass along to catch the eye of those following me.

Always Acknowledge

If you see someone tweet a link, piece of info or something else, remember to acknowledge the source (via retweet examples above).  Remember the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want others to credit you as a source, be sure to acknowledge sources yourself.

Look in Stream 

Some days I get 500-1500 mentions. This is a lot to deal with on it's own. But I do try and take the time at least several times a day to look at my "home" page and see where:

A. I can help someone that is in need
B. I see information I can share with my own followers
C. Someone I may not have had previous exchanges with seems to be sharing a common interest
D. Something I can comment on or contribute to


New Followers

Even though I use autofollow most of the time, I DO look at each new follower - even if it is a couple of weeks behind. When I do this, I go through the same A-D I mention above. This helps build a connection with new followers and I think much better than just a simple thanks for following me.

Using DMs

Avoid auto-dms. They are a headache and in the world of Social Media are definitely not going to enhance your credibility in any way. 

Requests/Favors

Unless you have a connection established with someone already, don't DM or tweet them asking for a retweet, to look at a site or something else. Those of us with higher usage of Twitter get inundated with requests like this. It's not that we don't want to help people, it's a matter of mutual respect. On an average day I get 50 or more retweet requests. Unless I have had personal contact with the person, these DM's get deleted. It will also make me less likely to retweet something of that person I may have otherwise done.

The best thing to do - retweet and share info of others before you need their help. It will make people more responsive when you do need assistance.

Using Protected Posts

Many of my followers use protected posts. Unfortunately most of the time due to tweet volume, I need to use Twitter search to respond to tweets. This means I now miss many protected tweets since they do not show up in Twitter search. If you run into the same boat - needing to use Twitter search for responding to Tweets - keep this in mind.

When you get behind on Tweets

During the week, I often get behind with reading/responding to mentions. I go to Twitter search and will do an advanced search on tweets referencing sharonhayes AND set the parameters to a specific date. I do the date filtering because it helps me limit the tweets in my search and because Twitter search only displays 75 pages of tweets.  The nice thing with Twitter search is that you can see conversation threads so you can easily spot those tweets you didn't respond to.

Keeping your following list clean

Every few days I find out one of my followers accidentally unfollowed me because of using a tool like FriendorFollow. Many of these kinds of tools make mistakes and will show people are not following you that are. It seems to be more of an issue with those that have larger followings or who have empty pages in their following list (like I do). If you do use one of these tools to clean up who you are following, I suggest double checking before unfollowing.

Personally, I prefer just scrolling through my following pages. Here's an easy way to do it: take the number of people you are following and divide it by 20. That will tell you how many pages worth of people you are following. Click on the link on your profile page for "following". Go to previous page. In the URL bar of your browser, you'll see http://twitter.com/friends?page=2 . Change the 2 to the number of pages you need to go back. You can then scroll through the pages and unfollow those you see who aren't following back who you may want to unfollow. Your following pages are in chronological order so on the very last page are the first people you followed. On the first page are the latest you followed.

If someone is following you back, it will show a "Direct Message" link below their user name. If they are not following you back, you will not see this.

It really doesn't take that long to do. I go through my entire list every 4-6 weeks. The last time I did it (with around 25,000 following), it took me around 2 hours around doing other things. So maybe an hour of actual time.  Note for techies: I did try to do it once by backing up both my following and follower list then comparing the two. It actually took me longer this way since I'm fast on the computer than to manually do it. If you are slower on the computer, comparing backups may save you time and be more reliable.

Please remember to give people time to follow back before you unfollow them. Not everyone checks their new followers daily. I suggest a minimum of 3-4 days, preferably a week.

There are a few different websites that will tell you the last time people tweeted. The idea being that this can help see who you should unfollow. *Many* people I do business with via Twitter are not actively tweeting but they do send DMs and read tweets. I have some people who have followed me for months that I actively engage with privately who have never tweeted at all. From a business perspective, I don't consider the idea of unfollowing someone based on their last tweet date to be a sound one.


Following Limits

For the Twitter pros, this is old news, but since I have at least one person a day asking me about this, I thought it was worth explaining.

Twitter allows you to follow up to 2000 people without restrictions. Once you hit 2000 following, you can only follow 10% more than are following you. If you find yourself stuck at the 2000 limit, you may want to look at the followbacks and unfollow some of those not returning the follow.

Recently Twitter imposed an additional restriction: you can only have 1000 follow actions per day. This includes unfollows. If you hit this limit, you need to wait for the 24 hour period to be up to follow more people. Note: there are no limits on unfollows, but when you unfollow, it reduces how many you can follow.

Being Unfollowed/Unfollowing

I think that on Twitter, friendships can develop much faster than in the offline world. At the same time, friendships can cycle through quickly. The inevitable will happen to each of you - people that you have exchanged tweets with and you may have liked - for whatever reason, unfollow you. Don't take this personally. Just as in the offline world, friends come in and out of your life. Are you still friends with everyone you talked with in elementary school, high school, college, etc? 

There are also a lot of people that game Twitter - I've blogged about this previously. To circumvent the follow limits and build their following base faster, they will unfollow people that have followed them. Some of these people appear to be legitimate users too and keep their following/follower numbers in balance. Again, don't take it personally. When I come across people that are gaming and who have unfollowed me, I simply block them when I unfollow them to stop them from refollowing again.

Deciding when to follow back

There are many different approaches people take about following others back. What you decide to do should be based on your own usage of Twitter. My own rule of thumb is that I follow everyone back. Although my tweets are not self-promoting or about my own business activities, I do generate a lot of business from Twitter. I don't want to close doors by not following someone back.

One interesting thing here to consider: many of the most valuable business contacts I have made have had NO tweets and follow very few people. Consequently if you are using Twitter for business, you may want to consider the reasons why someone with no/few tweets may have chosen to follow you & if they are worth a followback. From a strictly business side, if I were to limit who I follow back, I would definitely follow someone with no tweets before someone tweeting a bunch of garbage.

I hope that you found these tips useful.  :)


Thanks to Joshua Denney for input.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Excel problem

Problem I tweeted about:

Column A consists of a data string
Column B contains a value relating to each data string
Column E contains if statement to compare one row against another like this:

=IF(A3614=A3613,"STOP","")

What I need to do is in column E have a formula that returns another
STOP *if* column E contains STOP and column B is not equal to D

My brain is so dead - this should be simple and I'm just not getting it.

I realize there is deduping in Excel 2007 but the client wants the
data in this specific format.

Answer: =IF(E8="STOP",IF(B8<>"D","STOP",""),"")


Thanks to @mrrichardson for helping me out!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can Your Business Model Help You Reach Your Goals? Part 1: Service Professionals

Over the past 6 months, I’ve been shifting my priorities to working with small business owners.  One of the first things I’ll discuss with them is where they are now versus where they want to be. This helps us establish a path for them to take – what they need to do in order to grow their business to the desired level. Almost without exception, I’ve come to one startling conclusion:

Most small business owners do not have a business model that can help them reach their goals!

First, let me start off by sharing the most common goals most people cited:

·         More free time during the regular work week and weekends off

·         More time off from work entirely

·         Less work-related travel and more personal/family travel

·         More time and money to indulge in recreational activities

·         Specific income goals – usually in the $150,000 to $250,000 range

·         Debt-free

·         Own a new home, mortgage-free

Basically, the most important goals for the bulk of these people were either related to having more free time or having more money.  Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? It is until I started to look at the plan – or lack of plan – these business owners had in order to reach their goals.

I’ll share with you some details on a client I am working with. Dan is a fairly solid programmer. He has a full-time job and does between 10 and 20 hours of work each week freelance. His rate is $45 per hour. He has around 3 months living expenses set aside and is ready to take the leap to going on his own. He and his wife have 2 young children. His wife is returning to teaching this fall and will be earning just under $30,000 a year. Dan wants to be able to take summers off starting in 2010 to spend with his family.  He would need to earn an estimated $110,000 in 2010 to reach his family’s financial goals. Since he’s been freelancing along with his full-time job for the past 3 years now, he wants to be able to have weekends off to spend time with the family. Before we spent some time together, Dan had planned on only increasing his hourly rate to $50.

Let’s say that Dan ended up increasing his rate instead to $75 per hour. That would mean he’d need to work about 1467 billable hours per year.  If Dan works  40 weeks per year that would mean almost 37 hours a week of billable time. This doesn’t take into account time between jobs (it’s rare a freelancer is booked solid), other work that isn’t billable, bookkeeping, invoicing, etc – all of which Dan planned to do on his own. Oh and where will all these clients come from? Who will handle the pre-sales, sales and quoting? When we had a look at this, Dan certainly felt discouraged. But then it got worse when I pointed out a few things to him:

What if he gets the flu and is unable to work for a couple of weeks? What if one or both of the children are off school due to illness? These are things that do happen.

His game plan didn’t take into account saving for his children’s college fund.  With his children being 9 and 11 years of age, it was something he needed to start planning for soon.

Although his wife’s financial contribution was nominal under their current game plan, one big thing she was bringing to the table was health care benefits for the family. What if her job didn’t go through or if she lost it due to lack of seniority?

Did Dan want to continue coding for the rest of his life – or even the foreseeable future? The problem with any kind of service-based business like this is that you are trading time for money. When you don’t work, you cease to continue earning money.

I think at this point Dan started to feel sick. It became blatantly clear that his business model sucked. His goals are more important to him than how he gets there.

Fortunately all was not lost. We were able to structure a new business model for him that should allow him to easily reach all of his goals in 2010 and over time allow him to continue to see increases in his income. Hopefully he’ll find himself with more free time too.

Dan’s original approach to starting a business is pretty common amongst most service providers and professionals. Trading time for money is a linear model. It’s simply not an entrepreneurial one. With rare exceptions, there are always ceilings to potential earnings.

In the next instalment I’ll be looking at other types of business models.

P.S. Name and personal information was modified to protect the client.