By Dave Isbell

As with all social media resources, (as well as “in-real-life-networking” experiences), Twitter is just a tool to use to meet people, engage in conversation, and to share ideas. It’s ok to push out three or four messages per day, and to retweet (RT) other people’s messages often, but your goal is to use your own voice to increase your presence in a community of other people. (Note: This is NOT the place to inundate other people with requests, sell your products, or to advertise that you need a job!) Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. The first rule of using Twitter is to be consistently engaging in dialogue with new people, introducing people to one another, and having something important to say that adds to the conversation! 

Here is the best resource I’ve found on using twitter (from the masters who are a MUST follow on Twitter: @mashable) http://mashable.com/guidebook/twitter/

2. Once you have written your entire “elevator speech” into the 160 characters that they allow you, you need to start finding other people to talk to: 

For some fun, engaging, and insightful Spartans in the MSUAA to follow, here is a place to start:

@helpingspartans (that’s where we put job postings) @msuaa (other MSU stuff) @msuscottw  @msuaalisa @timbograkos

 Here are a few of my favorite people on Twitter, and are certain to teach you a few things about Twitter just by following them. Feel free to tell any one of them that I told you to follow them:

@ginidietrich (Glowing Endorsement: She’s my Twitter-BFF!) @caroljsroth  @robinmswartz @katjaib @paigeworthy @rustyspeidel @lesleychang @lavrusik @michael_arndt  @msuaajohn @supernosh  @geoffjohns – I guarantee I’m forgetting a ton of people. Hopefully you get my point. Follow these people and find your own friends to follow! 

A couple of the “expert users” to follow, but who probably won’t be writing back to you:

@mashable @chrisbrogan @dmscott  @danschawbel  @Alyssa_Milano  @Nathanfillion (Yes, they are famous actors, but they are MASTER twitter users who really know how to communicate in this medium! It is not all about her/him. They both do a great job of “organically” sharing messages that convey there is a real person behind the typing and that this person has something to say beyond “watch my latest film.”)

50 people to follow for your job search: http://ow.ly/1i0jw

Follow these people, rt some of their messages, and start following the people they follow. Look for your favorite companies, I’m sure someone is there you can follow! You will have a great list of teachers in no time- the best people are ones who use the tool in a way that is very conversational. (In other words, you’ll learn a lot about how to use this tool by reading what they write-all from different perspectives and occupations!)

3. You need to find something to talk about. 

Hashtags (the # sign) are a way to get you into a public conversation about some topic of interest. To find them, all you need to do is typed into the search bar # and then whatever word or phrase you want to search. To add your two cents, just add a hashtag into one of your tweets. We use #msujobs for our job postings; frequently you may find employers use #jobs to push out their postings.  You might also look at #msuaa #msu for other content that comes from us.

You might also go to www.alltop.com to find blogs to follow, follow the authors on twitter-and “guest blog” or reply in comments about what they’ve written. Plus, it will give you a ton of content that you can share on twitter to initiate discussions.

4. Remain engaging, interesting, and “on-topic” as often as you can, but also don’t forget to be authentic and have a little fun too! 

Remember, the content that you chose to share online becomes a part of your “personal brand” so as a rule try to share information that adds value for your readers and supports your on-brand message 70% of the time (such as “I’m a pretty good career coach!”) and spend 30% of the conversation on topics of personal interest (Such as, “Wow! I just saw the latest superhero movie and it was awesome!”) Plus, don’t forget to thank people for sharing your messages, and to share (RT) their messages when it relates to your brand.

One last thing, as if I didn’t already drive this point home before, if you are going to do social media, you need to be consistent about being involved. This is ESPECIALLY the case with Twitter since your audience changes every few minutes. (Keep in mind that this platform was designed for mobile devices and people with short attention spans.)

5. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into a black hole of distraction. Stay productive.

You don’t need to spend three hours every day on Twitter. However, I would suggest that you spend 15 minutes a day responding/adding value to your network-or at least three to four days per week of sharing something that is relevant.

One great tool to make things easier and quicker for you is www.hootsuite.com –it will make your twitter experience so much better with the ability to insert shortened urls, upload documents, and autoschedule your tweets (plus, if you want you can integrate facebook and linkedin into it if you want to share the same message within all of those sites.)

You might choose to spend an hour at the beginning of the week building a backbone of content you are going to share throughout each day, schedule it, and then check in for a few minutes each day to comment on something that is currently enjoying its 15 seconds of Twitter-fame. Then respond back to conversations that are in progress, and say “hi” to a few of your followers. (Don’t forget to check your direct messages too! These are “offline,” “private” conversations.)

6. Twitter is fun, but do your best to avoid Phishing scams, robots, and evil.

As with all things on the internet, proceed with caution. What you are typing into Twitter is public information, I don’t care how you set your privacy settings. If it is on a computer, especially on the internet it should be regarded as public information! So watch what you say. But also if it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Don’t click on links that say things like “you win a million dollars if you just click here!” Often, you will have attempts to hack your account with messages such as “Twitter” asking you for your password. Twitter doesn’t send messages asking for your password, so don’t click on it. Another popular one is to see a direct message from one of your followers stating something like, “I can’t believe what they are saying about you,” Don’t click on that link! It is likely that your friend got hacked. You may want to send your friend a message letting them know their account got hacked. A general rule of thumb is if someone is following 7,000 people but has very few followers: It is a robot. Don’t follow or be followed by robots! There are apps out there that you can download for Twitter that do a host of things some of them are harmless, some of them are just plain evil. So do your homework before you download anything!

7. Don’t forget the real reason why you are on Twitter! 

Whatever you do, don’t forget that at the heart of this, unless you are a raging narcissist seeking the limelight, the only purpose of this tool is to build an engaged community. At some point, if you really want this to be more than just idea-sharing, you are going to have to be the one to start inviting your “offline” connections into “real world” conversations.

Personally, I’m a big fan of turning familiarity (we like the same things) into commonality (we like each other) into trust (we both know the “real person” behind the “virtual one”) by maintaining integrity (I did what I said I was going to do) and, whenever possible, turning that into collaboration (we both did something that was mutually beneficial for one another) that creates positive change in the “real world.” That is how you can get the most from Twitter. All that I just described above can help you to start that process rolling, but unfortunately, I can’t advise you on specifically how to do it because it’s something each of us has to find our own way through!

And on a different note, do you wish you had a creative idea for how you could use Facebook in your job search? Well don’t say I never responded before you even asked!

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Dave Isbell is the Assistant Director of Alumni Professional Enrichment in the MSU Alumni Association and is also the owner, primary writer, and editor of this blog and corresponding twitter account. His primary role in the MSUAA is to develop resources and manage projects that professionally enrich the lives of Spartan alumni. Dave is not able to accept individual appointments, but in developing programs and projects he does draw from his training as a Limited Licensed (Clinical) Social Worker and his background as a professional Career Coach since 1999. He is also certified as a “Global Career Development Facilitator,” ”Job & Career Transition Coach,” “Employment Training Specialist.” He is certified to use the Strong and MBTI Assessments, but is also trained in Life Coaching and in the application of integrative models that assist people to strive toward life/work balance and to navigate nonlinear and/or nontraditional career paths.

The opinions a views expressed throughout this blog are of the writer(s), and may not be the views and opinions of Michigan State University.

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