Twitter : Guidance, Tools and Resources

Twitter this, Twitter that.

It seems every day someone is lauding the benefits of Twitter. To be honest, I don't get it. While I see the benefit in joining many social networks and social media sites for greater personal brand and corporate exposure, to me Twitter is no more than the water cooler of the Web, where cliques congregate to share idle chatter and nothing more. But I've been wrong before, and if the perpetual downtime does not annoy you into avoidance, below is some guidance on succeeding with Twitter and a few tools to make it happen.

One of the mistakes new twitterers make in my opinion is that they look at the solution as a means to drop links (which is what I do). Know at the start that Twitter is no silver bullet for driving Web traffic and that reality will guide you to what's really valuable about Twitter - the people. Messaging in a micro-blogging channel like Twitter requires you to find the right message - here's how to make that happen.

Twitter is For Marketing : You've heard it before - Twitter is not for advertising. Ok fine, but it is excellent for marketing. The difference between advertising and marketing is that advertising is obvious while marketing is not. The best advice I ever got when it comes to marketing was "never leave you fingerprints" which means if you make everything obvious, you'll be labeled a Twitter blackhat and sent to the corner. Determine the true value proposition of your own motive and find topics and resources which support it - doing so will yield positive results.

Twitter Is About Community : Twitter is not about the converation itself but rather the conversation of the community - yes, there is a difference. Twitter, although considered by many to be a micro-blogging service, is not a blog. You might be a great writer, have important things to say and be skilled at whipping out an insightful 140 character entry, but if you don't share in the conversation with others, no one will be able to see what's really truly unique about your message. Link to other people, post replies to messages and responsd to you followers and even people who aren't following you - engage in the conversation of the community, not just a conversation with yourself.

Twitter Requires Commitment : Posting a few twitters once every month is insufficient. Like with all social media sites, posting regularly is critical. Stay in front of people and participate in the Twitter community at large. Consider Twitter to be like an online cocktail party - spout off irreguarly regarding  unfocused topics at random and you'll be avoided. But listen to the conversation and share your most valuable insights and Twittering will be yours for the taking.

Follow that guidance and you'll build a strong following on Twitter, and a community with deep roots. Here are a few essential resources to help you on your way to success with Twitter:

TwitBuzz : Essentially a content filtering services that tracks and follows the latest popular links, conversations and people on Twitter, TwitBuzz is a exciting way to keep your social frenzy in check. Think of TwitBuzz as the TechMeme of Twitter, enabling you to see what's buzzing in the last 24 hours, the last 7 days, 30 days and all time (or all Twitter time).

TwitterCounter : This fine little solution hit my radar this morning. A service for bloggers, social networkers and other "well-connected" individuals can be used to communicate and track the amount of followers anyone has on Tiwtter. Just add the code to your blog pr profile an boast that, Yes - people do know you (even if it is only on Twitter).

Twhirl : An Adobe AIR-based desktop Twitter client available for Windows and Mac. Works much like an instant messaging application, letting users see the latest updates from those they're following, post their own updates and reply/direct-message to other Twitterites. It can connect to multiple Twitter and FriendFeed accounts and be used to cross-post updates on Pownce and Jaiku. Supports English, German, Italian and Spanish.

Hellotxt : If you're looking for a quick way to update your status across multiple sites (Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Facebook, MySpace and Bebo) then the Hellotxt dashboard is for you. A couple of keystrokes and every social networking "friend" you have will know what you're up to. In addition to the Web dashboard, there are mobile and Facebook app versions of Hellotxt.

TwitDir : A directory of public Twitter users, TwitDir opens up the Twitter database and makes it searchable by actual name and twitter username, within specific locations, and twitter user descriptions. Users can also review the top folks at Twitter; the top 100 followeed, top 100 updaters, top 100 favouriters, top 100 followers. Twitterholic and whoshouldifollow do much the same thing.