The Twitter Handbook For Product Managers

When S.H.I.E.L.D. needs rapid insight into a case, they use psychics. When these psychics are attacked, S.H.I.E.L.D. turns to Captain America for help. When product managers need rapid insight and social networking… they turn to Twitter.

Welcome to the Twitter Handbook For Product Managers

What Is Twitter?

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service where people post text-based messages of up to 140 characters in length.

Some people (including some fellow product managers) think Twitter is a cult-like fad. Others find Twitter frustrating: to them, the constant stream of messages is disjointed, confusing, underwhelming or overwhelming.

“Too much information” can certainly be an issue, especially as you start to connect, or “follow”, more people on Twitter. However, there are tools to help. The right mindset helps, too.

“Twitter is like a river… you can step into it at any point and feel the water, bathe in it, frolic if you like … and then get out. And go back in at any time, at any point. But, you don’t have to try to consume the entire river–it’s impossible and frankly a waste of time in my eyes.”

Leo Babauta | Follow Leo on Twitter


Can Twitter Help My Business?

Yes, and Search Engine Journal has a great list of how big businesses are using Twitter to get closer to their customers and leverage those relationships–all for free.

Dell recently reported that their Twitter account has generated over $1 million in revenue over the past 18 months through sales alerts.

Are you Dell? Probably not, but imagine what Twitter might mean to your business. Or to you.


How Can Twitter Help Me As A Product Manager?

As a product manager, you can leverage Twitter to…

  • Network and share information with other people in your industry;
  • Gain recognition among your peers for innovative ideas and insights;
  • Attract potential readers for your blog or website;
  • Research competitors;
  • Create awareness;
  • Build your brand.

You can also search Twitter posts (called “tweets”) to see what people are saying about your business or topics you’re interested in.


How Do I Start On Twitter?

In six easy steps…

1) Create your Twitter account
Tip! Opt for a Twitter account name that reflects your real first name and real last name. Claim your name–your brand–before someone else does!

2) Complete your one-line Twitter bio
This is located under “Account/Settings”. Establish who you are, what you’re into, and why you matter.

3) Add your photo to your profile
I was Tweet-pressured into this by John Coronella. And he was right. Your actual photo is more credible than any cartoon avatar.

4) Customize your profile background
Your profile page can easily reflect you and your brand. Jim Kukral has some great examples and templates.

5) Start tweeting
Your first impulse might be to start following people immediately. Resist that impulse. Tweet first, so people get a sense of who you are and will be more likely to follow you back.

6) Start following
Find people to follow. (You can start with me!) When you find someone of interest, click the “Follow” button on their profile to add them to your followers list and start receiving their status updates.

A Word About Following & Followers

Although you might expect someone you follow to follow you back, this is not always the case. Some people will reciprocate, others won’t. Try not to take it personally. Read Amber Naslund‘s advice on how to handle Twitter rejection.


What Should I Tweet About?

Twitter poses the question, “What are you doing?”

Resist the urge to answer that question.

Instead, pretend you’re being asked, “What’s the most interesting article, related to your business or profession, that you read today?”

Or…

Pay attention to what the people you’re following are talking about. Jump into the conversation if you have something to say. When someone asks a question, and you have an answer, be sure to respond.

Or…

Promote other people. One way to do this is through a common practice called “retweeting”. The format is “RT: @[Twitter member name] [text from original tweet] [URL if any] – [your comment]”.

If you have a blog post of your own to share, go ahead. Just make sure it’s useful.

Be Active

Try to update daily–but practice moderation. Sending out constant updates–to the general populace or to individuals–looks like spam and will eventually cause people to stop following you (the “unfollow”).


Who Should I Follow?

The short answer: Whoever looks interesting.

For product managers, Stewart Rogers (a product management consultant with Ryma / FeaturePlan) is a virtual hub for PMs, since he tends to only follow product managers.

Cindy Alvarez has a great list of product managers on Twitter.

Try to maintain a good ratio of followers to people you’re following. Act like a good product manager–treat Twitter like a conversation; build relationships with people you find interesting and try to help them achieve their goals.

“Getting followed just means you’re popular. Yes, that’s cool, but it hardly will make you interesting. […] Now, who would you rather hang out with? A person who only talks and doesn’t listen? Or a person who listens to as many people as he can?”

Robert Scoble | Follow Robert on Twitter


Twitter Tools

Many first and third-party applications have been created to help you get the most out of your Twitter experience.

Essentials

  • TweetDeck – This Adobe Air application breaks your Twitter feeds down into more manageable, self-updating topics or groups. Some people prefer Twhirl. See a head-to-head comparison at Mashable.
  • TwitterFox – Enables you to view and post Twitter updates from your Firefox web browser. Be sure to disable before giving a presentation; otherwise, status alerts will prove distracting and embarrassing up on the big screen!
  • Twitter Search – Find tweets based on specific words, people, places, even positive or negative attitudes. Displays trending topics. See also: TweetScan
  • BudURL – Allows you to shrink URLs to conserve character count in your tweets AND provides click-tracking and analysis.
  • Twitterrific for the iPhone is a free app that lets you read and publish tweets. Twitterberry does the same for Blackberries.

Discovering people

  • Mr. Tweet – Add Mr. Tweet as a friend, and he’ll suggest which influencers and followers you should check out.
  • Twellow – Analyzes and categorizes Twitter users into niche categories to help you find who you’re looking for.
  • Twubble – Searches your friends’ friends lists to suggest people to follow.
  • TwitterLocal – Generates an RSS or XML feed to filter out tweets around a certain geographic area.
  • RetweetRadar – Find out who, and what, is currently being retweeted the most.

Visualizations

  • TwitterVision – Real-time geographic visualization of posts to Twitter.
  • TweetStats – Analytics of your tweeting habits.
  • TweetVolume – See how often words or phrases appear on Twitter.
  • Twitterholic – Visualizes your public Twitter stats and also recommends similar people based on location and/or description.
  • Twitter Network Browser – Displays relationships among you and your followers.

Twitter Lingo And Formatting

  • @reply: For a public reply to another Twitter user, the format is “@[Twitter member name] [your response]”.
  • DM: For private, or direct messages, the format is “d [Twitter member name] [your response]”.
  • RT: To retweet an interesting comment from someone else, the format is “RT @[Twitter member name] [text from original tweet] [URL if any] – [your comment]”.
  • Failwhale: The cartoon graphic of a whale, held up by birds, that indicates Twitter is experiencing technical difficulties.
  • Tweeps: Slang for your friends on Twitter.
  • Twoosh: A Twitter update that uses a full 140 characters.

For the more… unusual and esoteric… Twitter lingo see the Twitter Glossary at the Twitter Fan Wiki.


Twitter Etiquette

DO… bring real value to your followers.
DON’T… self-aggrandize or say things you’ll regret later.

DO… follow the people who follow you.
DON’T… follow spammers and bots. It’s embarrassing and inauthentic.

DO… interact with your followers. Generate authentic conversations.
DON’T… use an auto responders or ignore direct questions from followers.

DO… welcome new followers with a personal, private response.
DON’T… issue a public, blanket “Welcome to all my new followers!” It’s impersonal, gaudy, and brings no value to anyone.

DO… add your Twitter profile link to your outgoing email and blog posts/comments.
DON’T… forget to cross-link your Twitter profile to your business site, and vice versa.

The Golden Twitter Rule

Think before you tweet.


All In All…

Twitter is a useful tool in the product manager’s kit. From networking and sharing information, to competitive research and brand building, Twitter can prove (and has proven) to be a very valuable communication tool.

However, remember: Twitter is just one communication tool. Although Twitter is fast-growing, it is not exactly mainstream yet and it’s certainly not the only way to network professionally or connect with your target market.

Good luck!

Additional Resources

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16 thoughts on “The Twitter Handbook For Product Managers

  1. Wow, really comprehensive and useful Twittertips list! Instead of budurl I prefer bit.ly they also have a nice clicktracking statistic.

  2. This article is sure to be a classic.

    About those avatars…I use an avatar and made up name due to corporate policy about social media. Big Brother is watching! If I use my real name and/or picture, anything I say can be construed as representing the company or airing our dirty laundry – take your pick. Instead of telling like it is or asking for help, my tweets will be tainted by either ‘What will my customers think? ‘ or ‘What will my employer think?’ I like being employed and I don’t want to be a cause of concern for my customers. And I like to say what I think out loud.

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