A Twitter Cheat Sheet

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As ever more businesses and individual professionals take up microblogging on Twitter, "tweeting" may become an indispensable career tool. A recent post on Susan Weiner's Investment Writing blog offers tips for coming up to speed. While aimed at financial advisors, her advice is useful for other professionals too.

Here are Weiner's five tips:

- Before sending any tweets of your own, check out what other users are writing about your company and other topics you're interested in, using Twitter's keyword-based search function. You can also set up ongoing searches (similar to Google Alerts) that automatically gather and store tweets that include your chosen keywords.

- "Find interesting people to follow after you set up your Twitter account. Reading their tweets will help you understand how people use Twitter." Weiner goes on to list several individuals that financial advisors in particular might wish to follow.

- Learn the "nitty-gritty" of how to tweet. Weiner recommends "Getting Started on Twitter" on Elizabeth Kricfalusi's Tech for Luddites blog.

- Use the standard social networking tactic of answering questions posted by other users, and posting a question of your own. That's how you build a community of people to interact with, follow and be followed by.

- Have a clear understanding of your own goals in using Twitter.

As for whether you need to be on Twitter at this point, Jeremiah Owyang, social computing industry analyst at Forrester Research who writes the career-focused Web Strategy by Jeremiah blog, recommends answering three key questions:

- If you are in research, are microblogging tools widely used within the industry or professional community you cover?

- Are your clients or customers microblogging?

- Does your research role involve analyzing communication technologies or their impacts?

According to Owyang, one "yes" answer indicates you should at least test the waters by creating an identity that isn't your real name so you can experiment with the mechanics. Two "yes" answers mean you should proceed to microblog for a trial period of at least 30 days, during which you will follow and converse with people in your market. All three "yeses" calls for taking a "proactive" approach, gearing up to integrate this tool within your work life.

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