BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

"Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy."

This is one of those books that I'd seen being discussed out in the Social Media sphere and I decided to reach out to the publisher to get a copy. Obviously, I'd been in contact with both the author and McGraw-Hill recently for Return On Influence which I reviewed this summer, so it wasn't much of a research project to get a hold of Mark W. Schaefer's (@markwschaefer) new The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time (actually “new” isn't exactly the right word, as this is an updating and expansion of a previous self-published volume). The author's intent with this book was to provide “a manual” for Twitter (something he felt was lacking), which would help prevent the trend he saw of many folks signing up, messing around (ineffectually) for a bit, and eventually giving up on it. I'm, of course, coming to it from the other end of the scale (having been using Twitter for over 5 years at this point), but there is still stuff here that I didn't know!

If you've heard Schaefer speak (which I have both live and in webinars), you'll recognize a lot of the stories in this. The book is rooted in his experiences of relationships developing from the most trivial or ephemeral initial connections, that grow (with some attention) to significant professional connections. What he defines as “The Tao (the way) of Twitter” comes from three basic elements:
Targeted Connections
Meaningful Content
Authentic Helpfulness

In an always-on, real-time, global world of business communications, the priority is on human interaction that leads to connections. Connections lead to awareness. Awareness leads to trust. Trust is the ultimate catalyst to business benefits, as it always has been.
Some of the benefits he lists for Twitter include uses as: promotional tool, lead generator, customer satisfier, product development engine, and problem solver; and he sketches out examples of each. He quotes research that shows that “Twitter users are the most influential online consumers” with in excess of 70% publishing (and commenting on) blogs, and nearly as many writing product reviews and commenting on news sites monthly.

When he gets into the “how-to” meat of the book, he moves into a lot of lists, with 5 Set-Up Basics, 22 Ways to Attract Targeted Followers, and a handful of strategies for managing followers. Many of these points were new to me, with suggestions of resources for various purposes such as search and lists. An example of one of the useful tips here is #18 (of the 22) …
Create “tweetable moments” in your presentations. When you give a talk to a relevant business audience, include your Twitter handle at the bottom of every slide. One popular speaking tip these days is to actually spoon-feed the audience tidbits they can easily tweet along with your presentation.
I'd add to that later point “keep your slide up long enough for the audience to think about tweeting it, and get it keyed in on their phone” (speaking from my own frustrations in those situations!). He next addresses a basic starting approach to tweeting – what sort of content, suggestions for a basic “regimen”, times to tweet, how to re-tweet, and how to use URL shorteners. He then gets into how to “be a good tweeter”, with rather pointed suggestions such as “Build your own tribe. Reach out to the real people on Twitter; don't just kiss up to the most influential ones.”, among other more general suggestions. Interestingly, at about the mid-point of the book he presents what might be considered a “Twitter glossary”, with several pages of definitions of key terms … obviously, this is more useful in the flow of the book, but it's odd to encounter what one is used to seeing as a separate section at the end, integrated into the main presentation. He also makes the topic of “lists” a chapter in itself, which I found useful, as this is probably my weakest point in using Twitter … so it gave me several things to consider!

The second half of the book has a bit more of a “business” focus, with chapters like “20 Ideas to Toast Your Competition” and “Twitter Time Savers” with many very handy suggestions, leading into “Balancing the Personal and the Professional” which looks at the spectrum from the “unbranded” person-tweeting-for-the-company to the “anonymous logo” voice broadcasting info, and how these work in various situations (and, yes, the latter has its place out there). Next comes “Secrets of Influence on Twitter” which has some very interesting analysis of social influence, and how this is more determined by degree of engagement rather than just raw follower numbers. Schaefer has some very constructive and easy-to-implement suggestions here on how to improve one's Twitter influence.

In “Advanced Twitter Concepts” he gets into a lot of stuff that I'd either not been aware of, or had only encountered peripherally, including a very useful table of ways to structure queries for the search function to get best results. Following this there's a section on Twitter chats, and some closing thoughts on how Twitter works for different people, and how following the “Tao” can make the platform work for pretty much anybody.

Again, much of The Tao of Twitter is presented with stories from the author's own experiences, so there's a “your mileage may vary” aspect to this (I had a lot of “how come I've never had that happen?” moments in reading this), but it also leads to this being much less dry than what one would expect a “users manual” to be. As this new edition has only been out a couple of months, you should be able to find it through your local bookstore, and, of course, the on-line big boys have it at a discount from its already very reasonable (a mere $10) cover price. If you've been on Twitter for a long time, this isn't an essential read, but, as noted above, there is likely quite a lot of info here that you might not know. However, if you've not been on Twitter and were interested in giving it a go, this would be a great book to get you up to speed!

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Tags: book review
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