I first joined twitter on 12th February 2009.   I set up an account with a username I’d picked based on a personal joke we had going in the office (it’s a long story, and one I suspect is not actually that funny in the retelling, so I will spare you here).  I probably picked the colour egg that I thought best reflected my personality and left it at that.

I followed a couple of friends, a couple of celebrities and a few brands.  I thought about tweeting, but I wondered – ‘what the hell am I supposed to say?’. I drafted a witty tweet about chocolate and thought about posting it – but a good friend warned me off.  “Victoria, you’ve only got 140 characters, you’ve got to make them worthwhile”.  Chastened, I deleted the tweet…  I don’t think I looked at it again for about 6 months.

Early the next year I changed jobs.  I’d moved from a global organisation, where I was connected to people in offices around the world, to a smaller boutique agency, with about 10 researchers in one Sydney office.  I started to feel a little cut off from the world – from being continuously exposed to new thinking and case studies from around the globe.

At the same time, linkedin started to show me that some of my contacts were tweeting – and saying some really interesting things.  So I retrieved my password and logged on.  I observed for a few weeks, and started to understand the language.  Why do some tweets start with RT?  Why do they put #’s in front of words?

Once I discovered hashtags things became more interesting.  With the discovery of the then #MR hashtag – a whole new world opened up to me.  There are all these smart, smart people out there, sharing really interesting information, for free and all I need to do is follow them.  All of a sudden the purpose of twitter became clear.

Almost a year on from when I first joined, I decided to enter the conversation.  I can’t say it was the most witty or most informative entry into the world of twitter, but I still do find this clip really funny!

RT @FairfaxTravel: Sex-crazed parrot that molested a TV host gets official gov’t role in New Zealand #fdna00 http://theage.com.au/travel7:19 PM Feb 2nd 2010

And then I was off!  Here was a great society of people sharing information.  The opportunities for learning, connecting and sharing were endless.  Honestly, I’m amazed more people, researchers or otherwise aren’t using twitter – it is the one tool that has enriched my learning and my connection within the industry above all others.

I’ve posted links to Tanvi Gupta’s blog on ‘The Day ‘God’ Retweeted Me’ a couple of times – but I think this really sums up to opportunities Twitter has to offer all researchers.  Twitter is an equal playing field, where you can meet, learn from and interact with the leaders in this industry.  These people are out there, sharing their thoughts – all you have to do is look and listen.

But again and again I hear people say “I don’t ‘get’ Twitter” or “I just don’t understand how it works”.  So here are my beginners tips for those market researchers out there who are thinking of dabbling in twitter.

  • Be real: I know that sounds a bit naff, but what I mean is – don’t hide behind a logo or an egg.  Put information in your bio, so people know who you are and why they should follow you / interact with you.  Post a link to your linkedin profile or company website.  This way twitter becomes one of the ways to connect with you.
  • Hash it up: When looking at twitter, you might wonder why tweets are interspersed with # symbols.  These are what are referred to as hashtags – and are used to help you find tweets on a particular topic.  Include these in your tweets about a topic, so that other people can find you.  Also use them to set up searches, so that you can find tweets about these topics, even when you’re not following the user.
    For market research, some of the most valuable hashtags are: 

    • #MRX
    • #NewMR
    • #NGMR
    • #AMSRS
    • #ESOMAR
    • #MROC
    • #QRCA
  • Give back: Don’t lock your profile.  Put out to the twitterverse as well and taking from it.  If you want to use Twitter as a way to build your networks, then don’t make it hard for people to connect with you.  (Mind you, if you want to use twitter for purely personal reasons, lock away – but don’t expect me to follow you!)
  • Join the Party: Use twitter to facilitate meeting up in person.  Use event hashtags to tell others that you are there (and share the content with those who are not).  Tools like Foursquare can also help you connect with others by broadcasting your location (when it’s relevant)
  • Mind your manners:  There is a real etiquette to twitter – which should be observed.  Thank people for re-tweeting your tweets – particularly if it is your own original content that is being re-tweeted.
  • Give credit where credit is due: don’t steal clever tweets, RT them or say the content is “via” that tweep.  The original tweeter will appreciate you on-sharing their content.  Your followers will appreciate you highlighting another tweep that is sharing good content.
  • Mix it up: intersperse your professional content with personal content – to give your followers an idea of the person behind the twitter handle.  Share elements of your day, or your observations as well as the interesting content you find.
  • It’s a two way street: You have to put content out there in order for twitter to really work for you.  You need to give people a reason to follow and interact with you – don’t just expect people to be waiting out there for ways they can do things for you.  I get frustrated with new users who tweet requests for business, or advertisements for their services without having put in the time to build the networks and contacts to make these efforts worthwhile (and then say twitter doesn’t work for them).  You get out what you put in, so build relationships first, before trying to get your network to do something for you.

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