Hacking Twitter — How to Get the Most Out of Twitter

Jott for TwitterI am always amazed by the simplicity of Twitter, yet there are many creative uses of the micro blogging tool. Almost every day, I find great ways to use it.

If you spend only one hour per Twitter tool, it takes you hundreds of hours to test them all, not to mention that new tools keep appearing on a daily basis.

Twitter API allows all of these magic to happen. Rest assured that you don’t need to understand coding to be able to use them.

Before going into various creative uses of Twitter, let’s start with some simple hacks.

Customize Your Twitter Profile

Many people would visit your Twitter profile before deciding if they want to follow you. Not that there is anything wrong with default Twitter profile. But they are just that. Boring.

After looking at it hundreds of time, this is just expected. For that reason alone it is a good idea to pimp out your Twitter profile to attract the visitor’s attention immediately.

Additionally, Twitter profile is a place to display additional information about yourself strategically. Instead of wasting the virtual real estate, you can make use of it and perhaps turn more visitors into followers.

First off, make sure that you set your bio properly. Use it to convey something about you so that the readers immediately get it.

You wouldn’t believe it. Even a marketing consultant often overlook this space by filling it with their label. And those same professionals recommend others to create powerful marketing messages like audio logo or elevator speech. Isn’t this a place for this kind of message?

Think about it.

“An accountant who lives in Seattle.”

Who cares?

What could you do with the limited space? Create something that draws the visitors in so they are eager to follow you. While it is better if you convey benefits of some sort, clarity is the first step. You will be able to interact and pitch your URLs later.

It is also possible to create a pleasing background using photo and add more information if you design it carefully. Simple colored or tiled background is fine but consider matching it with your blog or web site.

Don’t forget to upload a unique profile picture (avatar). Again it is an opportunity to bring your brand to the front. Being creative doesn’t hurt here, but if you already have a logo for headshot of you, you may also want to use that.

Consider that when people see the same logo or picture around the blogosphere and social media, they will start to remember you.

See Visual Representation of Your Network

It takes a while to create a chart of your Twitter network, depends on the number of people you follow. But it is worth it. If nothing else, you will end up with a cool image that represents your network.

TweetWheel

TweetWheel displays the wheel representation of your Twitter network. As of now, my network is as simple as follow. You will find a much complex wheel if you search around or pick a profile who follows heaps of people.

Twitter Around the World / Maps

This Twitter tool expands my view about conversations that are going on around the world. With millions of people who have a Twitter account, you can imagine how powerful Twittosphere can be.

People practically talk about any topic that you can imagine. And that means you will be able to tap into a whole new audience who typically won’t be available if you focus merely on certain media.

TwitterVision

Twitter Groups

For many people, inability to create groups is one of the biggest drawbacks of using Twitter. They want to be able to talk about specific things without alienating others who are less interested in it.

Instead of creating multiple profiles, it makes more sense if they can channelize their tweets to the right audience.

Now you can. Twitter Groups is a hack that allows you to assign followers to groups and send messages just for specific groups.

Twitter and Email Integration

Email still is the most used communication medium online so it makes sense if people want to integrate every new service with email.

OutTwit

Good news, there are two tools that I find particularly interesting:

  • For Outlook fans, this is a dream come true — although I don’t use it. Now you are able to view tweets from people you follow in your email apps. Download OutTwit if you want to give it a try. It doesn’t work with Outlook Express though.
  • If you prefer to get updates of your Twitter messages via email instead of SMS, give EmailTwitter.com a try. It also allows you to post updates to your Twitter account via email. The only thing is, you have to provide your username and password in clear text in the subject line.

Twitter as Chicken Timer

Like a good old chicken timer? It may be simple but useful. Now you can accomplish more or less the same thing with Twitter.

You need to follow timer (a Twitter account) and send it a direct message (d timer 45 call mom). In 45 minutes, you will get a reminder.

The drawback is you have to be there to check your Twitter, which more or less defeats the purpose of a “reminder,” unless you check your Twitter every minute (very unproductive, I’d say).

Moreover, due to delay in various technologies like mobile communication and email, sometimes you will get slight delay.

On my latest test, it is actually late for more than an hour, so use it for a meeting that you can possibly miss.

Tweet with Your Voice

Jott.com provides voice-to-text service. It automatically converts spoken words into tweets. You can record your message by calling Jott. Although personally I prefer SMS, many people would like to be able to dictate their tweets.

Jott for Twitter

This application is commercial. Free option is available with Jott Basic, but it is ad-supported.

Control Lights with Twitter

This is a simple but cool hack, although it doesn’t seem to be very useful. You can turn lights on and off by sending a message to Twitter.

It works by combining an Insteon light and software. You need a script that pulls Twitter feed and look for specific string of instructions to whether to turn the light on or off.

At least it shows how much things could be done quite easily if the infrastructure is built upon existing standard and file protocol (in this case, it is RSS).

Conclusions

Micro-blogging, especially Twitter, is all the rage nowadays. It changes how people interact with each others like never before. While useful, Twitter is not without its limitation.

In the future, you can expect to see more changes to Twitter, without doubt, but as long as people want to do more with the micro blogging platform, even more hacks will become available.

It will be interesting to watch this space.

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