If you’re doing any sort of professional work on Twitter then the main part of what you should do is listen. Listen to see what people are saying about you or your areas of expertise. You might find useful information, or you might find useful contacts or leads — or more likely you’ll be able to help people who are asking questions about you or things you aspire to be seen as expert about. In this quick guide I’ll use the term “brand” but really, “interest” area is just as valid. I’m going to assume that you’ve used Twitter (if not here’s a quick start guide), and that your “brand” has a Twitter account — if not then then the listening will all be of “interest” type but it’ll still be worthwhile, and will help you get used to how people use it to talk about services or products or subject areas.

I’ll do a “how to tweet on behalf of a brand” guide soon, as I’m doing a bit of work in that area with a couple of organisations — they’re very different in scope and what I find out there will be useful to others I hope. But first to the listening…

Twitter Search and RSS

Importantly you’ll need to (learn to) use Twitter Search and RSS, and particularly Advanced Search. We’ll use the search to build queries that show you the sort of things about your brand or subject area that you need to know.

You can refine your searches with; Words,  People (to, from or about), Places (Near this place,Within this distance), Dates, Attitudes (With positive attitude :), With negative attitude :(, Asking a question ?), or Containing links.

When you’ve got the searches up, you can subscribe to an RSS feed of new results — it’s by far the best way, and it’s the one that will keep you sane.

First up you’ll want to monitor all @replies to you – especially if you don’t have anyone monitoring your account all day. Yes the @replies tab shows you this, but this is mainly about monitoring – not spending all day checking twitter as if it was an email inbox.

Twitter Search page

You should probably also set up a search (and subscribe to the RSS feed) of any tweets “referencing” your account name – which is mentioning you without it being the first.

After that it’s up to you, pick the combinations and searches that bring up things you’re interested in – if you’re a local business you might try tweets near you matching your work (a plumber could set up searches for “burst pipe” or “plumber” within their catchment area) if you’re a nationwide (or worldwide) organisation then you’ll have to find another way to filter down to

How you chose to respond to the tweets you find is up to you, to simply respond and say “you’ve been talking about X hire me” would be seen as spam. But again, to use the plumber example you could offer advice to help and build trust that way (eg “turn off your water, the stopcock might well be…” or “if your heating isn’t coming on, check the pilot light of your boiler”), chances are helpful tweets will be well received — good vibes for your brand might build business slowly or quickly, but  they’ll be worth it in the end.

Make sure your profile offers enough information: website address, even phone number if you like so that anyone you’ve interacted with knows who you are and how to find out more or contact you.

All this works best with RSS,  to try to monitor everything in real time (whether in a tool like TweetDeck, or by manually refreshing the search page) would be time consuming and would eventually drive you crazy. RSS is the key to managing information, and it’ll be worth your time to try to get to grips with it.

But if you really struggle, then there is a way to get this stuff by email — TweetBeep

TweetBeep is like Google alerts for Twitter,  you can use the site to send you an email when new things match your search terms. For keywords, people or location it’s nothing Twitter’s own search facility doesn’t offer – apart from the email alerts, which can be set to come to you hourly, daily etc.