Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite, new from Harvard Business Review Press

Work Smarter With Twitter and HootSuite coverDo you feel like you could get more out of Twitter? Or are you a passionate Twitter user who wants to help your colleagues, friends and family use it and love it the way you do?

Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite is for everyone who wants to get more out of Twitter, whether as a newcomer or a longtime user who wants to make smarter, more strategic use of this platform. The second in my Work Smarter with Social Media series for Harvard Business Review Press, this short guide focuses on how Twitter can help you build the strong, meaningful relationships that can support your work and your career.

And I’d like to ask for your help spreading the word about this new ebook. Please buy a copy for yourself or as a gift for a colleague or a friend (it’s the perfect way to help that Twitter newbie or skeptic get serious about how to use Twitter). Once you’ve had a chance to take a look at the book yourself, I’d be delighted if you would post a review on Amazon, iTunes or Goodreads.

My community of Twitter pals has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement in the writing of this book — in fact, in all my writing for the past five years. If we’ve ever exchanged so much as a tweet, believe me when I say that you are part of the extraordinary experience of Twitter that I tried to capture in this title. Thank you for helping make Twitter such a valuable part of my own professional practice, and for any help you can provide in tweeting, blogging or otherwise sharing news about this new ebook.

Where to find it

To jump into the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Tweetable links

Click to tweet this: New ebook from @harvardbiz: Work Smarter with #Twitter and @HootSuite, by my friend @awsamuel. http://amzn.to/wswevernote

Click to tweet this: How can #Twitter and @HootSuite build your professional relationships? Find out in @awsamuel’s new ebook. http://amzn.to/wswtwitter

Click to tweet this: I love @HootSuite! This new ebook from @harvardbiz will show you how it can help you tweet smarter, too. http://amzn.to/wswtwitter

More ways to share

If you’d like to talk about the book in more than 140 characters, here are some short descriptions that can help you get started:

You know you could make good use of Twitter — if only you had a roadmap of exactly how to use it. Now you can get that roadmap from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite, the latest ebook in the Harvard Business Review Press series, Work Smarter with Social Media. It’s like looking over the shoulder of a social media pro to find out how to keep up a lively Twitter presence in just a few hours a week. In this case, you’re looking over the shoulder of Alexandra Samuel, VP of Social Media for Vision Critical, as she shows you how to use Twitter and HootSuite to build the professional relationships that can make a big difference to your work and your career.

If you have ever felt overwhelmed by Twitter, a new ebook from Harvard Business Review Press may have the cure. In Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite, Alexandra Samuel shows how to use Twitter lists to focus on the relationships that can really make a difference to your work and career. Her methodology relies on a multi-column Twitter client like HootSuite, which makes it possible to focus your attention on your key lists instead of on your home feed, and makes it easy to maintain your own Twitter presence with a combination of scheduled tweets and real-time conversation. Check it out here: http://amzn.to/wswtwitter

Shareable quotes

These short excerpts from the book are ready to share as summaries or sample tips:

Even Twitter enthusiasts are often paralyzed by the sheer volume of tweets and the velocity of Twitter conversations, both of which increase quickly once you follow more than a handful of people. Twitter newcomers are often so overwhelmed by Twitter’s size and pace that they tune out altogether…[T]o make the most of Twitter, you have to focus on individual people, not individual tweets….You’ll stay focused on these relationships and get away from the dilemma of “keeping up” only if you embrace Twitter not as a news site but as a social network, which is, after all, how Twitter bills itself. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

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Using Twitter lists means that when you take a five-minute Twitter break, you’ll be able to quickly home in on the updates from the people you really want to hear from, simply by looking at your two or three most crucial lists. When you’re taking the time for a deeper dive into the Twitterverse, you’ll see each tweet in a context that reminds you why you’re tuning in to that particular person. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

* *

Putting your top relationships into lists and streams [in HootSuite] is the key to helping you filter out the folks you don’t want to spend your time on, even if you want to keep following them out of courtesy or so that they can message you privately. If you’re scrupulous about focusing on tweets from folks in your top lists, you may be just fine following all sorts of other random feeds, secure in the knowledge that you won’t be distracted by the detritus. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

* *

If you do want to build a significant following—whether you define “significant” as a hundred thousand followers or a hundred leaders in your immediate field—you need to think about defining a focus for your tweeting that you can lead with a sustainable level of effort. If you’re willing to put in several hours a day to managing your Twitter feed (something I’d recommend for very few people), you could take on a broader topic or one that already has some serious tweeters. If you’re going to keep your Twitter time to a few hours a week, you’ll need to define a fairly narrow focus. A good way to do that is to locate your tweeting at the intersection of two or three lively fields, or a couple of fields plus a geographic location. While you may not be the top tweeter in the field of human resources, you could be the top tweeter on recruiting young people in retail (which lets you tweet a mix of content about retail, Gen Y, and recruitment) or retail recruitment in Dallas. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

* *

To sustain a consistent pace on Twitter, while leaving yourself room to engage with people in real time, make tweeting easy and schedule a certain number of tweets in advance. By setting up an efficient process for consistent tweeting at roughly predictable intervals, you ensure that the people you want to connect with know not only what you’re about but how often they can count on a little nugget of wisdom or news. Better still, you free up your spontaneous tweeting windows for replying to the people who want to engage with you, engaging with the people who you want to know better, and thus building important relationships. The next few sections show you how. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

Thank you

This page was inspired not only the brilliant example of Lee LeFever, but by the amazing generosity of the friends, colleagues and readers who spread the word (and shared their reviews) on Work Smarter with Evernote. Your enthusiasm has been the key to its success, and your constructive feedback has helped to shape Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite.

Thank you in advance for anything you do to support this new book and series, whether it’s with a Like on the Facebook page, a review on Amazon or sharing your feedback with me directly. Most of all, thank you for reading.

3 tricks for monitoring Twitter mentions and trackbacks

The brilliant Lauren Bacon made a big splash yesterday with her thought-provoking post on the emotional work that often gets assigned to women working in the tech world. The response to that post has been so massive that it’s left her with a challenge: how do you monitor and reply to the torrent of ensuing tweets?

Whether you’re trying to track and engage with public perceptions of your work, your latest blog post or your company, monitoring Twitter is an essential part of that work. It’s not enough to get Google News alerts that tell you if your company is in the news, or to read the comments on your blog; odds are good that a huge part of the conversation is going to unfold on Twitter, and that conversation may look quite different from what you see on blogs or news sites.

If everybody who was talking about you or your company was referring to you by your Twitter handle, this job would be relatively easy: you’d just monitor your mentions feed. But a lot of the time, people may be talking about you — or especially that latest blog post — without including your Twitter handle in their tweets. And if you’re trying to track the response to a blog post, in particular, they may not be mentioning you at all: the only clue that they are talking about your work is the link that’s embedded in each tweet sharing your post.

Here are three tricks for tracking and responding to the folks who are talking about you, whether or not they are mentioning you by name:

  1. HootSuite column monitors search on author's name and its variantsMonitor your name, as well as your handle. Set up a Twitter search on your name (and common misspellings thereof); if you use a multi-column Twitter client like HootSuite or Tweetdeck, add this search as as a column (a “stream”, in HootSuite-ese”). Do the same thing for your company name, senior execs’ names, etc. Keep an eye on this column and respond to it the way you’d respond to mentions. Note that if you have a common name, this could produce a lot of irrelevant results, so you may find it easier to do your search directly on Twitter where you can use “-” operators to exclude irrelevant results: for example I might set up a search on “alexandra samuel” OR “alexandra samuels” OR “alex samuel” OR “alex samuels” -“self magazine” -linux (because there’s an Alexandra Samuel at Self Magazine, and an Alex Samuel who writes about Linux).  
  2. Monitor link backs with Topsy. If you’ve got a post that is blowing up, like Lauren’s, use Topsy to watch for any and all tweets that link to that post. For example, by entering the URL of Lauren’s post, we see these tweets:
    Topsy trackbacks on Lauren Bacon's post shows 191 tweets and some of the most interesting tweets
    Note that Topsy finds tweets that include shortened links (e.g. bit.ly URLs) as well as those that include the full-length URL (which is unlikely to be tweeted, anyhow) so you just have to enter your full-length URL in order to track all the tweets that have shared it. When I have a post on the Harvard Business Review blog, I typically visit the Topsy trackbacks for that link several times in the first 48 hours, and then one a day for the next week or so.
  3. Thank and engage with scheduled tweets. Of course, you shouldn’t be tracking all those mentions just for the sheer ego gratification (or in some cases, ego shattering) that comes from seeing what people have to say about you. The whole point of seeing all these links is to engage with them, ideally by replying to any questions or substantive comments, and perhaps by thanking some or all of the folks who have tweeted about your work. You can thank people in real time, or you can queue up a bunch of thank-yous in Buffer, an app that lets you schedule tweets on a specific schedule. You can use HootSuite for tweet scheduling, too, but as my next post will explain , using Topsy and Buffer together will turn you into tweet-thanking ninja.

Twitter & HootSuite stories wanted for next Harvard Business Review ebook

FROM AN EVERNOTE USER: I largely use Evernote to clip news articles, academic articles, and journal articles. I use separate Evernote notebooks for teaching, for material relevant to my book, and one for my next research project. I also created a notebook when I was writing a piece for The New Yorker about the shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek. I wanted to make sure I gave proper attribution to the ideas that I was building upon, so I clipped links to analyses of media coverage of Oak Creek or details about the shooter. I didn’t want to plagiarize anything by accident, so anytime I made an argument that had been made before, I linked to it.—Naunihal Singh, assistant professor of political science, University of Notre Dame

Work Smarter with Evernote features a number of great tips like this one. One of the best parts of working on the book was hearing all the creative ways people use Evernote to be more productive, smarter and taller. (OK, maybe not taller, but possibly thinner.)

Now that I’m working on the next ebook in the series, I’m eager to hear more great stories from creative social media users. This time, I’m looking for your best examples, tricks and tactics for using Twitter or HootSuite. How do you decide who to follow? How do you read tweets and follow people? How do you structure and organize your own tweeting?

If you’ve got suggestions on how people can get more from Twitter, examples of how you’ve used Twitter or HootSuite yourself, or stories about how Twitter has rocked your world, I’d love to hear them via Twitter (to @awsamuel), in the comment thread below, or via email to alex[at]alexandrasamuel[dot]com. Thanks in advance for your help!

How to talk about tragedy online

Time out, people.

In the past 24 hours we have been have been inspired, informed, comforted and mobilized by the unfolding conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. But it’s clear that we have also had moments of feeling attached, horrified, angered and shamed.

So let’s take a moment to stop and think about how we want to use these still-new social networking tools in a moment of collective grief and trauma. Sadly, we are all too practiced in the experience of witnessing horrific, preventable tragedy. But we are newcomers to the experience of processing our grief and horror online, so we are in very real danger of exacerbating the trauma and sorrow many of us are feeling, and intensifying the conflicts and enmities that keep us from effecting the policy and cultural changes that could reduce the risk of future tragedy.

Here’s what I would encourage anyone currently using social media to consider at this moment:

Personal capacity

Know yourself. If you’re someone who is profoundly affected by disturbing news, you will want to think about the trade-off between being informed and motivated and the personal cost of learning disturbing details. You should also think about degree of sensitivity to conflicts or personal attacks: there are a lot of passionate reactions unfolding out there, so before you share your own comments or read others, think about whether and how well you are prepared to be attacked or read harsh comments about your friends’ posts. And if you are the kind of person who uses screen time to numb out, think about whether you’d be better off unplugging for a little bit so that you can actually experience and process your emotions.

Purpose

Think about why you are turning to social media before you reach for the phone or open your laptop. Let your personal needs and motives guide your choice of platforms and your form of engagement. To name a few possibilities:

Support:  If you’re like me, you may need to feel more connected than usual — to talk and emote and think this through together, so that you don’t feel alone in your grief. When you’re looking for support, stick with one-to-one communications like e-mail, private messaging or DMs,or keep your engagement to a very small circle of trusted friends.

Information: Many of us instinctively turn to the web as a source of additional details on a news story, or for context and analysis that can help us make sense of it. Don’t confuse information with answers, however: knowing more is unlikely to help you comprehend the incomprehensible. Again, small-scale conversation (on or offline) with people who have thoughtful perspectives you respect is likely to be the best way for you to process and think through your response.

Policy change: The conversation has very quickly turned to the question of whether there are policy changes that could mitigate the risk of future shootings. If your goal in engaging online is to effect policy change — by donating to a cause, contacting your political representatives or participating in some other form of online activism — then you may want to look into what kinds of online participation are most likely to be effective. (Amy Sample Ward’s excellent case study on #TakeBackThePink is a great place to start.) If you’re also hoping to influence your fellow citizens, then it’s worth thinking about what kinds of posts may actually enable constructive conversation with people who think differently from you, and what kinds will entrench existing political fault lines.

Venting: In a moment of grief and fear, many of us simply feel a need to howl out in pain or rage. That’s ok. Just don’t confuse it with a way of getting support or constructive conversation, and consider doing your venting in the equivalent of a soundproof chamber — say, an anonymous corner of the Internet where your venting won’t hurt anyone, and is unlikely to come back to bite you.

Audience

In a moment of extreme pain and sensitivity, it may be useful to narrow the scope of your online engagement so that your social networks feel like safer spaces for you and the people you care about. If you haven’t done so before, consider setting up a Google+ circle or Facebook list of very close friends — the people you’d actually want to sit down and talk this through with — and limit your online conversation to that list. (You can adapt these instructions for using Facebook lists.)

Remember that unless you limit your reading and sharing to a small and specific circle, you may hear from people who have very different responses, experiences and views of this situation. As you think about what to share, imagine that what you are sharing could be read or addressed by…

  • parents, family or friends of yesterday’s victims
  • parents or teachers who may be feeling sincerely terrified by what yesterday’s events imply for their own or their family’s safety
  • children, include those who are under the age of consent on Facebook
  • journalists or bloggers who may quote you (even anonymously) in stories
  • lobbyists, activists and policymakers who may be influenced by your comments or reaction
  • strangers who have significantly different political views from your own

Many of these folks are likely to be experiencing some level of trauma, so tread carefully. Be as gentle as if you were speaking to a parent who had just lost a child, and as ferocious as if you had 10 minutes of your congressional representative’s undivided attention. Stick to that standard even if you feel like you’re under attack yourself: it’s quite possible that the person who seems to be flaming you is a hurting unit who has lost sight of their usual good judgement.

And if you have kids in the house, please be careful about what you leave on your screen, even if you are just getting up for a moment.

Language

One of the classic problems of online communication is that the words we write with one tone in mind may be read and perceived as if the tone were entirely different. That’s why we need to be especially careful in our choice of words during a moment of sensitivity and trauma. Some guidelines to keep in mind, based what I have observed so far, as well as on basic principles of nonviolent communication:

Constructive and comforting conversation flows from language like:

  • “I” language:  “I’m scared…” or “I feel…”
  • Genuine questions: “Does anyone know…?” or “I wonder whether…?” or “Who else is feeling…?”
  • Listening language: “It sounds like…” or words like “interested”, “curious”, “wondering”
  • Appreciation: “Thank you for sharing…” or  “It meant a lot to me to read that….” or “You helped me think about…”

And here are the 6 words or phrases I’d implore folks to be extremely careful in using right now, because the conversations where they are cropping up are the ones that are getting scary, fast:

  • Disgusted
  • Puke
  • Fuck
  • Narcissistic
  • Stupid
  • Idiotic

It comes down to this: be gentle out there, friends. I’m hurting. Many of you are hurting. Let’s not make it worse.

Using the Internet to find empathy in solitude

Twitter is outsourced schizophrenia. I have a couple hundred voices I have consensually  agreed to allow residence inside my brain.

So writes Adam Brault in a very thoughtful blog post, I quit Twitter for a month and it completely changed my thinking about mostly everything. Just when I think that I have read as many blog posts about digital fasts as I need to in this lifetime, along comes a deeply reflective piece like Adam’s to make me once again evaluate the merits of taking a break from one or more online activities.

Adam’s key point is that by engaging us with people we care about through a constant stream of updates, Twitter subjects us to recurring distractions that preclude sustained thought. As Adam writes:

I used to believe that time was the most important thing I have, but I’ve come to believe differently. The single most valuable resource I have is uninterrupted thought.

That’s how everything I’ve ever felt was meaningful about my entire life came to be—either people I’ve come to know, things I’ve learned, or stuff I’ve created.

I’ve realized how Twitter has made me break up my thoughts into tiny, incomplete, pieces—lots of hanging ideas, lots of incomplete relationships, punctuated by all manner of hanging threads and half-forked paths. I am perfectly fine with unfinished work—in fact, I doubt I’ll ever be a better finisher than I am a starter. But I’ve found that my greatest joy, deepest peace, and most valuable contributions come from intentionally choosing where to let my focus rest.

I couldn’t agree more with his focus on focus, but what is really interesting is the way he struggles with the tension between focus and empathy:

Empathy is, in one sense, the mental capacity to run a (poor) simulation of someone else’s thoughts and feelings inside our own head….From my experience, Twitter taps into this same mental capacity very well….But the problem that occurs is that it can be a huge mental lease we’re signing when we invite a few hundred people into our Twitter life…Mentally, we just aren’t capable of simultaneously empathizing with hundreds of people—let alone thousands or millions. The result is we either build up a calloused, jaded, or cynical defense against empathy or find a way to block out more.

This is an argument  that gets us way beyond the now-tired argument that the Internet makes us distracted and disconnected. Brault is arguing that it’s precisely because the Internet is so good at fostering real, meaningful connections that distraction becomes a problem. We’re not distracted by meaningless noise: we’re distracted by meaningful engagement.

But distracted from what? In Brault’s case, it’s distraction from projects that require sustained attention, like writing or any form of creative output. Goodness knows, it’s a problem I can relate to, since I never tweet more than on the days when I’m doing focused writing, but find myself continually hitting the mental refresh button by popping into HootSuite.

There’s a more intriguing possibility here, however. What if our model of focus — and especially, our model of focused creativity — doesn’t have to revolve around the solitary artist in his garret? After all, a garret isn’t so different from a fortress, or an ivory tower, or any of the other lonely-buildings-turned-metaphor, all of which are used to describe the state in which someone cuts off from the world — cuts off from people — in order to do their own thinking, writing or creating.

The Internet allows us a new model of solitary focus: one in which we are both alone and with others; both focused and engaged. Perhaps it’s precisely that unceasing engagement — that unceasing renewal of empathy — that will let solitary creatives create in new ways. I can’t wait to read the novel, hear the song or revel in the painting that emerges from a dual immersion in solitude and empathy.

Talk back to Vancouver’s rain on Twitter

It is now June, just two weeks away from the official beginning of summer.

I bring this to your attention because my fellow Vancouverites should be forgiven for thinking that we are still in the depths of winter. After a few tantalizing days of spring, and even a couple of proper beach weather, we are now back to the season I call the Rainy Shitness.

The Rainy Shitness is the default state of Vancouver from late October through early February. Then the crocuses come up, the sun comes out, and we have the occasional spring shower just like any other city.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. This summer (and as I recall, last summer) the Rainy Shitness has broken its side of the bargain, and refused to go away. I got a closet full of gorgeous summer shoes, R.S., and a pedicure to match. So enough, already!

If you share sentiments like these, you may find yourself shaking your fist at the sky and shouting angry words. But that is so old school, people. These days, existential frustration and futile ranting should be vented online.

Which is what brings me to my latest idea: @YVRrain, a Twitter account for Vancouver’s rain clouds. Instead of bitching to one another, we should take our complaints to the rain itself, and tell it just how annoying it is to wear galoshes in June.

Since this idea is so easy, I just went ahead and pulled the trigger. @YVRrain is now live on Twitter. Vent your frustrations, and maybe the rain clouds will talk back. You’ll just have to try it, and find out what they have to say in their own defence.

ClickCentral: a web app for tracking clicks on all tweeted links

I want a single analytics dashboard that shows me click rates for any link I’ve tweeted. Right now I have to look at separate stats for bit.ly, ow.ly, Buffer and alex.loves.

How to crowdsource your Facebook Timeline

If you struggle to keep your Facebook Timeline dynamic and engaging, without creating what is simply a mirror of your Facebook or LinkedIn presence, the solution may not lie with you, but with your friends.

For the past few months, I’ve been running a private experiment in crowdsourcing the contents of my Facebook Timeline. Any tweet that somebody else has favorited gets cross-posted to Facebook, so that my Facebook Timeline reflects not only my Facebook life but also my Twitter life. (Yes, they are different.) It turns out that a decent cross-section of my tweets get favorited by somebody (though not every tweet gets favorited, by any means) so this is a good way of selecting just the more interesting tweets for permanent archiving on Facebook. And to keep even those from being tedious, I have them set so that they are only visible to me, and not to any of my friends.

Or I should say, had them set. A few days ago, the service I was using to do that cross-posting (Twitterfeed) updated its Facebook posting service. This resulted in a handful of changes and glitches, including an error in how Twitterfeed handles privacy settings on Facebook: suddenly, the tweets I’d set to have posted privately were begin posted to my default privacy level (a relatively limited circle of 100 friends, but still a lot more than just me!)

While I had set up private cross-posting to avoid annoying my friends, the sudden appearance of these cross-posted tweets hasn’t caused any waves yet. On the contrary: a number of friends are liking and commenting on the tweets that are now appearing on my Timeline.

My serendipity could be your strategy. By using a service like favstar, which generates an RSS feed of any tweet that has been favorited, you can crowdsource the job of choosing which of your tweets, or which of your company’s, get cross-posted to other social networks. Use Twitterfeed to cross-post to Facebook or LinkedIn; or use If This Then That to pipe your favstar RSS feed into any one of wide range of blogs and social networks.

How to find a great domain name (or Twitter handle)

This post is part of a short series that addresses the top questions at Web Fuelled Business, a training program for thousands of companies across the UK run by Doug Richard’s School For Startups. I’ve developed the social media component for this training.

One of the recurring questions at last week’s workshops was:

Should my domain name and Twitter handle match?

You want your Twitter handle, website URL and company name to be as close as possible, and you want them to be memorable and easy for someone to get right when they enter it into Google. If you have yet to buy a domain name for your business, try to find a domain that is also available as a Twitter handle — or is very closely related. For example, our company is Social Signal, our domain is www.socialsignal.com and our Twitter handle is @socialsignal.

How did we achieve this feat of co-ordination? We chose the name for our company based on the available URLs. (Back in 2005, there was more selection — and since we started before Twitter did, we had our pick of Twitter handles when the day came!) We knew our company was going to do only social web projects, so we wanted the word “social” in our name. (Awesome luck that Web 2.0 went out of style and the term “social media” became the industry standard instead.)

I’m in love with OneLook for just this kind of challenge. We used OneLook to search for phrases that included the word social, and then we narrowed the results to “common words and phrases only”. Then we went through the list, and whenever we found a phrase we thought *might* work, we popped over to our favourite domain registrar (these days it’s Hover.com) to see if the name we liked was available as both a .com and a .org (because we did a lot of work in the not-for-profit sector) and ideally also .ca (Canada) and .net.  Of the various phrases that were available at the time, “social signal” seemed like the best bet (strangely, it no longer appears in the OneLook search results.)

OneLook search results for "social"

OneLook search results

List of URLS with "boot" in the name, from Domainsbot

DomainsBot search results

Another tool that is great for finding that perfect domain is DomainsBot. You can put any word into the DomainsBot search engine, and it will show you a list of all the available domains. You can choose a keyword related to your area of business or company name, and it will give you a list of all the possible domains you could register that contain that keyword or its synonyms and variants, which you can then register with the domain registrar of your choice. This is how I recently became the proud owner of bootseeker.com, so that I could create an affiliate marketing site that would allow me to monetize my compulsive boot shopping, until I stopped to ask what would a normal person do and realized a normal person wouldn’t expect  their Friday night boot-browsing to generate an income stream.

Once you’ve found an available domain you like, double-check that it’s available on Twitter before you register. If you can’t get a domain name and Twitter handle that match, you may want to think about a different name/Twitter pairing. And if you are a new company, or one that isn’t known by its corporate brand (maybe you’re known more by the names of your principals, or you’re a walk-in business) you might even think of changing the name of your company to align with an available domain name and Twitter handle.

Having a memorable domain name is much more important than having a matching Twitter handle — you can san always come up with a Twitter handle that is a slight variant, or even fun name, and use the “name” field in Twitter to enter your company’s URL so it shows up whenever people see one of your Tweets. (This is another reason you want your URL to match your company name.) When you are choosing your URL and handle try to:

  • Get a .com domain, and if applicable the national domain for your country (like .ca or .co.uk) and possibly the .net and .org as well.
  • Register possible typos or points of confusion — for example we own social signals.com and alexandrasamuels.com. Redirect all your extra URLs to your main site.
  • Avoid domain names (or company names, or Twitter handles) that could be confusing if they are heard rather than read. That means puns are a bad idea. If you have a chance to do a radio interview that will let you promote your rabbit farm, you want people going to hareraising.com and not hairraising.com. Which is a great reason to put your website (and company) at RaisingRabbits.com instead.
  • Keep your Twitter handle as short as possible since you will want people to “retweet” your posts, and the number of characters in your username (handle) will count against the 140-character maximum when they do.
  • Google any name or term you are thinking of using as a domain and/or Twitter handle, so that you know if anybody else is already using it — even if they don’t have the domain, you want to be careful before exposing yourself to potential confusion. So think about whether the other people or organizations using that name could be confused with yours, or could siphon traffic from your site.

If all this sounds like a lot to consider when naming or branding your business, remember that great creativity often comes from great constraint. The fact that it can be hard to find a good URL — let alone an URL and Twitter handle — is hard to find means that you’ll have to think creatively about how to find your name and nice. The great news is that once you find your great name, you’ve made it easy for your customers to find you.

Protect your intention span from the distractions of social media

Tonight I coined the term “intention span” to refer to the amount of time that passes between intending to work on something and actually starting work.

Intention span: The amount of time that passes between intending to work on something and actually starting to work on it.
@awsamuel
AlexandraSamuel.com

Social media may be the leading contributor to the growth of your intention span, because it throws so many obstacles in the way of you focusing on whatever it is you mean to do.

“I’ve got to reply to that Twitter mention,” you think. “It’ll only take a minute.”

“I forgot to post that photo on Facebook!” you suddenly remember. “I have to do that before I can get down to work.”

“I owe her a comment!” you realize. “How rude it would be to overlook that post.”

If social media is your professional responsibility as well as your creative, social or expressive outlet, those rationales are even more compelling. Taking care of your social media outreach or replies is part of your “brand management” or “reputation management”.

But the reason you care about your brand or reputation is because it helps you do your work in the world. You know, the work that is beckoning to you from that Word document or Excel spreadsheet or desk full of paper, just behind the window with all the shiny tweets.

Social media will wait for you. And when you come back to it, there will be even more for you to read, share and engage with.