• Despite a general consensus that social media takes transparency and openness to new heights, most social platforms maintain fairly rigorous constraints on the way connections are made. Facebook requires you to confirm friend requests or to “like” a business page, while LinkedIn requires social proof that you indeed know the contacts you’re connecting with. Not so, Twitter.

    On Twitter, not only can you “follow” any user you choose, you can view any conversation in any feed without even following the user.

    It’s called lurking and it is perfectly acceptable on Twitter.

    You are also free to jump into any conversation at any time regardless of whether you are following one another or not. Of course, common courtesy applies in all cases, but for example if you wanted to engage in a conversation with Sir Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, or Christy Clark, you can simply jump into the conversational stream. In my mind, this makes Twitter the most democratic social media platform. There’s a real sense of equality on Twitter that puts me (or you) on equal footing with a say a Jamie Oliver, Brent Butt, or George Strombolopolous  (who are three of my favorite follows by the way).

    Vision Wokshop

    I find clients often resist Twitter. Unless they were early adapters to social media, it seems that Twitter is a tool that many businesses and organizations take to somewhat reluctantly. I think it is the notion of having only 140 characters to say what it is you have to say, as well as the fast-moving nature of the stream that people find intimidating. In part, this is what makes Twitter fun.

    Twitter is also simple to use. Unlike Facebook, which is ever-changing and rampant with subtle and often sneakily concealed tools and features, or likewise LinkedIn, which takes a degree of “insider” training to master, Twitter is straightforward and obvious with few hidden features and an incredibly robust reach.

    I often suggest that people think of the content tweet as a short description and a link. Consistent with general social media principles, you want the description to be informative, interesting, and engaging. Think about other kinds of conversations. What do you find interesting? What gets your attention? The same holds true for Twitter.

    The links you post on Twitter should also be high-value. What is important and compelling for your market? What do your followers and fans find engaging? Links can be from any online source: websites, blogs, videos, or images.

    Recent changes to Twitter have made the Twitter feed itself much more visual, and more like the feeds of Facebook and Google +. These changes mean an even greater emphasis on finding more ways to tell the story of your business or brand using pictures.

    Once the changes roll out, you’re going to get a much larger cover image, and a much larger profile image. Tweets themselves will be bigger with font and layout improvements. This is good news for people like me, being at that magic age that requires glasses for pretty much all reading. (One of my pet peeves has been the overall teeny-tininess of just about everything on social media, so kudos to Twitter).

    Tweets with high engagement are going to get more prominence as well, which means posting interesting content and being active in the feed still rules.

    There are few other ways you’ll be able to tinker with the Twitter feed, and tweak the look and feel of your bio, but essentially Twitter’s simple, user-friendly, open platform remains its chirpy self.

    Want more on Twitter? Vicki McLeod is a coach, trainer and consultant at Main Street Communications Ltd. One of the Social Chicks, she can be found offering free monthly social media workshops for local businesses via the Invest North Fraser businessSTART program.

    Next up is Twitter Basics for Business on May 8. To register, visit businessstart.ca. You can follow Vicki on Twitter at @vicki_mcleod.