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New social networks pop up every day, but there are a few core networks that business professionals simply must participate in. Once a fringe network for fun, Twitter is now one of those "musts." But there's a difference between establishing a presence on a social network, and wringing every drop of utility you can from a social network. The difference is in the features you use, how you use them and how often.
By this point, most professionals have registered as users on Twitter. With any luck, you're using a flattering picture for your profile and tweeting at least once a day. For individuals looking to boost their careers, those tweets should be professional, relevant and timely. Witty is good, too. For companies, tweets should be focused on the customer. Yes, you are branding, but you want to make sure that everything you post also is meaningful in some way to the audience, your customer.
Regardless of whether you are an individual or an organization on Twitter, you also should be practicing good social citizenry, such as following, retweeting and mentioning others when it makes sense.
All of this is Twitter 101. When you're ready for advancement, there are many Twitter features and third-party apps for Twitter that can make your experience richer and more rewarding. Indeed, depending on the job you have -- or maybe even the job you are looking to get -- success might depend on the extent to which you are able to leverage social networks, including Twitter. For organizations, the ability to use a social networking platform to its full potential is a competitive advantage -- it might even help lure young, talented professionals who want to work for a company that's up on the latest and greatest tech.
Just remember, although wringing the most use possible out of any productivity or marketing app makes sense, there is a corollary when it comes to social networking: Just as wise use of a social network can give you a huge leg up, sloppy use can get you or your organization into a lot of trouble. So think carefully about what social networking features you use, and how they might or might not align with what you and your business are already doing. Consider the ripple effect: Who will see what you are doing on Twitter? Who won't? Are there any personal or corporate privacy concerns to consider? Like an app developer thinking about every possible scenario stemming from every possible user action, social business users must think about the effects -- positive and negative -- their actions will have.
Keep reading for the features we think you should check out once you are ready to take your Twitter presence to the next level. What are your favorite Twitter features or tools? Let us know in the comments section below.
Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.
To make it easier to get your stories straight on all the different platforms you have a presence on, you should connect your Twitter account to your Facebook profile and other platforms. To connect Twitter and your Facebook account, go to your Settings menu's Profile tab, scroll to the bottom and click "Sign in to Facebook."Then you can write once, post on multiple platforms.
Try this experiment. Post an update with just text and post an update that also includes a photo or a video. I'll bet you can guess which one will get more responses. That's right -- the one with the images. People are drawn to pictures, and you will see more interaction with your Twitter presence if you take the time to post relevant images and videos.
The sheer amount of information that comes through Twitter can be overwhelming, but you can refine it in a few different ways. For example, you can tailor Twitter suggestions for who you might enjoy following based on your Web searches. Just click on Settings/Account/Personalization, and then click on "Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits." Twitter will then suggest people and organizations followed by others who visit the same sites.
By default, Twitter tailors the trends that you see based on your location and who you follow. You can widen your options by changing your location or by selecting individual countries and cities. Tailored Trends recently became available on Twitter's mobile app, where you can make changes via the #discover tab.
Companies mine big data to identify trends and set strategic direction. You have your own version of big data in your Twitter feed. You can download your Twitter archive -- that's right, everything you've tweeted and that's been retweeted on your behalf -- and you can view the tweets by month or search on keywords, hashtags or @usernames. To get your archive, go to Settings and scroll down to "Request your archive." Twitter will send you an email when the archive is ready to download.
You've probably heard how important content has become. It was never unimportant, but these days everyone is a publisher. And it's not just text -- videos are increasingly common and sought after. You might feel intimidated by putting together a video that showcases your talent and expertise, but what if the video was six seconds? Twitter's Vine is a service that lets users capture and share short, looping videos. Since its release earlier this year, Vine has really taken off, and the latest update supports mentions and lets users shoot footage with a front-facing camera.
Twitter lists are groups of Twitter users arranged in categories that make sense to you; for example, "SEO experts" or "interview subjects" or "career guides." When you click on a list, only the tweets of the users on that list are shown. This makes it easier to identify what a particular set of users is doing and saying. You can also follow and subscribe to lists. To create a list, go to your profile page and click on Lists.
Responding to recent account hacks, Twitter announced the debut of two-factor authentication. The system sends a six-digit numeric code to a registered mobile phone number. The code must then be used to log into a Twitter account. Two-factor authentication makes sense when you think about security, but there are some early signs that things are not going well. For example, not all carriers support two-factor authentication on their networks. Companies and individuals will have to weigh the benefits against the risks.
Twitter's Advanced Search feature lets you search not only on words and exact phrases, but also on hashtags, mentions and even positive or negative sentiment.
Twitter's mobile apps for iOS and Android let users continue to tweet while they are on the go. If you are tweeting only from the comfort of your desktop, you're not making the most of Twitter.