Most people turn first to Google or easysearch when wanting to make an online search. Now this is fine when searching for factual information, but it is not really helpful if what you are looking for are people that are interested in what you want to communicate about.
You see search engines only take you to websites. Even then, you might have to search through lots of text on the web page in order to find who you are looking for. I often find it takes me to notes from meetings and you scroll through, only discover someone is mentioned in passing or is listed as being in attendance!
Now I’m not saying that Google isn’t the most powerful search engine available to us. It is! I use it most of the time, but when I am looking for specific people, I will try Twitter first.
Let me clarify. When I say “specific people” I am not necessarily meaning specific by name, although that is a valid search option. No, I am meaning specific in the sense of people who are interested in a topic, a charity, a product, their faith, their career, etc. So you are searching for something specific about people.
Real people, real conversations
You see, what Twitter does is take you straight to conversations that real people are having about real subjects. Let me give you an example: About a year ago I was taking a session on using Twitter and social media for small businesses. I’d been asked to do it by a local university that runs an annual course aimed at supporting and building up new entrepreneurs.
After a while I asked the group if anyone had a new business that they would like to talk about with other people online. One lady said she had and when I asked what her business was, she said she was devising a board game based on her city, which would be sold to local people and tourists.
Now this isn’t your average new business. It’s quite a niche business and you might think there aren’t many people you could talk to about creating board games. However, I typed “board games” into the search option in Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com – a brilliant free application you can download onto your PC or iPad, which enables you to sort your tweets, followers, topics, etc). Up came a good number of tweets people were having about board games.
“It’s over to you now.” I said to the woman. “Your task is to begin to engage with these people and their conversations about board games.” Who knows where those conversations might lead her and what connections she would uncover as a result?
Meet, talk, engage
Twitter is not a marketplace. It’s not somewhere to go and simply sell, sell, sell. It’s a meeting place: the office coffee machine area; a café; the pub; the commuter train or bus; the queue in the Post Office, etc. Twitter is where people meet to talk, to engage, to converse.
Over time, these conversations will develop trust and credibility between participants. Then you are in a position to share things, ask for things, promote things, etc. Even better, if you’ve begun to build up a group of followers, they might retweet you, sharing what you have said with their followers, creating a viral message that gets to many more people than you could on your own.
So, if you are a charity fundraiser, you could use this search method to look for people who are interested in your local area; the sort of work your charity carries out; fundraising events; your charity; a particular illness or condition; human rights issues; third world development; a celebrity your charity works with, etc.
Give it a try
Give it a try. Type into a Twitter search some key words about what you do, what you’re interested in, a place, a famous person, etc and see what conversations are already going on about them. Don’t forget to then begin engaging with them, following some of them, retweeting some too. Ask questions. Make humorous comments where appropriate. Just get to know them. You don’t know where it might lead and what connections could come out of it.