One reason Twitter can be intimidating to new users is that they worry they won’t have any interesting content to post, and that finding useful content will take up large amounts of their time.
Of course, the best tweeters post original content – perhaps links to their own blog or published material – and interact with other Twitter users spontaneously. But if you are going to rely on material published elsewhere, such as news stories and blog posts written by others – as many people do – there are some ‘tricks of the trade’ that will help you use your time efficiently.
Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts), for example, will help you find news stories that are relevant to your followers. You tell Google which key words you are interested in, and Google will send you an email every time those words appear in its news feed — that is, every time they are mentioned by one of the thousands of newspapers it follows. You can set up the alerts to come as the news stories break, daily or weekly – and then judge which stories you want to forward to your followers, or comment on on Twitter.
Another Google service, Google Reader, allows you to follow blogs as well as newspapers. You simply tell Google Reader which blogs you would like to follow – thousands if you like – and every time those blogs get updated, your personalised Google Reader gets updated as well. You can view all the posts from all your different sources in the order in which they are written, or view the posts blog-by-blog. Google Reader also allows you to bookmark blog posts that might be useful for the future so you can return to them at a later date, and also search for mentions of a particular word on all the blogs you follow. Best of all, it isn’t just for blogs – you can follow entire newspapers this way too.
There are also other tools that offer a similar service, such as Bloglines (www.bloglines.com).
Lastly, don’t forget that the people you follow on Twitter are themselves good sources of material. Other people’s best tweets can be retweeted – although this in itself is not a Twitter strategy, you have to offer original material of your own as well! (You can also add your own comments when retweeting). If you follow hundreds or even thousands of people, one way to organise your account efficiently is to separate the people you follow into different ‘lists’, according to themes. For example, if you are particularly interested in Smartphones, Twitter will allow you to create a list of Tweeters who focus on that subject. This will make it easy for you to track, comment on and re-tweet their posts (which will still appear in your main feed).
Remember, your tweets need to be relevant, timely and interesting. The above tools will make it easy for you to provide good material for your followers.