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Last week I finished reading Twitterville by Shel Israel. Prior to picking it up, I’d heard a lot of positive about the book. So needless to say when Shel came to speak at Third Tuesday in Toronto I felt compelled to buy it.

The good

I found Twitterville gave great, real world examples of how Twitter is working in the business world from big companies to small non-profits. These companies are using the site to engage with stakeholders by gaining trust and developing conversations, not just feeding corporate speak. One of those large companies is Dell.

The book explains how Ricardo Guerrero, an online marketer at Dell, discovered Twitter at SXSW in early 2007. By June of that year, after figuring his way around the site, Ricardo created Dell Outlet. Since then, Dell’s presence on the site has soared and according to the book, earlier this year, Dell announced it had made $3 million in sales, thanks in large part to its activity on Twitter.

The bad

In terms of the book’s organization, “Part 3” along with the “Afterward” could have easily been put at the front. For me this works better because even though the book is great for all audiences, many readers are learning about Twitter and why they should join; having it at the front lets them get comfortable with how the site works. And as someone who knows how the site works, I found having it at the end took something away from the book. There wasn’t that feeling of conclusion because I spent the last while skipping through pages that were irrelevant to me.

The ugly

I can get over the organization of the book to some extent, but failing to fact check is something different altogether. It took a lot away from the book seeing the editors not catch that David Miller is the Mayor of Toronto. Instead I saw in his place,  Sandy Kemsley, a Torontonian yes, but definitely not the mayor. After Googling a bit, I saw she wrote a blog post on the situation; others had noted the gaff and told her about it.

She brings up a great point by saying, “I didn’t buy the book: if it lists me as the mayor of Toronto, who knows what other nonsense it contains?”

That simple mistake could mean the difference from recommending the book to all who will listen, to panning it because people would have doubts if other stuff were truly facts.

Conclusion

In the end, this book is not without it’s flaws (some bigger than others). It is, however, a great handbook on examples of Twitter’s use in business. My recommendation is to pick it up, however if you do, do it soon; the book is completely relevant, but as with anything involving social media, it can quickly become not so.

Back in April,  Mashable contributor Benn Parr posted HOW TO: Retweet on Twitter. His first point was the most on task, whereas the rest went on to (what seemed like) a tangent about ways to track the retweet and sites to help the retweeting process. Here’s tip #1:

Mashable Retweet Image

Retweeting is how Twitter users share interesting tweets from the people they are following. They copy and paste the original tweet and send it out. To give credit to the original person, users usually put “RT” plus the originator’s username at the beginning of the tweet. Here’s an example:

– The Twitter user @benparr tweets: I just heard that Apple is releasing new iPods in July!

– You retweet by posting RT @benparr I just heard that Apple is releasing new iPods in July!

While Benn and the Mashable folks gave this “How to” on ways to go about retweeting, I think it’s necessary to say adding value to a retweet is equally important as spreading the message to other people.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

Adding something so simple to a retweet doesn’t seem like much, but it could start a conversation or spread a message. Not only that, when something I put out into the Twitter abyss is retweeted I like it when people add their own opinions to it.

I don’t think it’s always possible or necessary to add something to every RT. For example, when it’s a serious topic, like a child is missing, I rarely add anything.

Remember, Twitter’s message limit is 140 characters, so if you’re planning on having something retweeted make sure to leave enough room for that to happen! For practical reasons, you should leave room for your Twitter handle and keep the message short so people won’t change it to squeeze in the message; many times they may not bother retweeting because it’s too much work.

How do you deal with retweets? I think people share a wide variety of opinions on them and I’d be interested in what you think.

It’s back to school time again! Thankfully not for me, though.College Student I enjoyed it and I have a lot of great memories of it, but I’ve found my “calling” and I’ve happily moved on.

All this school talk has gotten me thinking about PR school, though. Specifically I’ve been thinking about what students will take from their Online PR course.

By now it should be clear that effectively using social media is a critical aspect to the success of most projects.

  • How many students coming into PR programs today do you think know enough social media 101?
  • Is it safe to say that most know the major social networking sites and how to use them?
  • Do they blog, or have they posted a podcast online?

I’ll guess the answer to most of those is no. That brings me to the point of my first post in about three weeks. Learning more about social media and how it can be used in PR before I had to know it, has benefitted me quite a bit.

A little extracurricular self-teaching goes a long way

If you’re a new PR student, these are a three pointers will go a long way to helping you understand the hype, and put you at an advantage ahead of the pack.

1. read, read, read, read, read

I’m a big fan of reading, as you can see. Set up a Google Reader account and actively get out there and find:

As with any kind of reading, it’s important to be critical and do some thinking for yourself. There’s a lot of information out there, and much of it is speculation and hype. Try to pull out the useful nuggets where you can find them, but don’t get bogged down in the overwhelming amount of material.

2. If you’re not already, get onto social networking sites and connect!

You may not be comfortable with connecting with strangers online, but your future employers probably are, or at least considering it. It’ll look good during your job hunt if you’ve taken the time to build up a solid online network. Not only that, if you’re connecting with the right kind of people, you’re looking at many classrooms worth of info right at your fingertips (as with above, remember to be critical of the info you find!).

Meeting people you’ve tweeted with and putting a personality to the picture can be a benefit in a few ways.

  • They will most likely introduce you to someone they know; increasing your network
  • You might get wind of future job opportunities because they know you better
  • You might actually find you want to be friends “for real”

It’s important to mention you may be meeting these people at events where you can learn a lot about PR too. A few of the many examples include Third Tuesday, PodCamp or Mesh Conference. Many are free and a few cost money, but making the effort to get out there and connect can do nothing but benefit you.

3. Start a blog about a topic you enjoy

As you become more comfortable with the tricks of the social media trade, get blogging. You don’t have to write about social media or PR; write about anything. A blog is a great forum for you to share your opinions, as well as an excellent self-teaching tool to help you write concisely. Whatever your topic:

  • Be punchy (point form and numbered lists)
  • Add pictures (breaks up the text – pleasing to the eye)
  • Throw in some audio/video (YouTube or self-made)

Finally…

One important thing to remember is that digital PR is ever-changing. All these experts out there are figuring it out for themselves through trial and error. It’s important to stay on top of the emerging social media tools and not get caught up in the latest fads because they will come and go.


View Sean Bailey's profile on LinkedIn

I now blog at inseansopinion.com full time. Please visit me there for movie and book reviews as well as any other commentary that comes to mind.

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