In my last post, I talked about why “Twitter Campaigns”—pumping out marketing message after marketing message without interacting or providing valuable content—will go the way of pop-up ads.
A related idea is that Twitter, and social media in general, have made popular a third idea in the Push-Pull mix, which I call “Put”. By using “put” effectively on Twitter, you can spread your message and attract followersyou might not otherwise find.

Push. Pull. So What’s “Put”?

Put is using your own space to highlight a third party’s content—you’re “putting” it out there for others to find. This is not “push” since it’s not your content, nor is it “pull” since you’re not consuming it via this method.

Put Is Not A New Idea

The first example might be Yahoo!, created by David Filo and Jerry Yang as a list of links to their favorite sites. (The search engine came later.) As the Web grew and places like GeoCities and AOL offered free webspace, so did users creating “Links” pages—a way to direct visitor to other sites on the fledging Web.
Social bookmarking—DiggDeliciousRedditStumbleUpon—kicked put to another level where you could tag, organize and share links.

Twitter & Facebook: Personal Stamp on Put

Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, allows you to put content in front of your followers and friends with your own personalized take on it while it’s relevant. No one would put a link to a breaking news story on their “Links” page. You might Digg it, but in a few days it’s no longer important. But with social media, the link appears at the top of your feed and, over time, works its way down and out.
Twitter has the further advantage of being immediate and mobile. Re-tweeting is also a form of put and allows messages to spread very far, very fast—such as rumors both true and untrue of celebrities being dead. And with only 140 characters to share a datum and comments, it’s quick—someone can scan dozens of tweets in a moment, selecting to follow up on only the things that catch their eye.

So What Does This Mean for Web Communicators?

In my last post, I said an effective tweet should:

  1. Engage users
  2. Be up to the second
  3. Provide information users might not think to search for

It’s this last point that relates to Twitter as a put medium. Tweet information that helps your followers, not just what helps you (i.e., marketing messages as discussed last time). Become a source of valuable information that followers can use and possibly re-tweet. Over time, you’ll build credibility, attract more followers, and be forgiven if you slip in a few self-promotional messages.
Imagine you’re a science fiction writer. True, you should post things your fans want to know: dates and locations for books signings; release date for your next novel; etc. But how can you attract new fans? Try recommending other authors’ books. Or what’s happening in the world of publishing. Link to writing resources that will help science fiction writers. Fans might re-tweet these, which their followers will see, and might follow you.

Criteria for a Good Put Tweet

This is an initial list and I would love to hear your suggestions, but I’d say a good put message should:

  • Highlight Information Not Being Discussed – Lots of people tweet Digg’s top story, so tweet information that’s not easy to find but you think deserves to be bubbled to the surface. (But there is nothing wrong with also tweeting the top Digg story.)
  • Make Sure the Information is within Scope – If you’re that sci-fi writer and you tweet about new SCUBA equipment, you might confuse your audience. However, if you write underwater SF or it’s known you have a passion for diving, then that’s OK.
  • Make it Stand Out – No one reads each tweet word for word—people scan. So, use strong, every-day, easy-to-scan words so someone can understand what you’re saying at a glance.
  • Include a Link – Seems obvious, but combine commentary with a URL.
  • Hash Tags – If there is an existing conversation about that topic, join it by using its hash tag. If not, consider coming up with your own.
  • Share Your Wisdom, Expertise and Opinion – Provide thought, analysis and perspective. Not easy to do within Twitter’s 140 characters, but there’s a difference between: