Networking: How to Work a Twitter Party

Networking has always been a high art in business. Just ask Susan Roane, my mentor and author of the seminal tome, “How to Work a Room.” (I know a handful of VCs and startup kings on Sand Hill Road who have her book tucked into a drawer.) I’ve been showcasing Roane’s lessons for founders in my Found|READ series, “What They Don’t Teach You At Stanford Business School.”

By now it’s time to address the latest, and arguably the most powerful, networking tool in any founders’ arsenal: Twitter. It’s simple. If you’re not “tweeting,” you’re missing half the conversation. Just ask Sarah Lacy. (How different Lacy’s now-infamous SXSW interview of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg might have been had she been plugged into the tweets flying around the conference room floor!) Don’t know how to use Twitter? No sweat. Here are my 8 Tips for How to Work a Twitter Party.
(Photo credit: News.com. SXSW Tweeters celebrating before the ill-fated Zuckerberg interview.)

First things first: For founders, the goal of Twittering isn’t to tell people what we ate for lunch, but to get technology influencers — like Dave McClure, Mike Arrington or Guy Kawasaki — to read and respond to our Twitter feeds. In Twitter nomenclature, this is called “following.”

1. Don’t be afraid to Tweet above your head. McClure is an Alpha Tweeter. One tweet from Dave is like a TechCrunch link two years ago. But you’re no one, so you’ll have to tweet Dave five times to get him to reciprocate, and do something really interesting for him to “follow” your feed. Reciprocity is also a must. Guy Kawasaki, a top Twitter-er, takes this to the extreme, following every Tweeter who follows him. So do I. Use text message updates to keep tabs on those tweeting you.

2. Watch your Twitter ratios. Spammers have a bad follower-to-following ratio, so don’t randomly follow 20, 200 or 2,000 people without some Twittering under your belt. Similarly if you’re twittering a little too substantively, or have a banal topic, then expect to have a horrible updates-to-follower ratio. (my updates-to-followers ratio is bad because I tweet about FICO scores, a topic so dull that my “ABC News” segment on YouTube only has 12 views.)

3. Leverage what’s going on. If you knew HP would buy EDS a week ago or a month ago, then tweet and claim credit. I’m not joking, people. Do this. Did you walk in on a powerSet 2.0 pitch at Peet’s on University Ave.? Twitter that too.

4. Move your Twitter conversation(s) off-line. Good meet-ups can start with Twitter marketing. Good examples include Startup School or Sarah’s book-signing in San Francisco. Twitter loves Y Combinator and vice versa! Tweet your friends to organize a pre-party (like a breakfast at Fraiche) and voila! One day prior to your event, and the RSVP list on Facebook is 50 percent over capacity.

5. Migrate your real-world conversation to Twitter. At ad-tech, I was with Oren Michels, Scott Rafer, Owen Thomas and others. During post-conference parties, people tweeted back-and-forth other constantly. What does this do? It stimulates more face-to-face conversation! Indeed, working the Twitter party makes the real party you’re at better, bigger and better-documented.

6. Time your tweets. A great man once told me: “Be a vacation in your interactions with people.” He meant: “Don’t tax your conversation partners.” Is reading your Twitter feed a part-time job, or a little beach break that people can take from right inside their cube at work? For maximum impact, release your tweets with the time of day in mind. News-related tweets fly in the morning. Post-lunch tweets should be on the lighter side.

7. Pre-write some of your material. There is nothing wrong with pre-composing a few impromtu tweets. Think improv comedians don’t prepare? So don’t post stream of consciousness to your Twitter. And whatever you do, don’t tweet with a buzz on.

8. Work the Twitter Room for product development. A product manager for pbWiki, Kris, was recently using Twitter to collect ideas for product tweaks. So I chimed in with a tweet requesting that updates to my company’s 400 pbWiki pages be distributed via email, but only to those who’ve actually edited those pages. Hey Dave Weekly (founder of pbWiki), did you know your employees work the Twitter Party for your benefit?

Written by Larry Chiang, founder of duck9.com, which helps college students improve their credit ratings. He is also a frequent contributor to Found|READ.

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