Technology

6 Things You Must Know About Twitter

You can save money and advance your career if you follow the right feeds.

1. Skip the celebrity fluff. Sure, many well-known Twitter users share too much information with their followers. But Twitter can give you direct access to insights from experts, including financial planners and investment strategists. You can also follow financial blogs, publications (find us at www.twitter.com/kiplinger) and institutions, such as your bank or brokerage. If someone you’d like to follow has a personal or business Web page, check for a link to Twitter. Twitter verifies the authenticity of some influential accounts by stamping them with a blue badge bearing a check mark.

2. Get in on the conversation. Twitter allows users to exchange comments with one another, opening the possibility of dialogue with financial experts. And by searching Twitter for certain hashtags (a hashtag is a pound sign followed by a key word or phrase), you can check out conversations about news or events. For instance, look up #wbchat to see tweets from weekly chats hosted by personal-finance Web site Wise Bread. Wise Bread includes the hashtag in each tweet, and participants (anyone can chime in) are required to tack it on to their responses. Other feeds use a similar format to host chats.

3. Snag great deals. Some companies share coupon codes and sale offers exclusively on Twitter. For example, American Express customers with eligible credit cards can tweet designated hashtags to get discounts loaded onto their accounts. One recent offer: an automatic $10 statement credit for cardholders who included #AmexWholeFoods in a tweet and then made a purchase of at least $75 at Whole Foods Market. Twitter users who sign up for Klout, which scores individuals based on their social-media influence, may get occasional freebies based on their location, score or other factors. One recent perk for qualifying users: a free one-day pass to the American Airlines airport lounge.

4. Sound off or sweet talk. Contact a company’s Twitter account to complain about an unsatisfactory experience. As long as you’re civil, you may achieve better results than with a letter or a phone call. On the flip side, a positive write-up could earn you star treatment. Before your next trip, send tweets to area businesses, such as restaurants, to tell them that you’ll be in town, suggests Laura Fitton, coauthor of Twitter for Dummies. You may get special treatment.

5. Network, network, network. When meeting someone for the first time, ask how to reach him or her on Twitter. “It’s perfectly acceptable these days,” says Alex Hinojosa, vice-president of media operations at EMSI Public Relations. And if you’re attending a conference—or you want to catch the buzz from afar—find out whether the event has a designated hashtag. By starting online conversations with attendees who have included the hashtag in their tweets, you may be able to connect with them in person.

6. Don’t get overwhelmed. Making good use of Twitter may require a little time and patience. You can categorize accounts you follow into lists to keep the information stream manageable, or connect your account to an application such as HootSuite to organize tweets. Once you become comfortable, you could spend as little as 15 minutes a day scanning your feed and posting tweets, Hinojosa says.

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