5 ways to use Twitter in your career

My colleague, Sarah Milstein, just wrote a book on Twitter (conveniently called "The Twitter Book"). Before her book came out, I liked to think of Sarah as my own private Twitter tutor. She was the 21st user of the service and tried to get me interested in it back in 2006. I resisted. I couldn't see why I'd want yet another communication tool in my already over-communicated life. Once I got started though, I had a fairly typical Twitter path, moving from resistance to hooked in a matter of weeks. I recently read that Twitter is a little like coffee. It tastes awful at first, but then suddenly you're addicted. (Anyone know where I read this so I can give credit?)

I asked Sarah to collaborate with me on a post about five ways to use Twitter in your career. If you've never even visited Twitter.com, this is a good primer on how to set up an account and get started. If you're already on the service, but still don't really get it, read this.

And now, our five tips:

Keep up with industry news.
Follow thought leaders and/or people who post links to new ideas in your field. To find people in your sector, try tools like MrTweet.com and wefollow.com, which organize Twitter users by category. Once you've followed a few smart, relevant people, you'll have created a customized news feed of headlines that interest you.

Connect with people you'd like to meet. After you've discovered some interesting people to follow, start conversations and re-tweet other people's useful messages ("retweeting" is Twitter speak for re-posting a tweet written by someone else). After I sent this tweet praising an illustration of Sonia Sotomayor by Liza Donnelly, a cartoonist for The New Yorker whom I've long admired, we have been having conversations on Twitter.

Make sure you get the messages that are sent to you or that mention you: to see a list of them, on the right side of your Twitter home page, click the @YourUserName link.

Become a resource.
If you have an expertise, share it. Pamela Weinberg, author of the "City Baby" books, does a good job of sharing her advice for urban parenting by using Twitter to engage in conversations, share links to her own blog posts and events, and link to articles written by others in her field. To help yourself look like a credible resource, complete your profile, including your location, a URL (your LinkedIn profile is fine) and key words that will help people find you when they search on your subject area.

Hire and be hired. Jobs are advertised on Twitter. Recruiters scour Twitter to find candidates. And savvy job seekers, like Dan Zarella, use Twitter to network their way to new positions. Once again, I'm recommending this excellent post from Mashable.com on good ways to use Twitter in a job search.

Minimize the self-promotion. The most respected Twitter users offer their followers useful, entertaining or interesting information, rather than self-promotion. These folks also realize that because people choose to get their messages on Twitter (by following them), they have to post valuable updates or others will unfollow them. A good rule of thumb is the 80/20 split; 80% stuff about other people and ideas; 20% stuff about yourself or links to your site. I try to follow this in my tweeting. So for every time I use Twitter to link to one of my blog posts, I generally send out four tweets posting links to things written by others.

For those of you on Twitter, have you discovered other ways to use Twitter in your career?