The Twitter Series: All About Twitter Security

Every now and then, you hear about a Twitter hijacking. Even President Obama has confirmed that his Twitter account has been hijacked before, which resulted in the immediate shutdown of his account and an investigation by the Twitter team. According to Twitter, the accounts were hijacked using the company’s internal support tools. Basically, someone hacked into the tools that Twitter’s support team uses to help people who had forgotten their passwords or needed to edit their email address. Twitter immediately took the support tools offline. Even though the big stories like this all revolve around high profile celebrities, Twitter security is a real issue, even for the average twitterer. Want to know more about Twitter security? Here are some answers that may interest you.

* What exactly do hackers do when they break into Twitter accounts?

Typically, hackers take over Twitter accounts in order to post links to spam or viruses. Obviously, fraud is an issue as well. Followers tend to trust the people that they’re following, so any messages encouraging users to buy into a scam or to believe false information is a danger. For instance, a hacker could tweet about a fraudulent charity and post the link, asking followers to contribute. False rumors about companies and stocks can also have terrible results.

* What can you do to protect your Twitter account?

Protect your Twitter credentials – Be vigilant and be on the lookout for suspicious Twitter activity. If someone’s links or postings or suspect, go with your gut feeling. Users can install client side security tools that ensure that they are giving their information to the genuine Twitter site only. Also, control and keep tabs on your Twitter information. Any application or website that comes with an automatic posting capability poses more of a threat.

* Is there anything else you should look out for?

“Twitter-squatting” occurs when the names of people or organizations are registered by fraudsters. It’s safest to make sure a person or brand name is registered fairly quickly in order to ensure that no one else can register first. The “Trending Topics” sidebar on the right of the Twitter homepage also poses a threat. A hacker could tweet multiple different sentences using the same keyword, and have a malicious link connected to that keyword when it shows up in the “Trending Topics” section.

The Twitter Series: How the Bigwigs Use Twitter to Beef Up Their Business

In the past, powerhouse companies have had the marketing aspect of their businesses covered from top to bottom. Radio, television, print, online, and in-store advertisements have paved the way for their success. With so many people spending so much of their time on social networking sites, lately, these companies have had even more ground to cover, but they’re certainly showing us all how it’s done. From Starbucks to Dell to the Gap, all of these companies have taken to the social media sites of the worldwide web to get the word out about their stores – and their great deals and sales. Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, and Twitter – they’ve got all the bases covered, and they know where the people are.

When it comes to content, these businesses are using every resource they can get their hands on. Youtube is filled with advertisements, news clips, and educational or instructional videos. On Facebook, customers can become fans of their favorite businesses. Twitter allows the businesses to give their customers live updates on everything ranging from free giveaways to guest appearances to special deals. What unites all of these networks is their ability to allow customers to provide feedback and feel like they are personally connected to their favorite stores, restaurants, or shops. The companies know that this seemingly personally connection is the key to success. It’s more than just the companies reaching out because the customers are reaching out, too. Every time they write on Starbucks’ facebook page or respond to Apple’s tweets, they are providing useful information to the companies that they support. A customer can ask a question about a store via Twitter and receive a response right on the same page less than ten minutes later, and that is a powerful thing.

Let’s take a look at how Starbucks uses Twitter. First off, it’s got a concise profile with a link to its website – a definite must. It’s also got its logo right there on its page so big that you can’t miss it. And then there’s the content. Customers post all types of things, including questions as to what ingredients are in the whipped cream, how much a shot of soy costs, and how late the stores are open. Comments include enthused exclamations about how fabulous the coffee is and the other products that customers are getting. Starbucks’ response to this is to promptly answer every single question AND offer its followers exclusive deals and coupons available only through Twitter. What does all of this mean? That there are about a million thrilled Starbucks fan addicted to its Twitter updates. These big businesses really know what they’re doing when it comes to using Twitter to benefit the company.

The Twitter Series: Let Twitter Boost Your Business

At first glance, Twitter is a social networking site that became overwhelmingly popular incomprehensibly quickly. With hundreds of thousands of users and the benefits of real-time communication, Twitter grows more and more in its uses and its applications every day. Among Twitter’s many advantages, its ability to boost your business is a huge plus. It presents the very valuable opportunity to put out postings that could potentially be seen by thousands of your fellow twitterers. Having trouble seeing the many chances you have to capitalize on Twitter’s success? Just look at the statistics:

New data from comScore indicates that Twitter grew in popularity over 700% from February 2008, the month when it first reached 10 million users. The number of worldwide users grew over 5 million shortly after that. In the U.S. alone, visitors climbed over 1000% in a year’s time. Adding to Twitter’s reputation as a great resource for business, its age demographic proves that it’s attracting the audience that you’re seeking. The two largest age demographics are the 45-54 crowd and the 25-34 crowd. Now that you’re sure that Twitter makes for a solid time investment, you’ve got to know the exact means necessary to benefit from it.

The searches that dominate Twitter are the same that would take over any search engine, meaning that entertainment news is always at the top of the list. In the right column of your Twitter homepage, you’ll find a “Trending Topics” sections, which provides a list of the top of users’ top searches. Although this aspect is similar to the searches on other search engines, the benefits of real time conversations allow you to know what Twitter users are interested in at any given time. That said, you have to remember your use of Twitter is about leads, clients, and customers. Go ahead and type the service or product you provide in the search box. You’ll be surprised to see how many people are inquiring about so many different things. The best thing that you can do is to make a personal connection with people related to your industry. Make sure that they all know that there’s a real person with real, useful information behind that Twitter name and profile. Identify one niche of your industry that you can fit into and share retweets, information, and links related to your business to let everyone know you’re truly a specialist at what you do.

The Twitter Series: Blog and Tweet in Perfect Harmony

It’s no surprise that the average blogging twitterer would rather attract droves of blog readers than twittering followers. Darren Rouse, founder of TwiTip and ProBlogger whose audiences are comprised mainly of twitterers and of bloggers, respectively, found that even the Twitter users understand the value of increasing the number of blog readers. This result isn’t surprising since it’s fairly clear that writing and managing a blog is a bit more extensive of a job than writing a 140 character Twitter entry. However, this does not mean that there aren’t separate, valuable advantages to both forms of communication. Just look at the benefits of having an increased number of blog readers:

* They require more effort and more time to maintain.

* They provide more information and thus are more extensive and detailed.

* Blogs were popular, are popular, and will most likely remain popular.

* The more readers you have, the more likely you are to be linked to on Twitter.

Now for the advantages of having a lot of Twitter followers:

* More followers means more interest in what you’re offering

* The real-time conversation element adds a more personal connection.

With all of these advantages in tow, it’s nice to know that you don’t have to choose between the two. Users of a blog and of Twitter know that it’s easy to use them hand-in-hand. In fact, they can even help each other. The first key is writing valuable, useful content on your blog that Twitter users will want as a link. Do the same on Twitter with concise and informative posts. Include a prominent link on your blog so that people can follow you on Twitter. Incorporating the enlarged Twitter logo on your blog will appeal to readers and bring them to follow your tweets. Link to valuable content from others when you tweet, as well. If Twitterers enjoy the information that you link to, you’ll gain followers of your own. Also, feel free to mention your blog on Twitter from time to time, as long as you don’t shove it down anybody’s throat.

The Twitter Series: The Best Twitter Search Sites on the Web

If you’re living, breathing, and tweeting in the real world, you’re going to need real-time searches. Google has yet to employ the key of the real-time search, but there are plenty of credible search services willing to scan Twitter and other sites in real time. These search engines will find the latest, most current update from the real-time social web. I’ve spent lots of time looking at a multitude of sites that scan live-updating websites like Twitter and other sources in order to find the very best tools for every topic.

Let’s start by looking at Twitter’s own search service. True, it’s easy to use, shows clear results, and does a fairly good job of allowing the users to see their real-time results while acknowledging that users cannot actually be bothered to read every single real-time tweet as it goes flying by from one to the next. A counter is updated on the top of the page, notifying you that more twitters are constantly coming through in real-time that are related to your search, but you have to click a link to actually see these updates. Twitter Search is also very good at building more advanced queries and allows you to subscribe to an RSS feed to receive search results. However convenient all of these characteristics may prove to be, there’s no doubt that Twitter Search could be more considerably more helpful. Unfortunately, its search results are sorted only on a chronological basis. There is no means to indicate the most popular, most read, or most related tweets. Also, needless to say, Twitter’s search serves Twitter only. There are several services that do a better job than Twitter does, but I’ve narrowed it down to three.

* Twazzup

o Twazzup provides an excellent solution to the relevancy problem. Rather than altering the real-time Twitter search, Twazzup actually adds to them. The results of your search show up in the main column surrounded by, first, related words and hashtags at the top of the page. The expandable “Popular Tweets” sidebar is extremely useful in its display of tweets with your keyword that are most often linked to or retweeted. It also provides photos and popular links. Unfortunately, Twazzup searches only Twitter, (although we can accept this because it is a made-for Twitter service).

* Collecta

o Collecta is a great resource that scans Twitter and other live-updated sites, including main-stream media sites and their blogs, like CNN for example. It has a clean, easy to use interface, and it even lets you run multiple searches at one time. This tool is perfect for monitoring multiple topics every day. Collecta, however, does not have an advanced search builder.

* Scoopler

o Scoopler is more like Twazzup in its display of the real-time results and the tools in the form of sidebars that add to the results. Scoopler searches Twitter and other blogs, such as Digg, and is particularly helpful in picking up items with links. You can also keep three searches pegged to your page that make for quick access.