Something magical is happening to me and I’m not sure what’s caused it or why — but I’m starting to fall in love with Twitter again.lovetwitter

Let me explain. I started using Twitter back in late 2006. I was an enthusiast and couldn’t believe the power that it held. What can I tell you, I got to know such small business celebrities as @GuyKawasaki who had only 500 followers when I first connected with him and actually wrote his own tweets. Compare that to the his now mostly outsourced tweets that hit some 1.3 million followers . (BTW – his tweets are still super-high quality and informative, re-tweetable. If you don’t follow him, you should.) but I digress.

I’m Ivana Taylor and I’m a recovering automation addict

Yes. A lot of my tweets are automated. And I’m not so sure that was a good decision. But you have to understand how that happened to really appreciate it — and learn from it.

Like I said – I started using Twitter about four years before anyone knew what Twitter was. That said, new apps and tools were being launched daily and as a resource for small business owners, it’s my job to test them all out. That means, I signed up for all of them, tested them out, put some automations in place and promptly forgot about them. LOL

Well, at some point things got completely out of control I’ve had renegade automations run amok on my twitter stream. I’ve automatically followed spammers — and all different kinds of mistakes that are too numerous to mention and yet very educational. All that said to tell you that I’ve turned a lot of automations off. The only automation that I currently use is to ReTweet posts from people I think you should be following that ALWAYS have smart things to say, and I also pre-load and schedule certain tweets in order to leverage my time and productivity. But that’s it.

Is automation right for you? How to properly automate Twitter — or NOT

I’ve ranted against the spamminess of Twitter in the past, and now I’m starting to see a shift. The really cool Twitter people don’t automate. They are having conversations. The automation addict in my head says “That’s good for them — I mean if you’re Guy Kawasaki or some movie star — why would you automate – you already have a ton of people who are going to follow you!”

I slap that automation addict voice upside its head and I remind myself that Twitter continues to be a great way to reach out to people and build relationships. AND like any new relationship, it takes quality interactions and patience and creativity.

Tips to Tweeting without automating (well…without a lot of automation anyway)

Let’s reflect on why we automated Twitter in the first place — it was a cheat. And in some cases, the cheat is useful — but not in most. Here are some tips to Tweeting authentically and without heavy automation.

Decide and dedicate time

First you have to decide that Twitter is a valid strategy for building your business. So if you’ve been using referrals and networking — Twitter is certainly an option — especially if you like engaging in 140 character mini messages. The key is to create interest on Twitter and transition the relationship to email, a meeting and finally a relationship. Be clear that this is a strategy for building a business and not just chit chat.

There are tools for that and my current favorite is Nimble — the social CRM for folks like me whose business depends on the creation and nurturing of relationships via social media.

Twitter is like a trade show

You probably think I’m nuts, but I see Twitter like a giant trade show — there are all kinds of cool things to see and people to meet — but you are on a mission that is costing you valuable time and money — so use it wisely.

Think of the Twittersphere like a giant trade show exhibition. When you go to a trade show, you’re spending ooodles of time and money for the?privilegeof having your target market right there, all in one place! ?Twitter is very similar.

You create Twitter lists and streams that isolate just the target people you want to have relationships with. You watch their streams, engage in conversations and have goals and objectives to meet. Remember, while Twitter is fun and engaging, the only reason to use it is to leverage your relationship building and connections to ultimately profitable relationships — otherwise you are at the trade show aimlessly walking around.

Now that you’re clear about that, you can see how valuable real time conversations and interactions with your followers are. If you’re in a market or industry where your Twitter herd has blogs and online spaces, then go ahead and automate the sharing of the content for the peeps you love most.

But don’t just do that. Please! I’ve made this mistake! Share and relate to the content. Say something useful about the content.

If you’re fairly new to Twitter – rejoice. You can start from scratch and do it right. If you’ve been on Twitter a while – you can do what I’m doing; start cleaning your account. Turn off the auto-follows and start relating to the people .

Oh — One more thing…

By the way, I’ve also started really enjoying Twitter online platform — just as it is. I’ve been using other tools such as HootSuite and TweetDeck — and I still do. But I have to admit that Twitter’s upgrades in design are rather useful and I find myself using their web platform more than I ever did.

I find myself using the native Twitter platform when I really want to focus on the stream, and check out who’s followed me and to see who their followers are. Now that I’m thinking about it; Twitter’s native web platform is like browsing through a brick and mortar bookstore — it may not be very efficient, but it’s really rewarding.

What about you? If you’ve been on Twitter for a while – how has your behavior changed on the platform and why did you change it?