Surely, you must know by now that I am a tweeter, a twitterist, a twit…
ahem, a Twitter user.
Twitter has a fast-growing population of users. I don’t know about you but more of my “real-life” friends and associates are joining up. I expect the ratio of personal contacts versus internet contacts to continue to narrow. For those not using Twitter, or not really positive what it is you are doing there. Don’t worry. You are not alone. Many people join the site, inject one lonely tweet into the twittersphere, and say to themselves, “Now what?” and leave (never to return).
Thinking about trying Twitter? Or… trying again?
Some thoughts on how Twitter can work for you (and why you may want it to)
What is your purpose?
This isn’t exactly a philosophical question. You just need to decide if your role on Twitter will be to add to the conversation or follow it. I may catch some flak from the Twitterati for stating this but, having something to advocate, promote, share, or bring awareness to, often puts one in the “followed” camp. Meanwhile “followers” are looking to learn from, keep tabs on, or network with the “followed.” Of course, one can be both a follower and followed (in fact that would be ideal, for the more people providing information of value, the better), but I think at first it may help to identify yourself with one group or the other in order to recognize how Twitter might best serve you.
If you aren’t sure yet which you are, read on…
Come to terms with it – Twitter ≠ Facebook
What often confounds casual Twitter users (i.e. those every-day folks who are pretty sure they have nothing or no one to promote) is the thinking that it will be like Facebook, a place where they can keep up with personal, “real-life” contacts. These users join, find only a fraction of their friends are also users, and perhaps see just a lot of folks, well… promoting. They wonder, what’s the point? If this is you, I’m going to call you a follower (for now).
Though Facebook and Twitter share a core function – updating a “status” statement which is shared publicly – the uses for Twitter and Facebook are different. This is mainly due to the very public broadcasting of tweets vs. the more private, friends-only Facebook environment.
Having stated this, Facebook continues to make changes and options regarding its service. Many of these are Twitter-like, allowing users who wish to have a more public presence the option of broadcasting to a wider audience. However, Facebook’s roots are in connecting offline buddies in the online world. Many, many, many users will continue to use Facebook for this purpose alone. Twitter is identified as a micro-blogging tool and not necessarily a social network. Twitter is better for broadening a nexus of people, ideas, and information.
For more on how, keep reading…
What’s a follower to do?
The ever-expanding group of followed Twitter users are “saying” a lot – stories, announcements, tips, links, video, photos, ideas. The scope of what is being shared changes daily but, for example…
If you are a dancer, art enthusiast, or music lover, you may want to keep up with the artists and companies you love. More and more are appearing on twitter, keeping fans updated on touring schedules, new works, the creative process, and more. This may also be an opportunity to stay up-to-date, and ask questions, within your field or career of interest.
If you are a parent, there is a wealth of tips and links coming from the Twitter mommy community. If you want to keep up with local, international, or even entertainment news there are opportunities to follow TV networks, magazines, newspapers, or (straight to the source) celebrities themselves.
Twitter users are also breaking news… as it happens. I read of Michael Jackson’s hospitalization/death via Twitter first and then turned on CNN. Like the Hudson River plane landing, it was one of many instances in which Twitter broke the news. And Twitter users are using the medium in ways never imagined (read about Twitter’s role during the Iran election aftermath). The list goes on… many of your local news reporters are on Twitter!
There are those on Twitter who over-promote their own stuff. There are opportunistic spammers. There are those who contribute only the most mundane aspects of their life. Fortunately, unfollowing these Twitterers is as easy as following them… click! You are free to opt-in or opt-out at any time.
Should you want to limit or have more control over who sees your tweets, it is possible to keep them private while still following others.
So, what’s a follower to do? How does one find good folks to follow?
A good start is to go beyond your e-mail contact list when looking but the Twitter website doesn’t exactly explain how to do this. So, I’m going to…
- Try a search for key words or phrases via Twitter Search (also available on your Twitter homepage) or the Google-powered Twitterment, and see who is talking about the topics in which you are interested.
- Search the bios and descriptions of Twitter users with Twellow. Like the yellow pages, this is a good way to find local groups and organizations to follow as well. Certain cities are also tracked via CityTweets.
- Check out who your friends are following. You can sift through them manually of course but there is also Mr. Tweet, a service that connects the dots for you. It also allows you to recommend (or be recommended by) other Twitter users.
Okay, maybe you aren’t content to be a wallflower. Read on…
Birds of a feather
You may not feel as though you have anything in particular to advocate but there is plenty you have to share. Links to your favorite charities, interesting videos on YouTube, photos and tips from your travels. You may find like-minded individuals via Twitter that you would not have interacted with otherwise.
Or, maybe you really do have something to publicize. If you are job-hunting, you are advocating yourself. If you own a business, that business could benefit from a presence on Twitter.
- Share links and resources with your students.
- Interact with other local tweeters and businesses. There may be “followers” in your community that are looking for what you have to offer. You may make connections that will lead to new opportunities.
- Participate and be a valuable member of the online dance community. My network has expanded internationally and it has been amazing (not to mention validating) to connect via Twitter with people all over the world who share the same passion for dance as I.
Should you wish to be follow-worthy, share material that relays something about who you are. Let your followers in on what you are up to but also highlight the work of others, or something that amuses you, or yes, even those daily bits of life (sometimes these are what ignite a conversation).
I tweet more with the people that do these things, though most relationships stay professional in nature. These personal connections which grow before or along-side the strictly-business ones foster good will. This is a method for increasing awareness of your business/expertise that is also fun!
Just remember, Twitter is not a substitute for face-to-face interaction. It is a valuable tool that you can use – don’t let it use you. As with any online network, users should be smart, safe, and savvy.
Giving Twitter a try?
There is a learning curve with Twitter. There is a culture and a shorthand to get to know. There are services which make its use more user friendly.
To help you with this, mashable.com has created a useful guide. Should you decide to join Twitter, It is surprising how much you can discover, glean, and communicate in 140 characters or less! Good luck!
Let me know if you have any questions. And come follow me! Ask me questions! Comment on what you’ve read here. I’d be happy to help get you started with some great dance Twitterers to follow!