Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be, a social media guru. I’m just a person who thinks about stuff a lot, and this has come up a number of times.
I’m not an early adopter. Sometimes it takes me years to figure out what I want to use something for before I actually get on it, and Twitter was one of those things. I’ve been on Twitter seriously since about February of this year, so I’m pretty new at it. Still, I’ve learned a number of things, and I wanted to share them. Some people say I’m a Twitter pusher, and I am, because there’s lots of good reasons to get on it, and virtually no downsides.
So what’s Twitter? If you’re on the internet, you’ve probably at least heard of it. It’s a social media network that serves as a forum for conversations, updates, and news in a medium more public than something like Facebook or LinkedIn. Facebook is about who wants to find you, but Twitter is about who you want to find. Your favourite writers, actors, politicians, singers, and scientists are probably on Twitter. So are your favourite charities, radio stations, news sites, and stores. And they want you to find them and listen to what they have to say. Everyone on Twitter, at least initially, wants to talk with you.
But why join that? Why be a part of it? There’s all kinds of reasons, and I’m going to give you a few.
People and Places
Twitter is a great way to find out about events which are going on around the world, but also in your community. If you’re travelling and looking for things to do, it’s a great way to find out about things relevant to your interests (because the people you follow are people you’re interested in). Even if you’re not travelling, knowing about great places to go locally or knowing that people you’re interested in are going to them creates an opportunity to meet them and create a deeper relationship with them. If you go back to my party post, all the people in it but two, I heard about on Twitter and then met in real life, and now we’re pretty good friends. And the more you do this, the more things you’ll find out about, and the more people you’ll meet. And if you follow them on Twitter, you already know a bit about what they’re like. They want you to. The reverse is also true, because tweeting invites people to see what you’re like, and they can make the same choices about you.
Inspiration and Motivation
Inspiration comes from the strangest places, and the influx of tweets means there’s always fresh content for your imagination. I have a follow first policy, so I’ll follow just about anybody, and then periodically go through and unfollow people. I don’t know who’s going to plant the seed of a new blog post or new project in me, so I like to keep my options open. Motivation also happens, because Twitter is just like life. If you surround yourself with people who are ambitious, dedicated, generous, and hard-working, it’s easier to be like that, and push yourself. It’s easier to think that if they can plan events, launch projects, or just get up in the morning, well, so can you.
Learning and Lifestyle
Bloggers are on Twitter. Bloggers who aren’t may actually be crazy. And people blog about just about everything. If you’re looking to learn something, odds are good that somebody’s tweeting about it. On top of that, news services and stores are also connected, which means that you can get your news up to the minute, and find out about sales and deals as they start.As far as lifestyle, looking for new recipe ideas? Follow some caterers and see what they come up with. Need a twist for that cocktail party? Twitter’s got people for that too. Wardrobe recommendations, or just want to see what other people are doing with their lives? It’s all there.
There are some common challenges I face when talking about this, and they’re legitimate obstacles. It can seem pretty daunting, especially if you’re getting on the bandwagon late, like I did. I spent months following only two people and not knowing what else to do. But there are ways to overcome them, and hear they are from least frequent to most.
#3: Twitter is for Narcissistic Jerks
I think this comes from the idea that most people tweet for and about themselves as a way of getting attention. What I don’t get is why there’s anything wrong with that, or why doing that makes one a narcissist or a jerk. If someone has something to say, they want to be heard. Used to be you’d stand on the street corner and yell. Now you can yell in 140 characters or less. Twitter’s just a new way to be heard. Now, there are certainly narcissistic jerks on Twitter. They’re pretty much everywhere. Sometimes, people are jerks. Sometimes one of those people is me, I’m sorry to say. Don’t follow those people. If you don’t like what someone is saying, whether that’s points that they’re making or detailed accounts of their bathroom activities, you don’t have to listen on Twitter.
#2: I Can’t Keep Track of It All
The second obstacle people often bring up is that they just don’t have time to keep track of all the things which are going on on Twitter. And you know what? That’s fine. Keep track of what you can. Maybe you only wander on every few days. If you’re a private user (rather than tweeting for your company), and especially a beginner, that’s okay. Part of something is better than all of nothing.
#1 I’ve Got Nothing I Want to Put Out There
This is by far the most frequent challenge people raise. And it doesn’t even matter. You don’t have to join Twitter to talk. Join it to listen. Again, your favourite authors, singers, bloggers, and newspapers are on here. This is your chance to listen to them. It’s your chance to gain a window into their lives and activities, and they’re inviting you to do that. Want to find out what Felicia Day is going to be up to at the San Diego Comic Con? Done. I know people who only listen on Twitter, and that’s great. That’s what I did for a while. Eventually, maybe you’ll find something to tweet about, or make something to tweet about. I hope you do, because I want to hear about it.
In short, if you’re not using Twitter, I think you should be. If you’re not using it to its full extent, try to. Don’t be afraid to follow five hundred people, if all of those people are saying things you’re interested in. Invite those people into bits of your life, and see how it’s improved by the interaction. I look forward to hearing from you.