Monday, April 13, 2009

Twitter: the Nike of blogging?

Here's the message I want to give all the people out there who are either confounded by Twitter or have developed a real hatred toward it due to the exhaustive media coverage: Just DO it!

The thing about Twitter is there really is no mystery to it, and you don't need an advanced degree in higher education to use it. Just type something! Don't have any idea what to type? Let me tell you, I have over 120 followers and 600+ updates (as of this writing), and I have suffered plenty of times from what-do-I-write? syndrome myself. My personal rule of thumb when it comes to what to Twitter is this:

  1. If I could text-message the world, what would I say?
  2. Is it interesting to me?
  3. Is it interesting to my followers (or would-be followers)?
  4. Is it something I want the whole world to see?
  5. What are other people talking about?

Therein lies the beauty of Twitter: it is your text message to the world.

Which brings me to another point: to those of you who have marked your Twitter profiles as 'private' ... what's the point? I'm not going to follow you because nobody's going to see me on your profile! KGMB9 in Honolulu put it best in their Tech blog post today: "The First Rule of Social Media? Be Social!" If you want to keep your thoughts private, Twitter is not for you. There are plenty of blogs out there that allow you to spout off and/or live your double life with a "private" setting. Wordpress is one such platform, so is LiveJournal.

The point of Twitter is not to let it rule your world; Twitter is your tool to YOU ruling the world, if anything! One way I grew my followers is because I searched for tips and advice, which I found on other people's Twitter profiles who are much bigger than me. I devoured the advice; I found it relatively easy to follow. But I don't overwhelm myself either; it's an evolving process. Unless you're a big celebrity like Shaquille O'Neal or Ashton Kutcher, don't expect your follower numbers to grow exponentially the way theirs do.

Speaking of celebrities, that is another reason I love Twitter - it brings me real-time updates of their lives, often with a dose of hilarious comedy, as in the case of actor/comedian Michael Ian Black. It does not give me all their sensitive personal information, which I'm not after anyway; I just enjoy hearing what's floating their boat at any given time of day, or what irritates them, or what new projects they're working on. For the most part, it's just free entertainment from the horse's mouth. What could be better? Find a celebrity you like who likes sharing his/her life and viewpoints, and I guarantee you'll get some ideas for composing your own tweets.

Growing followers was not my goal with Twitter however, when I first signed up for it. The following for me has simply been a natural outgrowth of what I use Twitter for: communicating.

That being said I think another way I gained followers is because I educated myself on what is both appropriate and interesting to post on Twitter. It's really not that hard! Do a Google search of "twitter tips", pick one, and get started. I also recommend following Twitter_Tips on your profile. They post tips quite frequently throughout the day. I've learned a LOT from them! Just log in and read what they post for a day or two and I bet you'll get even more ideas for what to post from them alone. (It's not a crime to sign up for Twitter, follow a few people, and just read their updates for a few days before you post your own. There are Twitter crimes, which usually involve a spam bot, but that is not one of them.)

(Oh yeah, just signing up for Twitter does not make you vulnerable to having your most private thoughts "hacked" as it were. Twitterverse and beyond is only going to know what you bother to post - Twitter is about as WYSIWYG as it gets.)

One final thought: as I mentioned before my intention with Twitter when I first signed up was not to accumulate a huge following. I'm happy for them, don't get me wrong. I fully enjoy and appreciate every person who is following me, most of whom I myself follow. But my primary goal with Twitter was to write. I am a writer, a story-teller, a communicator. Twitter for me is simply a different way to communicate; Twitter actually makes me feel quite successful in meeting a unique challenge, one which I've struggled with ever since the third grade when I received my first diary - how to tell a short story! Everyone who knows me well knows my talent for long-winded blog entries and emails. I'll never forget my college film professor, elspeth kydd, trying to impress upon me the importance of being able to tell a story in short-format. I'll also never forget how proud I was when I rose to the occasion and met her challenge!

I'm also naturally curious and I love to try new things. So I viewed Twitter as an experiment of sorts; I was simply curious to see what would become of it. I was perfectly content to sit back, do my thing, and just wait and see what happened. In the meantime I would read articles, read other people's tweets, or just do something else entirely. My Twitter is a newsfeed of my life, but I also give room and space to other's news feeds too (called "retweets" or "RT"), because somebody who's not subscribed to some of the people I follow might find their news interesting or useful.

For more information, check out this article: The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter

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