When I first started using Twitter about a year ago (or whenever), I was perplexed about it. Who isn't, really?
Actually, there's a good chance that you may not even be on Twitter, maybe for the same reasons I almost jumped the Twitter ship. (I thought about combining Twitter and Ship there for a minute, like lots of Twitter Tweeps do, but then I realized that could turn out pretty vulgar… )
Anyway, back to my reason for considering jumping the Twitter Ship… I just didn't really get it. Hell, it's been a year now (or however long) and I'm still not entirely sure I get it. But I've learned some stuff that's caused me to stick around. Maybe it will help you work through your own conflicted Twitter feelings, if you've got them.
Not Everyone Can Be Awesome at Twitter
My general read on Twitter, after having spent a good amount of time “listening” plus a moderate amount of time sharing and participating, is that Twitter works best under three conditions:
- You are already famous/well-known
- You are on there a lot – all day – and you provide smart, valuable insight and resources for people (sometimes this gets you up into category #1)
- You are supernaturally witty and smart and a brilliant online conversationalist – plus you are on there all day, pretty much
I have spent a lot of time studying this because, frankly, I don't fit into any of those categories. And I want to be cool and use Twitter well. I want be be technologically cutting-edge. Most importantly, I want Twitter to be the productive and useful business tool I keep hearing it is from other people.
Twitter Can Be Productive & Pleasant, Even If You're Not Great At It
I found that traditionally “successful” use of Twitter doesn't come readily, even when you do all the stuff the “Twitter experts” suggest that you do. Even when you just try to be “natural” and “yourself” on Twitter. It's just not an intuitive space, the Twitter stream. So, as I saw these “how to be successful on Twitter” categories emerging, I kept trying to find other ways to use Twitter productively, for the benefit of my business, and in a way that is personally pleasant.
I've come to the conclusion that Twitter is not going to work for me that way I keep hearing it works.
Smart & Nice People Are on Twitter – Plus TONS of Useful Information
Once I realized that Twitter didn't have to work the way I kept hearing it was supposed to, I actually started enjoying Twitter. I have met lovely people on Twitter – generous, smart, and, well, witty people (of course). But also people, like me, who just really want to step into conversations meaningfully. People who want to share cool stuff they've experienced and done so that others can have that same goodness in their lives. I dig those conversations and I would be bummed if Twitter was taken away at this point, because it's a reliable place to find interesting people and information.
Maybe A New Angle On the Whole Twitter Thing Will Help
So, just in case you are like me and are feeling like you maybe aren't cut out for the cool Twitter witty banter crowd – or you have been too intimidated to get on Twitter at all because you can't figure out where you'd fit in, I offer you a few ways to use Twitter even when you're not whip-funny, famous or able to hang out and make friends there all day long:
- Follow some of those famous people who are whip-smart and witty and enjoy their tweets. They are often inspiring and thought-provoking. If you take the pressure off of your own ability to create that kind of tweet yourself (with its heady resultant engagement from other tweeters) you get the benefit of some great insights.
- Don't take the silence personally (not everyone follows the ideal Twitter ettiquette and I suppose it can make sense.) When I first started on Twitter I @-d at few people very directly and didn't get any response. They weren't even famous or anything (some of them were even in my own smallish town!). When they didn't reply to a couple of my initiated conversations, I felt like I did in high school when the cool kids standing at “the wall” didn't even acknowledge my existence at lunch break. While I eventually figured out how to side-up to a few of the kids at “the wall” at school, breaking into the cool crowd on Twitter felt impossible and deflating. Now, after being around a while, I get it that it is tough to stay on top of all of the conversations on Twitter and those deafening silences as I awaited the much-touted Twitter conversation were less about rejection of me and more of a time-management technique on the other person's part (I'm going with that story anyway.)
- Find a few of your kin and genuinely get to know them. Read the links in their tweets, respond to them when you are inspired, and consider taking the conversation beyond Twitter. I have enjoyed lovely expansions of Twitter-born connections with both @elasticmind and @ealvarezgibson (both of whom happen to also be whip-smart and witty) and continue to appreciate my connections with them on and off the live Twitter stream.
- Seek the latest and greatest on products, news and events in your areas of interest. Nowhere is easier than Twitter to get this information real-time. I learned about the very fine Lateral Action Course from @chrisbrogan on Twitter. An excellent find. Through some crazy Twitter click-through journey, I learned about a cool Crave Business event I went to last year. Both of these experience very positively impacted my business with valuable information I have integrated into my systems and processes. There's a ton of that kind of thing on Twitter.
See You On Twitter
So, I'm staying on Twitter – but I don't use it the way I thought I would. I don't use it the way I read about other people using it. Often, those writing about using Twitter as this great relationship-building and conversational tool fit into those three categories above (famous, uber-witty-banter-style, or on-all-day) and therefore, the outcomes flow to them differently than they do for me. And maybe for you.
I hope to see you on Twitter. Say hello, would you? I'm @michellebfranco. I may or may not reply that day, but I will respond, even if I can't think of anything especially clever to say.