This was the summer that wasn’t. A monsoon season settled into New England and there was no luxury vacation on the docket. Client work done at a frenetic pace occupied us and defied the daily news feed of economic doom and gloom. In that I clearly have no complaint.
With the rain still upon us but client work easing, I set out with a mission of mastering Twitter. And I’m in good company with daily additions to the burgeoning online world that communicates thoughts from insightful to the mundane in 140 characters. I did a lot of reading, loaded up a username, tweaked my background or ‘twitscape’ and then I froze, lurked even, over-thinking my first foray into the land of Twitter.
One dry, hot day in May, from Sun Devil Stadium in Phoenix, I sent out my inaugural tweet from my daughter’s college commencement: spending nite w Pres Obama + Alice Cooper @ ASU graduation! News nuggets to follow! (3:51 PM May 13th). Then a follow-up: Obama to ASU grads: don’t have complacency of ambition, quips to board of regents he agrees his body of work is “in progress.”( 2:02 AM May 14th from Tweetie). This was in reference to the brouhaha over ASU’s decision to not issue a customary honorary degree to the “first keynote speaker.”
And that was it—despite my forethought this was the most anticlimactic output of my writing career and technological enlightenment. At the outset, I disciplined myself to only send very news focused tweets. But like any newly developed muscle, the topics of my communiqués became more varied and agile with practice. One of my latest stimulated some discussion traction: the absurdity a bagel shop’s labor charge to slice a bagel as an ironic declaration of the slumping economy’s rebound.
I’ve found fellow foodies, entrepreneurs, thought-leaders, authors and folks with kindred interests ranging from marketing to dogs to politics. From @jackwelch to @cnn to @mrskutcher, Twitter connects all of us, making our conversational universe is both larger and smaller… but trickier.
Twitter has been like learning to drive all over again… and I have 25 years of professional communications training to lean on. I’ve always been enthusiastic for new technology, am insatiably curious and a true news junkie. Twitter should have been well within my comfort zone, and I intended to glide into it with the confidence of someone who had done her homework. But just because I’m a member of iPhone Nation, had read books and perused many tweets didn’t inform me about DM vs. @ or RT and # within a litany of texting shorthand. But (LOL), it doesn’t take too long to figure out the clever Twitter etiquette so you can declare: BTDT!
What I now know is that like all learned skills, be it driving or playing tournament bridge, Twitter is an acquired endurance sport, requiring ample time to practice, and the ability to be patient with oneself. Twitter requires both listening and participating on a parallel track. For a confessed, highly competitive Type A, I’ve had to resist focusing on the growth of my followers as a primary indicator of my performance because that distracts from the more meaningful goal of achieving new and quality singular connections as may tie to my business or personal enrichment. It requires not being intimidated by the folks for whom Twitter is more central to their daily routines or even their livelihoods. And it requires supreme time management once you find the trove of learning and networking that is the complete Twitter experience. Be prepared—it’s easy to get sucked in to the vortex that is #twitterville.
Twitter is impressively democratic for its universality. It vaults people you don’t know, or are vaguely familiar with by name or industry, into iconic status—and therein is the paradox and the opportunity for the rest of us. If you are daring enough to articulate a scintillating thought, preferably with a combination of moxie and humor and a tidy http://www.bit.ly.comor http://www.tinyurl.com link, your 140 characters can be potent and effective in asserting knowledge. Take comfort in knowing that there are CEOs and prolific authors who are years behind the advantage that Twitter can deliver to the visibility of your personal or corporate brand, and your bottom line. Luckily for us the RT is an open invitation for Twitter newbies to resend the content of someone seemingly more well known as calibrated by their followers. This makes Twitter a pretty forgiving conversing venue with unrivaled diversity and reach. The open landscape makes it worth trying for the age-old adage: nothing ventured, nothing gained! So to those who gave up before they began, I would encourage you to reconsider and dive in!
The lesson of the summer that never was, is that you only get out of something what you put into it, and Twitter is a worthy adventure that rewards your investment of time and experimentation. Moreover, its free brand marketing and tweet-cred is something than can be acquired. And so to the Twitter elite @GuyKawasaki and @Mashable as well as those with noteworthy presence like @Kim and @mayhemstudios and those who I know IRL @KWdesignonline and @Mayne, I thank you for informing me, for injecting humor into a busy day, and for occasionally making me look smart. What I’ve learned, and am happy to share by living example, is that it’s pretty easy to engage people in conversations about subjects you know or have some interest in. Twitter is what you make of it, and you get out of it what you put into it. Stay tuned: @loringbarnes and @claritynews.