When I mention Twitter to others, it provokes looks of enthusiasm, confusion or sometimes scorn. Those of us who have figured out how to use it successfully are wide-eyed evangelists. But most people I meet either have dipped into it and just don’t get the attraction, or they dismiss it as a time-wasting fad they have no use for. I understand these negative reactions. Although the Twitter website is many times more helpful now than it was when I started “tweeting” in early 2008, it still is difficult to figure out how to spend time efficiently and effectively on Twitter.
Because Twitter has given me a huge return, both personally and professionally, I want to share with you what I’ve learned along the way so you can reap similar benefits. I’m going to discuss using Twitter in a personal context, as an individual using it for personal and professional reasons, but what I’m sharing can also be applied to an organization’s use of Twitter as well. The same “rules” apply.
Twitter is my #1 professional development tool. It’s my information curator. I first turn to the blog posts, articles, videos and webinars recommended by my Twitter friends before I read anything else. If I don’t have time to read the recommended post, I “favorite” it (now it’s called “like”) and return to it later.
I also use Twitter to follow the conversation and sound bites emerging from conferences, webinars and seminars I can’t attend in person. I participate in Twitter chats – weekly scheduled chats organized by industry, profession or interest and open to anyone who wishes to lurk (that is, just read) or participate.
Networking and Relationship Building
Twitter is a conversational medium. You can talk or tweet to anyone who’s listening or you can direct your conversation toward one or more people. You can even talk privately using the Direct Message function. Everyone uses Twitter in their own way. Some keep things purely professional. Many others, like me, do a mix of professional and personal tweets. I tweet mostly about associations, blogging and social media but I also sprinkle in tweets about food, cooking, craft beer, professional cycling and other topics. A mix of personal and professional gives you a better sense of a person; it makes them more interesting to follow.
A conversational platform like Twitter makes it easy for people to develop relationships that may remain online-only but, with care and attention, those relationships can deepen over time and even transform into real life friendships. Before I moved to Raleigh in the summer of 2009, I cultivated a network of Twitter followers who lived in the Raleigh/Durham area. I got to know them and they got to know me. By the time I moved here, my social calendar was full of coffee, beer and lunch meet-ups. I had an immediate social circle and many of those whom I met on Twitter before moving here are still my friends today. It was a completely different experience when I moved to Sacramento in 2004 before the days of Twitter. I arrived there knowing no one except the work colleagues who interviewed me prior to my move. It took years to develop the same quality network and friendships in Sacramento that I developed here in Raleigh in months.
I had a similar experience with my professional network. I originally learned about Twitter from bloggers in the association community. These bloggers and many others I met on Twitter have gone from being strangers to becoming acquaintances and friends. Twitter gave us a platform to share ideas and resources, participate in weekly chats and hang out and talk with each other. When I met many of my association Twitter friends for the first time at conferences, we didn’t greet each other with handshakes but with hugs. We already knew each other from Twitter. The ice had long been broken. We had a sense of each others’ personality and character. The “Twitter hug” is more common than you would imagine.
Reputation and Branding
Personal branding is still an odd concept for many. At first, it might seem a bit smarmy, connoting too much spiel and self-promotion. But I think the best personal branding comes from being the real you in a thoughtful way.
If someone, let’s say a potential employer or client, googles your name, what will they see in the search results? Maybe your contact info or bio on your company website? But besides that, is there anything else that gives them some idea or clue about your experience, knowledge, personality or capabilities? What if they were to compare those results with a search on someone who tweets regularly, comments on blog (or blogs herself) and has an updated LinkedIn profile? That social presence gives a better sense of a person.
Your Twitter account is indexed by Google, along with the rest of your public online footprint, and will rank high in search results. That’s why you should be cognizant of your tweets and how they might influence someone’s perception. Be a good social media citizen – share good stuff, be a good conversationalist, share the spotlight and express your personality. Twitter gives you the opportunity to share your work with others – your articles, blog posts, videos and presentations. I can tell you from personal experience that this gives you the exposure that will lead to jobs and other opportunities.
Even if your Twitter use is strictly personal, you can have access to all kinds of good information and conversation – conversation that can lead to new relationships. I have found great recipes, hiking trail suggestions, Tour de France gossip, news about craft beer releases, events and activities in Raleigh, while sharing laughs and becoming acquaintances, and sometimes good friends, with those I meet on Twitter.
In upcoming posts, I’ll show you how to get started on Twitter by creating a profile and managing your settings, how Twitter works, and how to overcome the two obstacles that trip up so many – figuring out whom to follow and how to engage on Twitter.
Twitter Basics series
- Part 7 – Managing Your Tweets and Tweeps
- Part 6 – How to Tweet Like a Real Tweep
- Part 5 – Finding the Best People to Follow
- Part 4 – Your Settings
- Part 3 – How It Works
- Part 2 – Set Up an Account and Create a Profile