When I joined Twitter in 2007, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Neither did a majority of Twitter users based on their first Tweet. Not too long ago, Twitter offered a nifty tool to read their first message posted on the popular social networking service. Over 41,000 Tweets later, I am still asked about what do I gain from using Twitter.
I gain the value of community and conversation on Twitter. While I can’t be on it all the time, I can be present and connect meaningfully with people that share interests with me.
If you joined Twitter today, I can only imagine how chaotic it must seem. You have thousands brands, people, videos, photos, promoted accounts, sponsored trending topics – all vying for your attention. And don’t get me started on the assault on your inbox. It is extremely noisy and what makes Twitter special is no longer valued by the platform.
And what made Twitter so special? It was the organic desire to share status update with each other on current events. It was having a local interest on national or regional events. It was the fact that everyone had an equal voice (for better or for worse) and could participate in the local community.
In fact, I credit Twitter for helping me discover and meet many amazing people in Phoenix when I moved here about six years ago. Despite being a top metro city, it was difficult to find people with similar, geeky interests. Twitter solved that by having the creative/technology class of Phoenicians interact and mingle on various topics. We talked about all kinds of stuff. A little bit of everything: politics, urban matters, tech subjects, sports, events, relationships and more. It was the medium to network and navigate the local community – at least it was for me.
I almost lay some blame into the chaos of Twitter into the rise of tools turning it into a commerce and marketing platform. When people skip experiencing their personal moment of Twitter’s real impact on people’s lives, it forever tarnishes the way they use the platform.
To benefit from Twitter, here are my tips:
- Follow people and brands you genuine value – You control the relevance of your Twitter feed. By following relevant brands and more importantly, people, you will have a better experience than most. If you need to, unfollow all those who are no longer interesting or relevant to you.
- Limit the sharing of links – This is obvious; Twitter was founded on conversation, not link sharing. Be present and converse with others. Links are a selfish form of contribution.
- Reply to anyone without a link – If someone shared something even remotely stimulating, engage in a conversation about it. This could be as simple as sharing your take on the subject or actually diving into an in-depth discussion. Just be mindful that others could be busy and may not reply immediately.
- Share candid thoughts and opinions – Most people tend to share “safe” content that doesn’t actually reflect their views, such as cats and viral videos. Twitter is different. Opinions are formed from honest, provocative thoughts.
- Use the official Twitter client or TweetDeck – For the beginners (and I’d say that most people are beginners on Twitter), don’t mess with third-party Twitter apps until they really need them. Stick to the tools that Twitter provides because it is the most consistent, clear experience for most users. I prefer using TweetDeck for the streaming capabilities.
- Be generous — It’s odd how many people expect Twitter to just give them value. What value are you adding to Twitter? The way to add value to Twitter is to listen, share relevant information, share meaningful pictures and links that help others. And it means being responsive. Being generous is a practical recommendation because it means you will help the platform improve. Additionally, when you’re generous, it is much more likely others will reciprocate.
- Don’t cheat — I am calling cheating as queuing up a list of Tweets into an automation tool. It’s also cheating to buy fake followers. It’s also cheating to have someone else that works for you to Tweet on your behalf. Cheating will only further prolong your learning curve and adoption of the platform. Be real about your use of Twitter, or get off of it. You can’t half-ass it.
- Ignore the noise – Ignore the distractions pulling you away from the conversation. Don’t bother trying to decipher Hashtags, Retweets, favorites, promoted accounts, image and video sharing, advanced search, saved searches, background images, etc. You’ll learn all that as you ascend deeper into your Twitter experience.
With this advice said, create your own Twitter experience. Your experience might not be anything like mine. In fact, it probably won’t be given the maturity of the platform. Be helpful, be generous and focus on the interactions you have.
You benefit from Twitter by the interactions you have with people. You benefit from Twitter by the access to practically anyone without barriers. You benefit by being accessible to others. You benefit from Twitter by creating and owning your legacy on a very fast-moving, public social network.
This post is a part of my 60 days of blogging. Read more about #60DOB.
photo credit: tantek
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