Monday, November 07, 2011

How I Made Twitter Fun After Ignoring It for Four Years

140 characters. Couldn't be simpler, right?

Wrong. Or maybe I'm just really dumb. Or both.

When I first signed up for Twitter in 2007, I seriously didn't get it. I thought it was stupid and didn't use it. Much later I found TweetDeck, and some things started to make sense. It became fun, friendships formed, and now it's a daily source of humor, education and joy. This post is about what changed.

If you're looking for an expert's perspective on how to use Twitter, you're in the wrong place. This is less of a "guide for Twitter newbies" and more of a "Twitter newbie's experience making it not suck" after about four months of active learning.
Me, Ignoring Twitter for Four Years

Twitter is an ecosystem; a virtual world of rules, resources, etiquette, style, humor and friendships. Learning how to use it can be overwhelming, kind of like finding a seat at the lunch table on the first day of school.

But it's also a lot of fun.

Here's what I figured out. I hope it helps you also:

Find a Tool You Like
I started with TweetDeck (which I still use on my mobile), but now I'm using Twimbow which I love. Hootsuite is also really popular.

Start Local
Connect with people at conferences and meetups in your area, then Google their name and location later to say hello (if you didn't already grab a card with a Twitter handle). It's amazing how you can enhance real relationships by throwing around ideas on Twitter. The next time you hang out, you'll already have things to talk about.

Start With People You Know "IRL"
Invite someone to lunch and get to know them personally as you begin your Twitter relationship. Their tweets will mean so much more to you now that you've met them in real life.

Reply Often
Figuring this one thing out changed everything for me: only people who follow both you and the person you're replying to will see your reply. So go for it! Interact with people, tell them how you feel and what you think. Encourage them, laugh with them, tell them you appreciate them. You won't be flooding all of your followers so don't hold back.

Join a Conversation
See a good conversation between friends? Jump in! Twitter is like a party and if your friends were chatting up one of your favorite topics at a party, you'd jump in also. The trick here is to contribute something worthwhile. Don't be that awkward party-goer who says, "HEY GUYS!!!" just a little too excitedly.

Use Twitter Lists
I included this because everyone tells me they are key. Honestly, I'm still figuring out the best way to use them, though I have setup a bunch of private ones. I told you I was a newbie.

Set Up Some Searches
Find a few conference speakers you really enjoy (preferably from your local BarCamp) and set up some searches using their Twitter handle. That's a really great way to learn quickly because you'll see how they reply and interact with their followers and how those followers respond.

Should You Follow Back or Not?
This discussion may be older than Calvinism vs. Arminianism... There are strong opinions on both sides, but I think #TeamFollowBack is a mistake. Who you follow defines the value you gain from the network. Choose wisely. Don't be sad if someone unfollows you and don't feel bad about unfollowing someone who isn't making your stream awesome. If you don't agree, leave a comment and let's chat, but first read these blog posts from Michael Hyatt and Chris Brogan.

Is It OK to Automate / Schedule Tweets?
Here's another big discussion with passionate opinions on both sides. As a general rule, automation seems to be highly frowned upon. That includes automated direct messages when someone follows you or auto responding to keywords. Scheduled tweets, on the other hand, seem to be loved by some and ridiculed by others. As with everything else in this post, I'm still learning, but I've settled into using bufferapp to only schedule links to blogs and resources. Everything else, I think, should be part of a real time conversation.

So now what?
  • Wondering what to tweet? Think useful, encouraging, funny, inspiring, interesting, personal, unique, thankful, helpful, educational and fun.
  • Share links to what you're reading and what you like.
  • Retweet your friends when you get that, "I wish I came up with that!" feeling or to help them spread the word.
  • Proof read your tweets. Twice. Then read them again. Look for any possible double meanings you didn't intend and reword your tweet around them.
  • Leave room for comments or old school retweets (120 chars is a good length to aim for). I used to tweet right at 140 characters every time which caused any retweets to look like a 13-year-old's text-message-version of my original tweet: "luv u! k thnx bye."
  • I've already talked about not claiming your own awesomeness so I won't elaborate here. Just don't do it.
Ultimately, it's all about communication and relationships. Use common sense. A good rule of thumb is: Would this be annoying in real life? It'll probably be annoying on Twitter also.

Be friendly. Be humble. Be yourself.

Most of all, don't forget your first mention and your first retweet. Think about how fun it was. Keep that feeling, share it with others and don't expect it all the time. I never want to get to a place where it takes 5 retweets to feel as good as 1 retweet does now. If someone likes something I said enough to share it with their friends, that's an awesome compliment! I never want to take that for granted.

Want to learn Twitter together? Give me a follow and a reason to follow back.

Here are some friends I really appreciate who have taught me a lot about Twitter: @kennysilva @travisro @jwd2a @kacythedude @jwidmer @lauraclick @joey_strawn @tylerlclark

Here are some posts about using Twitter from people who actually know what they are talking about:

Here are some more resources I've found interesting as part of my Twitter newbie journey: (lots of opinions on this also, but it helped me learn) (Also helped me learn and see progress) (It has Angry Birds built right in! How awesome is that!?!) (I've been using this one for months) (I need to use this more) (Another interesting one I'm still toying with)

What would you add from your first impressions of Twitter?
What other Twitter tools and resources do you find useful?


danblackonleadership said...

Great ways to get connect on Twitter. I have heard about twitter deck but have not used it yet.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Dan! I've really been enjoying the relationships that have been nurtured via Twitter. It's something I hope everyone can enjoy.

Laura Click said...

Luke - I love that you shared what you've learned since diving into Twitter. I think there a lot of folks still scratching their heads trying to figure this thing out. Your posts proves to people they're not alone!

And yes, getting retweeted or mentioned feels pretty awesome - no matter how long you've been at it! I know I love each and every one. It means even more when it comes from friends. Thanks for the shout out, friend. I've enjoyed watching you learn about Twitter and helping you where I can along the way!

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Laura! I've learned so much from you. I really, really appreciate it. It's fun to say: you guys have actually brought more joy to my day-to-day life because of your input. I better understand social media and relationship building online and there's no way to measure the value of that.

You know what also feels awesome? Blog comments. :)

Thanks again.

Laura Click said...

Yay! And yes, blog comments rule. :)

Luke Stokes said...

If you want more input on whether or not you should schedule tweets, check out this conversation on Google+:

Khayrattee Wasseem said...

that's an awesome post Luke!
I love your ending: "If someone likes something I said enough to share it with their friends, that's an awesome compliment! I never want to take that for granted".


Luke Stokes said...

Thank you, Khayrattee!