I fought joining the service for a long time. I value my privacy, and honestly, I didn’t understand how useful a tool like Twitter could be for business and personal goals. When I finally dipped my toe in the water, I was amazed by all of the information that is shared within the confines of 140 characters. Then, I got a little carried away and did a cannonball into the deep end. Fortunately, I learned to scale it back before I drowned.
Reaching a milestone number like 10,000 is no small feat. Seeing how close I was to hitting it made me stop and evaluate the quality and content of my tweets. Participating in the Twitter community has taken time, effort and energy. I have made lots of mistakes and have a few regrets, but on the whole, the experience has been a positive one. To commemorate (?) the occasion, I decided to put together a list of 10 things I learned along the way to 10,000 tweets.
1: 140 is good, but less is better.
Keeping your comments to 140 characters challenges you to edit what you have to say down to the most important points, but you don’t leave room for the tweet to have traction. If you would like to use it to encourage retweets and engaging conversations, keep the length well under the limit. I was challenged by Kamud Ajmani, @ajmanik, to make my tweets short and sweet with the concept #leave30, and it was great practice for me. I learned that it’s possible to engage more by using fewer words. I’m not always successful, but long tweets have become the exception, not the rule.
2: Chat, but choose wisely.
This is where I made the most mistakes. When I joined Twitter, I really didn’t know what the purpose of a chat was. Now I do, and I’m here to tell you that if you choose the right chats to participate in there is a high probability that you will build networks with others in your professional field, grow relationships with people who share your interests, become an good will ambassador for brands you already respect and use, and expand your horizons far beyond your expectations.
Some of my errors included participating in too many chats, accepting virtual cocktails, and retweeting with abandon. I probably wasted a few thousand tweets. Lessons were learned, so there was some value to my mistakes, and I met some amazing people along the way.
Do participate in chats that are related to your interests, but make sure to wander outside your area of expertise now and then. I learned about the awesome power of networking with kindness from Social Media Manners, #SMManners; the rules of the blogging road, what makes a blog successful and how to increase its traffic from Blog Chat, #blogchat; how, what and to whom I should submit projects for online and print publications from Get Published, #getpublished. I don’t participate in these chats on a regular basis anymore, but I do listen in occasionally and I check the hash tags every few weeks to read recent conversations, so I continue to learn from the communities.
The chats I regularly join in now are ones that primarily serve a professional purpose. Barbara Segal, @noirblancdesign created #IntDesignerChat as a place for designers to come together to share ideas, learn new skills and business strategies, and talk about trends in our field. I’ve participated in a couple of Barbara’s Tweet-Ups at industry events, and I can testify to how much effort it takes to make the magic happen on a weekly basis. A one hour chat takes a lot of prep work, and no one works harder than Barbara. She is one smart cookie. Her guests are often the heavy hitters of design, including everyone from authors to architects to Hollywood set designers. I’ve learned invaluable tools and built wonderful relationships by participating in Barbara’s chat.
Canadian interior designer Jonathan Legate, @jonathanlegate, and multitalented north-easterner Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo, @abcddesign, run #DesignTV. The conversation leans toward creating a lifestyle for yourself and your clients, sharing passions and inspirations, and making lemonade out of sour design lemons. This is a group of seriously creative people who type really fast. It is wild ride and the hour goes by far too quickly. It is a joy to see all of the positive things and amazing opportunities that pop up for Jonathan, Amy, and the designers who participate in their chat!
3: Mind your manners.
Say thank you, but not please. Begging for someone to follow you or like your Facebook page only makes them want to follow you and like you less. Saying thank you when a helpful link is shared, and if you are retweeted or quoted, is an act of common decency. Saying thank you for a follow is great when you don’t have many followers, but as your numbers increase it becomes a never ending, time consuming exercise. Take some of the pressure off yourself and make it easier by returning the favor of a follow or a listing, or use a service that helps you keep up with tweets of gratitude, but check the person or brand’s timeline, website or blog first, to make sure they are a good fit for you. Trust me, the quality of contacts in your stream is far more important than the quantity of your followers.
4: Be uplifting and supportive.
In the design community, no one does this better than Leslie Carothers, @tkpleslie, and Veronika Miller, @modenus. Twitter is an integral part of both of their businesses, and have no doubt about it, like everyone else, they are there to either promote their own brand or connect their clients to the right audience. What sets these two ladies apart is they continually engage in positive conversations with a broad spectrum of people on a regular basis, introduce like-minded types, share valuable information and sources, and uplift the work of others. In doing so, they create an enormous amount of good will, which leads to more business for them.
For example, I had the honor of meeting Leslie in person, during a recent trip to the west coast. For me, the trip was educational; for her, it was work. The creator of #GetPublished, she took some time away from her clients to speak with me on a personal basis. I was impressed by her demeanor, so I made a point of introducing her to a lighting manufacturer who I thought would benefit from her expertise. It may turn into a profitable venture for both of them, it may not. My point is that she had built up a reserve of good will with me on Twitter, proved to be just as kind in reality, and that made me want to lift her up in return. Now, multiply that by her 21,000 followers and imagine the possibilities. Impressive, isn’t it?
I like to follow Veronika and her rotating gang of global bloggers as they scour the planet to share fabulous design finds with their readers. The end of the hash tag changes depending on their current location, but it always begins with #BlogTour. The team at modenus.com is committed to connecting manufacturers, showrooms, suppliers, designers and potential clients from all over the world with each other. They are getting ready to hit the streets of New York. Follow the hash tag #BlogTourNYC for a virtual front row seat to the best design events the city has to offer. It is fascinating to read everyone’s account of the same event. They all have a unique experience, and therefore a unique experience to write about. To me, it is just more proof that we all have a important voice.
Some other tweeters who generously participate in and support the design community, and beyond, are @buildingmoxie, @MarkJohnsonFAIA, @lesliefineint, @Talv58, @quintessenceblog, @larryruhl, and @brendaslynn. I know I’ve left out a ton of people, but you can easily spot them in my feed, or in the feeds of the people I’ve listed above.
5: You don’t have to check in with everyone all the time, but do make a point to say hello now and then.
I follow a few people who have thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of followers. (I’m not thinking about celebrities, but I guess they fit this category as well.) When I read a particularly interesting or hilarious tweet from one of them, I will take time to retweet it with a comment added, or just tell them how much I enjoyed it. Believe it or not, most of those people are looking for a human connection on Twitter too. We all want some kind of personal interaction in life, and sometimes all it takes is firing off a quick thank you or witty reply to engage them in a brief, entertaining conversation.
Some of the very interesting people I check in with from time to time are @samuel_clemons, @bobborson, @dogwalkblog, @janedevin, @piperbayard, @janetcallaway, and @pegfitzpatrick. Their wheels are always turning — in Sam’s case it’s a ferret wheel — as they spin their words into works of art. Janet gave me the unbelievable gift of this quote: Release the thought that does not serve you. You have no idea what a difference that made for me. Janet does, because I made a point to tell her. You know what she did in return? She thanked me for letting her know; generous soul, that one.
6: Comedy is king.
I often check my feed when I need a laugh. There are certain people I can usually count on to brighten up my day.
One of the first guys I met on Twitter, and nearly simultaneously in real life, is Brandon Smith, @dcoopsd. He is a talented young designer, a sweet soul and a gifted wit. His tweets are as much fun as his blog posts. A few of the other people who make me laugh on a regular basis are @joshmalina, @ceebee308, @alecbaldwin, @joan_rivers, @meredithheron, @modernsauce, @thenextmartha, @badderhomes, @moggitgirls and @thebloggess. Sometimes I reply to their witty repartee, but I usually just gather my smile and go on my merry way. They have no idea that their witticisms completely changed the tenor of my entire day. Hanging around the interwebs with one or two from this eclectic group will surely brighten the gloomiest of moods!
7: There are all kinds of boobs.
Really! Whether they are literal or figurative, you will find them on Twitter. If your icon is of nothing but your cleavage I’m not going to follow you, no matter how fantastic it is. If you spout out nothing but nonsense, I will unfollow you. Like that! I might be interested in reading your blog posts and watching your videos, but I will never see them if your spewing sewage all over my feed.
For example, a seemingly talented, well regarded, apparently middle-aged designer constantly tweets cryptic crap about the youngish cast of a certain series of vampire movies. I understand that it’s easy to over do the enthusiasm sometimes. I’ve done it myself from time to time. (Hello, Downton Abbey!) What I’m talking about is a constant drumbeat of inane comments that are made to no one, about nothing, with nary a hash tag to explain what she’s talking about. Just like in the real world, it makes her look crazy, even if she isn’t. If you were on a street corner, you would surely roll up your window.
That’s what I did, except here its called “unfollow.” Can you imagine seeing a feed like that from your dentist? You wouldn’t step foot in her door, would you? Well, then it’s not right for you either. If you’re using the same handle you link to on your website to obsessively espouse your undying affection for the cinematically undead, you might want to consider having two Twitter accounts. You can control both of them from one application on your computer, phone or tablet. Please look into it, for all our sakes!
(While we are on the subject of boobs, please don’t lump me in a #FF group with your porn followers. Thanks.)
8: You can learn a lot, if you want to.
When I started looking at my feed as an extension of my education, Twitter became a much more useful tool for me. Whether the topic is the latest in news, politics, technology, resources or business practices, I always learn something new. Sometimes, I find things I never want to hear or see again. I’ve learned to ignore trending topics most of the time, that I don’t want to see your latest manicure, EVER, but I may be interested in what you made for dinner….if it’s delicious, photographed well enough that I can see it and you link me up to the restaurant or recipe.
One of the best instances of learning by sharing occurred during Hurricane Irene in November. Having lost power, Shelley Holmes, @wykehamgirl, and her family came dangerously close to losing their lives because of carbon monoxide poisoning from their generator. She used Twitter to share her story and to encourage everyone to install detectors in their homes. As word of her ordeal spread, people from all over the place came forward with similar tales. Thankfully, I already have them, but now many others know: no CO detector = no generator.
9: Don’t over share.
There are some things you should keep to yourself. Do it. Trust me. I’ve made this mistake too. It’s the Twitter version of what I like to call Restaurant Rules. If you wouldn’t do it in front of a crowd in a restaurant, or in front of your mom, don’t do it at home. Likewise if you wouldn’t yell it in a crowd, or in front of your mom, don’t be Typie McTyperton and blurt it out here. (Besides, your mom is probably already reading your tweets.) If you haven’t noticed, Twitter is nothing if not a very crowded high school cafeteria. Preserve your integrity. Be the adult in the room!
Also, turn off your location detector on your smart phone photo apps, and if you’re alone, don’t tweet about where you are until you’re walking out the door. There are some unstable souls in this world and a lot of them are sitting behind a computer, phone or tablet pretending to be something they’re not. If you don’t believe me, check out the video @duncanpaisley shared with his followers. It’s at the end of this post.
10: Trolls don’t just live under bridges. Don’t be a troll.
I’m of average height, I’m a
little lot rounder than I’d like to be and every other morning my hair sticks straight up. I may have days where I look like a troll, but hopefully I never tweet like one. Troll is a just a polite term for a bully. There are people who search for specific words or phrases, intending to be funny but in reality make it impossible for me to use words like iPad or inconceivable without engaging the block button. There are also lots of people itching for a fight on Twitter.
I recently went on a road trip, where I got surprisingly good gas mileage for my make and model of car. I was so happy about it, I tweeted an Instagram shot of my digital dashboard display to the manufacturer. They must have thought it was impressive too, because they quickly retweeted it to their followers. You would’ve thought I posted a picture of me running over Mickey Mouse. Twice.
The haters came out of thin air in droves! I know people have very strong feelings about their cars, so I didn’t take it all personally, but one guy went so far as to call me a liar. Really, Fella? I sent a photo. Of a digital display. I can barely find the battery is in my car. The darn thing can parallel park itself. How on earth could I fake the gas mileage? He clearly had issues with the brand, not with me. I wouldn’t normally engage with someone like that, but for some reason I felt the need to extra care to respond to him with kindness. He stopped badgering me and I was able to walk away without feeling like a bully myself. Other people haven’t been as amenable.
I can only imagine how difficult an environment it must be for awkward teens on Twitter. I was taken to task over MPGs. The list of things teenagers judge each other on is a mile long and made of jagged glass. Twitter and Facebook give them platforms to bully far beyond the confines of a school yard. Teen suicides are on the rise, due in part to the nonstop barrage of insults hurled across the Internet. I’d like to see both platforms take an strong stand and put big actions behind it.
10,000 tweets in, I now know that there are people on Twitter, probably lounging around in their
wife beaters pajamas, just looking to be an irritant or an agitator. I dont want to be either one of those, but I will admit that I spent the entire day in my jammies. Why not? I wasn’t going anywhere.
Thankfully, I’m also happy to say I’ve found that there are more people like Barbara, Leslie, and Brandon out there, using the power of their words and actions for positive means. For the most part, there are real people behind the keypads and cartoon icons, and I try to be aware of how they may feel, because just like in the real world, there are cliques and caste systems, posers and pretenders, and winners and losers but there is room for everyone, except for bots and bullies. In truth, they all want what everyone else wants: to be acknowledged, to be heard. Be one of the nice people. Engage with someone you haven’t heard from in a while. Be nice to a newbie. You never know, your random act of kindness may not only change the direction of their day, but possibly their entire life. That, my friends, is a powerful thing.
Sermon over. Watch the video. Protect your kids. Hallelujah. Amen.