I opened my Twitter account almost 8 years ago, after a wine-enhanced dinner party. Low expectations? Oh yeah. But I have come around. Today as I approach tweet number 2,500 (thanks @TweetCounter), I stopped for a brief moment to consider what I have learned from this amazing tool, both professionally and personally.
# 1 You get out of it what you put into it. Both for myself and for clients, from government agencies to arts groups, the effort you put into using Twitter is proportional to the wealth you extract from it. To maximize your tweet return, don’t think of it just as a posting tool, but also as a listening device and research outlet. I check the bio and tweets of every Twitter user who follows me (or a client’s account) and evaluate whether they will make a good partner. It takes a lot of time (especially when I was helping to build up @SFOpera’s 80,000+ followers) but it’s worth it to form a network of partners and influencers across time and space.
# 2 Hashtags are the new Dewey Decimal System. OK, I’m old, but I remember memorizing the key DDS numbers so that I could head directly to the section of a library for the kind of information that is important to me. The Dewey system was static, while hashtags are living, breathing and constantly on the move, but taking the effort to find (or start and promote) hashtags can serve as an index that organizes the 500 million tweets a day into a useful and enlightening resource.
# 3 Twitter is about instant gratification and universal connection. Yes, Facebook lets me bond with friends, sharing life events or opinions with people whom I (at least sort of) know and like. Twitter lets you carry on a conversation with folks you will never meet, and get information in the instant. Wait, was that an earthquake? Get on Twitter and search and you’ll know before the scientists do.
Twitter can be annoying and challenging (Just ignore the “Top” tab and go straight to “Live” for a picture of what’s happening now, not just what’s “popular”.) However, I have learned that expressing #gratitude is an important part of a fulfilling relationship with Twitter. So: