It’s my hope that I’ve somehow convinced you to become a part of Twitter. Now, you’ve got to develop followers and figure out who to follow. Mark Drapeau, someone who has beocme a leading authority on social media in government and society (and someone who seems to be able to go to the coolest events, impact branding, and drink with very cool people with great frequency), has his own How-To guide called “How to Win Friends and Twinfluence People.” Much of it is spot on, and you can follow that yourself.
How do you get involved in the conversation?
First, don’t be shy. You’ve either joined Twitter to follow your friends (which ought to be easy), or because you want to put yourself out there in an ongoing, fast-paced conversation about what’s happening now and what’s happening next. Follow people, send them @replies. Show them you’re fascinated by what you have to say, that you want to be part of the dialogue. It’s surprisingly easy to get involved.
Second, find the conversation: The People Search function of Twitter can be frustrating, and I’ve found that most Twitter novices I know don’t really have a firm grasp of the Tweet search at the bottom of the page. USE IT! Search terms that fascinate you. For me, it was “Mets,” for the New York Mets, “GWU,” “GW,” and “Colonials” for news about my alma mater, and “public diplomacy,” for well, duh. See what people are talking about, and check out their feeds. Do they seem interesting? Follow them.
Here’s an example of people discussing someone very much in the news these days – Rush Limbaugh:
You can make yourself a part of the conversation with your own @Reply to someone. Try following them too. They’ll probably have more to say that you’ll like.
Third, start the conversation yourself: It’s nice to relay people’s thoughts to your friends using the RT @user function, shows you respect what others have to say, but find relevant things to say. This isn’t just an AIM or Facebook status, this is a microblog. Don’t get me wrong, I tend to post mundane things that are interesting to few others from time to time, but I work hard to try to prod other people to offer their opinions. Next thing you know, you’ve got a core group of people, many you have likely never met, exchanging ideas and exposing one another to all sorts of new things and challenging what you think.
Finally, remember that it is a conversation. Have you posted to your blog? Great, but Twitter isn’t an RSS feed. Only the New York Times (and maybe a few others) can get away with treating Twitter as a one-way system of communicating. Expect to interact – that’s why we’re here. The use of hashtags (#) in front of a certain topic often allow people to discuss one thing and search it. You’ll see it for events, like the Consumer Electonics Show (#CES), Conservatives (#tcot) and Liberals (#topprog) are a way for you to track a conversation on a certain topic.
Tips on Tweets (this is only based on my pet peeves and likes):
– Offer resources, links, anything that can be considered interesting.
– Don’t go crazy with the punctuation. I mean you, Britney Spears (and all your huge entourage of people who think that we all should care)
– Don’t be TOO personal all the time. People are here for conversation, and it’s awkward to be following you while you offer web-kisses to your ultra-famous wife (or anyone you happen to be calling “baby.”
– I’m guilty of this too, but tweet often, but not all in one shot. A few tweets a day is cool, but unless you’re trying to liveblog something awesome, consider dividing it up some time. We don’t want you taking up our entire feed. The New York Times is ALWAYS guilty of this.
I’ll provide some tips on who you can follow to make your experience more awesome soon.