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July 26, 2009

What is This Twitter Thing? - Part 2

One of my first posts on this blog was transferring a post I made on Facebook, trying to get my family and friends to check out Twitter. Here's the original post.

So, as promised, here are some more thoughts on the whole phenomenon and how you can become part of it yourself. If you're new to Twitter, I heartily recommend the blog Twittercism, especially the post Twitter 101. This post gives you the basics on what you need to know to get started. It has everything from Twitter etiquette to how to get followers and how to share links. It's a one-stop shop for learning the basics and how to get going.

Because that post is so definitive, I won't get into any of that here. It would just be reinventing the wheel, and Sheamus is definitely worth following if you do start to Twitter. Instead, what I'll do is tell you some about my experience, how I've made use of it, and give some general advice.

First, keep in mind that everybody uses Twitter differently, and there is no one right way to use it. There are wrong ways if you want to actually take part in the Twitter universe instead of living in your own Twitter ghetto where nobody comes. You do get out of it what you put into it. Posting nothing but banalities is a good way to be completely ignored. You may get a few followers, but these will mostly be people who have programs set up to automatically follow anybody who follows them. Most likely, they'll never read what you post.

What do I use Twitter for? I use it for a few different reasons. I follow politics a great deal, and there are some great conservative tweeters out there, disseminating their views either on their blogs (which I find by them posting links to blog posts on Twitter) or on Twitter itself. There are also some good liberal ones, but we won't talk about that right now. I follow them to get their thoughts on the current topics of the day, as well as to get to know them a bit better too. They're not above posting personal tweets as well as political ones, as the best tweeters do.

I follow a few authors and other celebrities as well, though not many. Mainly, I follow them because they post either interesting thoughts or interesting things about themselves and what they're up to. The best ones actually engage their readers, and it's a great way to feel like you're in touch with them if it's somebody you admire.

I mentioned in my first post that I follow Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20. First, I like his music. Secondly, despite the fact that he seems to be a flaming liberal and I doubt I agree with him on anything political, he posts interesting stuff. Finally, when he posts interesting stuff, he seems to engage his readers in the discussion as well. While I can't see the discussion because I'm not following who he's discussing things with, he will often tweet things like:

"ok guys. gotta go have my day. thanx for the debate. btw, the bad-ass on my background is DOLEMITE!!!!"

Also, many of his tweets are replies to other people, which is also a good sign.

Many celebrities twitterers could take a page from his book. He even had a back and forth discussion about Fan Club perk seating at one of his concerts because people were complaining about it. No matter what you think of the topic, the fact that he would actually take the time to do that says something, I think.

When you're looking for celebrities to follow, Rob Thomas is a good example to keep in mind. Of course, you might not get that lucky, and the celebrity that you're dying to follow to find out what they think about things is somebody who talks at you instead of being willing to talk to you. But that's ok. If you find them interesting, that's all that matters.

The only cardinal rule about following somebody is that they should interest you and not post things you find offensive or annoying. They should make you laugh, or make you think, or be informative (I follow a few people who talk about iPhone apps, for instance). Obviously, the more people you follow, the harder it can be to keep up with them all. But that's ok. You can go to their profile page and see everything they've posted (to get the Rob Thomas quote above, I had to go back to July 15) if you're truly interested. Or, you can realize that Twitter is an ephemeral thing and you don't have to look at everything they've posted.

Ok, so you're now following a bunch of interesting people, being informed, having your thoughts provoked, or being entertained. How do you turn the tables and start participating yourself?

That's for the next post. I promise it won't be a week coming this time. Incidentally, if you wish to follow me, you can find me here.


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