Archive for February, 2013

Make New Friends with Twitter

By Sharon Cannon

I love this funny quote that I saw on Twitter: “Facebook is your living room, LinkedIn is the Chamber of Commerce, and Twitter is the friendly bar where you meet new people.” This description of the “big three” resonated with me and prompted me to use this blog site that I created for my fall courses to share my ideas on how to create an enriching experience with Twitter.

On Facebook, I informally communicate with family, friends, and colleagues whom I know well.  I wear my more professional face with LinkedIn—keeping in touch with business contacts, colleagues I’ve known over the years, colleagues I want to know better, and former students.  While some people I know hang out at the “Twitter bar” with me, I love striking up brief conversations with interesting strangers.

A number of my colleagues and students have experienced the benefits of Twitter, but many don’t seem to really get it. Luckily, I’ve paid attention to people who tweet more effectively than I do. Here’s what I’ve learned from them–my “LIB” advice for developing  an enriching Twitter experience. Listen. Interact. Be authentic.

1) Listen—really listen.  Read your Twitter feeds; if you’re following someone who tweets items of no interest, stop following that person or organization.  Follow people who provide information that you find useful or who inspire and entertain you or who engage in a back-and-forth exchange of ideas. Begin to notice what patterns of communication work for you and which ones don’t.  If you listen first, you’ll get a good idea of what you want to say when you begin to tweet. By the way, if you have no intention of reading your Twitter feeds, you are a “broadcaster” who is speaking at your followers.  I much prefer tweeters who occasionally like to have dialogue. Isn’t that the point of social media?

2) Interact. My opinion about the limited value of broadcasters is tied to my philosophy of public speaking and teaching.  Those who do it best “speak with the audience.” Twitter can be an enriching two-way experience. You may simply follow people who provide material you want to read, but if you want to make new “friends,” you actually have to walk up and say “hi” much like you would in a bar or at a party.  Compliment a person’s blog , retweet an item you think others would also like to see, or mention an interest you seem to have in common. The old adage applies: you have to be a friend to make a friend. I’ve had delightful brief exchanges with people and experts on Twitter whom I would have never met otherwise.  However, recognize the fine line here—people who have too many public conversations will lose followers.  Sometimes you need to take the conversation from a public to a private format. Go back to listening and figure out what mix of information and conversation works for your audience.

Also, provide something of value to those who follow you.  Share a laugh or inspiring quote or link to a good article. Have a personality. And remember that if you only show up at the bar once a month—no stranger will remember who you are. Be a regular.

3) Be authentic. Companies and businesses who want to be in front of their Twitter followers use apps like HootSuite that continuously churn out information and that deliver automated responses to new followers. This type of push-approach is “canned” and reminds me of traditional advertising—perhaps it has some type of value. A more experienced social media colleague taught me the “80-20” rule–that is, only 20% of what you tweet should be promotional.  I prefer not to be in people’s faces all the time and would rather be a real human being delivering real-time interactions. As an educator who enjoys cyberspace exchanges, this friendly and personal style works for me.

Finally, remember that unless you are a celebrity or drumming up business, it really doesn’t matter how many followers you have.  Cultivate quality contacts, not quantity. Happy tweeting!

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February 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm Leave a comment


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