Understanding Twitter: How I finally got it.
I totally get that I’m way behind the Twitter bandwagon and I’m right at the back of the line of people who’ve had their ‘eureka!’ moments with the platform. But getting on board happened so recently that I literally ‘eureka’ed last week!
Jeez, I remember those days where I’d look at my dusty dry Twitter feed and think to myself, “Seriously, what is the fuss all about?”. In front of my eyes were feeds full of inane sentences, abrupt and unengaging 140 characters, strangers “RT-ing” at each other and #’s popping up left, right and centre. It wasn’t anything like Facebook, or emailing, or texting – nothing like anything I was used to. Frankly, I didn’t know what the heck was going on and I just could not grasp this whole online interaction thing with strangers. What happened to the good old-fashioned Facebook pokes? Or a hash-tag free chat with a cup of tea and some cake??
I knew that Twitter features heavily in cultivating online communities, but I didn’t understand how a relationship of any kind could be achieved by chatting in staccato sentences over the web… until recently. Ironically, I had to take an online community offline to understand how the online community thang worked. It may sound confusing but it made it so much simpler for me!
I began in the blogosphere back in 2009 with a travel blog (travelettes.net) that had a Berlin-based editor-in-chief/founder orchestrating a team of contributors around the world. I had created a twitter account for this blog, which I would use to toss out the odd promotional tweet for an article… but that was definitely about as far as I would go. I began following travel industry/bloggers just because I thought I had to since I was blogging about travel, but that meant that I had soon accumulated a long list of people who stuffed up my news feed with uninteresting and irrelevant updates. Nothing was inspiring me to interact. I would try and throw out the odd reply, but it felt like my vague comments were going out to deaf ears in an oblivion of conversations.
My first step into understanding Twitter was getting my job at Viral Ad Network. What with it being all to do with the internetz and chatting to publishers/bloggers and helping them with their advertising, Twitter came into play. I soon found myself blowing off the cobwebs of my old account and trying it out for size again. A secret ‘list’ began forming of people who I actually cared about and whose tweets were relevant to my interests and, well, my life! I soon began skipping straight over my home feed where nearly 700 people were screaming into Twitter-hyperspace, and to my small homely list of pals who were chatting merrily away.
However, my true break-through into Twitter Enlightenment happened a few months ago. I began talking to Hayley of ‘Bonjour, Blogger!’ and we spawned #BlogClub together, which is a monthly Bristol-based blogger meet-up (read more here).
I had never attended a blogger meet-up before #BlogClub so it was fascinating to meet these online personas in the flesh. Over tea and macaroons, we got to chat about our blogging lives without the use of any hash tags or character limitations, and it was delightful! These were ladies who were akin to celebrities in my blogging-obsessed eyes, so by taking the interaction offline it drove it home that they are real people who weren’t just figments of my RSS feed appearing every few days to bestow me with snippets of their thoughts/lives! I finally had faces to the twitter handles and it was finally something that I could relate to.
I quickly added the bloggers to my comprehensive Twitter list and (God bless TweetDeck) I could now focus on the #BlogClub thread of conversation. It helped knowing that they were local bloggers who I could see for a random beverage-based catch-up or bump into at the next meet-up. It made the budding online relationship have more of a future, rather than a vague re-tweet/favourite/throwback of an interaction… One meet-up and I was astounded at how much Twitter now made sense!
I now treat Twitter as a casual cross between Facebook and my iPhone. I can share pictures, I can ‘like’ and ‘retweet’, I can check meet-up plans, I can follow the # conversation of my week – all without having to formally ask for someone’s number. And who wants to receive sporadic picture texts on their phone of cats riding unicorns with guns blazing at 5am? But I can tweet that to you if you like. #tweeter4lyf.
If you’re not down with Twitter, you’ll never crack it if you don’t really think about its intention in your everyday life. If you’re struggling and not sure how to integrate it into your online life, take a step back. Look at who you’re following and either epically cull that list or create a sub-list of tweeters who are relevant to you. Whether your aims are for inspiration, interaction, promotion, or creating a social offline/online, just edit in some focused followings and your lost path of Twitter will be revealed.