Friday, June 17, 2011

Getting the Hang of Twitter

Over the past month, I have recently become an unabashed Twitter devotee. Now, I am going to become an unabashed Twitter promoter (again). Except instead of trying to convince you to get on to Twitter, I am going to take a little different angle. The purpose of this post is try and offer some useful/practical suggestions on "how to get the hang of Twitter" i.e. ways you can use Twitter as one who is new to the "Twitterverse."

When I first started using Twitter, it felt like--please excuse the corny simile--I had entered a new unfamiliar and somewhat lonely world. Coming from my 1000+ friends on Facebook, my 3 Twitter followers just weren't dong it for me. And to make matters worse, most people in my personal social network weren't using Twitter. So what did I do? Basically, I became one of the millions of people who have a Twitter account but never use it.

That was until I started my internship at Fairbourne Consulting and saw my boss using TweetDeck--a social media dashboard that allows you to run Twitter as a program on your desktop, among many other wonderful things. TweetDeck revolutionized my Twitter experience and from then on, I've learned a lot of new things that have further helped to improve the quality of my use Twitter. So here are a few simple suggestions on how to jump in and get the most out of the Twitterverse (you can tell I like that word right?):

1) Begin by using Twitter as a way to "consume" relevant and interesting content on the internet rather than simply seeing it as a way to "connect" with friends/acquaintances. In other words, begin by following interesting people like Justin Bieber (just for you Brittany), Stephen Colbert, or Jeffrey Whitlock (just kidding) or news organizations like the Wall Stree Journal, CNN, etc. This is a great way to keep up on current events and stay in the know on pop culture.

2) Use Twitter as way to be involved and knowledgeable about local politics. For example, follow your local congressional representative to see what he/she is up to and how they are representing you. Find other people that are following him/her and begin conversations with them. If he/she does not have a Twitter account, write him/her a letter and tell them to get one.

3) Use Twitter as a way to follow dialogue about a topic that interests you and join in on the discussion. For example, the other day I was interested to see what was being said about Mormons on Twitter, so I added a #Mormon column on TweetDeck and just began following the dialogue. A lot of things being said were either from Mormons themselves or were very positive things by non-Mormons. However, there was one person who demonstrated that he had some considerable misunderstandings about the LDS Faith. So I politely started a discussion with him about it. Before I knew it, he gave me his e-mail address so I could explain more. 

The possibilities are endless but I hope that these three suggestions either give you good starting off point or trigger some of your own good ideas to discover a way to make Twitter work for you. In fact, that is what makes Twitter so useful: it facilitates a highly customizable user experience. 

Now, just in case you'd like to begin by following me, here's my Twitter handle: @JeffreyWhitlock