Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

Twitter is a world of wonder if you have a couple of decades free and a whole lot of time to figure it out. Then again, if you've only got twelve seconds you can likely find a little something to tide you over.

I entered into the world of twitter with one goal: maximize followers. Why? First, I've always dreamed of having followers. I don't really have the time to start a cult so Twitter seemed like the best alternative. Also, I wanted to start building my "author platform." I wasn't 100% sure of what that meant, but I knew it meant getting out there while I was still working on the whole getting published thing. On top of that all the cool kids seemed to be tweeting up a storm. This guy I worked with said to me. "Jim Bob is such a big deal He has like 700 followers on Twitter." Well, I wanted to be a big deal, too!

I headed out into the wilderness without a guide book and started following all the interesting people. A lot of them followed me back. I said some interesting things and a bunch of mundane boring things no one cared about. But I kept it short and snappy. I tweeted several times each day. I even got all mixed up with Klout and tried to keep my social media score up. I have no idea why. I learned to retweet and to use hashtags and @ tags. (hashtags # are for denoting a subject people might be searching for like #Twitter and @ signs are for people you want to pull in to your conversation like @TaylorSwift)

After a while I was following almost 2,000 people and a little over 1,000 were following me. I'd achieved my goal of more than 700 followers! I must be a big deal, right? Why not just keep getting bigger and bigger? I could follow 10,000 people and some of them would follow me and I would be famous. I would be worldwide.

 That's when Twitter put the squeeze on all my big plans. It turns out once you get to 2,000 people you are following you have to keep a certain proportion between the number of people you're following and the number who are following you. Suddenly, I couldn't amass any followers just by following them. I actually had to say something so worthwhile that people would follow me without a follow back.

That's when it occurred to me that I had fallen for the world's biggest time waster. What in the world was the point of amassing followers simply for the pleasure of having them? It was time to check my ridiculous ego and remember that Twitter is just a tool. When used right it will connect you to information, to opinions, to insights, to front-line reports from a far away war, to people who know how to do that very thing you're struggling with, to a community that understands you like nobody in your regular life could because they don't do that one specific thing you do, to laughter and most of all to a little slice of the universe you'd never otherwise be able to find.

But when done wrong it was nothing more than the social media version of a vanity press. 

I put myself in check. I threw those priorities back into line. I'm still tweeting a few times per week and the followers seem to continue to trickle in. I've used the list function to set-up special lists of people who I want to keep up with on Twitter. My writer friends are my favorite tweeters.

These days I use Twitter to connect, to learn and to grow or I don't use it at all. #revelation

You can join my legions of followers, most of whom have probably forgotten they follow me at @storiestobe.

Happy Tweeting!