As a person who blogs, it's natural that I like all things social media. I've succumbed to facebook (although I've been ruthlessly unfriending these past few months) and am constantly trying to strike a balance between sitting in front of a screen and keeping the blog up and going.
Yes, I may have scoffed at the shear ridiculousness of posting random messages as if anyone else would care what I had to say. A place of constant facebook updates? How is that useful or meaningful?
Except... well, what do you know- Twitter actually CAN be useful!
Here's what I have learned so far, in case you either a) can't believe there is anything meaningful in Twitter at all and are prepared to scoff at my discoveries or b) are participating in the twitterverse but still aren't seeing useful results.
Tips of using Twitter usefully:
First off, you don't need a smart phone for Twitter. I don't have a smart phone, and I don't check Twitter compulsively all day. A couple of times a day is fine. Yes, it's another social media to check, but it is MUCH less time consuming than facebook or blogs. Since, ya know, you just have to scroll through some updates.
Once you get past the basics of how to use twitter (posting, retweeting, hashtags) using a program like Hootsuite or TweetDeck will be incredibly useful. They organize information in different streams that will help you easily get information so you can immediately see when someone tags you in a post, communicates directly with you, or what people are posting under your chosen hashtag.
Find someone who you think you'd like to follow, check out who they are following and follow them. Following businesses and organizations is cool, but follow 'regular' people as well. You'll get more interesting information that way. I follow people from Nova Scotia, who are environmentally friendly, and who practice yoga.
In order to really be successful and get people to follow you, you'll need a real picture (otherwise that little 'eggy' picture will just make you look like a robot), a normal description of 'who' you are (with or without identifying information), and you'll actually need to engage other people on twitter. Otherwise you really are just narcissistically posting stuff no one cares to read. Engaging means actually looking through other people's tweets, retweeting what you think is cool or worthy, or responding to tweets.
What Twitter Can Do for You:
- Gather information about a topic.
If you have a question about something, you can send it out in the twitterverse with the right hashtag and get an answer within minutes. It's fantastic. For example, if you're travelling in a new city and want to know where the best independent organic coffee spots are- you can just send out a tweet with that city's hashtag (i.e. #Halifax). Voila, you'll get some suggestions!
- Find out information almost immediately.
For example, I found out one morning that power outages were happening all over the city, progressively getting closer to our apartment. It was just in time to make coffee and breakfast before we lost power as well. Traffic updates are also pretty darn handy, as well as just regular nosy city happenings. When stuff happens in Halifax, twitter has information about it WAY before the online news media.
- Share and connect with people on a much more mundane basis.
If you have something to say but it's really not worthy of a facebook update, or blog post, you can tweet it. For example, a friend of mine will be travelling to New Zealand in a month by herself. Once she's there, if she sees something super cool and just wants to share it quickly- Twitter is perfect for that.
- Spread the word about an event.
People use twitter. If you have an event happening, or a business, sharing the info on twitter will help spread the word. Even if you think twitter is dumb, if all your customers or potential participants are using it, then it's worth looking into.
- Create Change
Using hashtags you can organize events or encourage change and a certain (albeit virtual) form of activism. Like Five Seed's Starbucks flashmob encouraging Starbucks to actively offer their coffee in for here mugs.
Of course there are many other ways you can use Twitter, and it definitely doesn't replace the personal connect that facebook or blogging has (although I have felt 'more' connected to some of my twitter peeps because I'm reading little daily stuff that they are tweeting), but if used interactively, Twitter has it's place.
Hopefully this will either prompt you to give Twitter a chance, rethink how you are using twitter, or at least not to scoff at people who use it as much :) In case- on twitter I'm "Eco_Yogini" :)