[Jeremiah Owyang in Boston October 2007. Twitter made this night happen. Photo by Shel]
Unlike most social media tools, Twitter takes a while to understand. It took me about 30 days to figure out that it was among my most valuable tools and it was brought home by chance. I was in Boston and Twitter let me see that my friend Jeremiah Owyang was in a nearby hotel. We had dinner. Not a big deal, but this space of 140-character spoonfuls let me know that a realworld friend was nearby and available.
I call the place Twitterville because it very much works like a small neighborhood. You may just want to talk safely with a people you already know, which is what most people, so far, are doing. But a great many of us like to explore and find others with whom we share something in common whether that commonality is hummingbirds or iPhones doesn't matter much. Twitter is a big part of my global neighborhood, an online space where I can build friendships with people all over the world.
But Twitterville is booming. The population is on the rise. Those of us who have hung out here for a long time get lots of follows from people we do not know. It is flattering to be followed--at least in the safety of Twitterville. And occasionally many of us get caught up in those numbers as if it were some popularity contest, But for me, it is not a popularity contest. It is an important neighborhood to me and I learn something new and valuable with my Twitteville friends every day. I miss them when I am away too long.
So, if you are new to Twitterville, it is a friendly place. But people need to know a bit about you in order to want to spend time in conversation with you. This will not happen if you simply start and account, reveal nothing about yourself and your interests and then go around collecting follows. Some people may follow you back automatically, but it seems to me that will matter very little if the two of yo have nothing to talk about, other than how many new follows you've added.
There are a few things yo might consider doing first. Many of them are the same sort of activities, I've suggested previously for getting started:
1. Show yourself. Scroll through some pages and see what catches your eye. Chances are good that it will be the avatars. Personally, I like to have conversations with real people so I like to see real photos, not cartoons or the Twitterville place keeper. If you have a blog or Web site link to it. Under bio, say something about what you are really about. Saying your location is on iPhone is overused and unhelpful to someone deciding to follow you or not.
2. Read first.When I check out a new Tweeter, I read his or her most recent posts. If one interests me, I'll look further. If none does, I'm gone. My advice is to start by reading what others have to say. get a sense of the rhythm of Twitterville conversations before you join in. Wait until you have something useful or interesting to add to the conversation.
3. Celebrities don't count. You can always start by getting followed by a few celebrity Tweeters like Scoble, Calacanis and Loic. But they give you no credibility at all because they simply follow everyone. Their purpose is to be a new media star and it works well for them. But is that what you want from Twitterville. Those of us who have been around for a while see no value in their being listed at as Followers, because they follow everyone.
4. Post before you follow strangers. Take a few days and post a few thoughts on subjects yo want to discuss on Twitter. It can be work, play, news, sports, music whatever. But then when people check you out they know what you are about and can decide to follow you because they share something in common with you.
5. Avoid Spammer stats. The worst thing you can do is have stats that show you follow 149 people and 4 people follow you. You may be the nicest person in the world, but you have spammer stats. It's because you chose to follow a bunch of people but revealed so little of yourself, that no one wanted to follow you back. This is fixed by going slower, by posting tweets that let others know about you.
5.Have favorites. When you are new to Twitterville, you may not even notice that little star icon to the right of each tweet. You can use it to make that post a "favorite." I always look at what a new follower favors. It tells me a bit about what makes them tick. It shows your sense of humor and your passion points.
6. Take your time. Twitterville works like any other neighborhood. People start by chatting about weather, lunch--silly little things. Sometimes the conversation goes nowhere, tapering off into cyberspace. Other times, the conversation deepens. It evolves into a real friendship or a business opportunity. If you try pushing yourself too aggressively, people may respond to you in the same way they do the loudmouth at the party. They walk away in talk in circles that do not include you.
7. New in town? Don't be intimidated. Twitter really started only 14 months ago. We are all new to Twitter. There are 5 million here so far and I'm betting there are 10s of millions of people heading this way. There's plenty of room, because we all tend to cluster around those with whom we share common interests.
Enjoy yourself. Twitter is a valuable place but more important, it can also be an extremely enjoyable place.