I've done a lot of public speaking on Twitterville lately. One of the most valuable parts for me are the questions. It tells me what's on the minds of people attending Twitter-related events.
Invariably there are some people who have just started poking around on Twitter. They often convey that they are confused by all the enthusiasm they are hearing from the veteran users in the room.
Each time I am reminded of a quote in the book from Ev Williams, CEO & co-founder, who observed, "people are clueless at first, when they first get to Twitter." I know I was.
When I first got there, I posted what I thought was a brilliant tweet: "Well here I am. What happens next." I did not realize that's pretty close to most first posts. For me nothing much happen for about 30 days, until I discovered my friend Jeremiah Owyang was visiting Boston at the same time I was and we eneded up having a good meal and fun time together; not a wrld-changer, but it was an event that could not have possibly happened without Twitter.
The Twitter team has had all sorts of functionality to make it less disorienting and easier to get started since Ev made his clueless comment in December 08; yet 30 days of cluelessness seems to be the norm.
I have a few thoughts on getting started that may be helpful:
1. Stick around. It's very much like moving into a new neighborhood. You may be lost at first. You may patronize all the wrong restaurants for your tastes, hire the worst handymen and take the longest routes to your destination, but after time you will become wiser through your experience.
2. Begin by listening. A mistake many newbies make--particularly business and professional people--is they come in talking, not listening to the conversations that were going on before you got there. It's like walking into a social networking room and starting by booming about who you are and what you sell. People will ignore you. If you persist they will turn their backs on you. Just listen to what is being said, until you think you have something that is useful or interesting to add to the conversation. Then join in softly, waiting fr others to ask you to say more.
3. Use Twitter Search to find relevance. I tend to avoid listing my favorites on almost all topics. But my favorite tool for getting starting on Twitter is Twitter Search.Think of all the topics relevant to you and chance are good you'll discover people talking about the subject. Pick the ones you like the most, then check out the people they are talking with. Also check the followers/following lists for more people talking about what interests you.
4. Focus on who you follow. Over time most people discover that who they follow is far more important than who follows them. They are your daily newspaper. By choosing your "reporters" you can maintain a high quality of interesting and useful information. You can adjust your reports on a very regular basis as your interests--and theirs--change.
5. Give it time. I think there is some comfort in knowing that most everyone was clueless at first. But that about 50 million of us stuck it out long enough to find great value in Twitterville.
Finally, have fun. Fun is vastly underrated in business. Those of us who realize how much fun you can have in Twitter soon discover great business value despite the fact that Twitter is quite enjoyable.