What I've discovered about Twitter

This is part of  the #MonTwit experiment; several bloggers are writing about the same topic on the same day, each adding their own perspective, so we can share our earned experiences about Twitter and learn more in the process.  I will update links at the end of this post as I find them, but feel free to follow hashtag #MonTwit in your Twitter client or browser to see where this is going.

I have been on Twitter since 2007 — well, almost.  I signed up with a bogus account in May 2007 to see what the buzz was about (there were so few people really doing it back then, it almost sounded like a porn place — was not going to use my real name for that… there was also some privacy fears).  Used it for 4 days — but not sure the word used is the proper one to describe my behavior.  Posted some breakfast and lunch things, exchanged a few messages with some people I never knew – but most of the talk at that time was not about technology or business, rather between friends and with some little professional chatter mixed in.  Left it behind, thinking it was interesting, but was not sure how it would actually make it to the next step.

Then in 2008 the noise was too high to stay out and jumped in.  Still, I was clueless as to what it was (I think it was in May of 2008).  I read about it and learned as much as I could: you have to follow to be followed, you have to listen before engaging, you have to put interesting stuff out, you have to build you presence… you read all the advice.  I turned into a generic Twitter user: no purpose, no reason, just follow the “basic rules” that everyone was touting.

I could not see the value of being another voice in an ocean of millions — I started to experiment with it.

Follow people who are different, with lots of followers but that have something interesting to say, participate of events, follow links, RT different things to see the reaction, and many other things.  A picture began to emerge of what Twitter was, what it can do for me, and how to use it better.  Slowly started to change my follower/following ratio, using searches more and more to find the right people and the right content.  Began integrating Twitter with other social networks, with blogs and other places.  Started to admit I was a Twitter user at meetings, explaining to people what it does and watching their reactions.  It was all data that contributed to my learning about Twitter.  To understanding what it was, how to use it, what it does.  It was the preamble to these three key things i discovered about Twitter:

1. Twitter is what you make of it. Twitter has no life, nor purpose, no direction, and no idea of who you are.  Sorry, hate to break the news like that to you – but that is it.  It is a platform that just sits there and waits for you to do something with it.  Approaching 100 million people quickly, it is a very large platform actually.  True, there may be 20-25 million active users — but that is still something.  However, it won’t wait for you or guide you to accomplish something. If you know how to get value out of communities, then you are going to enjoy Twitter.  If you enjoy listening to people talk about — well anything, you are going to get value.  If you know what you want to do in Twitter, you can get it.  Twitter has nothing prepared for anyone, it is what you want to make of it.

2. Twitter is a community.  Shocking, I know.  There are no forums or ideas or structure (well, you could try hashtags — it worked very well for the #SCRM Accidental Community), but it is a community.  I wrote about this a couple of times.  The main difference, and the great part about it, is that each person gets to build and mold their own community – and change it at the drop of a hat if you want.  You can create and follow lists, groups, searches, hashtags, and people for The Red Hat Society today, and for Punk Rock tonight – without much effort.  You can create several IDs and follow people in different ways, have several personas here and still be you.  It is a great build-it-yourself, shape-it-as-you-go community.  Just be yourself in as many ways as you want.

3. No one is ever wrong about Twitter. There is no right and no wrong way to do Twitter, since it is what you make of it and what you build around it.  So, don’t tell anyone how to do it right, or wrong, or better or worse.  What works for you, or your organization, may (probably won’t) not work for someone else.  Share your experiences and lessons, but make sure that you understand that it is just that  – yours.  As with any communities, the ideal outcome is gained knowledge from tribal sharing, or gained power from aggregation.  The way you go about doing that is going to be different, so don’t expect other people to do it same as you.  Share your knowledge in your community, learn from them, and always look for new ways to use it and get value out of it — then you’ll be right about it.

What do you think? What have you learned or discovered about Twitter? How was your experience different from mine?  Would love to hear your thoughts…

Other blogs participating on #MonTwit (constantly updating this section):
@VenessaMiemis
@wimrampen
@timkastelle
@mjayliebs

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