I’ve changed my mind: I like Twitter! Follow Me!

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twitter

Okay. So remember a few weeks back? When I talked about how much I hate Twitter?

I didn’t get it.

I would log on, post something and never see a response. The Twitter abbreviations made understanding the messages difficult sometimes. I didn’t understand things like re-tweet. hashtag. follow fridays. And that damn pound sign everywhere made no sense to me.

All of the above are still true. I still hate Twitter. Sometimes.

But, dear readers, I finally get it. And I urge you all to check it out, if you haven’t already. If you’re part of the initiated, feel free to skip to the very end of this post for some VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION.

If you’ve been hesitant about moving to Twitterville, here’s a real-world explanation on how it works and why you should join. (Again, this post is for the folks who know little-to-nothing about Twitter. The folks who just don’t get it. The people who are just like I was a few weeks ago.)

So what is Twitter? Well, if you’re on Facebook, you know all about the Status Update. You write down what you’re doing. Simple.

Well that’s all Twitter is. People writing down what they’re doing, feeling, reading… in 140 characters are less.

twitter-_what-are-you-doing

There’s my little white box, asking me that eternal question: What are you doing?

Twitter is kind of like Instant Messaging. And kind of like being in a chat room. Except it’s a bit more intimate.

You sign up for a Twitter account. And then you start “following” people. (Twitter will run through your email address book and tell you who you know on Twitter). And now you will follow their updates. Every time they type a 140-character message, (which is the limit), it will show up on your screen.

Once you see the message, you can reply to the person, or you can re-tweet the message, which means you will forward it to your followers.

Now, there’s an art to following people. I follow other writers, a few celebrities and of course, my dear readers who are on Twitter.

You may decide to make your Twitter account strictly a marketing tool. And so you follow people who are in your industry. Maybe you’ll make your Twitter account super personal and follow just friends and families. (If you do this, I suggest you use a nickname. I read some people’s personal updates and think about how I would totally fire them if they worked for me.)

You can choose to protect your updates. This means that no one can follow your updates unless you approve them.

I started this way, just so I could try out Twitter in a safe environment. Then, I opened up my updates to whoever wanted to follow me, after I started to get the hang of it.

Okay, so you’ve got an account. You’re following people, reading their updates.

Now, it’s time for you to start posting.

It feels pointless at first. But once I found my purpose, (tweeting about writing, reading and music), it’s just like thinking out loud…Kind of like talking to yourself in the hopes that someone’s semi-listening.

And while it feels pointless, I’m starting to see the value.

If you’re a writer, (or want to be a writer), you need to be on Twitter. Period. I wish I could have followed Danyel Smith and Toure and Nelson George back in the day. Up and coming writers have an invaluable tool in Twitter.

As a matter of fact, no matter what industry you’re in, the people at the top of your game are on Twitter. And why wouldn’t you want to know what they’re thinking about? Your competition is definitely following them. Shouldn’t you be too?

Even if you don’t ever want to update, you need to set up an account and just follow people that are pertinent to your career.

I went to Destin, Florida last weekend, (more on that in another post). I threw it out there on Twitter.

“Anyone ever been to Destin, Florida?”

Two seconds later, a Twitter follower responded:

“I live there!”

I like that about Twitter. I throw out random questions, from how to get out stains in my sofa to how to pitch a story. And people respond. Sometimes. And sometimes they don’t. And that’s okay too.

I also like the randomness of hearing people’s thoughts. In some ways, Twitter is more entertaining than Facebook. I can drift in and out of the groupthink. And I don’t feel as much pressure to respond to people, the way I do if you send me a note on Facebook.

There are a few things you need to do to make Twitter-ing more streamlined and effective. The actual twitter.com site is cool. But after you set up your account, you should look into logging in via one of the alternative Twitter sites.

Here’s what the regular Twitter site looks like.

Twitter _ Home

It’s cool.

But here’s TweetDeck, the place where I tweet from:

TweetDeck page

It’s much more streamlined. Instead of just a bunch of vertical messages that keep coming at you, TweetDeck is set up in columns. The first column on the left are the updates from my Friends. Next to that are Replies people have sent to me. Next to that are Direct Messages I’ve received. And the last column is a search column I created.

I want to know anytime the term “#TFW” appears on Twitter. And that last column on the right compiles all the Tweets with that term in it.

#TFW

Speaking of #TFW, that’s an acronym for Twitter Fiction Workshop. When I started Tweeting, i was trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to say. I realized that I don’t want to update people on the minutiae of my life. I do enough of that on this blog.

But I do like the idea of cheering on my fellow fiction writers.

So I started something called the Twitter Fiction Workshop. Occasionally, I post my thoughts on fiction, ending my comment with the letters TFW.

Then, a follower informed me that when you add the # sign before the letters, it makes it easily searchable.

So right now, if you go to twitter.com and search for #TFW, you will see all the little thoughts I’ve posted on Twitter about writing fiction. And you’ll see the responses my workshop participants have contributed.

Okay, so it’s kind of silly to do a writing workshop in 140 characters or less. But I actually enjoy it.

What really sealed the deal for me and Twitter was my very first Twinterview.

One of our dear readers, Jay1 from fishandspaghetti.com asked to interview me, via Twitter. I said sure. And the results were hilarious.

I urge you to check out his post on our Twinterview. It really encapsulates the weird genius that is Twitter. Go. Now. Read it. I promise, it’s worth it. Are you still here? Read the damn post and then come back.

The twinterview finally made me realize the value of Twitter. Jay1 put it best: it’s talking with a bunch of people, some you know, some you don’t know, in a very crowded bar. Without leaving your house.

Now of course, there’s still something to be said for actually leaving your house. But I like the options.

Here’s what I’d like my nervous would-be Twitterers to do. Go to the site. Set up an account. Protect your updates if you’d like. Then, start following me. Send me a message. I’ll help you get into the groove. And I promise, you’ll love it.

I’d like to do a Twitterview with one of my dear readers who is trying Twitter out for the first time. So set up your account and then hit me up when you get to Twitterville!

Okay, now on to the VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION

1. The fiction workshop I started on Twitter also exists right here. I have a password-protected page right here on my blog. If you look under “Extra Stuff” you’ll see a page titled #TFW.

On this page, a few of my dear readers will be workshopping their fiction, (myself included). If you’re interested in joining the workshop, email me at aliyasking@gmail.com and I’ll give you the password. Only people who plan to share their work will be able to access the site. I’m making it private so we can all feel comfortable about sharing something so personal.

2. Starting on Monday, May 11, 2009 from 8-9:30 PM, I’ll be hosting a weekly Twitter Chat with journalist Chloe Hilliard.

It’s called: Journalisticks: A Weekly Twitter Chat for Urban Journalists. It’s gonna go down every Monday 8-9:30pm EST.

You can find us at: http://www.twitter.com/journalisticks

Hastag:  #jsticks (to be used for all tweets related to the group, issues in media, journalists of color)

The easiest way to get in on the discussion is to go to http://www.tweetchat.com. Log in with your Twitter account information. Then enter #jsticks as the name of the room you want to enter. And boom! You will see ONLY the TwitterChat posts. Not all of the other Tweeting in Twitterville.

Are you tweeting yet? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Did you start and then stop? Are you a nervous holdout? Have I convinced you to give it a try?  C’mon Dear Readers, tell me if you’re a Twitter convert like me…

I’d love to hear from you…

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17 Responses to “I’ve changed my mind: I like Twitter! Follow Me!”

  1. Lashonda Silver Says:

    I have an account. I pay attention when I mention. I have wondered how people get the twitter and facebook to coincide. I am going to give your suggestions a try.

  2. Lashonda Silver Says:

    opps..that is what I get for multitasking…I pay attention when I remember.

  3. tmpringl Says:

    I love Twitter. I used to hate it but now I’m a full-fledged addict. I have two personal accounts and I also handle my org’s Twitter account as well. (It’s a little harder finding your voice when you’re tweeting for an organization…but I digress…)

    Twitter is insanely valuable – to practically everyone. Writers especially need to get on the bandwagon. Simple to follow people and see how quirky, funny, insightful, talented, insane, delightful they are. Someone like Danyel Smith? No access before Twitter, except the editor’s letter in Vibe every month. But now you can follow her. It’s like walking three steps behind her all day as she goes about running her empire. It sounds crazy or somewhat stalker-ish, but you will gain valuable info from just absorbing what she tweets!

    I still love Facebook, but I use it primarily for the folks I know already. Twitter is for the folks I’d LIKE to know. Make sense?

  4. Tanisha Says:

    Yes I tweet. (twitter.com/tlawrites) At first I was a lurker. I wanted to understand how the whole thing worked before I sent any replies. I don’t even remember who I “talked” to first. I think what appeals to me most is reading the words of some very witty people. I get to network a little, which is sometimes difficult for me to do since I work from home and the road. I can share my work, ask questions, and pass time on the train or sitting in a waiting room. I do try and get on everyday either from home or on my phone. I stay updated on all types of topics. Since you turned me on to Tweetdeck the other day, I’ll definitely take advantage of that when its time to join#TFW or Journalisticks. I dont Facebook or Myspace so Twitter makes me feel more connected to the rest of the world.

  5. Kimmie Says:

    I joined Twitter in August or September of last year to follow a celeb that I was interested in knowing more about (what are THEY doing, lol). Like you said, it was awkward at first but now it helps me get through the day. It really is addictive. We tweet about everything from world events to our thoughts on what was happening on The Hills. We even vent to each other on occasion (these are random but usually funny as hell).

    Initially I didn’t know anyone on Twitter (we started following each other from our responses to other people’s tweets) but I have a few friends who joined that I tweet with now. I actually prefer not to follow to0 many people that I personally know because you get a different perspective on your tweets. I mean, if I just wanted to talk to my friends, I’d call or text them, lol. I actually have a request pending now from a friend that I’m debating on ( my updates are protected and they found me through email). Anyway, when I decided to convert my blogs on myspace to an actual host site, I used Twitter to update when I have a new blog and I’m now getting more traffic and have 11 followers so far! So, if you have anything to promote (or you just want to talk to different people) join Twitter.

  6. Luvvie Says:

    You already know Twitter rocks my socks. I need to contribute to #TFW. Working on a short story right now. It was spurred my a GCHAT convo I had about shoes. Will post when I’m done.

  7. sixfiguresister Says:

    This is great, Aliya. Fantastic information. I recently jumped on Twitter out of curiosity–same as Facebook. Didn’t know how to get people to “follow me” (and didn’t know if I WANTED people to follow me). :) But now that I’m beginning to know more about it (we had a presentation on how to maximize Twitter at work the other day, actually) and reading tips like yours, I can see where it may have its benefits. (One of the tips from work, for example, was that the average number of daily updates deemed “effective” is 22. Not sure why, but that’s what their research says.)

    Whether you use Twitter for personal reasons (your friends), you have a personal brand (like celebrities or writers, for example) or you’re a major brand trying to see what your consumers are into (like Pepsi), Twitter is a great way to connect on the ground level.

  8. sixfiguresister Says:

    Oh, and BRAVO to you, Aliya, for jumping in and setting up your workshop et al. Excited to check out #TFW.

  9. clove Says:

    twitter is great. I was also skeptical at first. I find that people who aren’t on there speak really down about it like “I don’t want to know what everyone’s doing every minute” but it’s not about that, even though that is part of it. it’s more about being in a community and I love that I have one touch access to a whole network of writers and creative people. Like you, I also use it mostly to talk about music and writing

  10. clove Says:

    and thanks for the tweetdeck recommendation! I knew about it but looks like it’s much better than plain web

  11. Paul Cantor Says:

    my twitter gets me in trouble in the real world. I need to stop

  12. Paul Cantor Says:

    I do enjoy reading yours tho lol

  13. jay1 Says:

    thanks for the shout out, if anyone else is interested in being “Twinterviewed” holla at me.

  14. fuzzylogic Says:

    i’m slow on the uptake when it comes to twitter — and most technology. i would definitely start using it once i can figure out how it could be useful, like getting news blips about something i particularly curious about or where the Korean Taco truck is going to be at next (if i lived near it). Reading and writing tweets myself might be the end of my productivity as we know it though given how the internet is already a huge enough distraction! but i’m sure i’ll be on it soon enough…hehe.

  15. Caila K Says:

    You pretty much summed up my intiial hesitation about twitter in a nutshell. I’m still getting the hang of it and not really sure what I want to tweet about-the minute to minute details of my day just seem pointless to update about. I also hate the fact that my tweets fly off into the cyber universe for all to see with one google search. Got rid of my real name on the site but still.

    I am suuuper excited about the May 11th chat! So glad I read this and didn’t miss out. Tweet ya later!

  16. Ozakie Says:

    Aliya, damn you I was trying to avoid getting addicted to yet another FB (Im a full blown addict…hope u add me as a friend…lol) but u have made some truly valid points about Twitter. Question, do I have to join Twitter in order to do the fiction workshop bc Im going to join it just on my own time..;-) but if its necessary for the workshop I will join it for the necessity of the benefits of the workshop! ;-)

  17. Thembi Says:

    See?!?!?

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