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.
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.
But here’s TweetDeck, the place where I tweet from:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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…