In the Strange Land of Twitter
Last week I read a blog article from Creative Penn (by Joanna Penn) about why authors should use Twitter. Now I was wary because I had tried Twitter about a year ago and found it almost as confusing as stereo instruction. But Joanna talked about how Twitter is a great way to market yourself (something I know I need to do if I ever want to get published) and she also said Twitter is a great place to learn “an awful lot.” And I need an awful lot of schooling.
I also came across another article on Copyblogger about how Twitter makes you a better writer by forcing you to be concise, using the right vocabulary, and working on your editing skills.
And of course, there are articles all over the web about how Twitter is great for business, how it helps promote your product and connect with people, including Chris Brogan’s post on 50 ways to use Twitter to improve business.
When I was younger, I promised myself that I’d never be one of those “old” people who couldn’t figure out how to use the VCR. And here I was, shrinking back from a new technology because I didn’t know how to use it. So it’s been my endeavor to learn how to use Twitter this week and this is what I’ve figured out so far…
Sign up at www.twitter.com (yup, I’m starting with the basics). Granted this is the easy part, but you should probably pick a user name that people will either know you by or that helps promote what you plan to tweet about.
Search for people. I started by typing in key words like “writer” into Twitter’s search and then proceeded to click on people who had interesting tweets.
Follow people. When I found an interesting writer, I decided to follow this person. Twitter then adds this person’s messages to your main page. Cool. I found out yesterday that you can also find people by looking through sites like, Twellow (the yellow pages for Twitter), so I’ll have to check that out this week.
But this was the confusing part to me. When I started reading all these tweets, they seemed to have some strange language of @ and # in them. I haven’t decoded all of this strange new code, but I’m figuring out some of the basics. An @ symbol usually followed by a highlighted name/phrase signifies that the tweet is references another person. So if I wanted to tweet about Creative Penn’s blog, I might do something like–Great advice about how twitter helps writers @thecreativepenn (or I could link to the blog).
As far as the # (hash) mark, I’m still a little confused, but I think it’s a way to tag people/things. For instance, last Friday, there was an influx of #FF and a bunch of @s. Come to find out that people were tagging fellow tweeters that they found interesting over the past week.
With those two pieces of code under my Twitter belt, I found that it’s been fun, a bit addictive actually (which could be its own problem–check out the LA Times post on why a writer decided to give up Twitter and Facebook). I’m already meeting people, getting links to great blog posts, and people are actually following me which, if nothing else, helps boost my writer’s ego. I just have to be careful that I don’t turn into that self-promoting, all to annoying (post on how to avoid becoming–”that guy“).
I’m still a newbie, but at least I don’t feel like a complete foreigner now.