Welcome to the first installment of the new weekly column we’re calling ‘Talking to n00bs about Social Media.’
These weekly installments will feature real questions from real people about how to use social media and just what the heck is going on around there anyway.
It’s a big topic and there’s lots to discuss, so let’s just get right to it.
The first series of questions concern twitter and come from Shannon in Vancouver.
1) I noticed right away that Twitter is definitely not Facebook. As someone who works in the non-profit community, I would like my Twitter be more representative of this and keep my Facebook fairly personal. Is this the right way to go, or do my social media outlets need to be joined at the hip?
Twitter is definitely not Facebook and that is a very good thing for a whole bunch of reasons. One of the fundamentals for anyone using social media is to recognize that you set the limits for your participation, you choose who to friend/follow and how you’re going to interact with them.
If you want to keep Facebook for your personal life and use twitter for other interactions then do it. That’s a great distinction to make. What I like about your decision to use twitter in a specific way is that it immediately provides you with a focus. You can always come back to Facebook for work purposes later, it’s not going anywhere, as Google+ will tell you.
So forget about Facebook for now, here’s the deal with Twitter: it’s a filter.
In the ceaseless torrent of endless content being pushed across the web in all languages all day every day Twitter acts as a kind of magnet and filter for the content that you’re interested in and/or the people that you’re interested in hearing from. It’s a personalized stream of information, links, anecdotes, jokes and interactions delivered in 140 characters.
You’re in control of who you’re following and how you’re interacting with them.
The trick is to identify people and organizations that you’re interested in following, then to find them on Twitter and follow them.
This is the on-going magic of Twitter. There’s an endless number of interesting people online who are worth following and you should never be afraid of following new and interesting people, nor from culling the dead-weight of non-Tweeters, self-promoters and slugs from your stream.
It’s your stream, keep it clean. As they say.
Identifying people and organizations to follow strategically is a whole other post but here’s the short-hand: start local, start with the thought-leaders in your area and your sector and grow from there.
By following these people you will see with whom and how they interact online. This is how you learn. Follow the people that the thought leaders retweet or are always conversing with. Expand your network organically in this way.
Listen, interact, learn, participate, think about it, repeat. That’s the beginners mantra.
Lastly, there’s three things that I recommend that you do.
a) Learn how to use Twitter Lists.
b) Read Mashable at least twice a week.
c) Buy the Networked Non-Profit by Beth Kanter and Allison H. Fine. Don’t think about buying it, go buy it! The best book yet written on social media period and full stop. (Step away from the microphone Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel and Seth Godin.)
2) I read a Globe&Mail article last summer discussing community building online–they discussed in detail Twitter etiquette. Times change fast, so what are the top 5 “rules” for Twitter?
Stop reading the Globe and Mail!
Just kidding. I enjoy the Globe and I read it every day. Their Leafs coverage is excellent.
Times change and nothing changes at all.
This is why we still read newspapers, to remind ourselves that everything is just the same as it’s always been and yet there’s a whole bunch of new things happening (there’s a Leafs joke in there somewhere).
Twitter etiquette is based on the same common sense and respectful behavior that you use in real life when speaking to friends and strangers.
Here are 5 things to remember when participating in conversations on Twitter:
a) Support other people’s good ideas by retweeting them to your followers. Always attribute links and quotes to the person that you got them from. It’s always about them and rarely about you.
b) Eighty / Twenty. Most of the time you spend listening and engaging others in a kind of freeform conversation based on knowledge exchange, fun and open interaction. The smallest amount of time that’s left over is available for you to tweet about your own projects, work-related stuff, stuff that you are being paid to talk about.
c) Follow your curiosity. What do you want to know more about? Find the people who talk about those things and follow them.
d) Follow your passion. Post things that you think are cool, fun, inspiring. Learn to use #hashtags creatively.
e) Breathe. Twitter can become really engrossing. Don’t forget to put it away and go get some fresh air from time to time.
3) The more you follow, the faster your feed moves. Since Twitter is much more ‘real-time’ than Facebook, how often should I be tweeting so that I don’t get lost in the shuffle?
Welcome to the slipstream.
Twitter is a great example of the limitlessness of the web and how, really, attempts at control are futile.
Twitter has never met a boundary that it could not circumvent.
Lots of people will give you advice about ‘social media management’ and a great deal of this advice will revolve around ‘time management’ and etc…
This is fine, though it’s not for everybody, and over time as you become better at understanding how Twitter and other channels function and relate to one another you’ll develop your own way of participating.
Developing a more rich relationship with twitter and your followers requires the use of a twitter application like HootSuite, TweetDeck or something like that. HootSuite is a local Vancouver product and lots of people swear by it but I prefer TweetDeck myself.
These applications allow you to see various streams and accounts on one screen and you should always have your twitter client open, functioning in the background of your work, during the day. From time to time you should check the streams to see what’s happening, who’s tweeting, what interesting information is being shared.
Some sense of control or management comes with time but most importantly you need to figure out how your streams work, when they’re most active, how you’re participation affects your day and how much you’re willing to contribute.
Keep an open mind.
Right now you’re in the prime-time n00b phase of your social media arc. It’s a great time to watch and learn.
What do you think of my responses to Shannon’s questions? Please feel free to add your comments or ideas in the comments below.
Also, if you have any questions please send them to me at sean at monkeytreecreative dot com or post them below.