11/19/09

What's With This Twitter Thing Anyway? Guest Post by Jaime Thelar

I started twittering not too long ago, as you readers may know—and as of today, I have 100 followers. Now what do I do? Since I'm behind the curve on this geeky type stuff, I asked Jaime Theler to explain it all. Thanks, Jaime!


I'm pretty vocal with friends and acquaintances about my love affair with Twitter. (Thanks, friend and techo-savvy guru Matthew Buckley for getting me hooked!) Usually the response I get is a raised eyebrow and a disbelieving look. I mean, it’s called “Twitter,” which sounds like something a six-year-old would say over and over while giggling, like the word “pooh.”

Eventually some of the skeptics decide to give it a try. Then I get emails, messages, and conversations that go something like this:
I heard all about this Twitter thing, so I reluctantly gave in and joined. Now I have an account, 4 followers, and I don’t get it. Who cares what I eat for breakfast or that I’m going to the store? This is stupid! I'm going back to Facebook.”


Impatient are you, my young Padowan. Knowledge need you.

*cough* *clearing throat*
Okay, that's enough talking like Yoda. I can't even do it in a blog.

Anyway, what I was trying to say by channeling the little green dude is that perhaps the problem stems from not understanding Twitter and how it is, and more importantly, is not, like Facebook.

*Disclaimer: I am a Twitter enthusiast, not a Twitter expert. You can find several discussions, articles, and blogs about Twitter and why it's popular and how it's changing the world and why the little bird should be your favorite animal, etc. etc. I'm just sharing why I like it and why it's valuable to me.


What Twitter is not:
Twitter is not the place to connect with your ex boyfriend's best friend's sister that you lost touch with after high school. Neither is it the place to build your own farm, aquarium, or medieval castle. You won't find BeJeweled or MahJong or notes with 40 random questions that you then pass on to your friends. You can't post 140 pictures of your last race, (adopting innocent, "who, me?" expression) or take quizzes about which 80's movie you are, or what your birthday says about you, or what your Native American name is. And on Twitter you won't see everyone else you know who is doing all these things.


What Twitter is:
1. Twitter is like removing all the extraneous bits of Facebook and leaving the status, but Tweeters (or tweeps) don't use it like the status updates in Facebook.

2. Twitter is more public than Facebook, because anyone can follow you on Twitter, but you don't have to follow them back. This is why you'll see so many celebrities on Twitter, because they can have a kerjillion fans but not have to wade through a kerjillion fans' worth of Tweets.

3. Twitter is more business. It's for staying current in an industry. I follow hundreds of writers, editors, agents, and publishers, and the vast majority of them I've never met. Yet they carry on a constant conversation with each other and their followers about the industry. When the whole best-seller price war happened I knew about it right away, as well as their reactions to it. I also find out what drives agents nuts, when they get excited about something in the business, and when they have a big deal. The people share links to great blog posts, contests, or things of interest to the business.

4. Twitter is fast. You only have 140 characters per Tweet, so you won't get rambling discourses. If you want to check out someone's link you click on it, if you don't want to, you don't. If you like something someone else said, you retweet it.

5. Twitter is what's happening in real time. Here's an analogy--> if Facebook is the 30 minute evening news, Twitter is the ticker at the bottom of the screen.

6. Twitter is also entertaining. You learn how to tweet something that is a) interesting and/or b) informative in an entertaining, ADHD way. And you get to know another side of people.

7. Twitter brings together people for real time conversations. When your tweet involves a common topic, then you include what's called a hashtag. It involves a # sign and a word or string of words. Then people can search for that hashtag and pull up all the tweets on Twitter about that subject. Some common ones I use are #amwriting (for tweets about my current WIP) or #writegoal (self-explanatory). There are hundreds of people using these hashtags and it develops into a network of people with similar interests. They cheer each other on, or vent to each other.

Like this tweet this morning by @GripeMaster:
Done" in the sense of "done until tomorrow, when it becomes worthless because I changed everything--again."#amwriting


Oh, can I identify with him!

There are even groups that set up a certain time to talk about a topic. For example, the topic of #nano is pretty hot. Some agents do an hour of answering questions on #askagent, some authors do #askanauthor, and there are several groups of writers, readers, agents, and publishers that participate in discussions like the weekly #kidlitchat and #yalitchat. It's like sitting around and instant messaging with dozens of people at once who like talking about the same things as you, and you don't even have to shower.

You can use the Twitter Search to find the conversations under these hashtags, but if I want to follow a conversation as it's happening I prefer Monitter, which is a free, real time, live twitter monitor. It gives you three columns so you can follow three topics at once--and never get anything done. ;)

Try following one of these conversations. Twitter user @Georgia_McBride hosts #YAlitchat on Wed. @ 9PM Eastern. #Kidlitchat Tues @ 9 Eastern. Here's a link to her post where she explains more about it, and where she posts the transcripts after she's done. You don't have to participate or even have a twitter account, but you can see what it's all about.


Beyond the Twitter site:
Slogging through one column of everyone's tweets on the Twitter site can give anyone a headache. When it gets better is when you start using organizing programs like the one I use, called Tweetdeck. You can organize the people you follow into groups which then have their own column. I have a column for all that I follow, a column for agents/editors, a column for published authors, a column for writers, and a column for my friends that I know personally (that way they don't get buried under the hundreds of other people's tweets). I also have a column for Direct Messages (like private email - but still only 140 characters) and Mentions (when someone responds to me or retweets me - basically anything that has my username in it). Tweetdeck now also has a Facebook feed, so I can see Twitter and Facebook all from one program. It saves sooo much time.


A tiny note on Twitter Etiquette:
Give proper credit. If you like something someone else said or linked to, then make sure to give them credit with their twitter name (the @ sign and their name). Like this tweet this morning from @MFAconfidential:

Getting published takes passion, persistence & patience by @JaneFriedman via @mystorywriter @CafeNirvana ~ http://bit.ly/2fVmK1


You can find a whole slew of articles on Twitter Etiquette, and I don't want to get too long-winded, so just Google it.


The Best Way to Learn is To Follow Those That Do It Right:
If you're only following people that tweet the minutiae of their day, then it's hard to figure out how to work Twitter right. I learned best by reading what others said. So here are a few people I recommend to follow to learn.

@MichaelHyatt
@NathanBransford
@maureenjohnson
@lwhodareswins
@problogger
@inkyelbows
@agentgame
@RachelleGardner
@lilithsaintcrow
@Georgia_McBride
@ldspublisher [added by LDS Publisher!]

**Ahhhh! Brain freeze! I'm drawing a blank and I had a whole list yesterday. I'll write them down from now on and post them all in another blog, promise. Just look at the people I follow on Twitter (I'm @bookmom2000- click on the Follow Me button in the sidebar). There are so many good ones.

You can also check out these lists:
15 Twitter Users Shaping the Future of Publishing
100+ of the Best Authors on Twitter
15 Must-Follow Comedic Film Actors on Twitter


Does Twitter Make You a Better Writer?
Here's one blogger's opinion about How Twitter Makes You a Better Writer. I'm not so sure I agree with it, but I'll still pass it on.

Thanks for sticking with me this long, dear readers. This turned out to be a rather wordy post, so I'll forgo the discussion on how to get followers for a future post. I hope this has been at least a little helpful, and do chime in with all the things I've missed or your Twitter questions.




Jaime is the author of two LDS non-fiction books, Parenting the Ephraim's Child and Enjoying the Journey. Jaime is also the mom of three, and addicted to books.

Read more of Jaime Theler's posts at her blog, Bookmom Musings.

Or visit her official website HERE.

20 comments:

Daron D. Fraley said...

This is an awesome post. Thanks to ldspublisher and Jaime (both of whom I follow in twitter). And they follow me. And it is fun.

One thing I didn't see mentioned in the post is Twitter Lists. I have personally found more TARGETED (like minded, similar, hope-to-be-readers-of-my-book) followers by taking advantage of searching existing lists than by any other method.

This functionality is new, but very powerful. I encourage you to check it out.

For all of you authors, writers, agents, publishers, book reviewers out there who would like to be listed on my "Authors" list, come on by this site:

http://bit.ly/4zdfO

If you follow my author list and then tell me what you are (author, writer, agent, publisher, book reviewer), I will add you to the list. And then even more people will find you. :)

Thanks again @ldspublisher and @bookmom2000 !

Rebecca Talley said...

This is what I want to know. I follow people but I can't keep track of all of their tweets. Their tweets are all on my page, but it seems to go on forever and I don't want to get stuck reading through tons of tweets so do I need to use Tweetdeck to organize them? Is that the best way? I totally get Facebook but I'm still trying to figure out Twitter.

Th. said...

.

(me)

Twitter is, in my opinion, the finest in social media. It's possible to follow and unfollow without offense and it's easy to get a sense of What's Happening Now. And it's the best gateway for people to find your other work, whether that's blogs or books.

Carolyn V. said...

Jamie, this was an awesome post! I've been wondering for some time now if I should join. Thanks so much for the info. =)

Anonymous said...

Facebook is a wate of time. Twitter is just a faster way to waste time.

Get a second job.

Rebecca, I can't believe you. I thought you were a better FHE Mom.

Rebecca Talley said...

Anonymous,

If you actually used your Facebook account you might find you like it.

You're not even on Twitter, are you?

Glad to see you're out and about again :). I've missed you.

Moriah Jovan said...

Rebecca, I see Twitter as working the room during a cocktail party. Don't try to keep up. Float in and out of the conversation cliques, pick up what catches your eye at that moment, discard the rest.

I cannot tell you how invaluable Twitter is to me and my sales.

I also can't tell you how wonderful it is to throw a general question out to the Twitterverse and get good answers, things you can't find on Google, personal insights into people's answers, and expert opinions. For free, all that knowledge and experience there just for the (polite) asking.

I don't use Facebook. I find it confusing and cluttered and burdened with too many "neat things you can do."

Dear Anonymous at 12:06 PM: I don't know if you were displaying some inside joke with Rebecca or not, but if not, your comment was despicable.

Rebecca Talley said...

Moriah,

Can you elaborate on how you use Twitter? Do you use lists? Do you use hashtags (just learned to do that today)? How do you throw out a question and receive answers? Sorry, I'm very Twitter ignorant.

Rebecca Talley said...

Facebook is good for me to keep in contact with my kids who no longer live with me. I don't care for the applications and games, but I love having daily contact with my family and friends. I've loved reconnecting with high school friends. I actually just learned a friend has been fighting leukemia, something I probably wouldn't know if not for Facebook.

Moriah Jovan said...

Rebecca, I had no idea how to "work" Twitter because I didn't have any followers, didn't know who to follow, didn't know how to find those people.

A friend of mine went into my account (at my okay) and picked out people she thought might be good to follow. After I had a timeline scrolling down my screen, and I could see that there were conversations going, then I got it.

But without that, I never would've. And IMO, that's the toughest part.

Since then, I've culled most of those, but I found more simpatico people *through* those.

You follow conversations, see, and if the participating parties interest you, you click their name. Look at their bio, see if it interests you. Look at their timeline (Twitterstream) and see if they say things that interest you. Click through to their blog and read a bit. Follow them for a while to see if you still find them interesting.

When people you don't know follow you, do the same and see if you want to follow them back.

I haven't built my Twitter lists much because that's an organizational task I don't have time for. However, I *would* if I had a free minute. It's a neat feature and I like it.

You find the most interesting people through re-tweets and conversations, and following their links back to find out more about them.

I don't use hashtags too often unless or until I'm using all my 140 characters to put in the names of the people to whom I'm replying.

I use a hashtag for my books #TheProviso and #Stay whenever I talk about them. My readers have picked up on this and they use them too.

I rarely follow large hashtag conversations like #writechat or #litchat or #followreader (although that last one is my favorite) because I'm never in a time position to be able to do so.

There are programs that will let you follow a directed hashtag chat like that very easily, but I won't get into that.

But, to get back to my point: Twitter is useless until you start building a collection of interesting people you want to follow.

Don't stress about your follower numbers. I keep my down by blocking people who are SEO "experts," MLM types (I despise MLMs), people who have over, say, 5,000 followers. Nobody can keep up with that much.

I don't follow people whose timelines are never conversational, who are only tweeting about their product or minutiae or warm fuzzies/motivational quotes (I have exceptions, but they're not important right now). I'm there for conversation, not to be hammered by what amounts to a bot.

Anyway, you're free to follow me @MoriahJovan and I'll follow you back. You already know I have a penchant for cussing and snark, so there is that.

However, the people *I* follow are tres interesting, so that might be an easy way to find people if you want. (Don't feel obligated; it's not like I'm the guru or anything.)

Just remember it's a cocktail party. You are there for the conversational moment, not to catch up on yesterday's or last hour's or last 15 minutes' news.

Moriah Jovan said...

Oh, and one more thing. Make sure you put your avatar up BEFORE you start following people.

Moriah Jovan said...

And not to put too fine of a point on it, *I* do not generally follow people who never talk to anybody else. (That would be at least one person on the list in the post.)

My exceptions:

Accounts that post links to eyecandy, such as design, fashion, artists whose work I like, other bits of craftsmanship, tutorial blogs (like for Photoshop and WordPress), my pet arts & crafts, stuff like that.

If you're selling something and all you do is tweet that, nope. Not interested. Nor is anybody else.

Rebecca Talley said...

Sorry LDSP, Mojo and I are hijacking your blog comments :).

How do you jump into the conversation? I thought Twitter was stagnant tweets. Whereas FB allows for conversation, at least I can figure out how to participate in conversations on FB, I don't "get" how to do that on Twitter. Do you just click on their names? Or do you do the reply thingy?

I'm going to follow you and see what you mean. I have a penchant for tweeting about everyday things or book stuff so maybe I need to rethink my tweets.

All this technology makes my head hurt.

Moriah Jovan said...

How do you jump into the conversation?

You just jump into the middle of somebody's conversation whether you know them or not.

Rude in real life. On Twitter, it's expected.

Rebecca Talley said...

Okay. I think I followed you and a couple of your lists.

And I can see there's a way to reply to people's tweets.

Kate said...

Thanks for asking all the questions, Rebecca. I learned a lot from your comment hijacking.

Jaime Theler said...

Daron - I just haven't had the time to organize any lists yet, but it's in the plan for post-NaNo life.

Rebecca - I highly recommend Tweetdeck, because without the organization it gets overwhelming and hard to keep track of.

Moriah - I love the cocktail party analogy. There is no way to keep track of all the conversations. You just peek in on them every so often, but there are some people that I follow that I will search out because they often have such great conversations.

You jump into conversations by replying to tweets with that person's username.

I'm happy that my post helped some of you! :)

LDS_Publisher said...

Hijack all you want! I love that you're doing this--expanding on a topic to help and support each other. It's like we're a family. Ahhh, Momma is proud.

Lori Nawyn said...

Great stuff, Jaime. I gleaned more from your post (and Rebecca and Moriah's comments) than when I spent hours Googling Twitter how-to's. Thanks!

georgiamcbridebooks said...

Hi Jaime-

Thanks for posting and listing me as a person to follow. I am so honored. Thanks to everyone who has already visited my blog. I hope it has added value. You are free to JUMP into my conversation on twitter any time. Jaime is awesome and I'm glad to have connected with her. See all of you around the twitterverse!

Cheers-
Georgia McBride