Twitter – Silence is not Golden

Twitter went silent on me for a while last Sunday due to a problem at Twitter.com. I could tweet and look at the pages of people I follow, so I know they were tweeting. But my stream wasn’t updating, thus I saw no feedback from my tweets and I wasn’t able to participate in anyone else’s live stream.

It suddenly felt very strange to be tweeting into what felt like “nothing” – and there lies the whole value of Twitter and many other social media tools. It’s all about being able to interact with people in the “now” or at least within a timeframe that’s considered current.

When someone says that they don’t “get” Twitter, that’s the part they aren’t getting. If you sign up and don’t look for people to follow and interact with, or at least don’t look for people or organizations who tweeted information you find valuable, then Twitter becomes this quiet, dead place. No wonder people who don’t get it think it’s useless.

If you are getting pressure to tweet or have already signed up and haven’t seen any value, take a moment to do these things:

1) Think about the organizations and businesses you frequent on the web or in person. See if they have a twitter presence and follow them. SFGate has several Twitter accounts for breaking news, etc, with links to the articles. CNN also has a breaking news feed that is usually decent. Local businesses often tweet about specials and updates.

2) Upload a profile picture and fill out the bio line. You don’t have to go crazy, but you are starting to follow people you are less likely to get blocked outright if your account looks like it belongs to a “real” person who put forth some effort in joining. Personally, I’m pretty picky about who I let stay on my followers list – a picture and a bio go a long way.

3) Be a little picky about who is on your followers list. If I’m checking out your twitter feed, I’ll probably look at your followers too. If all I see is spambots following you, I’m going to assume you aren’t paying much attention to your account or you want a big number of useless followers.

4) Find your real life friends. Not only do I use Twitter as a resources for news and links about technology that interest me, I use it to stay connected to people I know in real life.

5) Feel free to unfollow tweeters that annoy you. When a tweeter’s information is no longer relevant to you, just let them go. No need to makes a whole service seem annoying when it’s really just a few irrelevant tweeters that bug you. I also unfollow people that tweet too many times during the day, especially if it’s only to forward link after link after link. I follow people because I value their opinion on things, so if it looks like you aren’t thinking before you are tweeting, it’s no longer worth it.

Those are my 5 tips for getting started on Twitter. Happy tweeting!

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