Wading in the Social Media Kiddy Pool: Diving into Twitter, One Toe at a Time

Change doesn’t scare me.

It is invigorating. Jumping into the worldwide social media pool looked like fun. I thought that I was ready until I walked right up to the edge and uncharacteristically froze.

The technology wasn’t scary. I speak tech fluently. A degree in engineering combined with a love for how things work makes it fun.

The problem was at a much deeper level. It was almost like going back to high school with cliques and pecking orders. I wasn’t sure that I would fit in and didn’t know if I wanted to.

Facebook and MySpace don’t appeal to me. Even though some folks are touting the opportunity to use them for viral marketing, it seems risky for corporations and unnecessary to me personally.

Twitter is different.

It is a micro blogging site creating new communities 140 characters at a time. The potential for usable information was immediately visible thanks to Peter Shankman, the founder of Help a Reporter Out. He kept nudging his subscribers to follow him for late breaking PR requests. I signed up.

When I joined twitter, I was a ghost hiding in the shadows, watching the activity. I didn’t get it. And, I didn’t see a need to invest time or energy trying to figure it out.

In an effort to maintain branding for my firm, Wilson & Ellis Consulting, I chose my butterfly logo for my photo and used blue gears for the background. The gears are still there. The photo has changed thanks to commentary from newly found friends (more on that later.)

After several months of reading Peter’s (known as @skydiver on twitter) tweets, I decided to venture into the water. I posted a comment about my latest blog post. It seemed like a good idea that would drive website traffic and improve search engine rankings.

I started following a few folks, and then, a few started following me. I tweeted every blog update. One follower asked a question and I answered it. Over the next four months, my posts were a manual RSS feed of links to my articles and blog postings.

Only a handful of people followed me, but I didn’t care. I was scared to step out of the corporate promotional zone. I had witnessed people discussing the mundane, trivial, and obscure along with the social media elite debating the evolution from the present to the future. Since I didn’t want to share my lunch menu and subscribe to the maxim that “it is better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt,” I kept my mouth shut.

I was the ghost, but twitter haunted me. The more I studied social media, the more I was tempted to jump in. My first test of the interactive water was a tweet linking to Seth Godin’s blog. It received a comment from Allen Weiss (@allenweiss), the CEO/Founder of MarketingProfs. We had a fun chat about how nothing is new under the sun. It encouraged me to venture further in.

Danger was lurking beneath the surface.

My mission was simple: find smart and/or interesting people to follow. I researched tweeps (twitter users) online, read their comments, and started following them. Some followed me back.

Being a fan of “please” and “thank you”, I used the direct message functionality (DM) to thank them for following me. Shadows started moving beneath the surface. Sarcastic references to automated direct messages began to appear. It seemed a little personal. I backed out of the water to tend to my wounds. (Yes, I may have been a little overly sensitive.)

Research on “thank you for following” notes left me more confused that ever. There are no formal rules for twittering, but there are personal preferences. How do you avoid alienating people? What was a newbie to do?

I was like the kid in high school that wanted to join in, but just didn’t get it. Reading the posts was enlightening and enjoyable. The problem was that I didn’t find the crown jewel in social media very social.

Until I talked with Amber Nasland (@AmberCadabra).

There is a debate going on in the twitterverse over the use of bots to automatically post tweets. Amber was involved in a conversation when I chimed in and commented on my thank you note gaffe. It changed my twitter experience in a flash.

Amber responded to my post and then sent a shout out to some friends asking them to say “Hello” to me. I immediately saw the power of social media and began to understand twitter. I received well wishes and followers from around the world.

Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) said hello under duress because he doesn’t normally talk to butterflies. (Remember that my photo was the butterfly logo.) I asked him about his comment. He said, “People connect with people best. Faces help that connection.” He’s a smart fellow. My butterfly picture transformed to one of me within minutes.

Ed Illig (@Illig) insisted on sending me “a personally-crafted, hand-typed ‘Thank You DM’.” I love his sense of humor.

Elizabeth Sosnow (@elizabethsosnow) and I are comparing notes on mothering. (Just between you and me, she wins hands down with three children to my two.)

All of the hellos and comments were appreciated and helped me move a little closer to jumping knee deep into the kiddy pool. I am not ready for the big pond yet, but I can see it in my future.

Ten Things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Twitter is a dynamic site for connecting with others. Static tweets of blog post notices don’t contribute to the community. Since twitter is an interactive communications too, your company needs a face and a voice.
  2. Automation of tweets, DM’s, and follows is a bad thing. It eliminates relationship building which is twitter’s point.
  3. Whether or not to follow someone who follows you is a personal decision. I choose to do it unless their posts are extremely mundane, offensive, or overtly promotional, get rich quick schemes. If I change my mind later, I can always unfollow.
  4. While there is a lot of potential for branding within Twitter, traditional marketing won’t work. It requires personal interaction. You can’t build a presence on twitter with a script.
  5. The people with the best relationships win. (Just like life.) Any competition based on the number of followers is misguided.
  6. Retweeting (reposting a tweet by someone else) is a badge of honor for the original tweeter. It means that something they said was valuable enough for someone to repeat.
  7. Twitter is addictive, but that’s okay. They have a cure for that, too. Jeanette Fisher (@jeanettejoy) periodically reminds me to stay focused on the important stuff. (Thanks for the nagging Jeanette!)
  8. There has to be a balance between twittering and the rest of your life. It is a personal choice and different for everyone. I haven’t figured out mine yet. Hopefully the tweeps who message me understand if I don’t answer them right away.
  9. Don’t tweet and run unless you say you are leaving. The technology exists to schedule tweets. If you choose to use it, you may miss participating in a great conversation that you started. The exception to this might be blog post notifications. (I’m still trying to nail this one down.)
  10. The best thing about twitter is the ability to share with others. I expand my horizons every time I log in. Hopefully, I help others with my knowledge of multichannel marketing and management.

If you are venturing into the twitterverse, I suggest monitoring tweets before you engage in a conversation with someone. Others may say, just jump in, but I like testing the water first. I hope that you decide to join us. If so, I am known as @wilsonellis, the butterfly that morphed into a blonde. Be sure to say hello.

If you are an experienced tweep, this frosh looks forward to learning about social media from you. And, you might learn something about multichannel marketing and operations from me.

Stay tuned for more adventures from an old school marketing and operational geek journey into the brave new world of social media.



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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Virginia Ginsburg

    Thank you so much for this article! I, too, have been watching Twitter and trying to figure out how I feel about it. Reading about your honest experience makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing for right now (watching), but soon I’m going to follow your lead and start participating!

    Virginia Ginsburg’s last blog post..To zine or not to zine

    Reply
    • Debra Ellis

      Thank you for joining me on this adventure. Let me know when you decide to participate so we can tweet together!

      Reply

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