I’ve had a twitter account for seven years, but until a few months ago, I never really used it. Aside from the occasional twitter-wars about air hockey with my friend Yen, hanging out on twitter felt much like hanging out in an echo chamber. People raved about it, but I didn’t get the hype. Because of this, for years, aside from updating blog posts, I stayed away.
A few months ago that changed. A few months ago I clicked over to twitter and did a double-take on the sidebar and the trending twitter topic created by Suey Park: #NotYourAsianSideKick. Intrigued, I clicked around, and quite frankly, the conversation changed the entire way I look at social media and what it can do, and I learned it wasn’t that I didn’t like twitter, it was that I didn’t know how to use it.
If you’re like I once was, not loving twitter, but wanting to perhaps give it another try, I’m sharing ten things that helped me like twitter, and an upcoming hashtag conversation you might want to join to give it a try. This is not about twitter basics, so if you’re scratching your head and thinking isn’t twittering what birds do, you can check that out the basics here. This is also not about how to amass a million followers because, well, I’m no where near that, but it is about how to like twitter and find in it not an echo chamber, but a meaningful place you may actually get something out of.
- Don’t auto-follow or follow-back to be polite. My biggest challenge when I dove back into twitter was all the people I followed over the years for the sole reason that they had followed me. I didn’t want to be rude and in doing so, I made a big mistake with the result a newsfeed flooded with people relentlessly, every single tweet, selling books, promoting speaking engagements, and those looking to just up their follower count with no interest in engaging. After culling who I followed and unfollowing all said people [and being promptly unfollowed in kind] twitter became less like a self-imposed ad campaign, and more of a meaningful experience.
- Follow interesting people. Nearly every news organization, magazine, and famous personality is on twitter. That’s cool and all, but what I get the most out of is following all the amazing like-minded people I’ve met on there. Write down your interests and hobbies. You will find people as ardent as you who you can learn from and connect with. I tend to follow activists, writers, inter-faith folks, book lovers, and a smattering of just plain old awesome folks.
- Say hi to said interesting people. Imagine twitter as a big dinner party where you might know a few people. Sure you can stand in the corner and chat with them, but wouldn’t it be nice to expand your social circle? Read your newsfeed, and respond to what people are sharing. It’s intimidating at first but the more you do, the more people become more than twitter handles and actual people you can connect with.
- Don’t Fret Numbers. It’s not how many followers you have, it’s who you have. It’s how they engage with you and how you engage with them. There are so many news reports of people, including well known celebs, who buy twitter followers. As with most things in life, it’s about quality not quantity.
- Don’t be an Egg. Put a picture up. It’s better than the egg-head. Whenever people are eggs, even if they’re super sweet, I just think spam-account and rarely engage much.
- Don’t want an echo chamber? Stop echoing. There is nothing wrong with posting your thoughts and musings and what you’re up to. Nothing at all. However, if that is all you do, you will be shouting into an echo chamber. Respond and engage. When you read a tweet that you enjoyed, retweet it, share it with your own followers, and share things you found interesting be it photos, news articles, etc. There’s nothing wrong with sharing what you ate for dinner, but just imagine yourself at a dinner party, if you only talk about yourself, people will eventually politely back away. As with all social situations, its a give and take.
- Make lists. Because twitter moves at rapid speed, using lists has changed my experience. When I follow people, I tend to put them into a list like Fabulous Muslims, or YA tweeps, or buddies, so when I have a minute, I can go through the lists to quickly see what people have been up to that I would likely miss if I just had a time-line way of keeping touch.
- Do not. Do not. Do NOT engage with trolls. The flip side to meeting awesome people is the occasional not so awesome people who will try to engage you with personal insults and hate words. My policy: I engage with people who respectfully disagree, just as I do on this blog, but if its trolling, I automatically delete and block, and move on. Not worth the energy.
- Don’t be private. Of course you can be private, but since my whole point of using twitter is to engage with and meet new people, having a private account limits my ability to do so. Facebook can be where you maintain the illusion of privacy, but for me, even my facebook account is public because if it’s online somehow someway its accessible, I only put what I’m okay with others seeing.
- Participate in chats and hashtag conversations. This alone will change the way you use twitter. This is the thing I love most and where I meet the coolest and most awesome people. I try to check in on chats about things I’m interested in like #kidlitchat and #yalitchat and because I follow awesome people I often will see other conversations going on in my newsfeed and click over and read and interact with them. Find chats, tweet-parties, try it out, and you’ll be amazed at how rewarding they can be, and bonus: You will inevitably learn something too.
Want to give it a try? Tuesday, at 2pm EST, Sabina of Muslimah Montage, a site dedicated to highlighting fabulous Muslim women, along with Brown Girl Magazine is hosting a chat on #EmpoweredMuslimWomen. You don’t have to be Muslim to join in, in fact, that’s the best part of twitter: connecting and learning from others. The event page is here if you want to sign up for it but you dont need to sign up, just show up, jump in and see what you think! This is a great one to try because Sabina is incredibly sweet and engaging, and the people joining in are warm and open and interactive. Along with Laila Alawa, I will be helping to moderate the conversation so if you do feel shy you’ll have someone you know there and who will give you a virtual high five. It’s a great place to dip your toes in the twitter-pool and to perhaps learn a thing or two in the process.
Hope this was helpful. Do you like twitter? What do you like or dislike? Any tips you would like to add?