The Lessons of 10,000 Tweets
I’ve never been too big on celebrating social media milestones, but when I passed the 10,000 tweet mark recently, it made me pause for a moment.
I don’t automate or syndicate any of my Twitter activity (and never have), which means that I actually sat down at my computer over a number of years and typed something 10,000 times. And that’s kind of amazing to me, especially since this total doesn’t take into account my large collection of direct messages in Twitter (or all the things I post in other networks.)
You would think that, after all that time and effort, I should have learned a thing or two about Twitter by now. And, I have.
In fact, I’ve learned ten things…
1. Native isn’t best.
Unlike Facebook, which I manage natively, actually tweeting in Twitter is something I haven’t done in ages. Like most heavy-ish users, I manage my Twitter account through third party apps like Tweetdeck and HootSuite. The real-time flow and bird’s eye view of various conversations that I get from these tools just make more sense to me and makes my Twitter experience more rewarding. If you haven’t tried one yet, check them out.
2. It takes practice.
I think a lot of newbies are turned off by Twitter because it has its own special syntax (@, #, RT, etc.) and is a very open network (e.g. people can follow you, even if you don’t follow them). Just remember, those things threw us all for a loop when we first started out, so it’s not unusual to feel awkward at first and make some mistakes while you’re getting up to speed.
3. It’s impossible to do perfectly.
I know for a fact that one of my 10,000 tweets was simply a comma – which I accidentally typed and tweeted (one of my followers jokingly tweeted me a period in return). I’m sure there were oodles of other duds in there as well. Twitter can move really fast and involve multiple conversations with multiple people, simultaneously. So, mistakes happen a lot, and to all of us. Don’t get too hung up if you make some, too.
4. It’s always changing.
Even though a Twitter feed is simply a stream of voices, just like the audience of a live performance, it can have a personality – one that changes all day, every day. Some days it’s like a conversational ghost town. Others days it’s hopping with energy and chatter. So, if you’re new and are not sure that it feels right for you, give it time. It may feel totally different tomorrow.
5. It’s awesomely unpredictable.
Because Twitter is an open network, it allows people of vastly different worlds to mix and converse, which I think is the tool’s most unique and valuable feature. It certainly has helped me to connect with hundreds of wonderful people all over the world. But, you have to want to make those connections happen. Don’t be afraid to reach big and explore wide.
6. It is a lens into a sometimes ugly world.
Because tweets are publicly viewable (unless you choose to protect them, which few do), they show us what people all over the world are talking about in real time. In the case of Chris Brown at the Grammys, or racist comments about The Hunger Games’ casting, those conversations can sometimes be disturbing. So, while Twitter is educational, just know that it can sometimes give you an education in things you might not want to know.
7. It’s not Facebook.
Facebook and Twitter are two completely different animals, so don’t approach your tweets as “little Facebook posts,” or treat them the same when you’re building your personal or professional social presence. Even if you’re a Facebook guru, it may take awhile to find your groove in Twitter and you may need to invest in some education if you want to get a good return on your activities.
8. It’s not for everyone.
The hard thing about Twitter is that you have to use it (and build your following) to really get how it works. But, many just set it up, tweet a “hello” (to an audience of no one), hear crickets and think, “Man, this is totally stupid,” and walk away. If that’s you, try again and give it some more time. But also know that, for some people, the speed and openness of the platform are just never going to feel right, and that’s okay, too.
9. It’s here for the long haul.
Twitter isn’t really a Facebook competitor, but a different form of social media altogether that fulfills a different need, especially with respect to its ability to make, break and share news. It’s a function that people are continually adapting their lives to include, which is why Twitter continues to grow. It may never be as big as Facebook, but that’s besides the point. People don’t join Twitter to talk to everyone. They join it to talk to the select group of someones.
10. It can change lives.
Twitter has been the catalyst for political and social change, has helped people in crisis, and has revolutionized our news media. More personally, it has totally transformed how I connect, relate and communicate with people. No, it’s not the savior of all humankind, but I have no trouble saying that, for some people, like myself, it is indeed a life changer.
What may be the most amazing thing about my 10,000 tweets and all these lessons is that they aren’t really so amazing at all. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Rule, the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 HOURS.
So, according to Gladwell’s rule, at 10,000 tweets, I’m not even a master of Twitter yet – just an active and engaged lady who is on her way there. And that’s a milestone I’m proud to celebrate.