Telling stories

How to make sure Twitter isn’t a time waster

Posted by southwrite on August 10, 2009

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“Why should I care what someone had for lunch,” Maxine asked me at a recent writer’s luncheon. “And, why should they care what I ate?”

She was talking about Twitter that social media sensation. What good is it? From her perspective most people just seem to tweet about mundane personal activities such as the quality of the rigatoni. Why should that interest me, she wanted to know, and how is that going to help my business?

Now understand, Maxine is one of the most successful and talented authors I know. She’s published numerous books and articles. She’s serious about her writing as both a craft and business and that’s reflected in an impressive body of published work. She’s also no technophobe as she uses LinkedIn and other web tools. It’s just that constant tweeting that she can’t understand.

 I Twitter regularly so I know social media certainly has the potential to be a tremendous waste of time. It’s easy to compose tweets when you could be polishing a story or sending out a query. There’s nothing magical about these 140-word messages, but it is a tool and it can be a good one for branding and promoting yourself and what you do. To ensure that it’s not a time waser here  are some rules of Twitter that I’ve found work for me.

Before even opening up Twitter you should be asking: what am I accomplishing? If it’s just recreation to keep up with pals then don’t worry about it.  If you’re a serious freelancer you probably want more and here are a few reasons that Twitter may be a boost to your career.

Twitter is a 140 word microblog.

Here at Southwrite I can go on as long as I want – and probably too long – to make a point. On Twitter you have to get to the point and make it interesting. That’s a powerful discipline which can transfer over to your other writing.

Thomas Nelson Inc. CEO Michael Hyatt tweets for more than 35,000 followers and is consistently interesting. He calls it “a backstage pass to my life” through which he promotes his blog posts, shares interesting links and notes his daily running discipline. Clearly he has a large and devoted following that cares about the highpoints of his professional and personal life.

Tweet Your Network

For the freelancer who spends most of his or her time in a home office it’s a way of reaching out to people around the world. Sure, it’s a rather limited conversation sometimes, but it’s still an effective way to build relationships with people you might otherwise never communicate with on a regular basis.

You can build those contacts and then use them as you would face-to-face networking. The people you follow and in turn follow you can help you to find work, a source or a piece of information. They can also support you. I’ll tweet about this blog when it’s posted. I’ll do shoutouts on other things I’ve accomplished because as we know self promotion is usually the only kind we may be getting.

Make Twitter Useful

Of course, Twitter is only as useful as you make it. If you’re only answering the question what are you doing then most people aren’t going to find your tweets very interesting. Unless, of course, you’re embedded with an Army infantry company on the streets of Bagdad. Provide material that is of value to your followers. Just as with any publication people will ask “what’s in it for me?” If you can answer their question with important links, incisive observations and witty quotes then I think you’ll gain lots of followers.

As for my own tweets, I also share some of the high and low points of my life, but I promise they won’t involve food.


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