Posted: April 03, 2009
Never be boring: How to survive and thrive on Twitter
Tips from a recent DaVinci Institute Twitter Boot CampMary Butler
"All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring."
-Chuck Palahniuk, "Invisible Monsters."
On his Facebook page, my 21-year-old nephew Eric offers this Chuck Palahniuk quote for his "religious views." This life philosophy originally campy fictional dialogue in the pre-Facebook world of 1999 makes perfect sense for a digital native like Eric, according to what I learned at Twitter Boot Camp, staged on April 1 by the nonprofit futurist think tank DaVinci Institute.
"If you want followers, be interesting," advised Deb Frey, the DaVinci Institute's vice president and Twitter Boot Camp leader, whose Twitter handle is @DaVinciDeb. She should know. Frey has 5,989 "followers," who receive her regular Twitter updates, known as "tweets," in 140 characters or less. For most people, having 100 followers is an extraordinary feat.
Frey updates her followers on upcoming DaVinci Institute events and news. But that's not all. She infuses her regular posts with information about her day including how she's feeling, thoughts on movies she's seen or restaurants she's eaten at, and it isn't unusual for Frey to solicit advice from her followers, "Has anyone tried Twittersafe.com as a backup for your Twitter followers?," she recently asked.
Launched in October 2006, Twitter is among the latest in Web social media sensations, now with more than 3 million members. Unlike Facebook or MySpace, which virtually bring together friends, family and, in the case of celebrities and entertainers, fan bases, Twitter largely connects strangers with one deceptively simple question, "What are you doing?" Its search functions allow you to find and follow others with common interests, making it a remarkable tool for you to share and receive information about everything under the sun and easily grow your sphere of influence.
Tech industry guru Dave Taylor, of AskDaveTaylor.com, said he first hooked into Twitter at a conference about a year and a half ago. Using Twitter, Taylor said he was able to quickly solicit advice about where to grab a good bite to eat and ask other questions of the group. Twitter is an "extraordinarily effective" way to communicate with a number of people at once, said Taylor, who was among the Twitter Boot Camp attendees.
As a result, Twitter provides an instant talent pool; its followers give you quick feedback; and you can easily connect with likeminded people. You can also get a close-up-and-personal glimpse into the lives of celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, who joined March 10 and already has 576,218 followers, the sixth-most, ranking just below the likes of Barack Obama, Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher.
While Twitter is easy to use, making effective use of its power can be tricky. For instance, Frey said, "Be careful about what you say," when posting on Twitter. "The Internet is very unforgiving," she said. Indeed, most everyone has made or experienced a regretful comment that sounded far harsher in the virtual world than it would have if made in person, where tone of voice and body language can make all the difference. You've got to be interesting, but also nice. Easy, right? Thankfully, there are a growing pool of social media experts to help guide newbies through the basics and beyond.
Here's a look at Frey's cardinal rules for successful tweeting:
Twitter's 10 Commandments
1. Thou shall not be boring.
2. Thou shall not spam thy neighbor, nor his wife, nor his cattle, nor his cattle’s wife. I don’t think, therefore I spam.
3. Thou shall not curse, swear or use four-letter words.
4. Thou shall not have a bio that bears false witness or is void of your personal worth.
5. Thou shall not use the Twitter default avatar.
6. Thou shall not use the default Twitter background.
8. Thou shall not tweet while driving (waiting at stoplights is fine).
9. Thou shall not indiscriminately block others.
10. Thou shall not use acronyms, SMS, abbreviations or anything not understandable to thy neighbor’s good looking but slightly technically challenged wife.
And for a full Twitter primer, consider attending the DaVinci Institute's next Twitter Boot Camp, scheduled for May 9 in Boulder.
Mary Butler is ColoradoBiz's online editor.