3 Ways to Break Into the Twitter Scene

Let’s face it. You’re well aware of Twitter. Your favorite yogurt is tweeting, your dry cleaner, your sister, and local government. But once you actually manage to pick a twitter handle name, sign up, and follow your first 100 people, you seem to enter upon a room where people are chatting non-stop, and seemingly, to each other. As you sit in front of your computer, scrolling through the tweets, you suddenly feel time-warped back to being 14 years old, and walking into the cateteria of a new school, half way through the year, and you have no freaking idea who to talk to or where to sit. Damn that internet for making you feel 14 again!

Unfortunately, the more you poke around, the more you notice things getting worse, not better. All these Twitter cliques! People saying they miss each other, made someone else’s oatmeal recipe for breakfast, and how they can’t wait to see so and so’s face at #NGM10. What language are these people speaking? And how come I feel like a fly on the wall? I thought I left highschool and became an esteemed breadwinning adult?! GAH!

Yep, so it is. Take millions of people, leave them to their own devices, and they will recreate highschool – the popular kids, cliques, and code speak.

BUT you are an esteemed breadwinning adult, and you have moved past being 14 (if there are 14 year olds reading this, it does get better after highschool…) Here are 3 ways to break into the Twitter scene so you can stop feeling like a fly on the wall. And not eat your freaking lunch in the library or bathroom! You can do this!

I’ve been tweeting for about 2 years now (here was my first related post), and I am noticing some changes in how people operate on Twitter. With more and more people, it feels more clique-ish than ever, and a little less friendly. I guess that is human nature – as things grow, people start to create more and more circles around themselves so they don’t feel completely lost in the abyss. With that said…

Here are 3 Ways to Break into the Twitter Scene

1. Follow and Listen: Start searching for keywords that interest you, and start following people that tweet about those topics. Follow 100 – 200 people right off the bat so you can see what conversations are going on. Taking a little bit of time to scan the scene, and get the lay of the land will help out. And the bonus is no one will see you standing there in the cafeteria with your brown bag looking terrified!

2. Jump right in and act like you own the place. Once you’ve listened for a bit, and start to get the lay of the land, and learn a bit more about how the Twitterverse operates (sorry, that word is so 2010), start interacting with people. If someone poses a open question, reply back to them. Check out a few articles written by those in your following, and if you think the article is good, tweet something to that effect: “Great article on #communitymanagement by @krazykris about energizing a crowd.” The person who wrote the article will be quite flattered, most likely interact back with you, and you’ll have gained a confident who will most likely repay the favor for you in the future.

3. Real people. Go to a conference, tweet the hashtag while you are there, and meet tweeters face to face. Having a bunch of personal faces in your twitter stream will help keep things more personal in the future, and help keep your twitter relationships strong. After the event, a few weeks later, reach out to some of these people you met and just tweet them, “How are you doing?” Or ask them if they are going to any events in the future where you may be able to meet up again. Twitter is actually an amazing way to strengthen your personal and professional network…

So remember…you can be a cool twitter kid as long as you jump in and assert yourself as such!

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Sebastian James

Depending on where you’re at in government, jumping in will probably work best. Where I’m at in Cook County Government, we have a 2 track strategy. One track is a twitter feed that’s informational in nature, almost an RSS feed, and is always in the passive or 3rd person. The second track is centered around the executive, is personal, and in the first person. The information stream will clearly have more posts, so you have to watch the number of tweets and their spacing. The personal stream lends itself to being a little more restrained. You realistically wouldn’t put your executive out in front of the cameras 10-15 times a day over a long period of time, as their credibility would suffer. Same with the personal stream. Save the tweets for appointments, generally big to great big accomplishments, etc.

The first stream is one you simply jump in, because that’s the only way to get the information out there. The second needs a plan; which you can base on listening first/researching. But when you do jump in, don’t play the Twitter game to a draw; play it to win.

And check your analytics. Twitter is great, but it takes time and it’s not the end-all-be-all of social media. Pay very close attention to the posts/memes that generate a lot of visits/pageviews. Whenever the circumstances dictate, try to replicate the pattern of success. W’ve seen that with content on Open Data. The audience for open data is hardwired to Twitter, and whatever we put up gets retweeted everywhere. It’s nice to see your content in French. I know with open data/gov 2.0, I can leverage Twitter for more than what I’d normally get for an appointment, or passing a budget. So I could look at live-tweeting events and other things around that meme, and get lots of response and interaction.