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17 June 2009
All I really need to know about Twitter I learned in kindergarden
with apologies to Robert Fulghum...

TwitterI've been on Twitter for several months now. While the basic mechanics are pretty straightforward, it took me a while to get the hang of it and feel like I had a useful tool on my hands. There are approximately three gazillion "Twitter How-To" articles out there, but none of them really got to the heart of it. And it finally occurred to me that everything I needed to know about Twitter, I learned in kindergarden:

The Golden Rule
Follow everyone who follows you (unless they are an obvious spambot). You can always un-follow them later if their tweets get annoying, but at least give them the benefit of the doubt up front.

Share everything
Re-tweet helpful stuff. This has the double-benefit of sharing interesting tidbits as well as promoting someone else's tweet. If you do this on a regular basis, folks will start re-tweeting your stuff too.

Nobody likes a copycat
Don't just "RT" everyone else's material. And for god's sake don't spit out an endless stream of quotations. Add your own original thoughts from time to time!

It's polite to use someone's name in conversation
Use @ handles as often as possible. This directs a question or comment to a specific person, and you're more likely to receive a response that way. Unless you have a large pool of loyal followers, posing a generic question to the masses is not going to generate many responses.

Nobody likes a braggart
Constantly promoting only your own stuff (products, website, events, etc) starts to occur as spam after a while.

Just because someone's popular doesn't mean you need to be their friend
People with tens of thousands of followers aren't always the most interesting tweeple. More often than not, they're obsessed with rote numbers of followers. Yawn. (However, I do always give 'em a chance to really wow me, per the Golden Rule above.)

Know your friends
Use a tool like TweetDeck to group the people you're following into categories. This way you can easily skim a topic and see what folks are tweeting about. I follow a pretty diverse set of people -- travelers, gardeners, techies, foodies, winos, CSRfolk -- and TweetDeck helps me keep their conversations organized.


So what have I actually gotten out of Twitter? Here's a quick list of tangible benefits:

* I got someone a job
* I got some free plants (from several different people)
* I won a free bottle of wine in a contest
* I got a timely news snippet that proved helpful in a conversation with a vendor
* I've learned about lots of great local events
* I was able to give a particularly smarty response about hashtags in a work meeting
* I connected with a CSR industry expert who gave me some great jobsearching advice

...and, most exciting of all: I got an AMAZING fare to Italy by being in the right place at the right time and following the real-time advice of a travel guru.

Might I have gotten those things even if I weren't on Twitter? It's possible. But unlikely. There's something about the immediacy of tweets that is vastly different from an email you can stash away and maybe read later. And there's something intoxicating about gaining access to people who you might otherwise only read about or see on TV. Following a person and reading their random tweets gives you more insight into their humanity. And I happen to think that's pretty frickin' cool.

Do you have any great Twitter pearls of wisdom? Please share!

"Live a balanced life; learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance
and play and work every day some."
-Robert Fulghum "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarden"


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