Twitter ten years ago was a very different experience to the one it is now.
When I joined Twitter in 2009 I was already a fan of social networks.
I’d been blogging for a few years and used Ning – a platform for creating private social networks – to keep in touch with people who attended my events. I’d dipped into Redditt and tried Ecademy – which left a lot to be desired! (Interestingly, both Ning and Ecademy were started by women, Gina Bianchini and Penny Power.)
I was also using LinkedIn, which was a very forbidding place in those days. I always felt I had to wave my credentials to be allowed to speak and everyone guarded their contacts ferociously.
To suddenly be able to talk to random strangers on Twitter without being introduced was a heady experience.
Lots of social – no media!
The biggest difference on Twitter back then was the absence of “media”.
There were few business accounts and marketers hadn’t yet spotted the potential to attract “eyeballs.”
Social media experts were early adopters who were exciting and interesting.
There were few automation options.
Photos had to be loaded up via an app called TwitPic, and there were no videos or GIFS.
Most tweets – only 140 characters back then – were just people talking to each other, and mostly having fun.
When I joined in January 2009, Twitter was just edging over 6 million users and would reach 18 million by the end of that year. It’s now up to 336 million active users.
I’ve had more fun on Twitter with a glass of wine in my hand than at any dinner party I’ve ever been to.
There have been too many “moments” to recall over the years but many of them have caused me to almost fall off my chair laughing.
Every day I connect with people I love to talk to, people who make me laugh, amaze me, delight me, and know me better than many people I regularly meet face to face. There’s a high level trust that has built up over the years.
I love Twitter because its easy to see people’s values, sense of humour, and authenticity, and just as easy to avoid the people you really don’t want to hear from.
The real beauty of Twitter is that it is exactly what you make it.
- If I don’t like the messages I see, I unfollow or mute the people who are posting them.
- I search for topics that amuse and delight me. I follow the people who sound interesting – only for as long as they’re interesting.
- I join in conversations with strangers – as everyone on Twitter does. That’s what its for!
- I keep switching around until I find the people I love to hear from.
- I have conversations every day – I never tweet and run!
- I use Twitter lists to manage the speed of messages coming in. I have lists for business contacts, jazz musicians, writers, artists, tennis and ski stars, and switch between them depending on the mood I’m in and who I want to talk to.
But is it good for business?
Yes! Oh, yes!
Twitter has been great for my business.
The leads I’ve had for my business have mostly come from people who got to know ‘me’ and then had a look at what I ‘do’. Many of these have been referrals from people who have no need for my services, but have friends who do – they refer me because they trust me.
Connecting and referring people on Twitter is fast and easy. No faffing about finding email addresses or setting up introductions on LinkedIn. A simple @Alex meet @Jo and you’re done!
Twitter is also great for networking. I’ve always hated turning up to an event and not knowing who I’d meet, so I started using #TweetB4UMeet to connect people who were coming to my events. Ten years on, I’m still doing that and it works like a dream. People turn up to events having already chatted on Twitter and nobody ever has to walk into a room full of strangers.
Show up in person – don’t dial it in!
Although I get business from Twitter, my account is personal.
Its my name, my personality and and my face (updated over the years!) that people connect with.
Twitter works best when its a person, not a brand that does the tweeting. I very rarely follow an account with a business name and a logo.
I always what to know who I’ll be talking to, what are their values, interests, opinions, and can I trust them.
Over the years I’ve spoken to lots of people who put a business account on Twitter and got zilch response. When they change to a personal account and interact as themselves their followers grow.
Selfish tweeters are no fun. They pitch up, throw their stuff at you and run. Even worse are the accounts that only post automated or scheduled tweets because there is no one there to interact with. They don’t share anybody else’s stuff or add anything that shows their personality so there’s no chance to get to know them.
If you want people to share your stuff, you’ve gotta do a bit of sharing yourself!
Where’s the fun now?
As well as my long time Twitter buddies, I’m still discovering new people who delight me.
Recent ones include @BarlowAdams, an indy author from Cincinnati. His daily tweets are mostly spine tingling short stories of such precision they make my jaw drop at his imagination and skill with words. I met him through another author on Twitter and bought his book Apallachian Alchemy last year.
Another daily treat is the phantasmagoric photomontage world of McFadden’s Cold War aka @Coldwar Steve. This a blackly comic account where a selection of politicians, including May, Johnson, Gove, Trump, Farage, and Rees-Mogg are pilloried in a grim, dystopian location in England of abandoned caravans, flat-roof pubs and dank laybys, amid a rogues’ gallery of celebrities, serial killers, and football managers. The ever present figure of actor Steve McFadden as his Eastenders character Phil Mitchell is the everyman figure despairing at the mess. Cilla Black is hidden in every post in a sort of “Where’s Wally?” picture hunt. The artist is Christopher Spencer who makes most of his work on the Pixomatic app – mainly on his lunch breaks and during bus journeys to his job in the public sector.
And then The Museum of English Rural Life @MERL started #InternationalSolicitedDuckPicDay. The comments in that thread is what makes Twitter the best way to spend a few hours marvelling at the wit and inventiveness of so many people.
Much as I love my Twitter buddies, its the unexpected, random, spontaneous, threads that bring out the best of smart Twitter folk, that make me shake my head in wonder, laugh out loud, try not to spray my drink on my screen, and keep coming back for more.
Will Twitter survive another ten years?
If not, I hope there’ll be somewhere else that lets people connect purely because they share a sense of fun, a love of words, and a delight in cleverness.
Until then, I’ll carry on Tweeting! (And laughing!)
There are a lot more posts about Twitter on this blog:
And more – just do a search and you’ll find them!