Wednesday, 18 August 2010

In Praise of Twitter

I'll bet you never thought you'd hear me say that, did you?

When I first signed up with Twitter, I felt totally overwhelmed by the volume and speed of the 'tweets'. But here I am, just a few weeks later, beginning to enjoy Twitter to the extent that I would actually miss it if it were unavailable!

So what has changed my mind? It boils down to a couple of decisions I made during the few days that I was away from my computer, dealing with my printer problems.

Firstly, I decided to be a lot more selective about following people. It was the sheer volume of incoming tweets that had been overwhelming me so I decided to begin very small, following and being followed by more or less only people I knew outside of the Twitter setting.

Then I gradually, very gradually, began to follow some of the people who were following me, but only after having a good look through their tweets and deciding that they were of genuine interest to me.

I also took the bold step of 'unfollowing' a few people - and the sky hasn't fallen in! There were a few people I was following because we appeared to have common interests but I later realised that they were using Twitter simply to keep in touch with one another, with no wish to have others join the conversation, a kind of free text-messaging service - the only difference being that their conversation was made public to the whole tweeting world! It left me feeling like an eavesdropper!

And then there were a few who constantly sent out slight variations of the same message of advice - a message that I strongly disagreed with. So off they were sent into Twitter-Outer-Darkness!

This done, I began to feel that I, rather than Twitter, was in the driving seat, and I started to become aware of its benefits:
  • Twitter is a good way to 'touch base' with people when there's no time for a full-length email.
  • Through Twitter, I was able to find instant advice and help with the practical problems I was having with my printer.
  • Twitter has introduced me to some fascinating people and their blogs that I would probably have never come across in any other way!
  • Twitter, I have discovered, can provide a rich source of information if you make sure you follow people who are likely to be experts in your field of interest.

Whether Twitter is actually helping me to promote my online stores remains to be seen - they say it takes time. But I don't suppose it can really do any harm to tweet links to my products and blogs as well as participating in conversations. As one 'tweeter' commented the other day; most people on Twitter are promoting something. I try to spread out my promotional tweets across the whole day and evening, for the sake of my followers as I find that one of the most irritating things about Twitter are the large batches of tweets from the same person that arrive 'en masse'. It takes time and attention to weed my way through them, sifting out the ones I wouldn't want to miss from amongst those that don't seem at all relevant or interesting.  And time and attention are in rather short supply for me, as I would imagine they are for many of us!

But maybe these 'mass tweeters' have a very limited time-frame in which to 'tweet', unlike those of us who are on and off our computers for most of waking hours! Maybe they are the people who could make use of automated tweeting that is scheduled to distribute one's tweets at intervals rather than all at once. The argument against scheduling tweets in this way is that they lose their 'personal touch'. But often there doesn't seem to be any hint of a 'personal touch' in any case!

So what are the downsides to Twitter?

The most obvious one is that it can gobble up enormous amounts of time as it leads you ever further down the highways and byways of the internet, in search of a definitive answer to a pressing question. But that is true of all aspects of the World Wide Web and the only solution that I know of is be extremely self-disciplined and to keep an eye on the clock!

Another hazard is that having so much and such varied information thrust in front of one's eyes in such a short space of time can cause confusion! Recently another artist posted a link to a webpage with a recommendation that every artist should take note. When I opened the webpage, I couldn't see its relevance so I sent a message to the person who had recommended it, asking what its relevance was. Some time later, I received a message saying that he didn't understand my question. By which time I had completely forgotten what the webpage was all about! (And that is the condensed version of the story, which actually meandered on over several days!)

All in all, I would highly recommend Twitter as a promotional tool and for personal use - it makes facebook seem sluggish and, frankly, hard work! But start small - it's the quality of your followers, rather than the quantity, that matters. Be picky about who you choose to follow and don't let it take up more time than you can genuinely spare!

What has been your experience of Twitter? And do you have any tips for those considering opening a Twitter account?

Here is some further reading on the subject of Twitter, all gleaned from the tweets of people I've been following:

And this one is just for fun!


Ravenswick said...

I have been using Twitter in much the same way as you. Here is a tip that has greatly helped me with the time and clutter issue.

I found there was only a small number of people's tweets that I wanted to read regularly. Create a List--but keep it private. No one can see it but you. I have a "friends" private list that includes only the ones I wish to read regularly. I log on click on my "friends" and only see the tweets from those people. You can then continue to follow others but don't have to wade through all the clutter. Really cut down on wasting my time on Twitter. And yes, you are on my secret "friends" list!

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

That sounds like an excellent suggestion, Ravenswick - thank you! I'm in the middle of the tedious business of uploading Christmas cards to Zazzle, but I'll follow your advice as soon as I've done that!

Jean said...

I joined twitter last year but never use it due to a lack of time. You have me wondering if I should reconsider giving it another try to promote my blog.
Thanks for the information and links!

Country Mouse Studio said...

Like you Judy, I became overwhelmed with the sheer number and didn't realize you could manage it. I will have to figure out how to do all that now, Oh no, something else to learn :O(

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

Hi Jean - yes, I think it would be a good idea to use Twitter, if only sparingly, to promote your wonderful blog! I realise now, that used judiciously, it doesn't have to take up a lot of time - and it would be nice to say 'hello' to you on Twitter!

Carole - take heart! It isn't really so much a case of learning something new, apart from the 'lists' that Ravenswick mentioned, but just being very selective and taking it one step at the time.

ScottHovind said...

Excellent article. I'm still overwhelmed by Twitter but I still try. I just quickly glance at the first several posts or whatever I have time to look at :)

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

Thank you for your comments, Scott. Maybe it's time to make some decisions about who to follow? When I 'pruned' mine, a few of my followers dropped off but not many and now I don't hesitate to unfollow if someone is sending lots of tweets that are of no interest at all to me. It just clutters up the space for the worthwhile ones!

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

I also think that, if you have time to set it up, Ravenswick's suggestion could help a lot.