To Tweet or Not to Tweet? That is the Question.....

I got some great questions from a reader about Twitter, and I thought I'd share my answers to her (expanded answers I should say, after giving it quite a bit more thought writing this blog post). Because a lot of people do ask these questions about Twitter. The value of Facebook and LinkedIn are obvious to anyone who's using them (I'm still reserving judgment on Google+), but Twitter's value is a bit less obvious to non-users.

So the questions asked were:
  • Is someone that does not tweet irrelevant?
  • If so, why? What is the real goal of tweeting?
So let me explain why I tweet, both professionally and personally, and we'll see how far down the path that takes us.

I tweet multiple times a day as IBM Accessibility to continue to build and maintain our thought leadership in the Information Technology industry. It's an open, two-way communication channel available to our clients and prospective clients, partners, advocates, colleagues, plus anyone who has a stake in or passion for accessibility. It's also an amazing way to follow industry happenings — initiatives, market trends, worldwide legislation, conferences, white papers, new technology and much more. I easily scan 400 to 500 news items a day to sift out the nuggets of value (if you've ever been gold panning in the California gold country, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about, lol). Twitter is just one tool of many in our communications toolbox.

So I strongly believe businesses, whether they're B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) that do not tweet (regularly and relevantly of course, otherwise don't bother) are missing a huge opportunity to communicate with their current and potential clients, partners and stakeholders, and are being left out of the conversations that are taking place about them and around them.

Now tweeting personally — that's another story. I opened my Twitter account before I opened the IBM account over 2 years ago, so I could test it out, then left it alone for over a year, not really seeing the value for me at the time while I was spending my time establishing IBM Accessibility in the social media channels.

I've only restarted tweeting personally recently, as I decided to start sharing what I've learned about social media and also follow and learn something new daily about this fast-paced and daily changing business. I have a lot of information to share — I've taught classes, meet with friends and former colleagues for one-on-one coaching about personal branding and social networking, and present within IBM on the topic. Twitter is one way for me to quickly scan and follow the leaders in the social media space, stay up on the latest info, and share my opinion. It's very slow to gain ground (and followers) when you're not Guy Kawasaki, especially when you already have a demanding, full-time day job. :-)

So with that background filled in, let's look at question #1: Are you irrelevant if you don't tweet?
My answer: No. Twitter is one of many social media channels, and it may not be the best way for you to build your network. You need to ask yourself what your goals are with Twitter. What do you want to accomplish? It's a lot of time and hard work to keep these hungry social media channels full of the content they devour (in a previous blog post I compared them to starving chicks, always squawking for food/content), so if staying current on LinkedIn or Facebook works for you, then that may very well be the way for you to go.

So to answer question #2: What is the real goal of tweeting?
I believe the real goal of tweeting is opening and maintaining a dialog with your clients and prospects, your colleagues, partners, and counterparts in your industry. It's again, not the only way, but just one of many social media channels, and one of many communication strategies available to you. So if you personally don't feel it will advance your career to participate, then tweeting is probably not worth the investment of your time. But, with a caveat — I'd recommend opening a Twitter account and following experts in your field and news media channels — you can learn a lot, and you'll answer your own question of whether or not Twitter will work for you.

I think ultimately what I'd like to leave you with is this thought: Social media has changed the way we communicate, and will continue to do so. You need to keep yourself current on the trends, so that if at some point a channel such as Twitter starts to make sense for your personal branding strategy, then go for it. Nothing is carved in stone, and these are not forever missed opportunities if you don't take advantage of them now.

Social media implications of today's East Coast earthquake

I'm a long-time Californian, so I don't get too excited about earthquakes. Usually by the time I figure out that it's not a big truck driving down the street, it's over. Hurricanes and tornadoes are another thing entirely and scare me to death, so it's really just what you get used to, isn't it?

I heard from a colleague on IM a minute or so after she felt it in Raleigh, NC, and I immediately flipped over to Facebook, and watched the comments pour in. A college friend who's now a news anchor for CBS Radio in New York City had it immediately. So did the Washington Post. And I watched East Coast colleagues and friends reporting in on it. And just this morning my manager, living in Manhattan, said that she'd never felt an earthquake before, and is laughing about being careful what you wish for. I also heard from a friend who's a recent California transplant to Raleigh who was amused and amazed by the reactions, as blase as I am about the earth moving in small quake. (With that said, I guarantee you I won't be blase about a big one. They really are no laughing matter.)

I heard Twitter was down for a little bit, once again easily overwhelmed by traffic, but just take a look at all the posts hashtagged with earthquake. It's pretty amazing.  One of my favorites: REPUTABLE NEWS SOURCES ARE REPORTING: That during the office productivity dropped 100%.
I'm sure that's very true.

And Seth Godin quickly penned a few thoughts about it on his blog,Two earthquake-related thoughts about human nature, that I thought were pretty spot on in the bigger picture.

But really my point is, social media made this human connection possible and easy. Communicating with friends and family in a broadcast manner just happened, almost naturally. So if you're one of those doubting Thomases who thinks social media is just a fad, here's another nail in that particular coffin.
Two Three new updates I just can't resist sharing. There's a new Facebook page,  I felt the East Coast Earthquake on 8/23/11 with over 10,000 members already. And Time magazine has already collected what they feel are the best earthquake tweets in 'Laughter Shocks': 13 Best Tweets About the East Coast Earthquake.

And the best so far, NPR reports that Feds Launch App Contest For Facebook 'Lifelines' In Health Emergencies, just yesterday as a matter of fact, since we're coming into hurricane season.
"The idea is to make it easy for Facebook users to beef up their own preparedness and strengthen their social connections in case something goes really wrong, such as a pandemic or earthquake.
The competition will run till the end of hurricane season on Nov. 4."

Social Networking Digital Fatigue

I've been ruminating on this New York Times article that caught my eye before I went on vacation last week. Other than posting vacation photos on Facebook, and a few hours answering office emails, I was unplugged for almost an entire week, but I realized today it had been percolating while I wasn't thinking about it, as things often happen.

In the article, "For the Plugged-In, Too Many Choices", Stephanie Rosenbloom interviews a few social media uber users who are starting to feel digital fatigue and social media burnout.

Those who are connected (77% of the U.S. population as of 2010) have hopped onto the virtual social networking bandwagon in droves. This article is the second time in recent weeks that I've seen these stats cited:

Put another way: one in every four-and-a-half minutes spent on the Web is spent on a social networking site or blog. And last year the average visitor spent 66 percent more time on such sites than in 2009, when early adopters were already feeling digitally fatigued.

The relentless pressure to partake of the newest networks was underscored in June with the debut of Google+, Google’s social networking site. According to Nielsen, social networking is now the most popular online activity, ahead of sending e-mails, searching the Internet and playing games. 

I love my job and my personal social networking, I have to admit. I can talk your ear off about it if you get me started. I see the paradigm shift in communications, marketing, and branding that are happening with social networking every day, and the immense value of being involved. But, at the same time, I feel like my social networking, both for my job and personally, are incessantly hungry baby birds, constantly and loudly squawking for content, content, and more content.

I'm to the point now that for work, where I'm the social media manager for IBM Accessibility and have spent the last two years carefully and thoroughly building a following, that I dare not leave my hungry baby birds unattended for more than 12 hours, and one of my amazing colleagues, Fran Hayden, (yay, Fran!) backs me up when I'm out of the office. I know my hungry content chicks are in good hands when I'm away and Fran's on the job. But I've gotten the impression that she's always ready to hand the reins back as soon as I'm online again. :-)

I've mentioned this to several friends and peers, and they all agree I'm behind the times by not using an automated syndication service. I know there are a lot of them out there, but for now I'm resisting. I like tailoring my news, thoughts and messages to the channel I'm posting in: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, my blog, our internal IBM Connections communities.

And at the same time, I'm also watching my Klout and PeerIndex scores for both my professional and personal accounts, and realize how easy it would be to get sucked into the numbers game, yet completely accepting the value of metrics.

Have I hit the digital fatigue wall? Not yet, and I think I'll be safe from it for a while, as long as I disconnect and do my best to stay unplugged when I'm recharging my batteries on vacation. We'll see how I do in a few months on the beaches of Maui, lol.

10 Quick Tips to Master Twitter

 Tweeting is one of those social media channels that works really well for some people, and for others just feels like a fire hose of information, often irrelevant. But used correctly, it's a great news source on whatever topics you choose to follow, and it's also a great way to build your online reputation as a subject matter expert on whatever topic(s) you choose.

So here are my ten Twitter tips:

1) Be relevant and post regularly. If you're going to tweet about high tech and backpacking, then stay focused on high tech and backpacking blogs, photos, opinions, articles, websites. Most of us aren't Justin Bieber or President Obama, so relevance is important to us non-celebrities. And if you only tweet once or twice a week, you're not going to be noticed.

2) Thank those who retweet your tweets and mention you. It takes just a couple of minutes and it's the polite and neighborly thing to do, and it helps build relationships.

3) Be judicious about who you follow as you're building your following. It looks very fishy (spam alert) when you're following 592 Twitter accounts, but you're only being followed by 2.

4) Check links before retweeting them. Make sure they're legitimate and referring back to tip #1 above, that they're relevant to your topics of interest and expertise. Use a link shortener such as or tinyURL or you'll quickly run out of characters just on the link.

5) Do hashtag searches on the topics that you're tweeting about. You'll find some content gems. And use #hashtags when you can. It makes your tweets easier to find for someone who's searching on that particular topic.

6) If you find relevant tweets, RT (retweet) or HT (heard through) them, giving the originators credit.  It's the neighborly thing to do. Don't be surprised if you see the same tweets originated by multiple tweeters. Some days are very slow news days.

7) Remember that you only have 140 characters. If you continuously max out your characters, those who want to RT you are going to have to edit. Target 120 character tweets, so that retweeters can easily add RT @yourname without going over 140 characters.

8) Post your Twitter ID everywhere you can -- email signature, business cards, blog, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

9) Add your Twitter feed to your blog if you have one and your LinkedIn profile (of course you have one, right?). It shows your expertise and relevance.

10) Don't automatically add your Twitter feed to your Facebook profile. The hashtags irritate non-Twitter users, and why be limited by 140 characters when you can use 420 on Facebook.

Happy Tweeting!