For new Twitter users, understanding Twitter and how to use it may change in those first few days after signing up. It could mean working through the learning curve or it could mean too much frustration to continue. Some people stay, others move on, realizing Twitter wasn’t for them. I know of some people, including me, who stopped using Twitter but came back and tried it again to find out they really enjoyed it. The problem is, as with many things in life, there is a learning curve. I want to offer three important steps to surviving the Twitter learning curve.
If you’re particular about who you want in your friend and follow lists, finding people you want to follow can be a bit tricky. It’s relatively easy to amass followers by following them and hoping most of them will follow you back. But most of these type of followers will probably be people who will never communicate with you. And you probably won’t receive a shout out from anyone in the top 500 rankings, either. See Twitterholic. Here are some basic ways of finding people with whom to network:
- Try Twitter tools like Twubble or Twellow to help find people with interests similar to your own. TweeterTags is a new tool that allows you to tag yourself with your interests and also find people with similar tags.
- My interests are in writing, blogging, and social networking, so I look for people with similar interests. My preferred method to find people is simply using Twitter itself and look up my favorite and respected friends to see who is following them.
The obvious principle behind Twitter is communication, but sometimes it’s hard to feel engaged in the medium when you send out a tweet, @Reply, or DM and no one responds. At first Twitter can seem like a black hole and conversations may be more one-sided with people in your network. But it won’t always feel that way, and here are some reasons why:
- You will find friends who have things to say that interest you and provoke a response (It’s hard to become engaged when you don’t care what is being said).
- You will learn how to tweet messages that are interesting and evoke a response.
- People will begin to engage in conversation with you over something you tweeted.
- People will retweet your tweets, and you will think, hey, I really made an impression!
- You will become comfortable with the format and enter into more and more conversations.
- You will find your favorite tools for making Twitter fun and easy to use. My favorites for the communication part of Twitter are TweetDeck and Seesmic. A key function in their design is to help you manage your friends and followers groups, which makes conversations a snap.
Managing our lives requires negotiation. Relationships require negotiation. Using Twitter requires some level of negotiation on how to fit it into your lifestyle and schedule. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when negotiating the Twitterverse.
- Don’t feel you are locked in to your game plan for using Twitter. If you want to build a big follower base, change the way you do business. If you realize having thousands of followers is not what you really want out of Twitter, feel free to change your goals and strategy.
- Don’t feel you can’t unfollow someone. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. For instance, if you don’t like the comments from a particular individual, hit the unfollow button. Poof!
- Don’t feel you have to follow everyone who follows you. Sure, an etiquette about following back has developed, but if it doesn’t apply to how you want to use Twitter, don’t follow back.
- Don’t feel you have to respond immediately, or ever, if someone sends you a message or reply. You only have so much time and you can only do so much in a day. Time, friends, followers, etc. all enter into your negotiation.
- Sometimes followers leave. If they do and you’re no longer interested in following them, you can certainly unfollow. Applications like Tweetlater will even auto unfollow if that’s something you choose to do. No need to take it personally.
As a new user, understanding and using Twitter can seem overwhelming. It can be frustrating, it can even feel depressing. And you may decided it’s not for you. But remember that these are sometimes symptoms of working through a learning curve. Ultimately Twitter becomes how you re-invent it for yourself.
My Twitter Learning Curve graph from TwitterCounter