Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Selling Twitter to my Mom


I jumped on twitter a few months ago. I told you about it at the time, but you noticed it before I even brought it up. You saw it because of the increased number of status updates and weird characters that were showing up in the "Michael is..." box at the top of my facebook profile. I thought I'd write a few thoughts out to help you for if and/or when you decide to try twitter out.

Selling the benefits...
Staying connected with the grand kids was the top benefit we talked about. You liked the idea of having your 4 kids and 8 grand kids sending out status updates from their cellphones so you could have a feed of what was going on while you were in San Francisco and the rest of us were spread out across the country.

I should correct a couple of things about this "benefit." When your grand kids get old enough to use their phones and tweet their status out, twitter could be long gone. That seems incredible, seeing that your grand kids are just a few of years away from all having their own phone. Things change so fast in digital media these days, you might prefer to wait to see how they are communicating and adopt that tool, instead of adopting a platform that they may not be interested in.

That being said, you should jump into twitter just to explore and keep your digital communication muscles nimble. If there is one thing that distances you from most in your generation, it is that you are willing to try and learn new things all the time. Your abandoned myspace page is proof that you are exercised in trying these experiments. Keeping up with you grandkids and great-grandkids will be easy for you.

Introducing the tool

Twitter is not a logical progression from facebook. When you set up your profile it will be an easy process. Using the tool for the first time will be a little awkward. I went back into my settings and preferences a dozen times in the first couple of weeks of using twitter until I got the service working for me just the way I wanted. You will find yourself using it differently than I use it, and it takes active use to really figure out those preferences.

Following on twitter is not like friending on Facebook.
Some people will follow you because they want you to follow them back. You don't have to, and it's not expected. You should think of twitter as two two services. Ask yourself two different questions, and feel free to leave them independent of each other.
1. Twitter lets others follow you. If it freaks you out that strangers will be following your status updates that are meant for only family, you have the freedom to block others from seeing your updates. It's not rude. There might be a pressure in facebook to accept everybody's friend requests, it is not necessarily that way for twitter.
2. Twitter lets you follow others. Follow those you are interested in. Don't feel the pressure to follow people just because they are following you. This is not like facebook where a friendship is accepted and then both of you can see each others full profile. If you don't want you cell phone cluttered with text messages from people you don't care to follow, you don't have to. You might want to follow a celebrity or two, but once you are following more than about 20 people or so it gets you into a different frame of reference to interact with all those messages.

Status Updates are not your email inbox.
You don't have to read them all. Nobody does. Feel free to skim or even ignore the ones that come across your feed. If, after a few weeks, you seem to be not as interested in following a particular tweeter, unfollowing is something you can do. Twitter etiquette allows you to be in charge of both your followers and your following.

Twitter from your phone.
Text messaging is not difficult to pick up. Most kids learn to type blind on a phone keypad within a couple of months. It is odd, that the most advanced communication device is something we have chosen to type on, but it is actually much more convenient than I expected.

Twitter from your laptop.
There are lots of free apps you can download so you can manage twitter from your computer desktop. Most avid users of twitter have three or four ways that they access the twitter network. You will choose your favorites over time. I would recommend you look into TweetDeck for you desktop, tweetie for a smart phone, and you will do straight text messages to the phone number 40404 when using your traditional cell phone.

While I have written this in a personal and affirming way. If you are just wanting a straight up tutorial on what twitter is and how to use it. You can check a couple videos out here and here.

Hope this helps you as you consider diving in. Thanks for letting me use you as an object of this write up. I hope it will be a help for others as well as you. Don't feel any extra pressure to open a twitter profile just because you are the object of a blog post.

Love you,