Saturday, April 18, 2009

Getting TwitFaced on Social Networking

Warning: This stuff is addictive, and I'm actually starting to love it. Twitter and Facebook - they're not for everyone (some people think this is the stupidest stuff in the world), but they're welcoming to all. I'll be honest - originally I was pretty cynical, mostly because I didn't understand the potential of these various tools, and I'm always too cool for school (especially when I use dated expressions).

My friend Jessie has been into social networking for years, preaching the benefits, especially for businesses and marketing - now the rest of the world is catching up, including me. I didn’t really connect with the term at first - I knew there were online communities beyond chat rooms, a lot of narcissistic profiles on MySpace (got my own), dating sites, etc. But I didn't really see the potential and had a pretty negative impression and reluctance to join. Plus I'm a latecomer, not an early adopter - my first iPod was 4th-generation even though I was into WAVs before MP3s, and I bought my first mac last week. So let's just say I'm not a version 1.0 kind of guy.

But my attitude about social networking really changed when I learned you could control the access and I started connecting with family, friends, people with the same surname, colleagues, and even made some new friends. And I started participating - how much or how little is really your choice.

I'm not an authority so you can get real information from a better source, but I believe MySpace was originally for music before it became the personal profile site (I still use it for music). I thought Facebook was the same thing but learned it's quite different, and a lot of fun. Twitter is for micro-blogging or broadcast text messaging.

There are several features I don't like but I ignore them. Some folks have plenty of time but I doubt very seriously if I don’t take a quiz to see what kind of 80s Porn Star I am, or return the virtual biscuit, holiday greeting or drink, that anyone will be offended. And quite frankly, I don’t have time to worry about it.

Now, I'm especially enjoying Twitter. A post, or tweet, is brief. Say it in 140 characters or less. Here's one today from one of my personal heros, Al Yankovic, who tweeted: "I have to wonder what kind of names the band REJECTED before they settled on "Hoobastank." Gold.

This week Twitter made headlines when folks realized Ashton Kutcher was on his way to reaching 1 million followers before CNN Breaking News. As the numbers got higher they made a bet: donate mosquito nets for World Malaria Day (10,000 by the winner and 1,000 by the loser). And he won.

It isn't all about celebrities, but they're fun to follow and you soon learn they are (and always have been) regular folk. Actually, everyone in the community is on a level playing field. You can follow anyone and they can follow you.

As a writer, I am also always looking for a way to bring readers to my blog. The problem is there are millions of them out here and they don't cost a dime to start. I realized that one simple tweet of “This $hit is funny!" with my blog's URL by someone like Ashton Kutcher could bring me traffic I could only dream about.

But it's not all about self-promotion. You can read along or jump right into conversations with journalists, musicians, celebrities, smart folks, goofy folks, your friends or total strangers. You don’t have to book an interview. You don’t have to move to LA. You don’t have to have credentials...just an opinion and some decorum. Personally, I enjoy those who post a few tweets a day so I can also keep up with others. Minute-by-minute diaries I tend to avoid.

You can follow the hot stories, search on new topics, and read a history of one’s tweets if they spark your fancy. One of the powerful things about Twitter is the quickness at which information is shared, and the quickness a community responds - often in a charitable sense. You can tweet a simple text message from your cell phone and it's automatically sent to your followers. Which is why information can be shared so quickly - there are literally millions of on-location correspondents.

Here is a sample of the twitter accounts I follow:

Tina Fey - the one I aspire to be (see Tina Fey Comedy Litmus Test)

Nathan Fillion - loved him on Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Firefly and now Castle. I enjoy hearing what he's up to and stuff he's doing for the show

Decemberists Singer Colin Meloy - artists always have a fresh perspective

George Stephanopoulos – I enjoy the Greek thrown into the messages he receives, and his polling of the community for good questions for his guests

Rainn Wilson - who doesn't love a fellow geek who also happens to be on The Office?

Ellen DeGeneres - she's always funny and loves animals, and I love her

Jason Goldman and Evan Williams - a direct line to folks that make Twitter happen

Dr. Isis the Scientist - Science!

NY Times best-selling author James Rollins - maybe some day I'll have a similar bio

Big Peter - my marathon-running Canadian cousin who's also a CBC writer - Big only refers to age (I have two cousins with the same first name) - Sorry cuz!

Steve - very active media and tech guru, colleague and friend

Kevin Rose - founder of and was a regular on one of my favorite shows The Screen Savers - he's like my smarter younger brother

Ryan Seacrest - great behind the scenes American Idol schtuff and is very active with the community

Liana Maeby - she posted a great blog article to Create your own NPR name. Mine is Michabel Klido. I found Liana through Colin Meloy. Connections. Cool.

If you're anti-social networking, you can skip the interactions and just get one tweet a day from places like Woot for their deal of the day or Amazon MP3 for discounted music.

I know the phrase "power of the Internet" seems cliche, and I've been on it for nearly 20 years, but it still surprises me. I have a blog that reaches hundreds of people and it's hosted for free, even if I start to reach hundreds of thousands; I'm reconnecting with friends, family, classmates and colleagues; and I'm informed on the issues that concern me with pre-linked email contacts to my local government representatives, governors, U.S. senators, and federal department heads, with my own contact information pre-filled.

And with the integration of wireless and portable devices, it's really starting to shine. Where this is going one can only imagine. Yeah, there's an app for that.

Wanna follow me? I’m GothamCityGeek - official Twitter account for someone you don't know but might like to. Humor blogger nerd guitarist rocking the midlife. Does speling count?

Of course one of my problems is having something interesting to say (much like in my radio days when the mic was on and I wasn't). Here's your chance, funny man. The world is listening. Tweet like a pro. "Why isn't it twit?" Yeah, that was lame. I'll work on it. Bet you can do better!


Jen said...

I still haven't found the utility in Twitter myself beyond the self promotion factor. But, I tend to be a bit cynical.
Thanks for stopping by my site.

AnnaM said...
Not to be missed.

One Wink at a Time said...

Ha! The first time I sat and looked at that empty Twitter box I nearly had an anxiety attack. The possibilities were endless. What to say and who to address? It was as powerful a feeling as it was humbling. I stressed over what to say in my virgin post for what seemed like an eternity. I think I finally caved and wrote something lame about chocolate...