Twitter — Worth a Second and a Third Look

In one month, I gone from thinking of Twitter as a curiosity that didn’t fit in my toolset to the point where I am totally addicted to Twitter as a source of information and as a means of expression.

Today I believe the uses of Twitter are so diverse, profound, and revolutionary that it will be banned by many governments (already happening). Societies that maintain access to this kind of tool will flourish by comparison.

I’ve also come to believe that tweeting is a legitimate art form, and we have already developed some masters. Most people are still pretty bad with this tool, but expertise seems to come quickly to those who pay attention.

If you can dismiss Twitter without trying to find out why a government would ban it, then I am wasting my time here. If not, read on.

Giving Twitter a Real Try

FYI: A Twitter message is called a ‘tweet’, and a collection of such messages is called a ‘stream’.

Here’s what I recommend if you want to efficiently see what Twitter is about.:

  1. Join Twitter: Http://www.twitter.com
  2. Use the Discover function in Twitter to explore streams created by people and organizations.
  3. Decide on an intent for your output stream (self-expression, marketing, professional improvement, etc.)
  4. Create your Twitter Bio keeping your intent in mind.
  5. 5. Follow streams that provide source information or provide examples to emulate.
  6. Look at your input stream at least once every day.
  7. Try to craft at least one tweet in keeping with your purpose every day.

I guarantee that after two weeks that you will know enough about Twitter to know how you can use it. You might still decide it’s not for you, but I think you’ll surprise yourself. I certainly surprised myself.

General Rules

The only rule about consuming Twitter is don’t be a glutton. It’s really easy to get far too much information about exactly what you are interested in. You soon won’t be able to read it all, let alone get anything done. You might be able to read a couple of thousand tweets a day, but most of them point to far more significant articles. It’s nothing to be made aware of 500 articles a day that you really do want to read.

Writing is another story. Twitter is a place where you can say what you think within reason. You do want to keep future employment possibilities and business relationships in mind. Certainly don’t say anything that will land you in court if you can avoid it,

There are a lot of rules about writing tweets, but none of them are mandatory and you can make up your own. Here are mine:

  1. Intentional – just because a tweet is only 140 characters doesn’t mean that you should throw them out casually without a master plan. That plan can be to show people how demented you are, but you don’t want to do something like that by accident.
  2. Remember what public means. Remember that Private probably also means public when push comes to shove.
  3. Politics — Think carefully over whether or not you want to primarily do politics. If not, don’t do politics at all. Politics is the worst thing to do if the primary purpose of your stream is to foster business relationships. Keep in mind that taking any political position is going to alienate about a third of the population.
  4. Manners – Be nice unless the whole point of your stream is to generate a series of rude comments. People want to count on a predictable level of civility.
  5. Religion & Sex – avoid unless your stream is about religion or sex.
  6. Business streams must provide useful information along with their ads. No politics or religion. Make people glad to get your stream.
  7. Self-promotion – think about what each tweet does to advance your image.
  8. Avoid cat fights. It’s really easy to ignore criticism, and even easier to not respond to it. That may be my favorite aspect of Twitter.
  9. Ideas that you can’t fit into one tweet require more thought.
  10. Don’t post more than a couple of links a day to one of your own products. Don’t become clutter in your followers’ streams.

Possible Uses of Twitter

I use Twitter to note ideas, to register outrage, to convey humor, to ask questions, to indicate solidarity, to point to my work, to play at word smith, and probably most importantly for therapy. That’s covers most of my output stream, and I am not using Twitter to sell anything. I suspect that I am still scratching the surface.

One of the approaches that currently intrigues me is simultaneously tweeting and writing articles. I have watched the very funny Andy Borowitz do this several times now, and it’s quite efficient and impressive.

My input stream is mostly comedians and political observers. I also have subscribe to several special news sources, and several general news sources. I could easily add sports or business inputs. Input is news.

One of the pleasures of Twitter is that I can watch something on TV with other people watching the same event so I get to experience the event and commentators’ perspectives on the event at the same time. I watched the last Republican debate with my input stream in view, and the Twitter commentary was far more interesting than the mindless banter coming from the candidates.

Twitter is a tool like the printing press. When Gutenberg wanted a few copies of the Bible, he had no idea what he was setting Martin Luther loose. That was just the beginning. This is the beginning of Twitter.

My Personal Adoption Story

I’m not religious about New Year’s resolutions, but I do think the New Year is a great reminder that we need to occasionally take a look at our lives and make sure we are doing what we want to do. As we all know, it’s all too easy to fall off the path and do what’s convenient. We all have friends and relatives that still don’t even use email, and I didn’t want to be one of those guys. I was at least going to learn to use a few social media tools well enough so that I could articulate why they sucked.

I’d had a Twitter account for a while but I never used it. Conciseness is not one of my virtues as a writer, and 140 characters is what it usually takes me to say hello. I thought of Twitter entirely as a tool to express myself, and not at all as an information source. I still wasn’t thinking of it as an information source when I started to follow a few people. I didn’t follow them to get information; I followed them to see how they used the tool.

Unfortunately, I started with some really bad examples. I’m a political junkie and the Republican primary seemed to offer a perfect focus. Whatever your politics, any honest assessment says that these guys do not understand the media. They don’t even understand it enough to find someone competent to tweet for them.

The good result of following them was that it immediately made me feel smarter because I knew I could write better tweets than that. I also thought that it couldn’t do my writing any harm if I focused on conciseness for a while. I had to write a few tweets of my own, but first I needed a plan.

I decided I wanted to do a stream where I covered ideas and events. As much as possible, I would strive to be funny and profound. I wouldn’t talk about work or personal stuff at all. I’d badger a few friends into following me so I could get feedback. Generally speaking, the narrower your focus, the easier it is to build a following, but I have kind of an eclectic mind so I went for the eclectic stream.

It might be hubris on my part to cover any of the topics I cover, and it is certainly hubris to cover them all. I decided I am not going to let that bother me. If I’ve thought about something long enough to have a theory, I’ll lay it out there and let people tell me when I am wrong.

Although I would recommend that most people avoid political streams because they alienate so many people, I decided to make politics the main focus of my stream. I would usually have a hard time resisting this, and a presidential election just makes it harder. Besides, I’ve already left a broad trail of my beliefs.

I think my first tweets were just about a month ago. Some days I tweet a lot and other days not so much. I’ve already cranked out an amazing 1500 tweets, and I don’t think I have repeated myself yet.

I probably average 50 a day which is a lot, but I could crank out ten times that many if I got paid by the tweet. If you are doing over 50 a day, you probably need to do it through multiple accounts so you don’t drive all of your followers away.

I never get writer’s block with Twitter. I can always afford one more 140 character investment. Each thought has to fit into 140 characters, but it doesn’t have to fit with any other thought. That’s very emancipating.

I’m just starting to gather random thoughts into related piles to make articles and to start projects, and I find I have a gold mine of my own ideas. (Looks like gold to me right now any way.) I am going to have to invest in apps that allow you to store and organize your tweets. They are cheap but figuring out which one you want is a learning process.

If you want to see exactly how bad I am at practicing what I preach, check me out @alanbcorwin on Twitter.  http:\\www.twitter.com\alanbcorwin

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Your Linked-In Connected Blog

One of the things that you can do on your Linked-In profile is link to a blog. I started this blog on WordPress.com because Linked-In offered it and said that it would show up on my profile page.

It would be really nice if Linked-In Updates would report when I post another entry, but they don’t. You actually have to go to my profile page to see that I even have a blog, and that doesn’t show to people outside your network unless you have an upgraded (not free) account. Upgrade to the business account, and people will see your blog on your profile if you so desire.

Always remember that even if no one reads your blog for months at a time, somebody will when you go to look for a job or attempt to sign up a new client.

That means that you don’t write about politics unless you want to make about half of the people out there want to avoid you for your political leanings, you don’t want to talk about religion unless you are in the religion business, and you don’t want to talk about your partying life unless you are selling your partying life. You wouldn’t talk about your bad habits in an interview. A blog will get to your interview before you do so keep that in mind.

In fact, one of the nice things about having a blog is that it is like an interview where you are allowed to ask the questions and give the answers, but someone who did not participate in that process gets to judge it. Make sure that you ask questions that are interesting to your perspective interviewers or customers, and make sure that you provide thoughtful answers. They can’t always be the right answers, but they can always be thoughtful. And because it is in writing, you don’t have to show your thought until it is complete.

If you can write, you should. Everybody needs people who can write, and the more technical your field is, the more your ability to write will be appreciated. However, you do need to remember that your Linked-In persona is the one you are taking to work. Your Linked related blog is not where you want to rant and rave.

You should only write about things that relate to the way you earn your living or want to earn your living. That gives lots of us a lot of latitude as long as we are creative. For example, I am a process professional who builds software, directs research, and markets that research. I’ve been an entrepreneur for forty years. I can write about anything from at least one of those perspectives, but I do have to couch it in that perspective.

For example, I love to play golf, but I’m not in the golf business. That means I can talk about the marketing of Tiger Woods (a topic I find fascinating), but my Linked-In related blog is not a place to discuss potential cures for my hook. If I was in the golf business, I’d have a little more latitude. If I was a golf architect, I could do course reviews or blogs on hole design. If I was a club maker, I could write about swing dynamics. The point is that you should only write about things that have a chance to help your business.

So how does this and other articles on Linked-In fit in for me? Linked-In is a tool that I am trying to exploit to its fullest extent. Part of my role and part of my interest is always on marketing, and Linked-In is a marketing tool. You have to understand marketing to some extent no matter what your job is because unless someone is buying, you may not be getting paid for long.

Your Reading List at Linked-In

Sometimes I am a little slow to catch on to the value of a tool. I am just doing this right now, but I have been quite impressed by the way this tool is used by some of my connections. (This is a thinking aloud piece, as I am going through the process right now.)

Your public profile can show the book you are reading now and the book you want to read next. It provides a link to a list of your already finished reading if you create such a list. As with anything that has to do with Linked-In, these should be books that relate to the expertise that you are peddling. You don’t want to list golf books, for example, unless you are in the golf business.

Why have a reading list? You want to show potential clients and/or employers that you are so interested in what you do that you are spending your own time and money to extend that expertise. You are still busy being born, not just coasting on your previous knowledge and experience. If you are in a technical field, this may be the difference between being employable or not in a tight labor market.

If you are really looking hard for a gig, I would take the time to put all of the books that you have read into a reading list. People empathize with other people who have read the same books, and they want to talk about the common experience of reading that book. Books make an personal connection to potential employers and clients. If they are not readers themselves, they are still likely to have some respect for readers.

Put all of the professional books you have read on the list. Don’t fake it because anyone who is interviewing you who has read the same book will ask you about it. That’s what you want so don’t choose books you didn’t read, and don’t choose books you read but didn’t understand. This is supposed to be an ice breaker for a subject in which who hope you have some expertise.

Note that you can watch other people’s reading lists too. I have some friends who always have read the great books in my trade before I have. I am going to start watching their reading lists.

I wouldn’t put too many books on the list. If you are not going to connect with people in your business on your first ten tries, you are probably talking about a person who doesn’t read. There are lots of those peole out there in every profession. They still may be glad that you do, however, but adding more books will not make much difference here. Books that you read recently and vividly impacted you should dominate the list because you want to be able to speak about the ideas in the book with enthusiasm.

Are you helping Linked-In make money when you do this? No doubt. Linked-In should be kicking some of that income back to the members. I think they make a lot more money if they gave half the Amazon income to the member whose reading list was clicked to buy the book. I bet twenty times as many people would almost immediately add and/or expand their reading lists immediately. If Linked-In shares it fifty-fifty with the member, that’s still a tenfold increase in income from the previous results. They could also say almost immediately that they pay you to be part of their network. That could make their growth explode. (Note to Linked-In management: send me a taste of your massively increased profits that you will achieve if you implement this idea.)

How I Use Linked-In to Enhance My Professional Life

This is a work in progress. I have been a Linked-In member for several years, but have only recently paid any attention to the possibilities. As with most of these posts, I write them as I stumble down the learning curve because it helps me figure something out. Occasionally, someone is nice enough to write and tell me where I have erred.

I am not much of a fan of social networks, but I do recognize that they have become a big thing. I have been forced to become a student of these tools and a user. I don’t have a Facebook page yet, but that day may not be far away.

Right now, the only network I use is Linked-In. It seems to have reached critical mass. I don’t know if there is something else that would meet my needs better, but like any tool, there is a fair amount of work involved in learning to use Linked-In, and there is a fair amount of work in making it work for you. And for me, if it’s work, I can’t help but look at it like a process, and every process needs to be written down and every process has to start with a purpose.

Purpose: To define a professional profile that accurately and attractively presents the detailed professional image that you are trying to achieve.

Your Linked-In profile is a lot like a resume. In fact, I can see a day when your Linked-In profile will be the first thing that employers look at. Resumes may already be obsolete.

Even if you are not looking for work, you are always looking for work or help with work on Linked-In. You should put those things into your profile that you would be comfortable sharing with a new employer or your present employer, and little else. If you like your current job, make sure your Linked-In profile reflects well on your current employer. In general, your linked-In profile should reflect well on everyone and everything you mention. Linked-in is not an arena for fighting battles.

I hope I never have to look for a job again, but that will only continue as long as my current and future enterprises bring in sufficient income. If I use my Linked-In profile properly with my other tools, I may avoid that fate. (Don’t get me wrong. I have loved most of my jobs, but I hate looking for work and I hate commuting. I really love my current job, and it involves no commuting.)

I maintain a Linked-In membership because I want to make more money doing exactly the things that I want to do. I’m not using Linked-In to promote my social consciousness or to keep up with my social network. I might use another networking site for those (with a great deal of caution), but Linked-In is all about what I want to do for work. I need to carefully and constantly define that, and Linked-In is a good place to keep that definition. I don’t want to do that in a way that closes any doors, but I strongly believe that you do need to project a vision.

Moreover, you need to project a vision with substance. If you want to get a certain type of work, you need to convince people that you are likely to be good at it. This is usually a lot easier if you have been living at least part of your vision, and have colleagues, employers, partners, and experience that attests to that skill. This should not be too hard if you are good at what you do and want to continue in that work and there are people that need that work. The more radically you want to change what you are doing, the more difficult it will be to provide substance for your vision.

Above all, keep your Linked-In profile accurate and credible. Remember, people can check out a lot about armed with nothing more than Google, especially if you have ever really done anything. You leave trails everywhere you go in the electronic world we live in.

Company Profile

I did not even know that Linked-In had a company profile capability until a very short time ago, but if you are a manager of a company and want to tell people what you company does, the Linked-In profile is a simple and free way to do that. If you work for a company, you should make sure your company’s profile is online and updated.

Connections

One of the things I like about Linked-In is that no one abuses their connections, or if they do, I have been lucky enough to avoid that. I get no unrequested solicitations. I don’t get that many of the kind of solicitations I am eagerly looking for, but I get some. That’s pretty good, and I actually think it is going to last because the unspoken part of Linked-Ins connection capability is the ease of disconnecting. People will be very unlikely to abuse their connections even on a small level because the risk is far greater than the reward.

I am pretty broad-minded about who I connect to. I can afford to do that because people only tend to come to me for stuff they will pay me for doing. Warren Buffett probably has to be more careful because he faces a real danger of getting excessively pestered. However, even for me I want to avoid connections that do not have a significant purpose.

I want to keep up with what friends and colleagues are up to, and Linked-In provides a quick way to do that if they keep up their profiles. If they don’t, I am no more ignorant for making the connection. The connection also gives me an persistent email link to the person. I would say past colleagues are your best connections because they already know your work. Hopefully, they appreciated and would like to have you on their side in a future endeavor.

I can’t think of any negatives letting these same people know what I am up to, but I control that by what I put into my profile. I wouldn’t want thousand of connections like some people have because I would suffer from information overload. I have enough connections already so that it would be a mess if they all used the broadcast power of Linked-In, but they don’t. With rare exceptions, most of the Linked-In updates have to do with new connections to my connections.

I should pay some attention to who my connections are connected to, but that’s a lot of work and kind of invasive. In all cases, I really want to speak to my direct connections because that’s where I think I have the most credibility. I’d have to go and look at every profile unless I recognized the names.

Linked-In tells me that I am connected to millions of people, but I think they only list thirty that have a live direct connection. There is an implied power in the secondary and tertiary connections, but that is hard to exploit. The only way you can really exploit anything beyond your immediate network is to do something so interesting that your connections have to tell their connections, and their connections have to tell their connections. I don’t know if you would need Linked-In if you came up with something that interesting, but I think sometimes the right message can work its way down a connection chain until it gets to the person who needs to hear it.

To their credit, I think Linked-In is working to help you achieve getting your message out virally if you can, while maintaining a culture of consideration and respect. It’s a tough road to walk, but so far, so good.

My belief is that the best way to exploit those connections is to be very clear about what you or your business can do for people. You want to talk to people who are interested in what you have to offer, and those people can only find you if you tell them what you can deliver.

Groups

If you don’t get enough email every day, join a couple of Linked-In groups. I join groups because I am joining with other people who share my agenda, or at least are my competition. The best things about groups is that they have job postings and discussions. The job postings are interesting even if you are not looking for a job because they tell you a lot about what people in that group are spending their money on.

Linked-In Discussions

Although my impression so far is that Linked-In Discussions would be more accurately called soliloquies, they are interesting and useful. For best results, start or participate in discussions on areas where you are doing work currently. We have gained valuable insights from private comments to our discussions even though we have yet to attract a single public comment. As with every other aspect of Linked-In, proceed with discretion. Anything you put out there becomes part of the value matrix that you are creating for potential customers and employers. Make sure that each contribution to a discussion enhances that picture of value.

Linked-In Answers

I still haven’t used this feature, but I have been thinking about it. My initial impression is that the best way to use it is very similar to discussion. That is, ask or answer questions only if your interest and knowledge is valid and current.

Blogs Linked to Your Linked-In Profile

Again, use discretion. Even if no one is reading your blog right now, someone will when you are trying to get a job or make a sale. Make sure that anything you write in your linked blog in mindful of this fact. Therefore, you shouldn’t link your golf blog unless you are in the golf business, and even then, the blog needs to exclusively support your business purposes. Avoid religion and politics because they won’t get you any new business, but could well cost you some. If you write a blog with significant religious or political content, people may find it anyway, but don’t push it in their face by making it part of your on-line profile.

Feedback

I’d love to hear from people who are having success promoting their business with Linked-In.

Adding an RSS Feed to Outlook

This blog uses RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to deliver new posts and comments to subscribers. Unfortunately, many people don’t seem to know how to take advantage of RSS.

Why do we use RSS?

The previous solution to maintain a subscriber list was to have people provide me with their emails, I would keep a list, and every time I wrote a new article, I would send a copy to everyone on the list. This was a lot of work for me, and ultimately it dragged down the whole writing process. There were more people who wanted to read what I had to say than there were people who wanted to give me their email address, and it was a pain every time someone changed their mind. It was far better than having to print everything out and mail it, but it still was a system with drawbacks for everyone. RSS eliminates the need for you to give your email address to anyone, and it removes the whole process of maintaining a subscriber list.

For a publisher using a tool like WordPress.com, the process is really simple. They ask me if I want to add an RSS feed, and I say Yes. I’m not sure what is going on behind the scenes, and I don’t really care as long as it solves the problem.

Once that is done, anyone can subscribe to my RSS feed using any RSS reader. If you want to be a subscriber, RSS is really simple but not quite intuitive. Let’s go through the process in Microsoft Outlook.

An RSS feed is treated by Outlook much like an email account. Select View Accounts from the Tools menu, and go to the RSS tab. Click on New, and enter the feed URL. Note that the URL for this blog is https://abcorwin.wordpress.com/, but the RSS feed URL is https://abcorwin.wordpress.com/feed/ .

Shortly after you do this, you should see a new folder in Outlook’s Personal Folders\RSS Feeds\ called Rust Never Sleeps.  If you open it, it will contain the entries from this blog, and new entries will appear shortly after they are published.

If you get tired of my drivel, all you have to do to stop this is to delete the RSS feed entry that you created above.  The entries will stop coming immediately.

Note the structural difference.  With RSS, you have a tool that goes out and gets what you want to read.  With an email list, you get whatever the sender (or anyone else that gets the list) decides to send you.  RSS puts you in control.