Since joining the Twitter community in December, I quickly learned that the social networking site could be a valuable means of forming both social and professional connections. Effectively using the site for both of these functions is easier said than done, though; in order to stand out as a user, one must first develop a voice.
One of the first challenges when using Twitter is deciding how to use it. In the past, I have heard people refer to the site as a “micro-blog” because it allows users to post brief thoughts or briefly describe occurrences in their lives. Alternately, I recently spoke with a public relations professional who considered the site to be more of a “chat room” in nature. This is because the interactive nature of users’ updates can also facilitate dialogue between users. I feel that finding the balance between these two uses of the site is important for developing an identity as a user; too much conversation can alienate followers who are not regularly involved therein and are uninformed about the subject of discussion. On the other hand, too-much “micro-blogging” can bore other users and is not conducive to interaction with them.
Similarly, I have also learned the importance of striking a balance between posts about my professional and my private life. I have learned that divulging too much about my private life can alienate some of my professional “followers.” At the same time, part of the beauty of Twitter is that it gives users insight into fellow users’ social lives and can thus make business connections less rigid and more personal. For this reason, there is still value in updating about personal thoughts or activities; it lets my personality show and gives even professional “followers” a more complete view of who I am. From a social standpoint, “followers” that are not of a professional nature may become bored or disinterested if too many of my updates are public relations-specific. However, they may occasionally be interested in hearing what I’m up to professionally, as a means of keeping up with what’s going on in my life from a social perspective. Thus, I try to keep in mind the expectations of both types of followers when updating on Twitter.
Another thing I have had to consider while trying to find my voice on Twitter has been the question of how to engage my followers, both those I know professionally and those I know socially. With this goal in mind, I try to think about my updates before posting them, discarding potential updates that would likely be seen by the majority of my followers as insignificant or mundane. When I do post, I try to engage my followers by posing questions in my “tweets” or by updating about topics that I believe they would also find interesting. Sometimes, I ask for advice or help in my “tweets,” asking, for instance, “would anyone be willing to look over my resume?” or “has anyone ever eaten at Marathon Grill? I was wondering if it was any good.” I also try to respond to others’ posts that interest me. Posts such as these have helped facilitate interaction and dialogue between my followers and me. They reflect a willingness to actively engage with others and often elicit responses from others who are also interested in interacting.
Though I am still developing an identity on Twitter, considering the way I use the site, the level of personal information I choose to share, and how to best engage my followers has helped me begin to develop a voice. Doing so has enabled me to interact and network—both socially and professionally—with others on the site.
This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations firm staff member, Emily Woodward. Follow her on Twitter: @ecwdwd