How Twitter Changed My life

Autographed copy of UnMarketing by Scott StrattenI wrote this a few weeks back because a friend asked for social media success stories. I hadn’t planned to post this here, but I was inspired to do so after listening to Scott Stratten at a book signing earlier this week. I’m not a social media “expert,” and I don’t play one on TV. (I don’t even watch TV.) Maybe somebody will get something from this, so here it is.

Twitter logoI took advantage of an unplanned week off in February 2009 to meet a friend at a tea shop on a late Thursday morning. I was working on a side project (long since put on hold) at the time, and I talked to my friend about it. Henry (@balanon) listened to what I was doing then said, “You should be on Twitter.”

I created my account a few minutes later. I took a Twitter class at InSights Group a few days after that. I learned about “@-replies,” RTs, #hashtags, how to connect my (non-smart) phone to my Twitter account, and how to use a few tools outside of Twitter.

I began by following the few people I knew on Twitter. Then I started following people my friends were talking with. Guess what? Some liked to complain, some were smart, some were funny, but they were all people. And they were interesting!

I broke away from the limitations of Twitter’s web interface and started using other tools (I still like TweetDeck).

I attended my first #Tweetup, and I was hooked. Here were people who wanted to make new friends.

I shared my newly acquired Twitter addiction with a friend. I sat down with her for a few minutes and showed her some of the things I had learned. She played with it, and a few days later she said, “I see why you like Twitter. There are all these people, and they’re right there, smiling at you!”

As of this writing (18 months after my first tweet), I follow 794 people and I have 1242 followers, but I don’t measure success by these numbers.

Twitter has changed my life. No, I didn’t gain 30,000 followers or become a millionaire, but my life is much richer for it.

How? Here are some ways that engaging people on Twitter has directly enhanced my life:

  • I have attended scores of Tweetups, Meetups, Eatups, and assorted gatherings.
  • I have seen at least five movies with a group of 5 or more other people.
  • I went on two Photo Walks.
  • Joined a couple of networking groups.
  • Found several people who can help me with hard-core technical aspects of my fledgling business.
  • Met a man who became my business coach for more than 6 months.
  • Attended Karaoke 3 or 4 times. And I liked it.
  • I found (and donated to) charities that I would not have known about otherwise.
  • Had a Skype conversation with someone around the world. Olivia gave me advice and I gave her material for her blog.
  • I found like-minded people to work on improving our sales skills.
  • Tweeps (friends) have sent me funny stuff to make me laugh when I had a bad day.
  • I have gone dancing.
  • Adding Foursquare to Twitter helped me meet friends for an unexpected drink on three occasions.
  • I have attended events at crowded bars and felt comfortable because I knew at least 20 of the people there.

The friendships I have made have challenged my thinking, broadened my horizons, and stretched my limits.

What is my “secret” for Twitter “success?”

Engage in conversation with other people. Read what they write, retweet things you find something funny, fantastic, or noteworthy, and reply to people. Jump into a conversation. People won’t bite.

In short, do the same things you would do when meeting somebody new at a party. You won’t mesh with everyone. That’s OK. You will have more in common with some than with others. That’s OK. You will follow some people who tweet three times then never log in again. That’s OK. You will follow some people who tweet Way Too Much and create a separate column for them in TweetDeck. That’s OK.

If you haven’t tried it, give Twitter a chance. You might have to ask for help at first. That’s OK. I did. I don’t regret it.

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Do you want my two cents here?

Two penniesA client asked why I disabled the comments on a page on her website. Why, indeed?!

“It just doesn’t feel right to me,” didn’t seem like an adequate response. I struggled with it for a little while, and here are my thoughts on the subject.

Have you ever noticed the weekly flyer displayed at the front of a Target store? Would you expect to see comments scribbled on the wall below the ad? Imagine the flyer was posted Monday morning, and these comments were posted by 3 PM:

  • Great price! 🙂
  • This was cheaper at WalMart. FAIL.
  • That was out of stock. Can I get a raincheck?
  • Wow, I love the color of these! Do you have them in small?
  • The toilet in the men’s room is overflowing and my shoes are #@$^ ruined!

Maybe the plumbing problem is patched within 15 minutes and new stock is scheduled to arrive Tuesday morning, but the comments are stuck there until the next week’s specials can be posted.

I see pages on a website like that flyer. As the website owner, you are well within your rights to delete (or not approve) comments at any time.

For those of us who think too much, this could spark an ethical debate: Should you approve (or delete) bad comments? What if a problem were fixed immediately, or a product or service has been discontinued? Are the comments still relevant? Should you delete them?

I would rather avoid the hassle (and the questions).

Blog posts, on the other hand, provide a natural opportunity for discussion. I think of them more like a conversation with someone at the customer service counter. There is a specific context. You may be glad that a painful discussion fades away and loses impact as new posts are added. The reverse can also happen, where the record can turn into a testimonial for your business.

You will note that comments are disabled on pages on my site. I will happily accept comments below.

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Tungle: A Time Management Tool

Do you Tungle? I do!

Not as much as I would like, but that’s changing as my small business grows.

What is Tungle? It’s a great way to simplify scheduling meetings. Let me give you a few reasons why I use it. These are my response to the questions posed on Tungle’s blog.
Inspired by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing’s post, 5 Questions You Should Ask Every Customer, we’d like to ask you these 5 questions:

1. What made you decide to start Tungling?

  • I saw someone Tweet about it one day and thought I would check it out. The quick video intro on the home page sold me.

2. What’s one thing we do better than any other productivity app out there?

  • I like the ease of seeing different people’s schedules vertically. I haven’t researched these in great detail, but I helped a client schedule a meeting with another online scheduling tool (I honestly forgot which one) that was less intuitive. I also think the name is memorable. It reminds me of a Jethro Tull song…

3. What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?

  • It would be nice to be able to look up friends or business contacts via their email address. I’m not looking for a directory, I would just like to be able to enter the email address of someone I know and find their Tungle calendar.
  • While we’re at it, maybe we could go so far as to look up someone’s schedule based on a Twitter ID. I have people I know on Twitter who I don’t use email to work with.

4. Do you refer Tungle.me to others?  If yes, why?

  • Yes, I have recommended it to several people. A few of them have signed up with it, too. I really appreciate that your availability is well, available. My tungle.me link is both on my business card and in my email signature. Why isn’t yours? It makes it easy for someone to schedule a meeting.

5. What would you Google to find an app like Tungle.me?

  • I don’t know, I haven’t thought much about finding better productivity tools. If I did, I might look for “schedule meeting” or “calendar management.”

I’m still green enough as a solopreneur that I haven’t thought to look for tools to improve my productivity. That will change, though. I hope your small business grows even more quickly than mine does. If you Tungle, it might happen faster than mine is.

My new website will definitely have a Tungle link in the sidebar.

[disclaimer: I’m totally gunning for a free T-shirt and gift certificate. But I promise, I will never endorse anything here that I don’t have personal experience with.]

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First, RTFM!

Read the MANual Recently I was fumbling around with working on some WordPress settings for a friend’s website. I have a basic understanding of how WordPress works and is configured, so I thought I would be able to play a little and get the desired result.

I had an elaborate plan to run some tests on a sandbox server. It involved backups of the database, extensive use of a text editor, messing with some settings in various .php files, and seeing what happened. When I broke it, I would just restore the backup and try again.

I was about to start, then I thought, “Maybe I should search Google to see if any one else has done this.” The first two hits linked back to the extensive and detailed WordPress documentation.

Guess what? After a few setting changes and some work with my FTP client, it worked! Mostly. No text editor, no shell scripts, no extensive *NIX-style hacking skills.

“Wait,” you say, “did you just write mostly?” Yes, I did.

I even fixed the “mostly” by–GASP–searching for my new problem. It turns out the original instructions overlooked another setting change.

The whole thing took less than 15 minutes. I learned several things about WordPress, but more importantly I learned this:

When productivity is on the line, set your pride aside and Read the Fine Manual*.

* I know, there is a more colorful interpretation for RTFM, but this is a family-friendly blog.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/publicenergy/ / CC BY-NC 2.0
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First!

I just spent the whole day putting my first proposal together for a client.

It took all of 8 hours to do it, but I’m glad that I went through the process.  It helped bring me clarity about what I do for people.  Now that I have a template in place, the next ones should be much easier.

I sent it off and called my client to let her know it’s there.  With a little luck I can get started next week!

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