Old Dog, New Tricks

One of the best things about working with young people is they keep you on your toes. If it weren’t for all the twenty-and-thirty somethings at my day job, I doubt if I would have jumped into social media with one foot, let alone two. First I stuck my toe in the My Space waters, only to find it too cold (are you tired of this analogy yet? I’ll stop now.) By the time I figured it out, they convinced me  to try Face Book.

This was more than two years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Like millions of other folks (I heard a stat that if Face Book were its own country, it would be the third largest in the world), I’ve reconnected with old friends, made new friends, learned a lot of interesting stuff and even enjoyed the occasional belly laugh. In the immortal words of Elwood Blues, “What do you want for nothin’? A rubber biscuit?”

A couple of months ago, these same coworkers talked me into opening a Twitter account. In a relatively short amount of time, I’ve amassed a small but loyal following (I joke that they’ve all sworn to die for me), and learned a thing or two about the unique Twitter lingo and culture. (Speaking of lingo, if we were all in a coma for five years and woke up hearing about Tweets and hash tags, we’d go back to sleep.) As a writer, I’m challenged to stay within the constraints of 140 characters. (Anyone know how they came up with that number? I’m guessing it’s a technology thing.) Once I hit the number right on the nose and was inexplicably proud of myself. Must have been a slow news day.

I’m still a Twitter neophyte. (Twitterphyte?) Hell, I’m not even using Face Book to its fullest extent. But I have learned some lessons. Here are the most important ones so far:

  • I strive to be entertaining, amusing and informative. (But not all at the same time.) No matter the medium, you’ve got to grab people’s attention and hold their interest. Nobody wants to read an endless series of ads. In fact, those are the Tweeters I unfollow in a hurry.
  • Reciprocity equals courtesy. If someone is nice enough to follow me, I follow them back. At least until I decide if they meet the standard of bullet point one. I don’t need to be inundated with marketing messages; I get enough of that on my drive to the office.
  • For me, the most important consideration is building a personal brand. The only thing you’ll find me promoting via social media is my blog. Or occasionally other people’s stuff. I don’t want to appear to be too self-serving, even though I’m a huckster at hear
  • Focus is good. A business acquaintance predicted that I’ll run out of things to say in less than a year. He obviously doesn’t know me very we Between personal experiences and observations, pop culture, the ever-present news, and life its own self, I can’t imagine the well running dry (I hope that’s not part of the above analogy). In mining material for social media, I can no longer be a passive observer. The old notepad is getting quite a workout these days. And that’s a positive development for any writer.
  • Balance is good, too. I can see where social media can lead to addiction. It’s easy to say to yourself, “Just five more minutes.” I have enough productivity drains as it is. So I’ve decided to use it as a reward. I only allow myself to check on Face Book posts and Twitter retweets after I’ve finished a project or assignmen It gives me something to look forward to besides lunch.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more lessons in the upcoming months. In the meantime, I’m done with today’s blog. Time to see if Norm McDonald has responded to my brilliant reply.