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The Soapbox: Finding your way out of the Twitterverse

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Twitter is not a success of technology, but a success of humanity.
–Biz Stone

In the last ten years, the term social media has not only become a global household phenomenon, but it has presented unprecedented virtual dilemmas, schools of psychology, rules of business marketing and newly-invented cyberspace etiquette.

For those that would argue that the relationships are not real, they have obviously never been a victim of cyber-stalking, had a heart broken when someone we love has left the conversation or experienced the joy of the first glance at a newborn family member’s face when war or distance has prevented the experience of being present at a family gathering in person.

While some may argue that social media is a culprit that has hindered human intimacy, I say that it has deepened our ability to connect with those we would have otherwise never met and speak influence into their lives in ways that we have never known.

Since Facebook came onto the scene in 2004, over 1.2 billion active users are engaging in relationships and informational exchanges on the social networking site.  In the far reaching distance, somewhere on the coattails of Facebook, is the non-permission based social media cousin called Twitter, calling out, “Hey Facebook, Follow Me!” 

Despite possessing only a fourth of the users of Facebook, Twitter is still making a huge impact globally in social media trends, most especially in business.  Since 2012, the fastest growing demographic on Twitter (age 55-64), has grown 79% (www.fastcompany.com, Belle Beth Cooper).  The one problem is that many still seem to be under utilizing Twitter and all of its alluring capabilities.

For the sake of this discussion, I will maintain that Twitter is non-permission based simply because, for most users, one does not have to request permission to see the contents of another’s home page prior to a “Follow.”  Coupled with the highly influential hashtag, this ability to view content and cluster into a discussion with users that are not “friends” by permission allows business marketing or discussions to ensue on any topic from the global real estate market to who won The Voice.

Sold out for Facebook, I never dreamed that I would embrace Twitter as I have until the events of July 5, 2011, when one of the most notorious Twitter fails of all times impacted my opinion of the Twitter’s far-reaching influence. 

Prior to that day, a virtually unknown Entenmann’s baked goods inadvertently (yeah right) used the hashtag #notguilty, just minutes after Casey Anthony was acquitted for murder in a court of law, yet convicted by public opinion. 

“@Entenmanns: Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!”

After repeatedly being eaten alive in just 140 characters by an enraged public, Entenmann’s was speedy about retracting the #notguilty tweet and promptly followed with another one that seemed to be a dumb and innocent shrug that said something like, “Oh, was Casey Anthony on trial??! We had no idea!”

That was the day I became a real follower.  Whether Entenmann’s was truly not guilty of the tactless maneuver of exploiting Casey Anthony’s public demise for brand recognition and public notoriety, who can say?  This I do know.  That day, Entenmann’s displayed the something I call freaky marketing genius:  no one in the history of the universe had ever cared about Entenmann’s before, but here we are still talking about them 3 years later and they used Twitter to do it.

So as a society, we have grown beyond the use of social media as a narcissistic playground.  We have even experienced some of the benefits, citing reunions of adopted family members with a birth mother.  We have witnessed the reconnecting of the mother of Coppell organ donor Taylor Storch with donee Patricia Winters who lives today because of Taylor’s gift of a beating heart.  Though we have seen this success of humanity that Biz Stone’s ingenuity engenders, along with tremendous adoption by the boomer generation, there are many who are still lost in the Twitterverse.  We give it a thumbs up for being useful, but we just do not know who to use it fully. 

Unlike Facebook, where we generally have IRL relationships with our followers, it is not uncommon to be completely unfamiliar with followers on Twitter.  Many times we are unfamiliar with the subjects our followers find interesting and as a result feel like we are at a cocktail party where everyone else knows the inside jokes.

Through good practice and the use of the hashtag, Dear Reader, I am here to tell you that you can also find your way out of the Twitterverse.  By doing this, you will find that rather than aimlessly gleaning from what others are saying, you will have the upper hand when it comes to winning others over. 

For those in the typewriter and whiteout generation, the little symbol formerly known as the pound or number sign carries great significance in this modern world since it allows users to search for like subjects, mimicking a microblog.  There are more types of hashtags that can be used for presenting a message than can be presented here, but I will highlight a few examples of Dos and Don’ts that bear discussion.

1.  The I Don’t Understand Hashtags Hashtag.  Saying #ShesSoSweet after showing a picture of your daughter doesn’t truly reach anyone except you. Text the picture to Grandma and Aunt Bea and move on.

2.  Good Ol’ Hashtag Fail.  While hashtags are not case sensitive, always capitalize the first letter of every new word.  For instance, trending when Margaret Thatcher died was the best message the Brits could think of at the time:  #nowthatchersdead.  Only problem was that Amercians were in a tizzy reading, now that Cher’s dead.  Two totally different messages could have been avoided if caps were used to convey the message.

3.  Create a Meme.  We are all familiar with meme statements in Southern vernacular like You Might Be a RedNeck If, but on Twitter Memes take on a different meaning for everyone who can fill in the blank.  For instance, #ARelationshipIsOverWhen can have a different and hilarious meaning from perspectives across the globe.  Use memes to draw people to your brand and create contests and giveaways.

4.  Straight Out Funny Hashtags.  What can I say?  Be creative as you want to be and selective about transparency! I just got fired #BadDayAtTheOffice.

5.  Event Hashtags.  If you really want to find your way out of the Twitterverse with virtually no skill level whatsoever, create an event hashtag for any sporting event or non-profit fundraiser.  This creates a virtual panel of discussion and gives free perpetual PR for the cause.  You don’t even have to be in charge of an event to create a hashtag.  Consider wearing a hashtag hat or T-shirt and see if everyone buys in.  You will instantly have the contact info of people you haven’t even met in person.

My final advice for finding your way out of the Twitterverse and connecting with others is the use of the term I’ve coined and mentioned ad nauseam:  The Harold Hill Factor.  Self-Proclaimed Professor of Musicology, Harold Hill, was a fictitious character created by Meredith Wilson in her 1957 production of The Music Man.  While I do not advocate Harold Hill’s cunning ways, he was a great influencer of people who cast a vision that people wanted to believe.  The last line of the play, just prior to his being brought to justice, was that of one proud Mama saying “That’s my baby!”.   Her son couldn’t play a lick of music, but Harold Hill had given the boys and River City, Iowa, a belief in themselves again.  On social media, we will always be successful when we talk about other people’s babies whatever they may be. 

Finally, Dear Reader, do not be afrai
d of failure and reinventing your message in any format of social media.  Like Entenmann’s, when we fail we must fail forward.  Let me know if you find your way out of the Twitterverse and give me a shout out @BrandiChambless  #IFoundMyWayOutOfTheTwitterverseWhen.

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Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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