“So a bird walks into a bar…” My love affair with Twitter.

I remember when Facebook first came into my life in 2004. I was 20 years old, a Junior in college and living with 4 of my closest friends. My friend Eric said to me one day “Have you been on The Facebook? It’s seriously addicting!” You know what happens after that. In the 6 years since then I’ve reconnected with childhood friends, friended ex-boyfriends after a night out at the bars, been poked by the creepy guy in my History class and announced I was moving to Boston by status update. The Facebook has now become just Facebook and frankly, I’ve moved on. Sure, Facebook keeps me in the loop with everything my buddies back in Boston are doing but I’m a different person now with different needs. What I need is connections in my industry, advice from experts, news about what’s going on in my city…and the occasional funny picture of someone’s obese cat. I need Twitter. 

I started “using” Twitter when I lived in Boston. I say “using” with quotes because I wasn’t really using Twitter. Sure, I had a username but I was merely posting meaningless updates like I used to on Facebook. Tweeting “Going to the library after getting an iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts!” got me nowhere and I would give up after a week of random tweeting. Everything changed when I came home and started an internship with Yelp. The community manager, Alex, told me we were going to have live tweeting at our first big event. Uhhh, yeah sure, sounds good. I had no idea what the point of this was. I didn’t even know how a hashtag functioned. However, that Saturday it all came together for me. A screen was hung up in the middle of the event and a neon background with empty space for tweets was projected on it. Alex explained that whatever tweet you included a certain hashtag with would flash on the screen. I tweeted a picture of our “Yelp Santa” checking out the beer selection and watched it pop up on the screen. The next thing I knew I was being retweeted by other attendees and even Yelp’s twitter. I was hooked.

Twitter has done a lot for me since then. I’ve developed professional contacts and gotten tons of helpful tips on job hunting. I’ll save that story for another post but urge anyone who wants to expand their network and learn more about their industry to give Twitter a go. I’m going to close with a post from Social Media Today that really helped me put Twitter into perspective:

When on Twitter, act like you’re in you’re in a bar.

Many brands wonder how they should behave on Twitter: What should we say? Can we add Twitter in our communication mix? Often heard questions, no?

To facilitate the discussion, I like to compare Twitter with a bar full of people. People are talking to each other, subjects are diverse, topics may change in a second and the big news travels around the bar in no time. Sometimes you’re with your friends talking and some nights you decide to stay home, missing out on all the juicy stories of that night. As a brand, best is to join in and be part of the regulars in the bar. Make some friends, listen to their stories and tell them something about yourself. Help them when needed and don’t forget to buy them a beer when it’s your turn to pay.

You know what I always hate in a bar? Those guys walking around who want to sell me stuff (like flowers) when I’m talking with my friends. Nobody likes to be disturbed by sales people when you’re in a bar, same goes for Twitter. Next to that, it is almost impossible to become one of ‘the guys in the bar’, if you only show up every three months. Especially if you start to shout your latest news as soon as you walk into the pub. Same again for brands: if you only show up if you have something to say and you’re already gone by the time someone notices you or asks a question, people won’t connect with you.

Finally, the time I spend in bars during my student years are starting to pay off: life in a bar and life in Twitter: it comes pretty close.

-By Steven Van Belleghem

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