Thursday, February 24, 2011

To Tweet or not to Tweet

I read this post by Megan Auman on Crafting an MBA and it dovetailed with a post I've been wanting to write on my own blog.

The same way artists ask me if they should Open an Etsy shop, people also ask me if they should use Twitter. And the answer is always subjective. But here is why I use it and what you might consider before deciding if Tweeting is something you'd like to do.

Do you enjoy using technology?
I love the internets! I can't get enough of online everything. I should have a smart phone, but then you'd probably never get me to talk to you again without me saying "OK but first listen to what this person just tweeted!" It's bad enough now with access to a computer and being able to text tweets from my old-school cell phone. My husband is very patient with me.

Do you enjoy being social online?
I used to love the Forums on Etsy, but then I realized they were very repetitive and people got into weird fights and it was a downer so I stopped going there. For me, Twitter is like the forums, but if someone is weird or bums me out, I can unfollow them and I won't see their posts anymore.

Do you have a business?
Having a Twitter account allows you to be a human in real time online. By which I mean that folks who are interested in your work would probably like to know a bit more about you. Since Twitter is a conversation, followers have an opportunity to see a bit of your personality.

I know I have blurred the line between my business persona and my real self on Twitter, and sometimes I worry about appearing unprofessional. But I haven't pulled back behind a locked account or made two separate accounts yet. I guess I am willing to take the risk of alienating some people who might have considered buying from me until they found out I'm a progressive liberal who firmly believes in gay rights and supporting National Public Radio. I guess I just gotta be me!

Does Facebook make you sad?
I know this is not everyone's experience, and a lot of people use both Facebook and Twitter equally, enjoying the variations of both social networking sites. But I am not a fan of Facebook. I don't know why it is, I feel down every time I dip in, so I rarely visit. I claimed a Fan Page, but I never developed it.

When I first joined Facebook I friended everyone who requested it. Then I realized these strangers now had access to pictures of my nieces on the beach, ick! So I whittled my friends list on FB down to people I actually know (or have known online for years and years). I understand what vendors are getting out of the Business Page experience on Facebook; conversations, interaction, exposure to their customers and fans, but I am just not there yet. I'd rather use Twitter and Flickr and blogging to communicate.

Do you want a peer group?
When you work for yourself there's a good chance you will feel isolated at some point. I'm lucky to have my studio at Western Avenue Studios where I have a terrific collection of friends and fellow artists to bounce ideas off of. I get excited about their projects and it's excellent just to have other humans around. But I know you don't all have access to a group of individuals with your same job. Twitter lets you connect with a bunch of other YOUS. You can find out what other people with your job are dealing with, succeeding at, struggling with. And the possible solutions to your own dilemmas. It makes the world smaller and friendlier.

Do you want to get to know people in your own town?
I'm no shrinking violet, but I have met more people in real life by first making contact with them on Twitter than I ever realized I would! People in my own city with whom I might rarely cross paths but who shop at the same stores I do, walk the same streets. And so what if you did pass someone in the stairway of the parking garage? Would you really take the opportunity to get to know them? Certainly not. But because of Twitter, I know that guy in the stairway is actually Ed, he lives one street over from me and his wife likes reading! So I say "Hi Ed!" and he says "Hi Liz!" and we both win at being humans in real life. The local connection is vital. On Twitter we all talk about traffic, weather, what is that parade going by my window right now? It's like the walkie talkies I had as a kid, except back then no-one was out there to answer my 10-4 good buddy.

For all these reasons I use Twitter! I try to be a good twitizen. I don't post link after link to my Etsy shop items, that is so spammy and tedious. I interact with people who talk to me even if I don't follow them. (Except spam-bots which I block). I re-tweet links I think might be of interest to my followers. I try to provide relevant or funny content. I click on people's blog posts when they link to them. I occasionally promote people I admire, we are all out there helping each other is how I see it.

So is Twitter for you? I don't know, try it and see! Tip: I know you need to follow and be followed by some critical number of people (not sure how many) before things get interesting and you don't feel like you are tweeting to an empty room so don't give up right away. And if you follow me, say hi by using an "at reply" (@madeinlowell) so I can get to know who you are. Sometimes I can't keep up with new followers and people get unintentionally lost in the crowd.

Do you use Twitter already? Any unanswered questions? Please add to this discussion!


  1. I don't really use twitter so much anymore. Everything goes by too fast for me. I did try it for a while.

    I am no fan of Facebook either. I closed my account the first time and may close my new one now. It just seems too weird and a waste of precious time.

    Blogging, however, I love! I love writing my blog, following other blogs, commenting on blogs etc. Although I do see how that can be a time drain as well but I do enjoy it more than any of the others.

    Sorry, I didn't get up to see you this Christmas for open studios!

  2. I loved this blog post. Thanks! ... and thanks for saying hello on Twitter and offering some support. It really is worth its weight in gold. Hopefully we'll interact more in the coming days. :)

  3. i often wonder about the blurry line between me as danielle and me as merriweathercouncil as well. I think people like to see/hear the human side though, especially in this handmade realm, because that's like half the point, you know? Someone pointed this out to me when i was deciding if i should have a product photo or myself as an an avatar and I thought that made a lot of sense.

    A business page is great on facebook, i've found that it's sort of a middle ground betwen Etsy, my blog and twitter... but its a slow go. I thought facebook would be more lucrative than twitter, but as of right now twitter has more of a following i think because there are way too many freakin things to "like" on facebook

    all in all i agree, twitter is great! but it's not for everyone, but it's probably at least worth a try.

  4. Thanks for the interesting comment Roberta! Sounds like you have tried and discarded what didn't work for you and have found the right combination of social networking that you will enjoy and keep up with. If you don't enjoy it, you won't keep up with it and then what's the point? So, good work! Hope you make it to the studios some time, we have Open Studios the first Saturday of every month :)

  5. Blackbird Experience, Nice to "meet" you too! I love the kinds of connections between artists that are possible online, and you've been so generous promoting my goods, I really appreciate it!!

    Danielle, it is a puzzle, isn't it? Finding where we fit best amongst all this internet noise. I really appreciate your insights!

  6. thanks so much for sharing
    -i'm gonna reread your post again later when i have some more time...
    i haven't yet tried twittering-or is it tweeting ;)
    lots to consider :)

  7. This is such a good essay, a brilliant discussion about Tweeting and why it works for you.

    Since you have arranged it so I can read your Tweets, I see how it works from the quick and witty, to the, sometimes, very sad. Tweeting seems to help in the most unlikely situations.

  8. andrea creates, thanks for checking out my Twitter post! See what you think of Tweeting, and let me know :)

    Mom, yes, very true, good point. I know I always reach for Twitter when I need to take the sting out of something stupid I've just done. Tweeting it as a funny situation always helps create the distance needed.

    And yes, a lot of people turn to Twitter when life gets complicated and sad. There is a universe of people out there who can sympathize with your situation and help you feel not so alone.

  9. This was a really interesting article and I am enjoying reading the discussion so far! I joined the world of tweeting about a month ago - I have had a fan page for about a year now and was worried that joining twitter would not be a productive use of my time but I'm glad I finally got an account - it's introduced me to some amazing new artists, individuals and organizations that i wouldn't have found had it not been for tweeting. The list feature is a really helpful way to filter through tweets - way more practical than swimming through pages of facebook news feeds (even with filters). Does anyone know if you can imbed google analytics in your twitter account to get stats beyond

  10. There seem to be as many uses for Twitter as users. I started using it strictly socially, but the Mumbai attacks opened my eyes to the "unfiltered news" aspect. Now I use it to follow informative people, amusing people & actual friends - who are often both. The one thing I DON'T use it for is anything directly work-related, since that may conflict with uses 1-3.

  11. Joanna Read Cotter of Joy in my studio: Thanks for participating! Yes, Twitter lists are excellent for refining Tweets, I use them too. And you make another point I want to emphasize, Twitter is an excellent place to meet new people. I find Facebook is not as good for that. I don't know of any way to track twitter stats, but I sometimes use when I post links and then track results on the page.

    Punterjoe: I applaud your ability to separate business and personal, I think it is probably the best way to go, I am just not disciplined enough to be prudent about that. And your reasons for using Twitter are excellent. I often hear breaking news first on Twitter, go to Google to find more information only to find it hasn't hit the rest of the web yet

  12. You always haves such useful and informative posts. I am considering Twitter, FB for myself and for a client. FB gets me down. That Zuck guy is so creepy to me and all of the selling of my info just gives me a turn. Thanks for all of the info and for sharing your experiences.
    You keep being you!!

  13. Angela, yes, those are other reasons Facebook makes me sad! Twitter is great for meeting people you don't know, and for finding and disseminating information. See what you think and let me know how it goes. Thanks for the kind words BTW :)

  14. Great post! I fail miserably at Twitter. I have one and have around 750ish followers, but I REALLY have trouble with it.

    I've had better luck with my Facebook business page. Analytics show that I get tons of views directly from Facebook and my blog, but not so much Twitter. :(

    Hey, whatever works, right?

  15. Hi Liz, well written and insightful article! Like you said, you just have to be you even behind the facade of all these social networking sites. After all, people who network are interacting with each other for a reason. I would hope that people would not refuse to buy your products due to your views, but hey, not everyone can be as openminded and intelligent as some of us.. LOL
    Keep on tweeting and posting. I am a huge fan of anything having to do with Chet :)

  16. Lori, exactly!! That's why there is no answer to "Should I use twitter", I don't know, try it! Thanks so much for your addition to the conversation.

    Athena, thanks so much! I appreciate any members of the Chet fan club :) I have no idea if I'm turning away customers with my liberal politics, but I do feel it is unprofessional of me. Oh well!

  17. Insightful!
    I'd rather read someone's political tweets/opinions (liberal or conservative) much more than endless "I posted so and so in my Etsy shop" commercials/tweets. However I do enjoy the occasional link, reminder, or update about a person's selling site. [It's like TV viewing.....Very few people tune into TV for the half-hour infomercials, but everyone enjoys the 1 minute Super Bowl commercials!!] In my opinion, that's what Twitter is good at. I follow people because they are interesting, and welcome an occasional "word from our sponsors.."

    I don't have a FB account. I already have 18 irons in the fire as it is and there just aren't enough hours in a day to do the things already on my ever-expanding to do list!!

  18. Cathy, hi! You are one of my favorite Tweeters (don't tell the others ;) Really, I think you have just the right balance in your tweetstream as you lay out in your insightful comment here. Also you are really funny, which gets high marks from me. And it's true, if some sort of social media is going to overload one's circuits, no need to add it to the mix!

  19. well those are a lot well thought out points! you're totally right, twitter is not necessarily for everyone. but i too love the internets, so i'll be tweeting until the next new thing comes along ;)

  20. Thanks to Junkculture for introducing us to your work and blog via #FF. Enjoyed the article! Thanks for sharing.

    Ali Marie @ Dolan Geiman

  21. Great post! I am new on twitter and I am still learning the ropes. I like the interface--I get more information more quickly and it just seems easier to have a "conversation" on twitter. I can say I do like it better than Facebook--that just seems sloooow. But then, do I really need to use every form of social media to sell clothes and accessories?

  22. Yes! I agree I am not a fan of facebook either. I do like Twitter, I try to tweet often and I tweet a mix of business (my blog and Etsy) and personal. I know that is who I like to follow. I do like there blog posts and links but it's also nice to hear about there life.
    I guess I look for a balance in tweets!