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From anxiety to euphoria. The highs, the lows and highs of starting to Twitter.

Twitter is a really simple easy to use tool that many businesses are using to reach, engage and ultimately convert customers. But using it in the right and effective way is a lot harder and many businesses give up all too soon. This is where a training course such as the one that I recently took part in can really help. However, if you are going to use Twitter then you may also need to be prepared to encounter varying extremes of emotions on the way as I discovered. It can cause us anxiety and can feel like being in a vacuum at times but with perseverance and perhaps some fortitude it can also feel exhilarating and rewarding when used to build business relationships and not purely for marketing.

I hope the story of my experience helps prepare you for these highs and lows encouraging you to persevere and reap its rewards and may act as an accompaniment to any training you may receive.

My 12 days of twitter experience

I always said that I’m not really a natural socialite so Twitter is not a natural choice I would make as a tool to use to benefit my business. However, having heard so much about the benefits of Twitter for business and knowing in the back of my mind that it was probably true I took up the opportunity to become a guinea pig among around 150 others who were starting to twitter to take part in a new 12 days of Twitter training course being trialled by Liz Cable and the team at Reachfurther a Social Media training provider.

12 days of twitterOver the 12 days I was taught the ropes from setting up a profile, who to follow and good twetiquette to ways and means of measuring ROI as well as an enhanced reach, engage, convert model. In a traditional training course, learning topic by topic is purely an educational exercise in skill building. And build my skills 12 days of twitter certainly did but it also introduced me to a new dynamic that I wasn’t expecting which was on a much more emotional level. I found it a somewhat roller-coaster experience as I went through the ups and downs of interacting with real people, with my attempts to engage met with varying degrees of success. So what did it feel like to join the ranks of Twitter? This was my 12 days of twitter experience.

Twitter Genesis

My first feeling was ok what do I say then? I don’t want to be bland or just tweet about the minutia of my day, I want to be smarter than that, but in just 140 characters or less? Frustration was my second. As the days exercise was about finding and gaining followers I decided my first tweet would be a ‘clever’ one about the addictive nature of gaining followers painstakingly worked into exactly 140 characters. Anxiously I sent it with bated breath. Nothing happened, my cleverness was buried amongst the tweets from others. And there it was, my feeling of being smart was immediately replaced with one of doubt and a feeling that no-one likes a smart-arse.

Why would these people want to follow me? Maybe they hope to trick me into spending some money with them or to take pleasure in my downfall. The lyrics of a Phil Collins/Genesis song from my youth came to my mind:

“I will follow you will you follow meGenesis
All the days and nights that we know will be
I will stay with you will you stay with me
Just one single tear in each passing year…”

But this is where the supportive nature of the training course came to my rescue. Following was part of the course and we were all following together and all learning together. I could see that other people were making what I perceived to be ‘mistakes’ as well yet some of these ‘mistakes’ seemed to result in conversations and the beginnings of relationships were forming. I quickly realised that people were engaging in all sorts of different conversations, I needed to talk to people.

First Twitter Conversations

Slowly at first I started replying to some tweets and then asked for help for thinking up a business twittername, Not all but some of these tweets resulted in small conversations. Gradually I was building a relationship with people and when I was thanked for some help that I’d given, I felt much more optimistic about the experience especially in the course training environment which provides some common ground. I discovered I could use Twitter as a tool for forming and building business relationships rather than a means of delivering ‘clever’ messages.

It’s My Twitter party

Having anything of value to say can be measured in part by whether a tweet is retweeted by someone else. twitter that left out feelingThis was my next challenge, and proved a setback for me after my promising start, could I offer anything worthy of a retweet. I offered some tips that I brought from the Google search world that I was much more familiar with; a link to a ‘brilliant’ article; I set up an ‘insightful’ poll on Twitter effectiveness; tried humour and even asking for a retweet. Nothing. My optimism was quickly replaced by that feeling you get when your at a party and everyone else is chatting away and your attempts to join in are met with a few blank ‘and who are you’ type stares amidst the continuing conversation.

Twitter epiphany

twitter that retweet feelingBut then, just as a feeling of isolation was beginning to set in, my first retweet, quickly followed by my second. It came unexpectedly and without really trying. I had just sent out what I thought might be a couple of helpful links and someone who I had engaged in conversation with earlier in the week retweeted. I felt a sense of elation, relief and pride that something I had said (okay it was only a link to someone else’s work – I hadn’t written it) was felt worthy enough to be passed on. But more than that I suddenly felt that there was now an element of trust in that relationship. This person was more likely to take note of things I said and because of that I found myself focusing much more on that persons tweets. I had discovered engagement and it felt good. Later in the course we went on to help each other further.

Lost in Twanslation

Each day we were taught some new facet via a workbook guide with practical exercises. These could generally be achieved in around 30 minutes or so however, I found myself engrossed in what was happening beyond the exercises, to keep up with the conversations with the people with whom I had formed some relationships. In fact it was an intense experience as I was constantly monitoring the Twitter conversation in case I missed a mention or an opportunity to engage or just to see what other people were talking about. In fact I not only read the tweets of those I was following but searched for all those of other members of the course in my ‘must make sure I don’t miss anything’ approach which obviously took far longer than the expected 30 minutes a day and proved quite draining and exhausting. It was noticeable that some people were no longer tweeting or tweeting that they were getting behind. It was proving hard work for more than just me.

We had been divided up into cohorts of 12. Here’s how the cohort I was in got on: Some barely got started, some ignored the course perhaps using it purely as a means to gain followers, others found the pace too hard, but some have made it through to the end and beyond. Being one of those who made it to the end makes me feel likely to be much better equipped than those that didn’t.

Tweeter Total No of Tweets No Following Followers No of Tweets during 12 days Last Tweet Day
1 1 66 75 1 1
2* 62 181 574 5 10
3 75 218 153 28 5
@Petejabber 140 88 104 122 12
5 131 489 248 34 13
6** 357 788 848 11 13
7 1296 488 504 213 13
8*** 953 781 521 48 10
9* 11 98 99 1 7
10 30 80 84 13 10
11* 59 35 86 22 12
12 101 393 179 41 11

*no tweets #12dot (12 days of twitter) related
** no tweets #12dot related other than welcoming new followers from #12dot
***last #12dot tweet- day9

This is pretty much to be expected according to Shea Bennett from mediabistro who aligns the 5 stages of grief to the 5 stages of getting twitter; Denial- waste of time, Anger- do I care, Bargaining – only because, Depression – makes no sense, Acceptance – I get it. I found myself switching in and out of these stages with a lot of the time in stage 4. Shea declares that a lot of new Twitter users don’t make it to stage 5 – acceptance, I realised that this was not an instant thing but would take time. Despite my periodic bouts of self doubt, I would persevere, would my perseverance pay off? The course helped me to discover that my ‘klout’ score (a measure of my social influence) was rising steadily day by day, I was getting there.

Twitter Revelation

Feeling particularly tired one day, I treated myself to a twitter free day, well, until the evening, resisting the temptation as much as possible to check in. I realised how much time I was spending being ‘engrossed’ in twitter and how little I was devoting to anything else. I consoled myself with the thought that it was bound to be like that while doing the training and it would become easier to manage once it was part of my daily work activity. After a productive day I turned to twitter and declared to my followers that I had been putting it off and not really relishing the prospect of today’s learning. This negative statement seemed to galvanise me into trying to take something positive from the days activity so that I wouldn’t be perceived as negative. In fact as I progressed with the days task I found that I was really enjoying myself, relationship building and was even having ‘fun’ with hashtags.

twitter trust buildingIt was also great to get a phone call from someone I had been sharing tweets with, to discuss putting me in touch with someone who wanted to discuss getting an effective web presence for a new business. This had come about from sharing a video tweet about my business done as part of the course. I had found it quite daunting to put it out there, but I was told it had engendered a feeling of trust which in turn gave rise to my first twitter fed business lead.

My feeling at the end of the 12 days is one of having gained a solid basis in a tool that I had previously been avoiding (stage1), I still need to come to terms with all the new skills and tools I have discovered, there is a lot to take in, however I have learned a lot about how relationships are formed through twitter. Some of my attempts to engage and form relationships may flounder, especially if I fall into the trap of marketing, however, I now know that any in which I am able to engender trust and a sense of authority with those that I converse with stand a chance to blossom and benefit my business either directly or indirectly.

I hope that I will be able to do that through talking to new people and by being as helpful as possible, which means making myself vulnerable to an emotional beating from time to time. The upside will be a foundation of trust, from which, is a good place to do business . What better way to find people you don’t know and strike up conversations with them than through Twitter? And if at any point you feel like throwing the towel in, then I hope that you’ll be encouraged to know that a lot of us have been at that point too, so hang in there and you can reap the rewards.

You may find this post by John Jantsch on 7 Simple Truths of Social Media Marketing helpful in planning your strategy.

You can follow my twitter strategy by following me @Petejabber on twitter

Thanks to Liz Cable and @Reachfurther for your support during #12dot

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