Learn about Twitter from a shampoo commercial

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Well, I don’t get how Twitter can help me because I’m only one person and only have so many followers?”

I heard this common lament again this week, and rather than get exasperated, I figured it was time for another explanation of how Twitter can offer value for journalists, bloggers, anyone trying to converse with like-minded people about topics they share in common. (Be sure to read my Twitter primer if you’re new to Twitter.)

To me, a shampoo commercial on TV that I remember from my childhood makes the point well. If you’re as old as I am (42), you might remember it, too. A woman says she tells two friends about a certain brand of shampoo, and those two friends tell two friends, “and so on.” The point is: Telling the two friends starts the wide spread of this message that this shampoo is great.

(Kudos to my colleague Brian Cubbison for locating this video. I remembered the commercial being for Wella Balsam Shampoo, and I couldn’t find it on You Tube. So I asked for help on Twitter. Within minutes Brian sent me a link to this, a Faberge commercial, which I think was poking fun at the original Wella commercial. If anyone knows for sure, please post a comment.)

Anyway, that commercial to me sums up part of Twitter’s potential. You might only have 1,000 followers, but that’s 1,000 potential cheerleaders for you and your blog or news story. (And you for theirs, of course.) You tweet an interesting post; some of these 1,000 followers may retweet it.

Retweeting is when you copy someone else’s tweet and repeat it to your followers, while crediting the original person. It’s the virtual version of telling a friend: “I heard something great/funny/dumb/remarkable today.”

An example of a tweet I retweeted today: RT: @cressman “You can’t wrap your fish in a blog. Trust me–it’s messy.” -Stephen Colbert.

Through retweeting, your message reaches new people you never would have “met” before. Then if some of those new people retweet your message, you expand your audience further. And so on, as the commercial says.

Also, if people like what you write in a blog or a news story, they may take it upon themselves to tweet your post, starting the cycle again.

The key to all this is:

  • Be interesting. You want quality followers, and you want to engage them. That makes for great conversation, and a side benefit may be that you’ll get retweeted.
  • Be human. I’m not a fan of Twitterfeeds, which automatically tweet blog posts, because that’s not a conversation. That’s broadcasting. On Twitter, you need to chit-chat a bit first and then suggest links.
  • Be interested. Retweet posts or clever tweets from other people.  Don’t just tweet your own blogs or stories; scour the Web for ideas to add to the twitterverse. It’s not all about you.

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