I confess to having a love-hate relationship with Twitter. It can be a huge time suck, it’s more demanding than a crying baby, and it tends to encourage a certain superficiality in communication and relationships.
For all its drawbacks, however, I’ve slowly come to accept that Twitter might just be the single best place on the Internet for telling your story.
How’s that again, you say? Everyone knows that you can’t pour out your heart, share your resume or write your biography in 140 characters — and that’s precisely why Twitter is such a great storytelling medium. The maddening, arbitrary limit of 140 characters forces us to dole out the details slowly, a bit at a time, just like we would in real life.
Or just like we should in real life. We’ve all met people who never learned when to shut up about themselves, and we know from experience how tedious those folks can be. Yet too often we do exactly the same thing in our business communication. The result? Websites and social media profiles that read like a dense, self-congratulatory application for “Who’s Who.”
With its 140-character limit, Twitter helps to enforce the rules of good communication, like the helpful friend who kicks you under the table when you’re monopolizing the conversation on a double date. With Twitter, you say something brief, put it out there, and then sit back and listen to what others are saying. Compared to reading through a long “About” page, Twitter is actually a far more natural, conversational way of learning about someone.
The key to telling your story on Twitter is to reveal yourself little by little, dropping in occasional revelations throughout the online conversation. Sure, people will miss many of the details, but that’s okay — you’re not that interesting, anyway.
What percentage of your tweets should be “all about you”? In much of social media, the 80/20 rule seems to work, but I actually think 20% may be high when it comes to Twitter. A couple of tweets a day is probably enough; over the course of weeks and months, those daily hints will add up, and casual followers will start to get a good idea of what you’re all about.
One final note: There’s an interesting discussion at Tech ‘n Marketing about how to decide which of your followers is worth following back. Hillel Fuld says that bios and interests are two of the five criteria he uses, but researching that kind of personal information often requires you to leave Twitter, which can be a pain.
If you want to tell your story within Twitter itself, try giving readers an easy way to follow that storyline. I’ve started experimenting with the hashtag #aboutpenpointer. Anyone who looks at my timeline can easily pick out my more personal tweets, and they can do a quick search if they want to know more.
I think the #about[yourhandlehere] hashtag is an easy solution for teasing out biographical tweets from the rest of your timeline. But I wonder if anyone else has found a better way — or if you think such a step is necessary at all?
Photo credit: wiselywoven via flickr CC
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