By Shawn McGowan
Tweets. Retweets. Tweetups. Twitter's decidedly whimsical terminology has sunken into the mainstream consciousness and won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
How I Started Tweeting
When I first stumbled onto Twitter, it didn't have the huge buzz it has now and, I must admit, I was a little confused to start. I recruited some friends to tweet with and we used it to send mass text messages to each other to coordinate bowling nights and other social events. But it wasn't until I (hesitantly) followed back some strangers, lurked for a while, and finally joined in on a larger conversation that the light bulb came on in my mind of the potential of Twitter.
Beyond learning a new language, here are three things Twitter has given me:
1. Valuable Friends and Connections 'IRL' (In Real Life)
I focused on connecting with people in my local area and talking about topics that interested me with people that were close by. I attended a tweetup event nervous about walking into a room with 50+ strangers, and what I found was that, besides their interpersonal mannerisms, I already knew all of them quite well. These talking/texting thumbnails on my iPhone became real people, ones that I probably would never have met otherwise. They became important business contacts, influencers, friends, and one even became my fianc�e!
2. More Information About My Local and Regional Community
It's clear now that Twitter has proven to be a game-changing tool in the reporting and sharing of news. On a world-wide basis, Twitter has provided coverage for events that would have previously been impossible (i.e. Iran, Dubai, and, more recently, Egypt). Personally, I've been most engaged with what is happening around where I live. From traffic problems and accidents to local bands, theater, networking events, and open houses; I had no concept of the amazing amount of activity going on until I tuned in and got to know more people locally. Soon, I realized that my most up-to-date source for local news and events was my Twitter network.
3. The Best Job I've Ever Had
Not long into my Twitter honeymoon, I started interacting with brands and companies I loved and saw the relevance and importance of what these businesses were doing with this new tool. Taking advantage of my active and diverse local network, I paid attention to what some of my friends on Twitter were sharing about using social media to market small businesses.
I followed local experts closely and read what they shared, I sought out new material by other thought leaders in the industry, and did a lot of reading and experimenting. Soon, I had opened a personal account in nearly every social media site I could find with one question in mind: "How could this work for my company?". This eventually lead to me making a case to senior management, transitioning into the most interesting, challenging and rewarding job I've have ever had.
So, if you've ever needed a reason to check out this whole Twitter thing, maybe my gains will inspire you to try it. As for me, I'm thankful for Twitter.