Yay! I used intense reasoning and peer pressure to get Burbanmom to join Twitter, and she hasn’t really tweeted yet! That’s okay. It took me months to start tweeting, and it wasn’t until all the fun at the Blogher conference that I realized what the crazy progam was good for. So now that I do, I thought I’d share my thoughts about Twitter, in the hopes that more greenies will join and add their green voices to the Twittersphere.
Before I continue, I want to say that I am receiving no compensation or other incentive from Twitter to talk it up. My whole reason for writing this post is that I have a dream of a big green Twitter community able to send and receive information from each other, plan activist strategies or just lend moral support, using a tool that is a bit more direct and raw than blogging. And I hope that after reading this post, many of you will be inspired to join up if Twitter sounds like a tool that would work for you.
Okay. What is it? Twitter is a social networking program that works kind of like a bulletin board service. The catch is that each message, or “tweet” can only be a maximum of 140 characters long. (Some people flaut this rule by breaking up their missives into multiple tweets, but that misses the point.) The character limit forces you to condense your thought to its essence and get it out to the world in real time, capturing the fun ways that our minds actually work when we’re not planning and editing longer emails and blog posts.
What’s the first thing to do when you join? Find other members to follow. Does a tweet really make a sound if no one’s there to hear it? I’m thinking not. So use the Search to find other members on Twitter. I’m following other green bloggers like Green Bean, Mama Bird, Green LA Girl, and No Impact Man, to name just a few. I’m even following my new bicycle Barak Obama, although he doesn’t tweet as often as I’d like. Once you find one person to follow, check the list of people they are following to find others. Or invite new people from your personal address book to join.
Okay, you’re set up with your account and your people. What next? If you are a blogger, you can also link your blog feed to your Twitter account. Twitterfeed can automatically post an announcement for you every time you publish a new blog post. But be warned: If you ONLY use Twitter to announce new blog posts, you will lose followers. People want to know what you’re thinking about the world as you live life.
If you want to carry Twitter with you and be able to send and receive messages in real time, you can set up your mobile device to receive text messages from the Twitter members of your choice. I was doing that for a while but was finally overwhelmed with texts and turned off the feature. And since I have Internet access on my phone anyway, I can just login to the mobile version of Twitter (m.twitter.com) to check messages through the web site.
Next, read what folks are saying and tweet yourself. You’ll soon learn ways that it can be useful to you. Use it to spread messages about your passion. Have a campaign (like Take Back The Filter, for example)? Tweet about it, and ask others to Tweet about it too. Need help with a gardening or repair or software problem? Ask your question in a tweet and see how many responses you get. Have a great idea and want to let your people know right away? Tweet it as you think it.
If it sounds like Twitter could be an addictive time suck, you are right. It can be. But I don’t think it’s any more time-suckingly addictive than any other online tool. And used in a responsible manner, it can be just that… a great tool. Maybe you, like me, need to limit yourself to checking it only certain times during the day. Maybe you need to set a timer. Or maybe you are a healthy, non-addictive person who can manage just fine without restrictions. The point is, Twitter is what we make it. And there are so many crazy messages being blasted out there, why not add a few sane ones of our own?
Okay, my messages are not always sane. I did tweet about the fact that Michael likes our friends’ plastic cat litter scoop so much, he wants to marry it. But as a result, I got some suggestions about other non-plastic cat litter scoops to try. So crazy doesn’t always beget crazy in return. Your mileage may vary.
My Twitter ID is plasticfreebeth. What’s yours? Please leave comments here about your experiences with Twitter and other ways to use it for good or evil. I’d love to hear what you think.