Saturday, May 9, 2009

How to Get Noticed on Twitter

I remember from when I was a child, sitting the car watching the corn fields fly past and imagining how much fun it would be to walk between the rows of corn. These days, they plant an extra row where I would have walked. A child could hardly make his way through and an adult certainly couldn’t. But for a moment there, weren’t you thinking about what it would be like to wonder off into a corn field? Maybe you were riding along with me in rural Missouri, watching the ten foot tall corn stalks pass outside the window. When we tell a story, the listener shares the moment.

I’ve been giving Twitter a try. I’ve been following a few people. Some of these people are more prolific Tweeters than other. I mostly ignore the most prolific. I figure that if they can tweet every minute then they haven’t taken time to think about what they’re saying. But this week, one person in particular has gotten interesting. Michael Hyatt is in Ethiopia and every so often he tweets about what they are doing. On one hand, what he is saying is nothing new. We’ve all heard stories about people visiting the poor areas of the world before. That’s one of the things that I like about reading The Gleaner. Missionaries write about sharing the gospel as well as providing food and medicine. So, hearing Michael Hyatt tell a similar story is not particularly special, but it is interesting for a different reason. It is interesting because he is telling a story.

As we read the tweets Mike has been sending back, we are there as the children crowd around them. We see the fields where the workers are using old tools to scratch out a meager existence. We are there as they arrive back at their hotel room, hoping for a shower and finding only a bucket of water, since the water isn’t working. We saw the children wearing Obama t-shirts. But we were also there when they were at the airport waiting for a plane. We will be there when they arrive back in the states.

If you want my attention on Twitter, or anywhere else, tell me a story. It doesn’t have to be about a trip to Ethiopia. It could be a trip to the grocery store for all I care, but tell me a story. Let me come with you. Let me see through your eyes. Use your words to paint a picture I haven’t seen before or one that I have, but tell me a story. Then and only then will you get my attention.


GentleLavender said...

Hi Timothy,

From day one, I have enjoyed reading your blog and your style of writing. However, I found myself disagreeing very strongly with your thoughts on Twitter.

Twitter is not a forum where you tell stories to each others. It is where you connect your life and thoughts to millions of people there who long to connect their thoughts to you as well. It is about sharing, informing and conversing.

I was definitely dissappointed with your statement that you ignore those who are prolific on Twitter as they probably dont think seriously. That is so judgemental and unfair. It doesnt seem right for a writer to assume things about those who are on Twitter. I am not prolific on Twitter but I love my friends there, whether or not they are prolific. I love the fact that they share precious moments of their lives with me. I love the fact that we can share thoughts and perspectives, not necessarily stories. Somehow, i feel let down by your thoughts. I feel you are being very judgemental and I disagree strongly with that.


Timothy Fish said...


Time out. Cease fire. I’m waving a white flag over here.

I mean no disrespect to anyone in what I said and it isn’t my intention to make a judgment about someone based on how prolific he is. But we are all competing to be heard. None of us have time to read every bit of information that is placed into cyberspace. We do have to make some form of a judgment call about which items are the most significant. For example, if I receive an e-mail from a friend that is addressed only to me and asks me to respond to a question, I give that e-mail message a higher priority than an e-mail message from the same friend addressed to ten people and asking a question. With the first, I always respond. With the second, it depends on whether I think I can provide a relevant answer. In neither case does that decision have anything to do with the level of respect I have for my friend.

There’s a lot of information out there and we are all trying to sort through it and determine what will benefit us and what is just noise. In the case of Twitter, if I’m looking at the stuff coming through and one guy, let’s call him Ralph, sends out a link to a website and then a minute later sends out another, thirty seconds later he sends another, followed by another a few seconds later, followed by another, it doesn’t take me very long to decide that I have better things to do with my time. Now, suppose Ralph stops posting links and posts the statement, “Car won’t start. Going to test the battery.” Suddenly, I’m intrigued. An hour later, “It isn’t the battery.” A few minutes later, “Don’t have time to mess with it. Just called the tow truck.” Now I’m sitting there, hoping Ralph will tell us what is happening. It’s an ordinary frequently told story, but it gives us a window into Ralph’s life. Those are the types of post that will consistently get attention.


GentleLavender said...


I am glad that you explained it more clearly because now it makes sense and definitely raises good points about how people use Twitter to communicate. I agree with what you stated, particularly when you used "Ralph" as an example to clarify the point about story telling. Thank you very much.