Do you Twitter?
All the world seems to be a-twitter about Twitter these days. (http://twitter.com) The mainstream press has discovered Twitter and it is leading to an explosion of new users, and new uses. I had been mulling over a column on Twitter for a while, but a question from a Career Opportunities listener moved me to action, because Twitter can be one way to build your career, especially during this economic downturn.
Twitter is a service which has been described as “micro-blogging” and a public form of instant messaging. Instead of speaking to just one other person, your messages go out to the world at large. Other Twitter users can then decide to “follow” you — meaning that they find what you say interesting and want to see each message you post.
Twitter ties in perfectly with the concept of “visibility” that I have written and spoken on in the past. (See A Year of Visibility – column – audio – video) This important way of building your career is designed around letting others know what you do and how well you do it. Posting 140 character updates on Twitter might seem a difficult way of spreading the word, except for the fact that these updates are quickly absorbed by your followers and others that stumble across your “tweets.” These small messages aggregate to paint a more complete picture of who you are and what you do.
One question I get almost every time I talk about Twitter is, “Is it useful?” In some ways, that is a very personal decision that each person needs to make for themselves. For me, though, I have booked billable hours based on Twitter conversations, so I definitely see value to be had there. There are other, less tangible benefits as well, such as raising your profile, engaging in enlightening and useful conversations, asking the advice and opinions of others and more.
At its most extreme, your Twitter message might even end up getting you a job. Your tweet about working on your latest (insert your own type of work here – iPhone application, new program, whatever) could lead to a conversation with someone who is interested in your work and might even need to hire you for a project or full-time job. Of course, direct and immediate results like this don’t happen every day, but your regular updates still have the power to educate, enlighten and entertain readers. Those are worthy goals, too. The fact is, you have no idea who might be reading your tweets or what benefit you might bring to them. You have no idea who your audience is, so your job is to put your information out there and let people find you.
I often tell my writer wife, “scripts, novels, articles don’t sell themselves in a drawer.” Your work has to be sent out to those that might purchase it. The same rule applies to Twitter and other forms of social networking. With each message, you are making your work visible to those who might be in a position to buy — or hire — you.
Of course, the everyday benefits of Twitter can be even more subtle. Your tweets allow readers to build up a deeper understanding of who you are, what you do and what you find interesting. People only need to follow me for a few days before they learn that I LOVE coffee, geek out on wine and food and run several groups here in Los Angeles. This isn’t because I am shouting these messages out, but rather because I mention them in my daily tweeting. We are in a world of global opportunities today and Twitter provides one method of cultivating these opportunities no matter where you — or your followers — are geographically located. I have Twitter conversations with people all over the globe and I find that simply amazing. It brings me a better understanding of the world.
Twitter, and other social networking services, provide many important functions. It raises your visibility in the world. It allows you to present a well-rounded picture of yourself, showing all facets and not just one specialty. This helps to keep you from being pigeonholed as one thing or another. It introduces you to new people, new ideas and new worlds. While face-to-face meetings are both fun and useful, the ability to create long distance, loose connections with people all over the world is a wonderful new tool in building your career and your life. Once you engage in this activity, whether via Twitter or other service, I think you will find new doors opening up to new worlds you might never have imagined.
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