Chapter 2: October 2008: My First Tweet

There it is, my first tweet. I even “winked,” which is kind of lame, actually.  In retrospect, I wish I’d said something profound like “I am here to conquer the world” or “Has anyone seen my pants?”  In all honesty, this was my second time on Twitter.  The first was an attempt to see what the site was about, which resulted in me getting frustrated, not sending a single tweet, and canceling the account after a week.  Welcome to my fickleness, brought to you by ADD.

The change in my perception of Twitter came after I read an article in a computer magazine that talked about using Twitter to market your small business.  I know what you’re thinking. “You read?” to which my reply is “No, I look at the pictures.”  But I’m always interested in new marketing techniques in my job as a composer, so I forced myself to read what I thought would be a boring article.  It was.  It was also informative.  Go figure.  I realized that maybe I should give Twitter another shot before I flamed it all over the internet.  Again.

So, I created a new account and started what has now become an obsession for me.  At this point in the book, I’m sure some of you are asking “What the hell is Twitter?”  Even more of you are asking “What possessed this guy to think he had the skills to write a book?  I paid $3,498.12 for this crappy book?!”  I will attempt, at this juncture, to start to explain Twitter in a way that’s easy to understand.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is micro-blogging.

What is blogging?

Huh?  Do you even own a computer?  Most people know what blogs are.  They’re everywhere, and cover everything.  There are blogs about cooking, films, television, books, politics, religion, sex, just about any topic you can think of, someone’s created a blog about it.  In its basic form it’s an online diary that you open up to public opinion. It’s a great place to talk about yourself and share your experiences with the rest of the world, and maybe even become famous for it.  I’ve almost always, at various points in my life, kept a journal of some kind.  Usually it’s full of gibberish, much like this book (rimshot).

There’s no rule about the length of your blog, or the content.  If you’re a cancer survivor who wants to share her/his experience with everyone else, then you can blog about it.  If you have a collection of cat hair that you mold into president’s faces with gel and hairspray, your audience might be a bit smaller.  Take that advice to heart, @purrc4t.

Blogs almost always have a “comment” section.  This is where your loyal readers can tell you how exciting and moving your posts are, and how from this point on they’ll hang on your every word. Occasionally this is where morons who think they’re experts about the topic you blogged about will harass you.  Even if it was a blog about your grandmother’s goiter, they’ll claim to know more than you do, and they usually have nothing better to do than leave comments on your blog spouting off rhetoric like @cartermason at a house party talking about quantum physics.

But more often than not, this is the place where you interact with your readers, many of which have their own blogs.  This is the “community” part of blogging, the place where it becomes more interactive than just writing in a journal at home.  Some people like this, and others would prefer instead the anonymity of a private journal.  Those people are probably not going to like Twitter.

So what the heck is “micro-blogging”?

Twitter is like a mini-blog.  It’s consolidating your thoughts into 140 character snippets and broadcasting them.

It’s 2009.  Everyone knows what a text message is, and most people know how to send one.  A text message is made up of 160 characters.  Twitter is a site that takes that format and turns it into a community of “text messages.”  Twitter gives you 140 characters to say what you want to say, and you can say anything you want. This is the “shortened” equivalent of blogging, where you talk about things that matter to you, but in shorter snippets, or “bytes.”  One thing this does is force you to be more concise in what you say, because you don’t have room to be wordy (unless you write a book about Twitter, and then you can prattle on all you want).

Generally the first thing people say when they’re presented with an open forum to talk about themselves is, “Who cares about what I’m doing?  Do people really want to know what I had for dinner, where I am, or whether or not I’m wearing pants?”

The thing is, they do.

Twitter, in its most basic form, is like a big room where everyone is talking at the same time.  You’re roaming around the room, listening to snippets of conversations while grabbing crab puffs off the appetizer tray, occasionally stopping to give your two cents about a topic that appeals to you.  Sometimes you’ll find someone who shares some of the same interests and beliefs that you do, and you’ll strike up a friendship.  Then later you’ll get really drunk, take off your pants, and start grinding on the waiter.  Maybe that’s just me.

Twitter is a place to talk about the things in your day-to-day life that you feel the need to share.  We’ll get into more detail later in the book about how that translates into business if you’re trying to make money based around marketing on Twitter, but the core of Twitter is that you need to be “human” and interact with people in order for tweeting to work.  That’s the key to marketing yourself and your business, effectively, on Twitter.  But this book is about me, not you, so let’s get back to talking about my lack of pants and what I ate for dinner last night (shrimp & fettuccine with asparagus).

Rob Vs. Twitter

I was aware of Twitter before October of 2008.  I’d been using the web-based task program Remember The Milk to keep track of my growing ToDo list, and there was an option to get reminders and send tasks to Milk via a service called “Twitter.”  In order to do this, I had to sign up for Twitter and then “follow” Remember The Milk so that they could send me direct messages about what I had due and when.  It worked… adequately.  I am a ToDo list maven.  I get excited from a hefty ToDo list.

What doesn’t excite me?

Watching @jamiefishback act.  Not that Jamie’s isn’t a good actor, he’s quite good actually.  For instance, he “acts” like he’s my friend, but I know that he’s secretly having meetings with @dailyactor about how much they hate me.  But I think they drink generic beer and eat fake guacamole dip, so I’m not that jealous.

Anyway, I did not tweet from that first Twitter account.  I actually thought the site was confusing and not very beneficial, and it wasn’t long before I abandoned it, because I didn’t have any patience.

But one day in October that all changed.

I’m a composer.  My job is writing music for films, television and webseries, basically all digital media.  I went to school for it, and benefited from the education, but to be honest with you, I learned far more on my own.  I like to think of college, at least for me, as a place to get my learning habits in order so that I was prepared to study on my own.  A lot of the skills you need for being a successful film composer are better learned on the streets than in a classroom.  There are other things I learned on the streets, but my mom wouldn’t appreciate if I talked about them here.

Although my job requires talent and practice, more than anything else it involves people skills.  How you sell yourself, how you get along with other people, how easy you are to work with, all those things have the most influence on whether you’re hired or not.  Sure, you can’t suck at the music writing part either, but you can compensate for not being the “best” guy by being the guy everyone wants to be around.

The best way to influence how you’re perceived as a composer is done through marketing.  When you’re starting out, and even when you’re a veteran like Brian Tyler, you need to do your own marketing.  In 2009, the majority of this is through social media and the internet.  When I started composing on my own in January of 2006, MySpace was rising faster than @brotodeau’s manhood in a room full of naked chickens.  I spent a lot of time marketing myself on MySpace and garnered lots of new contacts, new work, and money, but by ’09 MySpace had started to wane for the independent filmmaker, and I was looking for a new place to whore myself out.

So that fateful day in October 2008, back when I still wore pants, I came across an article about how to use Twitter to market your small business, and I was intrigued.   Although, to be fair, it doesn’t take a lot to peak my interest.  Or lose it.  Ask @alliecine, who has to continually juggle things while talking to me to keep me from falling asleep.

The article talked about how Twitter was all about “participating” and “involving” yourself in other people’s events and random thoughts.  Being the busybody I am, I figured I could worm my way into people’s semi-private conversations and maybe get some work at the same time.  I’m an ass like that.

On October 23rd, I created my profile and I Tweeted.  It was somewhat uneventful.  I expected fanfare and fireworks.  I was about to quit Twitter again, but then I realized no one was “following” me to read my brilliant update.  It was clearly going to be more work than I anticipated.

In order to promote your business effectively on Twitter, you need to integrate yourself into other user’s lives, and you need to do it before you sell yourself and your business to them.  It’s no different than asking the prostitute about her life and family before you get to the rates.  The worst thing you can do on Twitter is tweet link after link to promote your business, site or blog, and not interact.  People will shun you like you have @TheRealPlague.  The only way others will take a vested interest in what you’re selling is if they think you care about them as people, and not just another number.

I Have To Talk To People On Twitter? This Sure Smells A Lot Like Work.

Take a look at this screenshot from my Twitter profile.

When you look at this section of tweets by themselves, they don’t make a lot of sense. Some of that is due to my own incoherency and possible drunkenness at the time of tweeting.  I blame @alliecine, who puts rum in my coffee.  When people first find Twitter, they usually see tweets like these. This is followed by a lot of head-scratching and eye-rolling. Who is this person talking to?  What are they talking about?  Why did someone give this person an internet connection?  He’s not going to talk to ME, is he?!  It takes time to realize that this is the thing that Twitter is made of.

Interaction.

If you look at Twitter like a large chat room, except that people wear clothes on Twitter, you’ll see that people like to talk about the things that are important to them and their lives.  The way “inside” of them, if you’re not a serial killer, is to ask them about themselves and comment to them about what they’re doing.  This includes things that you might think are kind of inane, like what your dog just did or what song is playing on your iPod (right now I’m listening to Brian Tyler’s track “Landtrain” from the Fast & Furious score.  It’s like an orgasm wrapped in a song.  But messier.).

Let’s go back to the room full of people with crab puffs and alcohol.  Everyone introduces themselves and explains to the room what they do for a living, but then the conversation shifts to things that might not be business-related: A kid’s soccer game, restaurant recommendations, the game that was on last night, computer problems, who’s wearing pants and who isn’t, a bad blind date… you get the picture. There’s always that one person at the table who’s pushy.  You know the guy/gal.  They keep redirecting the talk to what they’re “selling,” how great they are, and how the world clearly revolves around them.  Consequently, that idiot ends up being frozen out of the bulk of the conversation as soon as everyone realizes what they’re up to.  At the networking events I go to, that person is almost always @kimberlyprendez.  She never shuts up.  This is actually funny if you know Kim, because she’s the exact opposite.  It doesn’t matter if he/she is selling the cure for cancer, if you’re pushy about it, no one is going to listen.

Twitter is no different.  In order to get people interested in your product, whether you’re selling books or industrial lube, you have to be interested in the people first.  You need to take an active role in their daily lives and, just as importantly, you need to tweet about your daily life.  Yes, even the mundane things, like running out of dog food, or being annoyed at having to stand in line at the grocery store to procure said dog food.  But there are limitations.  For instance, no one cares about the color of your urine.  Trust me, I learned that one the hard way.  It’s important to talk about the things that make up your life.  These are the things on Twitter that spark the conversations with new people.

Fine. So How Do I Know Who To Talk To?

As a business, you need “real people” to buy your product or service. So it makes sense that you should be seeking out “real people” on Twitter to converse with.  If you’re an actor, for instance, and you’re looking to network on Twitter, your best bet is to do a search for “Casting Directors, Directors, or Producers.”  Doing a search for Producers gives you a lengthy list of people who have the word in their bio and/or tweets.  The key thing to do at this juncture is to look at their profiles and what kind of content they’re tweeting.  You don’t want to follow a Twitter account that does nothing but tweet links, or quotes from other people.  You want to follow an account that interacts with other users, like this one:

This person, who happens to be a producer, one I’m madly in love with, has a nice mix of conversations with others, and also spends time pushing her own projects.  She’s having separate conversations with multiple users about things that are (and aren’t) related to her business, tweets about her day, and links to other Twitter accounts that are projects she’s working on.  This is a smart way to work Twitter.  It also takes time.  It takes, on average, 3-6 months of conversation to build up a network of followers on Twitter that will not only be interested in what you do, but introduce you to their own followers on Twitter and help you promote yourself.  Or, if you want instant followers, you can post a picture of yourself naked as your avatar.  It works for @aaronkaiser.  Don’t go look just to see if I’m lying, trust me.

How To (Forcibly) Insert Yourself Into Someone’s Conversation

By becoming internet “friends” with the people you follow, when it comes time for you to promote a new product, or push a link to a new blog post or an update to a project you’re working on, your network of followers on Twitter will retweet the link for you to their followers, who in turn might retweet it to their followers, or follow you because they’re new to who you are and trust the person who retweeted you. This is a powerful tool, because you may only have a couple hundred followers, but if you get retweeted by someone who has several thousand followers, your potential base just increased drastically.  The reason this book is on the Best Seller’s List is because of my followers.  Every last one of them.  And by the Best Seller’s List I mean I hand wrote it in with a purple crayon.

The best way to start the process of making friends on Twitter is to jump in.  You’ll find that very few people will comment on your tweets first, so you need to start by commenting on theirs.  Don’t be insulting right away, you need to give them time to figure you out first, then you can talk smack about their pets.  Find topics that you have some knowledge of, or an anecdote to share based on someone else’s tweet.  For instance, “Hey @cartermason, my genital sores look just like yours. Thanks for uploading a picture!”  Many times people won’t follow you back until you’ve commented on at least one of their tweets as a safeguard that you’re not a spammer or just following everyone blindly. You’ll find it’s very easy to keep multiple conversations going on Twitter. There’s no time limit to replying, you’ll find that it sometimes takes people a few hours or a few days to get back to a tweet, it just depends on each user’s frequency on the site.  Just don’t get frustrated if someone doesn’t answer back the first or second time you talk to them.  Not everyone is as wordy as you are.

How To Whore Your Business on Twitter. I Mean Sell.  S E L L.

There are good and bad ways to promote yourself on Twitter, and things you need to watch when you’re speaking for your business.  The most obvious way is to provide a brief description and a link to your site:

This is an example of someone selling themselves like a cheap whore.  And not a good looking whore, one that’s clearly been around the block a couple hundred times, if you know what I mean.  This moron (I mean, look at that avatar.  Really, guy?  What were you thinking?)  used a brief description followed by a link to their site where you can see what he’s offering. This works two ways: First, it pushes your item in a very “non-pushy” way; second, the brevity of the tweet allows room in 140 characters for others to “retweet” it cleanly.  Retweeting is when someone likes your tweet enough that they repost it in their own stream.  It’s a lot like someone borrowing and riding your lawnmower for a few hours, and then showing it off to their friends, too.  And by lawnmower I mean “wife.”  A tweet can only be 140 characters long, and when someone retweets you, you want to make sure there’s room for “RT @yourname:” in front of the tweet. It looks like this:

This shows the followers of the retweeter where the tweet originated from, so they can choose whether or not to follow you if they’re interested in your wife.  I mean product.

Another example is tweeting a link to a blog post. If your company has its own blog, and you use it to promote events, products or services, you might format your tweet like this:

It’s a good idea to have a catchy “tagline” for your blog, something that will entice your Twitter followers to click through the link and read what you have to say.  It can be as simple as “A Surprise Waits Ahead!” or as drastic as “I Found a Body…Of Work on Sale in Our Bookstore!” (the second half of the tagline would be on your website).  The point is to get them there, and then use your product to keep them there once they’ve found you.

So, You’re Ready To Become A Whore. Congratulations.

There’s an art to when to push your product or service on Twitter.  Everyone’s stream is different.  If you live in the U.S., but your core group of followers is in England, then tweeting a link to your site at 7pm PST when it’s 3am in London and your followers are fast asleep or in the middle of having sex is not going to benefit you, unless you’re selling something related to what they’re doing (“Click here for discount condoms!” might go over well.  Then again….).  In the beginning of my Twitter experience, I followed some people from London and Australia.  It was very odd, at first, to be tweeting “Good Night” as people were tweeting “Good Morning.”  Be aware of your audience (and your surroundings) when you’re tweeting.

October for Twitter and I

My tweeting in the month of October, since I signed up on the 23rd, was minimal and limited to things like “Working on the score for such-and-such” and “Making the dog for dinner.”  Actually, my humor had yet to surface on Twitter.  That was in November.  So let’s get over there already, shall we?

Like the book? Want to own a signed copy, or give one to a loved one as a gift? You can purchase it here!