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Take Twitter at Face Value (Unless You Think It Doesn’t Have Any)

Professor Boutros brought up in our final lecture that we really hadn’t touched on Twitter very much during the course. I spent last summer investigating social media for the Ministry of Natural Resources, and would like to clear up some common conceptions about the social networking site.

If you're confused about all this tweeting nonsense, read on.

If you're confused about all this tweeting nonsense, read on.

1. Twitter is a place for people and/or celebrities to tweet about their lives and is, therefore, a general waste of time

While tweeters are meant to answer the question “What’s happening?” most users don’t use their account solely for Facebook-like status updates. Twitter is a vehicle for information and links. You have to watch our for spammers and those who are just trying to gain web traffic, but otherwise, there are a lot of interesting things to learn.

For instance, do you care about¬† the environment? You can follow tweeple dedicated to posting on that topic. I am interested in a career in publishing, so I follow professionals from the industry. You can follow fashion websites who post amazing sales. You can follow your favourite news sites, or local organizations in your hometown/school area. Seriously! Anything you can think of, or want to be informed about, is most likely available to you on Twitter. If it isn’t seek it out and tweet about it yourself!

Be careful though, or else you will look up from the screen and notice that hours of tweeting have flown by.

2. You can’t connect with strangers on Twitter

Twitter is more of a free-for-all in terms of following and re-tweeting, and the account isn’t designed to be as private or personal as Facebook. However, I have met and shared private messages with people I have only met online. Re-tweeting someone else’s message usually results in them politely thanking you. Meeting someone in real life and then reconnecting with them via their Twitter is also very helpful and a way to get to know someone’s interests. I met social media expert Amber Mac at a conference in my hometown, and now I follow her updates knowing what she does and what her thoughts on social media are.

Plus, hey, maybe a celebrity will respond to your @reply!

3. No matter what the career centre says Twitter will not help me get a job

Not with that attitude it won’t!¬† While not every company is tech savvy, Gen Y is expected to be able to use social media, and it’s important to show that you are connected. I’ve managed to land a job interview based on the fact that I had followed a company on Twitter and told the story of my interaction with the head of their PR department in my resume. It has also helped me to reconnect with people I used to work with.

Last night, I participated in a Twitter chat with the Intern Queen and Heather Huhman on how to increase your chances of receiving an internship. There was no travel, no prior networking necessary to gain an invite, and no need for me to even get out of my pajamas if I didn’t want to, to get free career advice from experts. It may have been a bit clunky to do on Twitter, but using other tools, such as Tweetdeck, makes the process of twitter “chatting” much smoother if you know how to use it. I also made some new twitter friends afterwards.

If a company you want to work with isn’t using their account wisely (and perhaps they’ve only created it to protect their online identity and prevent others from claiming to be them), you could offer them suggestions as to how they can use it to increase traffic to their websites or promote their events. Which brings my next point…

4. Twitter is supposed to be this revolutionary marketing tool…but I think it’s dumb and I don’t get it

Twitter is an interesting way to disseminate knowledge, product information and is sometimes even used for customer service. While it can be useful for marketers, one misconception should be cleared up that I discussed in a previous blog: Most Twitter users are males in their 30’s, not the young 18-24 MTV demographic marketers assume is consuming social media. If someone wants to use Twitter as a vehicle for marketing, they have to research very carefully where their audience is and how Twitter is going to help them to reach it. If you ever find yourself working on a social media marketing strategy, don’t promise your employer the world on a silver platter via Twitter, but be realistic in your analysis of the possibilities.

A lot of internships are actually going virtual, meaning that one can work from home for an organization, but being tech-savvy is generally a job requirement. In this article, Heather Huhman, an online HR guru helping students find meaningful job opportunities, discusses what good and bad virtual internships look like.

Armed with this knowledge, I ask you not to give up on the “old school” ways of connecting (because a thank you card is better than an email, and meeting in person is better than a phone call), but to use Twitter wisely as a tool for sharing knowledge, sharing your blog posts and tweeting about more than what you ate for breakfast. It won’t land you a job by itself, but it could lead to a new connection or an interview! After that, your real life personality is needed to seal the deal.

To learn the ins and outs of Twitter, read Mashable’s guidebook.

What are your thoughts on a virtual workspace?

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2 thoughts on “Take Twitter at Face Value (Unless You Think It Doesn’t Have Any)

  1. I love this post and I completely agree with you. The prevailing misconceptions you outlined prove that Twitter doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

    Also, I was really surprised to learn that the majority of Twitter users are males in their 30’s! This is something that I would not have guessed.

    Just a side note, the link on Huhman’s site to the post “Explaining Twitter on Your Resume” is an interesting read too. This is because, just as you highlighted, many people (employers included) are still confused by Twitter and what the social networking site has to offer.

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