They Laughed When I Sat Down to Twitter
Years ago (1926), when novice advertiser John Caples (1900-1990) sat down to write ads, he wrote “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano…But When I Started to Play!”–
In his ad, Caples described the local bar-crowd having fun at the expense of one attention-craving buffoon. But one day things changed. After a dramatic entrance, this socially inept guy strode to a grand piano in the bar, shook out his silk hanky with a flourish, dramatically dusted the piano keys, then flawlessly played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata–much to the amazement of those who had earlier egged him on.
In just a few minutes, the jokesters in the crowd went from mocking their favorite taunt-target to singing his praises.
Caples’ ad quickly became a model for highly successful direct-mail advertising campaigns.
Some of us, as Twitter newbies, can identify with Caples’ ad character. As we started to tweet, we more or less bumbled along until we figured out what this form of social media was all about.
A few friends tried Twitter, too, but they just didn’t get it. After three or four tweets to a friend or two, they decided that telephoning and texting were far more efficient. And didn’t they laugh at us when we announced we were “tweeting”?
“What? You? Tweeting on Twitter? What on earth for?
Hold on. Consider these six reasons why we find value in posting mini-messages on Twitter.
1. We make lots of new friends. It’s slow at first, but then it becomes addictive. We connect with a few like-minded people, then snag some of their friends. Then we learn about #hashtags, those seemingly magnetized key words that connect people with common interests. And we join funny-numbered groups like #WANA112, #WANA711, and #WANA1011, led by social media guru Kristen Lamb. (See Kristen’s blog at www.warriorwriters.wordpress.com, read her book We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and find her on Twitter @KristenLambTX.)
Kristen has a heart for newbie tweeters and bloggers. She puts us in a group and spoon feeds us info on how to be successful in our social media endeavors. She constantly reminds us that “We Are Not Alone” (WANA). And she teaches that encouraging others is more important than becoming important ourselves. What can be better than that?
2. We become better writers. It’s tricky to write a 140 character message on Twitter—12 to 15 words, one or two sentences. How can you say something meaningful in that bit of space? Write more than that, and Twitter tweets back: “You have to be more clever.” And with a chuckle, we reword the tweet; choose better, shorter words; abbreviate; or just delete irrelevant words. In short, we become tighty writees.
3. We stretch our imaginations. Writer challenges flourish on Twitter as writers encourage each other. Can you write your bio in 140 characters? Can you write a story in exactly 100 words? Can you write a novel in six words or six sentences? Can you write a novel in 30 days (NaNoWriMo)? Can you write a nonfiction book or article in 30 days (WNFIN-write nonfiction in November)? Poets join the fun in April (NaPoWriMo). These challenges not only provide mutual support, they test and develop our writing ability.
4. We learn to proofread better. Snarky typos sneak into our writing without so much as polite notice or fake apology. We type, check, and check again. We post a tweet, and there, glaring in its naked arrogance, is a typo, an error in grammar, a misused word. We think faster than we type, and our eyes fail to catch the typos before we hit send. It only takes a few embarrassing errors to prod us into proofing better. Good lesson to learn before we finish that novel or nonfiction book!
5. We make commitments to our new writer friends to take our writing more seriously. A number of brave writers join #ROW80 and commit writing goals not only to paper but to the others ROWers. With promises to report each week on progress, these writers keep on writing despite the many time-consuming obstacles that crop up in our lives and steal our writing time.
6. We build our personal brand. Many newbie tweeters and bloggers join Kristin Lamb’s WANA tribe. Not only do we make instant friends, we can ask dumb questions without embarrassment. “Blogging babies” (as Kristen calls us) further along the blogging trail help us with their own new-found expertise. These friends become our first readers, our first commentators, our first subscribers. And they become plain good friends.
Jeff Bullas (www.JeffBullas.com) suggests other business-related reasons for tweeting in his blog post, “10 Reasons Why You Should be Using Twitter….” His reasons relate primarily to business and focus on Twitter as a major marketing tool. But we newbies are happy just to be writing, making new friends, and having fun in the process. Maybe later we’ll worry about making some money.
We mastered Twitter, and now we’re starting to blog. Don’t laugh. We can do this!
Here’s someone else who was teased by his friends. George Formby (1904-1961), British singer, songwriter, actor, comedian played his banjolele and sang “They Laughed When I Started to Play.” I thought you might get a chuckle out of this video clip.
YOUR TURN: How did your friends and family react when you started to tweet and blog?