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I decided I have to set aside time to get a more thorough feel for Twitter and to understand its patterns – so I went to hang out in that playground this last month. I missed WordPress and my familiar playmates, but it was fun discovering some new potential buddies!

Twitter is now a long-established culture in the world of social media. My post is not that of an explorer encountering new lands but more like a travelers’ tips for those who have not really explored this place. My observations from this relatively short sojourn are mainly for those trying to build a brand on social media although some of this will apply to recreational Twitter users also.

1. Big Personalities: I feel Twitter, more than any other social medium, thrives on Big Personalities. The folks who garner the most attention, and tend to hold on to their audience most, are people and institutions with strong POVs. Humor helps but so does conviction and commitment. Bland tweets are just not going to cut it and there is no real room for nuanced exposition, is there? It is important to develop a voice of authority to make a big impact on Twitter.

2. Simplified Sharing: Twitter works extremely well for those looking to share links and curate content. It is an easy matter of providing interesting content based on the endless options on the Web. In a blog post or Facebook there is more of a compulsion to add your interpretation or reaction, whereas the very character of Twitter seems to encourage people to just point the way and leave it at that. I have found incredibly varied reading material from the curated content on Twitter. Here are some samples from just this afternoon:

Radiolab Tweet

Mashable Tweet

Brainpicker Tweet

This is not to say there is no original tweet or conversation – there is plenty of that and more on that in point 3! I do want to say that this environment of sharing makes Twitter a great place to promote your own content from other media via links.

3. Conversation Central: Twitter allows for direct and immediate engagement with absolute strangers because you have the option of calling out and commenting. This allows for a certain-kind of online public chat – the best of these kind of conversations allow each person to showcase their personal preferences without seeming like they are preaching or selling. This has also made it easy to feel connected with celebrities as Twitter makes even the Big People seem accessible.

4. Choices Unlimited: The rate at which people tweet is mind-boggling, and overwhelming doesn’t begin to cover how it feels to stay on there while following 30+ people (and many folks follow 100s of others!). I have no idea how they keep track as the homepage gets flooded with new content fairly constantly, if you are following any of the regulars. If you are trying to promote your brand or your services, find people with aligned or related interest so that you can get content that is useful to you and provide tweets that are likely to spark interest. I think it is okay to unfollow people who turn out to be not what you thought – you may miss out on some good stuff buried beneath a lot of clutter. I feel good Twitter use comes with the burden of choice. Those hashtags, which can be very confounding for the Twitter newbie, can be very, very useful in finding relevant content. (Twitter’s trending hashtags seemed like an entirely superfluous feature to me – but I’m keeping an open mind!)

5. Up-to-the-Second Information: I found that Twitter can be my source of constantly updated information by choosing to follow a few established social media editors. This is true of industry specific information, if you choose to follow industry reporters or thought-leaders. So, even if you are not thinking of actively promoting your brand on Twitter, you can consider using it as a source for the latest information. Much like in life, on Twitter also you have to decide whether you are going to be a leader or a follower. Despite these value-loaded terms my point is that they are two distinct functions on Twitter, and there is no great merit in being a leader if your purposes are better served by being a follower!

As you can tell, meaningful Twitter engagement is about more than just shortening your sentences. It is true that there are others who have made a head start and you may be venturing into a crowded space. However, I do think there is still room there for those exploring the best social media match for their needs. Personally, I am hoping to use it more actively for my quick curating.