TTW Guest Post: Twitter – Zero to Amazing in 30 days

Twitter – Zero to Amazing in 30 Days
by Chris Oien

A lot of people just do not get Twitter. For quite some time, I was one of them. I enjoyed the stories like the one about how a guy got arrested by the police in Egypt, Twittered the word “Arrested”, and got his friends spurred into action to get him released. But, I just could not see what use it could be to me.

That started changing in Michael Stephens’s Library 2.0 class, that I took last fall. The whole class signed up for it and talked to each other on it, and that was great. And we still do sometimes! So once you reach a certain threshold of people, it’s very useful. But outside of that, I know very few people on it, so I still wasn’t a big user.

Events would soon intervene to show me how powerful it can be for professional purposes. I currently work for the business association on Lake Street (Minneapolis), and as part of that we launched a new website at the beginning of this year. One day, much to my surprise, I saw that the  site got a huge jump in traffic. A little detective work pointed me back to the source: Twitter! Meet Minneapolis (the visitors’ association) tweeted our website to the world, and locals reacted very favorably. They clicked on it, they retweeted it, they blogged it, they commented on it. One guy even put it through a website feedback startup he just created, and he gave us some free advice on how we might improve it.

Simply put, wow! That plus my previous Library 2.0 class experience convinced me that I should really look into doing this for myself. So I did! I created a new business account, put up a few tweets, then started finding select people to follow. I found people in the Minneapolis area who mentioned Lake Street or Lake Street businesses in their tweets. A lot of them added me back and I was off to a good start.

And then? Then it took the heck off. 88 updates and about a one month later, I am stunned by how well it’s going. I have almost 250 followers now, and it’s a strange day when at least one new person doesn’t start following. I don’t have to find them anymore now, they find me. Sometimes people just starting out, with only 7 accounts they’re following, have mine as one of them, along with Governor Pawlenty and Mayor Rybak. Some other things I’ve done in just a few weeks on Twitter:

* Had people spontaneously recommend going to our website and following my account
* Recommended Lake St. restaurants for Twitterers to go to – they asked me!
* Put out a call for people to send me a testimonial of their favorite place on Lake Street that I would put on the site, and a couple
* Had people retweet my messages about stuff going on on Lake, spreading the message
* I’ve started retweeting people’s tweets when they say something nice about a Lake Street business, and many of them are quite pleased to be acknolwedged
* Inspired another place to start Twittering – the Midtown Global Market

To see how well it’s going, you can just look at Twitter’s search page for my account name. We have an audacious marketing plan this year that will spend thousands of dollars, but Twitter is already reaching hundreds of people for absolutely no cost. Like I said, wow. I am now a true Twitter convert.

Now, I don’t (yet) work in a library, but I think the lessons here apply well there too: be open to trying a social web tool when the time is right, really throw yourself into the medium, and be interactive at every opportunity, and success might just be waiting around the corner. Oh, and don’t worry too much if co-workers don’t have any idea what you’re doing – if it takes off, it’ll be a lot easier to explain then.


Chris Oien is an MLIS student at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota.