Consider this an “intervention” or, at the very least, a public service announcement. This post is for the Baby Boomers who struggle with understanding why anyone would want to subject themselves to public scrutiny via social media. Now, full disclosure here, I am a Boomer myself. Born in 1960 and raised in the pre personal computer age. I didn’t even get my hands on my own computer until I was 33 years old and had already been in the business world for more than a decade.
Although I wasn’t aware of the term at the time, I was an “early adopter” of technology. I threw myself into training classes on Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. I also learned to use some of the early contact management software tools like ACT and Time & Chaos. For the last two decades, I’ve continually worked hard at keeping up with the times – technologically speaking. I taught myself to write databases with Access and I’ve become quite adept at CRM using Salesforce.com. Of course, my current repertoire also includes the major social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Instagram. As proof of my affinity for technology, I rarely meet another mid 50’s person who has as many Twitter and Instagram followers as I do.
So, I feel very qualified to be the one to throw a lifeline to my fellow Boomers who, by all estimation, could really use the help. News flash, Boomers: technology in not just for young people! If you think Facebook is a frivolous waste of time and that Twitter is nothing but the narcissistic muse of pre-teens with selfie sticks, you are only partly right. Don’t throw the cyber baby out with the bathwater. FB and Twitter are also powerful business tools, which, in competent hands, are capable of providing significant strategic advantages in the marketplace. For every here’s-what-I-had-for-breakfast Tweet, there are a hundred, legitimate, high-quality posts and links. You’ve been sitting on the sidelines for too long and I’m here to help you get into the game.
As a proponent of the Jeffersonian saying that “It is better that something be well started than quickly finished,” I’d like to suggest Boomers begin their social media quest by becoming proficient in the use of Twitter. Because of its ease of use, small number of moving parts, and low maintenance, it’s the perfect place for a stuck-in-the-80’s Boomer to start. To help start you on your path, I’ve compiled a list of Ten Easy Steps to becoming proficient in the use of Twitter.
1. Open a Twitter Account
If you’re not sure how to do this, just Google “how to open a Twitter account.” There are also many brief, instructional YouTube videos. No need to go out and buy the book Twitter for Dummies. Remember, we are starting small, here. Twitter can be complex but it doesn’t have to be. And, if you are one of those Boomers who still don’t trust putting your info out on the Internet please consider if the Pope and the President of the United States aren’t worried about it, neither should you be.
2. Choose your Twitter handle
For the novice, a “handle” is the name by which you will appear on the Twitter feed. Since you’ve waited this long to get onto Twitter, you should know all the good names are already taken – including your own name. However, the kind folks at Twitter will recommend a handle to you that is not already taken. Unless you have a clever idea of your own (and an extra 25 minutes to see if each of your ideas are already taken), I recommend you choose one of the suggestions Twitter provides for you. The good news is no matter what handle you choose, you still have a chance to list your full name in your bio.
3. Fill out a short bio
Boomers are particularly prone to skip this step because here’s where it starts to look narcissistic. Get over it, please. Social media is, theoretically, about trading information and content not glorifying yourself. Let people know who you are, where you work and what your current role is. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to list your current role. This will come in handy later as you begin to connect with your peers, customers and – yes- even your competitors. Best practice here: study how other people are doing it before you write you bio. You can change it any time you like.
4. Upload a photo of yourself
Once again, many Boomers are hung up on this idea that there’s something sinful about promoting yourself. Again, please get over it. The purpose of this photo is so we can all make sure, when we search for and “follow” you (see below), we’ve indeed found the right person. There are most likely a dozen or more people who share your first and last name. Your photo is for OUR benefit- not yours. And for heavens sake don’t over think the photo. No need to wait until you’ve had a professional headshot done. Any old snapshot will do. If you can’t bring yourself to take a selfie with your smart phone, have your spouse take it for you. If you want to add a little cool factor, put a black and white filter on it before you upload it. If you don’t want to stare into the camera like the proverbial headlamp-lit deer, have your spouse snap your mug at a 45-degree angle that shows you staring off into the distance doing your best to affect an air of indifference and detachment. But, by far, the best option is to put a big smile on your face and look straight into the camera so we can all see what a nice person you are. No matter which style you choose, DO NOT leave this blank. In fact, if you can’t bring yourself to post a pic of yourself you are probably not ready for social media. Sorry to be so harsh but its for your own good.
5. Search for and start following all of your customers
By following your customers on Twitter and regularly monitoring their posts, you will, over time, become intimate with their marketing strategies and tactics. Monitoring the Twitter stream of your customers is like putting a wet finger in the wind of commerce to see which way the wind is blowing. It just makes good business sense.
6. Search for and start following all of your competitors
I know this sounds creepy but trust me, its very Kosher. Everyone is watching everyone so you might as well jump in with the rest of us. Why does everyone follow their competition? For the same reason your dog cleanses himself: because he can.
7. Search for and follow all the people you admire and look up to.
I think Seth Godin is a genius. So I follow him on Twitter. I’m also a big fan of Tony Robbins. Who are your heroes in business and in life? Follow them and hear what they have to say. While you’re at it, you might want to follow your favorite sports teams and the brands you love. And please, by all means, follow the Twitter feeds of the local businesses near you where you shop and dine.
8. Get ideas of whom else to follow from the people you follow
This part is both easy and fun. I like to see whom other people are following because maybe I want to follow some of them, too. All you do is click on the person’s profile, then click on their “following” list. Review the list shown and just click “follow” on the ones that look interesting. It’s a great way to expand the list of people you follow. Don’t be surprised when people start following you back!
9. “Listen” and learn
Now you are ready to start extracting value from the Twitter feed. Resolve to check your feed at least twice a day. You do this by downloading the free Twitter app to your smart phone and logging in. I suggest once right before or after lunch and again just before you quit work for the day. Give it some time. Try this for 30 days and see if you don’t come away feeling much better informed about what’s going on in the world and in your industry.
10 Contribute content
At last you are ready to start behaving like a genuine member of the 21st century, global community. There are two ways to get started contributing content in a low-risk way. The first is to “re-Tweet” a Tweet that you like that has appeared in your feed. It’s easy to do and the person for whom you are re-Tweeting will love you for it. Just make sure you use a “Quote Tweet” so the original poster of the content gets credit. The second way is, when you’ve finish reading an online article or blog post that you really like, post it to Twitter and share it with your followers. Almost everything you read on the Internet today is ready to post to Twitter. Start looking for the little blue Twitter icon at the end (or sometimes at the top) of the article. Just click that icon and it will cue up the post for your Twitter feed. NOTE: another way to do this is cut and paste the web address to your feed. Just make sure you use a URL shortening tool like Bitly because you’ll be limited to 120 characters and you don’t want to burn up those characters with a long web address.
Here are a few final tips and tricks to get the most out of your Twitter experience. First, if someone follows you, it’s generally polite to follow them back. The only exception is if the follower is just trying to sell you something or you have nothing at all in common with that follower. Check them out before you follow back. Second, keep your privacy settings very loose. Unless you are under 15 years old, there’s not much point in “protecting” your Tweets. Act like a businessperson and you’ll seldom have any trouble. Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself (a very Boomer-like trait) if you neglect your Twitter account for a few weeks or even a month. Just come right back to it whenever the mood strikes. I, myself, have “seasons” when I’m very active and other periods of time when I’m not. Strive for progress, not perfection. So that’s it. Welcome to the Twitter-sphere! Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. firstname.lastname@example.org