Twitter is a hot topic these days – whether you’re into Wired Magazine, ET, CNN, or Oprah. Almost every day someone asks me what Twitter is or why I use it. After I give them my spiel, some choose to take a pass – but others decide to take the plunge. Unfortunately not all who do, make it. According to Pete Cashmore of Mashable, 60% of new Twitter users quit within the first month of joining. There are a lot of theories about why this is happening; here are three of mine:

1. Ignorance – It seems that there are as many misconceptions about Twitter as there are new users each month. Most people I’ve talked to just don’t get it. Entering the Twitterverse can seem as daunting as moving to a strange new culture – it takes time to learn the language and figure out the lay of the land, and many just haven’t been able to connect the dots to see how diving into it all will actually benefit them.

2. Fear – Who isn’t afraid of putting themselves out there for the world to see and judge? And who doesn’t at times wonder, “Why would anyone care about what I have to say?” You might think you don’t have much to offer, or aren’t a great writer, or don’t have a platform to make you “follow worthy.” To some, joining Twitter is akin to going back to high school – their fear is that they will be ignored and invisible while all the ‘cool kids’ dominate the social scene. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that?

3. Time – Ask anyone how they are and chances are they will answer, “Busy.” Spare time is in short supply these days, and many people struggle to keep up with their “real life” friends and family – never mind the potentially hundreds, if not thousands more they could encounter via Twitter and other social networking sites. For Twitter to really work for you, it takes time – and that’s something most people just don’t have.

I’m sure there are other reasons people don’t join Twitter or don’t have a successful experience with it. And for some people these concerns are completely legit. I can’t guarantee it will work for you as well as it has worked for me – but I do think with the right information and combination of factors, it can work, and can work very well.

There’s a whack-load of information online on how to get started on Twitter and how to use it successfully. I’m not going to regurgitate what’s already been put out there, but I do know that the vast amount of info can be overwhelming – so here’s a short list of some of the most helpful content that I’ve come across regarding how to get started – and stay happy – with Twitter.

Getting Started: The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter
This is an awesome guide put out by Walter Apai from the Webdesigner Depot. It covers all the Twitter basics, including how to set up your account properly, how to get more followers, recommendations for followers, Twitter etiquette, a Twitter glossary, Twitter tools, Twitter resources sites, how to create a custom Twitter background, and how to set up Twitter on your mobile device, website or blog.

Setting Your Strategy: Twitter and the Law of Reciprocity
Kristi Colvin wrote this article for the Blog of Mr. Tweet, and it’s by far the best article I’ve read on Twitter. When I first got started on Twitter I had no clue how to do it, and I’m sure I grated some with my “what I’m doing now” tweets. When I read this article it really resonated with me and the light bulb came on. This approach may not be for everyone in all situations, but it’s sure been helpful for me.

Practices to Avoid: 11 Ways to Lose Friends and Followers Online
Brett Borders writes some great stuff in his blog, but this post is one of my favourites. It’s easy to type a tweet and hit send, but doing so without thought about what you’re putting out there can be counterproductive to your goals. This post contains some invaluable insight on what not to do. I’ve heard it said that humour can be boiled down to one of three things: truth, surprise, and exaggeration. If you’ve been on Twitter at all I’m sure you’ll find some humour in this article because it’s so true.

Building Your Identity: How to Build Your Personal Brand on Twitter
This is a helpful article from Mashable written by Dan Schawbel. This is particularly helpful for those who have business or organizational goals on Twitter. An important part of your brand is your username or handle – if you need to change yours to make it work better for you, check out this article to find out how.

For me, Twitter is an amazing thing. I love that it’s given me the chance to learn from so many different people in many walks of life and to make some great new friends. It’s also allowed me to find some solid people to partner with in business and has helped our company land new contracts and find new team members. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t all happen in a day – for the first while it felt like I was listening to crickets while waiting to get some tweets coming my way (other than the occasional annoying auto-reply direct message). But if you’re willing to follow the basic common sense guidelines and tips outlined in the articles above, give it some time, be who you are and add value to the lives of others, I’m sure it will be as beneficial for you as it has been for me.

Interact: What’s your story?
It would be great to hear about other’s experiences on Twitter too… What resources or people have you found to be helpful? What challenges have you faced and how are you seeking to overcome them? Has it been worth the time investment thus far?

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