Web 2.0 Social Networking: The Texas RV Professor Rides the Twitter Wave

6 Mar

cooper_headshot_resizedI’ll be the first to admit that personally I’m a pretty slow adopter of new technologies. I finally broke down and bought a cell phone barely two years ago (if it was even that far back). Until last year ago I still had my $9.95 a month dial-up Internet service. I’ve yet to hold a Kindle, much less read a book on one. A big part of it is that it’s hard to tell exactly what the Next Big Thing is vs. just the Next Big Hype and what’s worth your time vs. just being a waste of time. Plus, when talking about tech gadgets or Web-based applications, you have the tech geeks who love anything as long as it’s the absolutely newest thing around however impractical, convoluted, and/or nonsensical it may be. (In fact, they’ll love it all the more for being exactly those things.) Then you have your average (that is, normal) person who likes new applications/gadgets that are both simple and powerful.

Falling into this latter category, I will happily admit, is Twitter, which we got one of our authors, Terry Cooper (better known as The Texas RV Professor), set up on this week.

What is Twitter? It’s a micro-blogging service—you can write posts, or “tweets” as they are called, up to (but not over) 140 characters—where your updates go to people who choose to “follow” you. Plus, you get the tweets of those you follow. And . . . that’s really just about it. I guess I first heard about Twitter around a year and a half ago and I didn’t really get it. I mean, 140 characters? What was I (or anyone else) going to write? “Got up, read paper, slapped on the happy face and went to work”? (For those counting, that would be 62 characters inside the quotation marks.) I remember being at the Publishing Business Conference a year ago listening to social networking evangelist Joe Pulizzi from Junta42 saying Twitter was going to be the next big thing. Even he admitted that he wasn’t sure why (or what it was really good for) . . . but he could tell—savvy New Media Guy that he is—that it was really starting to take off for whatever the reason. Finally, thanks to Sarah-Jane Sanders who kept extolling its virtues (or @sj_sanders as she is known in Twitterland) we got set up on it last summer. Anyway, for more of our take on Twitter, take a look at this post at The Publishing Trends Blog.

So, back to the Texas RV Professor. Terry and I (along with Jazzy Films’ Bruce Carbonara) had lunch on Monday and I told him that I had set up a Twitter account for him he should start using. At first—much like I had been—he didn’t really see the usefulness it as we went over how it worked back at the office that afternoon. But, hey, that was 4 days ago. Since then Terry (as @TX_RV_Professor) has made 14 tweets, is following 356 people, and is being followed by 250 people (or “tweeps” as they are known in Twitter parlance). In comparison, @tstcpublishing, twittering since August 2008, has made 394 posts, is following 125, and is being followed by 175.

The numbers themselves, though, are not particularly that revealing per se; instead, it’s a matter of figuring out what your goal is on Twitter and the most effective ways to integrate yourself into the community. Right off the bat there is a big difference between us and Terry: we typically use Twitter to follow publishing industry people in a variety of areas whereas he wants to network with RV industry professionals as well as all those RVers out on the road. But the general rules—as I see it—for being a responsible member in your own Twitter network are still the same for both us and him and fall into four basic categories:

  1. Retweeting: This is when you repost an update from another Twitter user so that it goes out to all of your own followers. Twitter is social networking. It’s not all about what you have to say; it’s also about paying attention to what your followers have to say and passing on the good information that you come across.
  2. Responding: This is when you make a comment to another Tweeter’s update. Once again, it’s not all about expecting people to listen to you. Hey! It’s a dialogue, not a monologue! You have to show that you’re engaged in the conversation that’s going on so that people will be willing to be engaged with what you’re saying.
  3. Posting Your Own Info: Certainly, though, Twitter is not just about rehashing/reposting everybody else’s information. You do need to provide those links, facts, and news that will appeal to the network you’re building and a part of. You have to be able to contribute something new and useful on a regular basis.
  4. Showing Who You Are: I think the informal, impromptu, and casual vibe that Twitter has really requires that you post information that demonstrates who you are at a personal level. Sure, we read the updates of people we follow but equally interesting (and engaging) are the facts that make them individuals, not just informational ticker tapes. It’s like what I used to tell my composition students about writing essays: facts are convincing but facts alone can be boring while anecdotes are interesting but not persuasive so if you can get a good balance of the two you can be convincing and interesting.

Another major ingredient to all this is using a third-party Twitter application to make your updates (and those of your followers) easier to keep organized. Personally, I like TweetDeck. (Note: in the time it’s taken me to write the last couple of paragraphs, Terry has picked up 2 new followers, bringing his total to 252.) TweetDeck allows you to break out all of your followers into different groups to break out all the updates you get. Plus, you can set up a group that shows all the tweets everywhere (not just those from your tweeps) with a specific search term in them: cats, TSTC, RV, or whatever.

And it’s this last thing—searching for Twitterers who are posting on the same topics you’re interested in no matter what they may be (for us it’s publishing, for Terry it’s RVers)—that’s really key. That is, you get a lot of people on Twitter who will follow anyone hoping to get them to follow in return just to get their total number of followers as high as possible. (These people are also know as folks who need to GET A LIFE.) I mean, what’s the point? If this is who you  are, you’re not paying any attentions to your followers, they’re not paying any attention to you, and it’s all a pointless exercise. But, if you choose to align yourself with those you actually have a primary interest in common with, see who their followers are that might also might make for a good connection, you can build a network that has real value, egages in meaningful communication, and builds knowledge among its members instead of just being a bunch of people standing jostling around in a room shouting at each other while never listening.

(One final note: Terry has picked up two more followers so that he’s now at 254. Then again, we’ve picked up another one since I started this post so we’re doing our best to keep pace at 176.)

Mark

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5 Responses to “Web 2.0 Social Networking: The Texas RV Professor Rides the Twitter Wave”

  1. RV Camping November 3, 2009 at 7:35 am #

    well its not a big thing sir..as the most of the RV Camping geeks don’t like these technologies, because they are more inclined towards the nature and hesitate to use these technologies. As these technologies increase the distance between humans while the campers like to live among people and near to nature.

  2. benrushin November 6, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    hey coop whats up this is so cool

  3. rv camping February 6, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    very right, as because the people which do camping or even rv camping are more close to nature than machines and they got some time to adopt them

  4. arkansas camping May 23, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Its quite a good way to promote rv camping. as the world is now a global village and people now seek most of the information from internet. so if you want to promote ur business, than one shold start the marketing from internet and than the rest of marketing mediums.

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