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The Tao of Twitter
Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time
By Mark Schaefer
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012McGraw-Hill
All rights reserved.
Discovering the Tao of Twitter
The first tweet I ever received was: "It's 4 a.m."
Obviously, Twitter and I did not get off to a good start! Like most people, I thought it was just about the stupidest thing I had ever tried and that first tweet seemed to confirm it.
But I stuck with it, because, as a consultant and marketing educator, I was determined to learn what the buzz was about. I thought the whole thing was a little silly and maybe even spooky when unknown "followers" just started showing up.
And then I had my "a-ha" moment.
I was bored and was playing around on the computer one night when I logged on to Twitter and clicked on a trending topic for #NewFluName. I knew enough by this time to know that these topics represented the most popular real-time conversations in the world. Mildly curious, I clicked to see what was happening. It was a moment I'll never forget.
Remember when the pork industry was having a fit about the swine flu a few years ago? They thought the name was hurting sales of "the other white meat" and asked the public to call it something else. So thousands of people from around the world tweeted their contributions—HILARIOUS new names, like,
This little piggy went to the bathroom
The Other White Flu
Mad Sow Disease
and my favorite, "Hamthrax"
Yes, it broke the monotony of my evening ... in fact, I laughed until I cried! But something more important happened. I was witnessing a real-time, global brainstorming session! It dawned on me that at no other time in the history of mankind could that conversation have taken place. It was an awesome moment, an inspiring moment. I began to think about all of the implications for business, for networking, for solving problems, for learning ... and for me.
People sharing, connecting, teaching, and entertaining each other in the moment—from every corner of the world. I had caught a glimpse of something profound and wonderful.
Over the next several weeks I witnessed Twitter serve as a powerful news source during the revolutionary activity in Iran (which put it on the cover of Time magazine). I made my first meaningful business connections. A torrent of links, humor, and insights came rushing at me every day, as I learned to surround myself with thought-leaders, teachers, and innovators. I began to realize that Twitter was probably the most dynamic, interesting, and compelling educational tool I had ever seen.
And the journey was just beginning ...
My region of the United States is prone to dangerous storm cells and tornadoes. As the fierce winds arrived one day, we lost power and all communication ... except for Twitter, where I could read reports from local friends on the status of flooding and damage in the area. A tweet from a friend suggested an NOAA emergency weather center iPhone app that broadcast radio news during the storm, which I downloaded immediately.
Through Twitter I have connected to hundreds of inspiring people from around the world, but none perhaps as loyal and dedicated as a young man named Muhammad Saad Khan, who is using Twitter and the social web to learn about social media from his home in Karachi, Pakistan. When I learned that he could not obtain a copy of my book, I sent him one. He is now using my book to teach others in his country how to use social media effectively.
A Twitter friend knew I was teaching college courses in social media and recommended me to one of his clients, resulting in a consulting engagement with the U.K. government.
After struggling with a problem with my blog RSS feed for a week, I asked for help over Twitter, and within minutes I found a resource that had the problem solved in one hour.
One of my students, a music teacher, was able to promote her videos and connect to new friends associated with a well-known folk music festival in Texas. Through these relationships, she was invited to perform at the annual event. "This is my dream come true," she told me. "And it could not have happened any other way. Twitter has changed my life."
I founded an annual social media conference called Social Slam, which attracts hundreds of people from throughout the U.S. and beyond. We sell this conference out each year and have never spent one dime on advertising. Every participant learned of the event through the powerful word-of-mouth attraction of Twitter.
I could go on, but by now I hope you're starting to see the diversity, usefulness, profitability, power, and fun of Twitter.
Make no mistake, there is a Tao to Twitter. There is a majestic random synergy that holds the potential to affect your life daily—if you know what you're doing. And most people don't know what they're doing. They don't grasp the Tao.
If you dissect any successful Twitter case study, any business benefit, any personal accomplishment that started with a tweet, there is a common theme—a success formula of sorts. The more I have become immersed in the social web, the more I am convinced that this Tao, or formula, is the path to success on Twitter.
By nature, I'm a conservative person. I'm not prone to bold claims. But after seeing hundreds, maybe thousands, of people follow the advice in this book, I know it works.
Our generation's source of all wisdom—that would be Wikipedia, of course—defines Tao as a word that "literally translates as 'way,' 'path,' or 'route' generally used to signify the primordial essence or fundamental aspect of the universe."
I like that idea. So let's explore this path ... this primordial essence. But to best explain it, I need help from a young graduate student and my favorite football team.CHAPTER 2
The Tao of Twitter in Action
One October evening I was watching my favorite American football team—the Pittsburgh Steelers—and doing a little work-related multi-tasking. I flipped on Twitter and announced through a Twitter message (known as a tweet): "Watching a football game tonight—Go Steelers!"
A few moments later I received a reply from Michelle Chmielewski (or, @MiChmksi as she is known on Twitter), who was at that time a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. "Watching the game too! Hope we will win!" she tweeted back at me.
Now, I only had a vague idea of who this person was. Although we had "followed" each other on Twitter, I could not recall ever having any dialogue with her before and certainly had no indication that this random tweet was about to change the course of our lives.
But Michelle knew who I was. Like any smart networker, she had taken care to surround herself with people she could learn from. Because I was a marketing professional, blogger, and college educator, she had included me in her Twitter tribe, and now took this opportunity to reach out and connect on a very human subject—sports. She wasn't selling anything. She wasn't asking for anything. She was simply being herself.
About a week later I was surprised and delighted to receive an e-mail from Michelle: "It was nice getting to 'meet' you the other night on Twitter," she wrote. "I really admire what you're doing on your blog, Mark. I am just starting out as a blogger myself. My blog is called 'The Observing Participant.' Is there any way you could take a look at what I am doing and give me some feedback?"
Of course I was happy to loo
Excerpted from The Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer. Copyright © 2012 by McGraw-Hill. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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