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How to "Add Value" with Twitter and Status Updates

Today is my one year anniversary with Twitter.

(Not sure of your "Twitterversary" date? Go to http://twitter.com/users/show/yourusernamehere.xml. Scroll down through the xml file and look for the "created_at" tag to find your exact anniversary date, including the time.)

Even though I had heard about the service much earlier, I rejected it as a frivolous waste of time. My opinion was the same as all other "non-Twitter-ers." It wasn't until I watched Lee LeFevre's brilliant "Twitter in Plain English" that I actually began to see the potential value of this service. If you are still on the fence about Twitter, that video is a great place to start.

Over the course of the year I've "tweeted" 1,104 times and read 10s of thousands of Tweets from the 102 folks whom I "follow" (and that's just in my personal account). In that time, I developed an opinion about which posts (tweets and other "status updates") I feel "add value" to my life and which ones do not. This is a very personal list and may not be the list you would make. If you feel I've left out an important category, add it in the comments.

First, let me get the "medicine" out of the way. I have great distaste for posts which are...
  1. Routine. I really don't need to know when you are driving to work every morning at 7:50 a.m. Or that you are headed to the gym every M/W/F at 5:30 p.m. If it's something you do every day or very often, it is of little or no value to the rest of us. Sorry.
  2. Abrasive/Caustic. I am as capable as anyone on the planet of being mean and nasty, but I can only assume you don't want to hear it. I don't even want to hear myself succumbing to those impulses. So, disagree. State your opinion. Even rant. But be civilized about it.
  3. Pity-Posting. My drill seargants were always fond of saying, "Save the drama for your mama, private!"I agree. Most normal people don't sit aorund watching those trashy day-time talk shows where everyone airs their dirty laundry and sob stories. For heaven's sake, find a counselor or close friend to talk to in private and leave the rest of us out of it.
Okay, enough of that. On to the "valuable" stuff. I have a great appreciation for posts which are...
  1. Humorous and/or Clever. This is most certainly a reflection of my own odd sense of humor, but I love a good one-liner. If you can make me grin in 140 characters, then I will "love you long time, soldier." I find it curiously appropriate that you can't spell tWITter without WIT.
  2. Thought-provoking. This is vague, I know, but if it makes you go "hmmmm" then it will most likely make someone else do the same. That's a good thing.
  3. Questions. Most people will happily provide feedback if they feel they have knowledge or experience to contribute. Questions get conversations flowing. Status updates can even serve as your own informal survey mechanism.
  4. Interesting Observations. This is probably a bit tougher to do. Jerry Seinfeld has made a career of making interesting (and humorous) observations. "Just saw a green frog," is not interesting. "Just saw a frog riding a dog's back" would be very interesting. Trivial, but interesting nonetheless.
  5. Breaking News. Let's face it, we are all "news" junkies of some sort. Local, global, personal, or even genre-specific (entertainment, sports, product-related, etc.). Even if I have never met you, breaking news of your personal experiences are always interesting if I can identify with those experiences (births, weddings, graduations, etc).
  6. Points of Interest. Twitter is a micro-blog. Blog is short for "web log." As you "log" your experience around the web, making note of sites, articles, videos, etc that meet any of the above-mentioned criteria, share those things with your audience.
  7. (Relevant) Conversations wth Context. I've noticed more and more folks using Twitter as a personal IM service. They either forget or don't recognize that there are a lot of other people listening to the conversation in random fashion. If you are going to reply back and forth, please leave room for context. "Okay, thanks," is a horrible post. "You're going to loan me your mower? Okay thanks," would be better, but is irrelevant for the majority of your followers. "LOST has been moved to 9:30 tonight?! Okay, thanks," is a conversation upon which others may be eager to eavesdrop. For those one-on-one conversations, send a direct message, please.
Even though Twitter was originally designed with "Whatcha doing?" in mind, I've found "Whatcha thinking?" to be eminently more valuable under normal circumstances. Most of us lead fairly routine lives. Often, it's our random thoughts about those routines that make for interesting reading to others.

Hopefully, the above suggestions will contribute to making Twitter and other micro-blogging tools more "valuable" for us all. If so, please consider sharing this post with your friends, family and Twitter followers!

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