At last we come to what I now consider one of the most important drivers behind Why Do I Twitter series - Reason #3.
Most people I talk to about social media seem surprised that I have “real friends” on Twitter: The idea that I’ve cultivated meaningful personal and professional relationships through social media channels still feels very alien to most. “How can that be?”, they ask. “You don’t really know who these people are, do you?” My reaction: Um, wasn’t that the original idea to begin with – to get to know people slowly by interacting on a day to weekly basis? For a select group of other people I know, having several hundred Facebook Friends or 400+ LinkedIn Connections is no big deal, but thousands of Twitter Followers seems hard to understand since the average person is not regularly keeping up with a crowd this size.
When I was an undergrad student at UVa, I actually took a class on the subject of Friendship [believe it or not] as part of my psychology major. During our study, we learned about a theory on the cognitive limits of friendship called Dunbar’s Number. According to British anthropologist Robert Dunbar, there is a neocortical processing limit we each have that dictates the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained. It lies between 100 and 230, but a commonly used value is 150. In our study, we learned how one’s friends are divided according to various degrees of friendship – there are those who are friends throughout life and there are many more who are “friends of the road” – these are the individuals who come into your life at a certain stage and are with you for a defined purpose and time period. Both types of friends are important to have but are cultivated in completely different ways. I see this same framework applying to relationships on Twitter – no matter how small or large your following is if you want to cultivate and curate relationships – you have to WORK at it. Over the past year, I’ve observed and started to practice much of the following:
(a) Being a Human, Not a Robot – if you want to make real friends and not come off as a robot broadcaster, then you need to humanize your tweets. Instead of just ReTweeting others, take time to say hello or ask how they are doing with an @reply. A heartfelt congratulation also goes a long way. I’ve noticed more tweets wishing Happy Birthday, Condolences and prayer requests being asked and responded to from the folks I follow. Earlier this year, @zenaweist tweeted about her dad’s illness and saying good bye to him in the hospital – I know she felt true support from her Twitter community.
(b) Becoming a Regular – like the neighborhood pub, those who show up consistently often trade personal greetings with one another. For the last year, I’ve regularly attended several tweetchats and a few live podcasts. These are now marked with hello, glad to see you again types of tweetouts. I also tweet out “missing you” or “wish you were here” greetings to regulars who are not able to join. Again, this helps build purposeful relationships, not just a faceless following.
(c) Connecting Offline – seek your Twitter followers in the offline world when you can. Take advantage of conferences and meetups to connect and catch up face to face – it will greatly enrich your relationships. Ask one of your Twitter connections to meet you for coffee or lunch. In the past year, I have had several one-on-one in real life (IRL) get togethers with great folks like @virginiasuliman @jeffpulver @armano @applegirl @seanmcginnis and @VSDieguez. Watch for Tweetups happening in your city. Can’t find any? Then organize one yourself :)
So, there you have it, the 3 Reasons I Twitter: Opinion, Reputation and Relationships. Many thanks to Mat Orrego for being the inspiration catalyst of this blog series.