“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
– John C. Maxwell, leadership expert, speaker, and author

Back in 2009 when I joined Twitter, like many people, I didn’t quite know what to do. Here are my first tweets:

If you’ve advanced this far with Twitter, you probably came to my same conclusion: this is stupid. I’m just stating facts and emoting. I don’t get why people use this. Why would anyone care about big snowflakes in Allentown, Pennsylvania?

They probably don’t. Failing to see value, I stopped tweeting. And the online community rejoiced.

But Twitter and I recently became intimate again. And it feels like we’re a power couple.

As part of my mission to make GiveLiveExplore.com a useful source of inspiration and information for people looking to find fulfillment in their life and career, I’ve begun to do more ‘hustling’. As Chris Guillebeau puts it in The $100 Startup:

"A hustler represents the ideal combination: work and talk fused together."

Up until now, I’ve been doing the work: building the website, exploring new places, understanding different cultures and ways of life, reading, taking photographs, synthesizing information, and sharing my findings through this blog. I’m proud of what I’ve started to create. But I realized it was time to start talking and spreading my story.

So over the past several weeks, I’ve become more intentional about spreading the word of my website, my story, and my goals. To fellow travelers, locals, friends, co-workers, bloggers, anyone who might care. Part of my hustling strategy was to rediscover Twitter.

Let me preface this by saying I do NOT claim to be a social media expert or a Twitter celebrity. As of writing, I have a measly 264 followers (compare that to Lady Gaga‘s 30 million+ or even Stephen Markely‘s 930). But I think my current status as a mere civilian validates my findings even more so.

Literally over the past five days, I’ve had a series of epiphanies. Finally, I ‘get’ Twitter. Here are my epiphanies explained in three simple tweets.

Tweet #1: Tweeting to Nanna, lead singer of the band Of Monsters and Men about their album.

Translation of the last two tweets:

Nanna says: “haha this is wild! These guys stayed in your apartment

Raggi (another band member) says: “haha this is ridiculous!!! Hope u had a good time in my old apartment : )

Epiphany: Twitter breaks down the barriers to previously “unreachable” people. We now have the ability to connect with almost anyone from our living room. I was able to connect with members of a band I’d never met in person, let alone even seen in concert. Once we connected, I was able to share my website and blog post with them. And let them know, that I indeed, did stay in Raggi’s old apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Tweet #2: Tweeting to the world about my interest in finding an apartment in Belgrade, Serbia.

I sent this tweet yesterday to my 264 followers, none of whom live in Belgrade, Serbia. I didn’t tweet to one person in particular.  But because I used the hashtags #Belgrade and #Serbia, people from all over the world were able to search for my tweet and respond.

I sent this tweet to the world, then went for a walk around Zadar, Croatia, ate some pizza, read a book, and watched the sunset. Three hours later, I returned to my apartment and found a few surprises.

Nine people retweeted my request, which means they forwarded my message out to their followers. Three people sent me a direct response with recommendations. The owner of the CoffeeHQ coffeeshop in Belgrade even suggested I stop in for a coffee. This led to us setting up a meeting to discuss business and technology in Belgrade. And a free coffee!

Epiphany: Twitter enables a pull economy as opposed to a push economy.  I sent a request out to the Twitter universe and invited people to help provide the answer. As the buyer, I invited people to sell to me. This represents a complete shift in the way traditional marketing works. Plus, Twitter worked for me while I enjoyed a sunset and a good book. Incredible.

Epiphany: Twitter lets us meet on the internet so we can connect off the internet. Twitter is just a tool to create the connection, but real relationships are still made offline.

Tweet #3: Tweeting to Paulo Coelho, international best-selling author of Aleph and The Alchemist.

Several days later, my phone vibrates and I jump out of bed to this notification:

I was literally shaking from an adrenaline high. Paulo Coelho just sent my blog post to his 5.8 million+ followers. Holy. F&*@ing. Shit.

Epiphany: Twitter has the power to give you instant credibility, validate your offering, and make you famous. This is a variation of “The Oprah Effect,” where books or products featured by Oprah on her show would gain instant fame and generate millions of sales within a few short days. If major influencers such as Paulo Coelho or Oprah like your stuff enough to share it with millions of people, get ready. The power celebrities have on Twitter (and anywhere else) is amazing.

This Paulo tweet was my five minutes of fame. Literally. After five minutes, he removed the tweet, saying the link wasn’t working. The link did work, however, because in those five short minutes 150 people visited my site from around the world. I’m still waiting for him to retweet it so I can enjoy my other ten minutes of fame!

Harnessing the Power of Twitter

Since these three Twi-xperiences (a stretch?) happened in the past five days, I must be doing something right. Or maybe it’s just beginner’s luck. Regardless, I’m learning the key to having meaningful interactions on Twitter is understanding one simple concept: Twitter mimics basic human interaction. So it’s important look at Twitter as just another tool to connect with people.

I think success on Twitter follows the same principles as connecting with people in real life. Although I’m still learning, here are the rules I follow:

1. Be genuine. Like in real life, people can see through bullshit. Be honest and be yourself. I was serious about Nanna’s voice — it’s beautiful.

2. Give freely with no expectation of receiving. Give thanks. Give praise. Give advice. It’s not about you, it’s about everyone else. Everyone wants to feel loved. I didn’t expect to hear back from Paulo; I just wanted to thank him for writing his book and share how it impacted me.

3. Have something interesting to say or share. Without something interesting to share with the person, you miss an opportunity to connect on a deeper level and let that person help you achieve your goals.

There are plenty of other strategies behind Twitter and social media. But if you’re a novice like me, this should give you a good start to understanding how to harness the power of the Tweet.

If you want to learn more about social media and Twitter from an expert, I suggest checking out Gary Vaynerchuk’s short, but animated talks on The Secrets of Social Media.

Are you on Twitter? Say ‘Hi’! @trinetti. Just please don’t talk about big snowflakes yet. I’m still trying to escape winter by staying southern Europe.

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