A Tweetorial

When I decided to see what Twitter was all about some years ago, a tech savvy friend enthusiastically described it to me this way:  It’s like a big cocktail party, where everyone is having interesting conversations and you join in!

That was a red flag, waving at me to stay far, far away.  I’m a writer, which equates to antisocial.  Still, I was intrigued, mainly because I love me some hors devours wrote the book on networking.  Seriously, I did — “Fast Track Networking: Turning Conversations into Contacts.

Fast forward a few years, after giving Twitter a twirl.  Here is what I’ve learned:

1.  My tech savvy friend is actually delusional and needs to be placed in a mental hospital.

2. “I’m so bad at Twitter,” a highly successful businessman said to me recently.  After reading his feed, I wholly agreed. Twitter requires a learning curve.  Before jumping in, reading others’ tweets is a necessity.  You want to be original, clever and interesting.  If you’re not, no one will read your comments.  Much less re-tweet or share them.  I know this from no one reading, re-tweeting or sharing mine.

3.  Don’t follow others willy-nilly.  (Did I really just write “willy-nilly”?)  I know many tweeters who follow thousands upon thousands of people.  Yes, the numbers are impressive, but how can you read so many tweets in one lifetime?  I prefer to follow a select number of people who are entertaining, insightful or who can help advance my career in some way. By keeping my followers at a reasonable amount, my Twitter experience is manageable.

4.  Yes, it’s a little thrill when the likes of Judd Apatow, Penn Jillette, Aasif Mandvi or Jimmy Fallon respond to a tweet (OK, Jimmy, not yet).  But don’t think for a second that you’re IN.  You’re still out. Yet, it’s fun to engage these celebs, isn’t it?

5.  Now a word about that cocktail party:  You can think of Twitter as a cool bash, complete with A-list celebrities and VIPs, but you should also remember that you’re not an invited guest.  You’re crashing this gig.  Maybe someone will actually “talk” to you.  But should that happen, show good manners.  Say “thanks” or whatever, and move on.  Otherwise, you’ll be quickly kicked out by the bouncer.  His name is “BLOCK.”

6.  Lastly, forget #3 and follow me.

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My Romance with “Google Alerts”

I’m not ashamed to admit it — I am madly in love with the content change detection and notification service otherwise known as “Google Alerts.”

In case you’ve just landed from planet Zork, get a load of this:  Google Alerts is a web service that automatically notifies users when new content from news, web, blogs, video and/or discussion groups matches a set of search terms the user has requested.   These notifications are sent to me via email, and it’s completely and totally FREE.  (Note to Google: don’t even think of it!).

As a journalist, I’ve set up (and removed) all kinds of alerts — many are based on topics I’m researching at any given time.  So if I’m writing about the planet Zork, for instance, I’ll set up a Google Alert for any web content with the word “Zork” in it.

Of course, because I’m extremely vain, I have alerts set up for my own name, “Claudia Gryvatz Copquin,” so every time my byline appears somewhere, I receive a notice in my mailbox.  These emails take priority over everything else.  So I was thoroughly delighted when I opened one such Google Alert the other day, to find a review of my book, “The Neighborhoods of Queens” (published by Yale University Press in 2007)  in a publication called “The Long Island History Journal.”

The review begins as follows:

“The Neighborhoods of Queens offers an astonishing array of surprises in its descriptions of all 56 neighborhoods in Queens. Queens Village, we learn, had long been “an oasis for shooting enthusiasts,” which explains why certain streets there—Springfield and Winchester boulevards, Musket Street, and others—are named for rifles (151); the “moniker” Utopia, given both to the community and the parkway, originated in a land scheme to develop a “cooperative community for Jewish families then living on the Lower East Side” (75); and the “first kerosene refinery in the nation” and “first modern oil refinery” were both enjoyed by Maspeth (139).”

OK, so the book covers 99 neighborhoods, not 56 — but Dr. Ross Wheeler
the acclaimed Queens College reviewer, is clearly enthused.  Thanks, Doc!

And thank you, Google Alerts.  You complete me.

User Names for Facebook SEO

Social media is constantly changing — and Facebook seems to be leading the pack, with “new and improved” functionality to keep track of almost daily.  For instance, a writing colleague just pointed out that we can now choose a “user name” for our Facebook pages.  This seems like a smart way to increase SEO  for our overall Facebook presence.  Now, I’m no techie, so I’m going to take her word for it.

To get your own user name, go to http://www.facebook.com/username and just create your new name. The best (succinct) ones have already been snagged, but I just changed mine to http://www.facebook.com/NewYorkJournalist.  Give it a whirl.

And if you change yours, please leave a comment here…