Today officially marks my first year on Twitter, and I must say, it’s been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I have met so many fantastic people, learned so many things, and had so many unique life experiences with Twitter that it literally boggles the mind. I thought I would share the highlights of my first year on Twitter, just to show the immense potential of the platform.
I joined Twitter towards the end of my first year out of music school. I was teaching lessons, holding down a variety of part time jobs, and gradually becoming more and more disillusioned with the rest of the world. It wasn’t all bad, though. I had a few chances to work in recording studios and even managed to con my way into a weekly DJ slot on the local radio station, where my friend @PintoBeanDip and I would spin house music late into the night. This became one of our favorite occupations, and we started trying to find ways to better promote ourselves as DJs. Naturally, we thought, the best way to garner more attention was to start building our own website, so we set to work learning the ins and outs of web coding.
During our web building shenanigans, we ran into this problem: after we built our website, how would we get people to find it? Enter my friend Aoun (pronouced “on, like the lightbulb” as he likes to say) who had this gem of a suggestion for us. He said: “why waste time trying to get people to come to you, when you can put yourselves where your potential audience is?” It was, and still is, fantastic advice. That night, I set up my Twitter account.
What I quickly learned about Twitter is that shameless self promotion is no way to garner attention. In order for people to communicate with you, you had to provide something of value to them (the longer form explanation of this idea can be found here). I stopped trying to find “fans” and instead started talking a great deal with other artists in the same position as myself. It was a great learning experience. I gained a great deal of production skills from talking with other musicians over Twitter, and it connected me to the music scene, even though I was living in the middle of nowhere. Little did I know it, but being connected to the music scene was about to pay off more than I could anticipate.
I woke up late one morning in June, and my then-girlfriend told me to get online and check out what Akai Professional, one of the largest music hardware companies in the world, was tweeting. Turns out they were looking for interns for a social media experiment. I immediately sent them a tweet and got a reply shortly thereafter. One emailing of a resume later, I was talking to @simonbangs, one of their project managers turned social media managers. He said that they were planning two six week internship sessions, and that people who performed well would be considered for a position within the company. Five days later, I had packed whatever of my life I could fit into my car, and started driving halfway across the country to Rhode Island.
Since my departure had been so rapid the only housing I could find was a 100+ year old Victorian house with about 35 people living in it. My roommates were great, but the location left much to be desired. There is a side to Rhode Island that is not at all like family guy, and very much like super low income inner city gang movies. During the day I was busy Twittering with the 22 other interns at Akai Professional, by night I was trying to sleep through the din of the prostitutes two corners down from my house. Weekends were filled by either solitary music making in my room, or occasional sessions in a studio down the street that also doubled as an all-night barbershop. I had to stop doing outside sessions after there was a drive-by on that street,so I was soon spending all of my time at home making tunes, with Twitter as company.
All the extra time I spent by myself went a long way in understanding Twitter as a communication tool. This was when I started really getting to the heart of Twitter. I realized that, like real life, Twitter had a trickle-down structure of influence, and those at the top were the ones creating content for the rest of the social food chain to consume. Everyone below them were either sharing the content the power users had created, or passively listening to the social commentary. This ties in with the concept of value that I touched upon earlier: providing unique value usually means creating dynamic content that is useful to other people.
I started positioning myself as a informational source in music production, especially about the MPC, Akai’s flagship hardware product. This helped me stand out from the other interns, most of whom were still spamming what few followers they had with overtly promotional Akai material. It also helped push me higher up the Twitter food chain, and put me in communication with some of my favorite Twitter power users. I started a weekly music discussion hashtag, #tweetsounds, which provided me with a continual source of new musicians to meet. As my network grew, so did the variety of content I could find, which meant a more valuable and diverse stream of information for my Twitter account. With the extra reach, I was able to connect my followers with one another based on interest, creating another form of value for my community of followers.
Eventually I was able to claw my way into a full-time position at Akai Professional and moved to a nicer spot outside of Providence. Running the Akai social media assets was amazing, since it got me into contact with people like @RJD2 and @madeon. Doing social media for a massive corporation taught me another valuable, and slightly darker, lesson. Most people in the real world have a hard time understanding the value of social media. Most companies join social media because they are told they have to, and when they don’t see their sales skyrocket from it, they move on to the next new fad. After a about six months in my new occupation, I was again looking for a job.
Again, I turned to Twitter for help. I managed to secure an interview with a digital marketing agency where one of the interns I had met during the summer had a job. As luck would have it, they needed a person to help run the social media team, and I took it upon myself to try to take all that I had learned from my social media experiences and apply it to the young department. It was a strange turn of events going from being at the entry level of the marketing pyramid to being the one who designs the strategies. It’s given me some unique insights into how to make Twitter work as a business tool. Social media really can only function as a business tool if it is considered from the very start of a marketing strategy, and not just thrown in as a second thought.
And that takes us to the end of my first year of Twitter. Thirteen thousand tweets later, I’m still as in love with the beautiful blue bird as the day I started tweeting. I can only imagine what will transpire between now and my next hatchday, but I know that Twitter, true to form, will indeed be stranger than fiction. It’s been a long, strange trip so far, and it will only get stranger as time goes on.
I’d love to hear some hatchday stories from all of you, if you care to share them. Send me a tweet or leave a comment. I’m always interested to hear about other people’s experiences on Twitter.
Mr. David Benson is a social media analyst and coffeephile. He currently lives in New York City and works as an analyst for Mashwork, a social media analytics company.