How I got a 60yr old to sign-up for Twitter

“We know you got a brick but sell ’em twenties til they tired”

-Jay-Z “1-900-Hustler”

I had dinner last night with a friend’s father who “didn’t see the point of social networking” but is otherwise a very progressive and intelligent thinker. After hearing his thoughts, it was clear that it wasn’t that he didn’t “see the point,” but that no one had ever showed him how it could fit into his already extensive information gathering routine. I decided to change that.

My key point was that Twitter could help him get news from his trusted sources faster and enable him to interact with the influencers he’s followed for years. It was also important for him to see that he didn’t need to divulge private information to gain access to the system.

The first order of business was demonstrating that all his news sources (like Car & Driver) were tweeting the same news he read in the paper and magazines in real-time online. Then we found a couple influencers (Mario Andretti) that were tweeting with fans, and giving exclusive information on what they were up-to. He exclaimed “I love to hear that he presented Sebastian Vettel with an award in the UK, thats great information.”

At this point it was already obvious that he was interested, so to finish off the debate I explained how FlipBoard works. The fact that he can get all of this real-time information in the same lovable magazine format that he already uses, put it over the top. Boom, I saw his eyes light up as he said “ok, I’m starting to get interested.” Which for a 60yr old guy is about as close as you are going to get to an affirmation that you’ve convinced him.

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How I got a 60yr old to sign-up for Twitter

How #boulderfire changed my perspective on twitter

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the world of Twitter yet, using a hashtag (#) before a word is a way of creating a topic in Twitter. By putting a topic like #boulderfire into a tweet, you are actively joining the conversation. Twitter users can filter on that word and see every tweet about that topic.

I initially joined Twitter because that’s what all the cool entrepreneurs in town were doing. Most people I met were die-hard “tweeters.” While I saw its usefulness, Twitter was never a necessity for me. However, that changed on Labor Day when a forest fire started in the hills above Boulder. By checking Twitter, I was able to identify the source of the smoke above my house. As the fire spread, my close-knit community literally came alive on Twitter, with everyone joining in the conversation using the tag #boulderfire. People tweeted important information about evacuation orders and offered assistance with food, housing, and legal advice for those already displaced. One person even tweeted the contents of the police scanner so people were up to date. There is no other communication medium that can enable this sort of community support network.

Even the emergency management system relied on Twitter. When the reverse 911 system—which is intended to alert residents to evacuate their homes—failed, the police department requested that people use Twitter to alert those in the affected areas! Seriously, Twitter just saved some lives. I hope an app I’m involved with will one day do that.

These last few days, I’ve thought a lot about the firefighters risking their lives and the adversity our community is facing. And perhaps it seems strange, but the last few days have also opened my eyes to the true value of Twitter. Twitter isn’t just for self-proclaimed internet marketing experts and Justin Bieber fans, Twitter can literally help a community organize, communicate, and respond effectively and rapidly to a natural disaster. Normal citizens can provide invaluable information, resources, and support to those in need (or to those who are just plain curious). We, as a community, wouldn’t be able to do that as quickly or as easily without Twitter.

How #boulderfire changed my perspective on twitter

Learning What Makes You Influential In Social Media

We started blogging to distill our learning each week. It’s been fun but we’re not content to just write into the ether anymore after seeing the impact and influence many of our peers have garnered from their intelligent use of social media. The major questions are how to do you measure “influence” and how do you systematically improve yours?

Luckily there are plenty of great tools and strategies. Google Analytics to track traffic, Klout to track an algorithmic measure of your twitter influence and Bit.Ly to track clicks on your referenced links. As with everything else you want to master, you must use the tools to constantly test your hypothesis about what will improve your metrics. Don’t forget to be clear about which metrics you want to improve (for us it’s the number of responses and amount of traffic).

So how are we going to take this blog and our twitter accounts to the next level? Right now, this blog gets roughly 50 unique readers each week and is growing steadily at 10% per week. You may have noticed that in the past couple weeks I’ve released multiple tweets and Facebook announcements about the same blog posts at different times. It was a test, you guys all passed! We learned from these experiments that releasing the blog at a bad time impacts awareness, and have since learned that mid-week at noon EST is the best time to publish for our audience. It gives the post maximum awareness and allows people time before the weekend to read it, once the weekend hits the readership drops to zero. Another thing we’ve learned from some big bloggers in town is that we need to be more active on other blogs’ comments, be guest bloggers for others and have others guest blog for us. You’ll see both these strategies at work in the coming weeks.

On the twitter front things are different. Success for us is measured in large part by the interaction we get in the form of retweets and engagement in larger conversations with multiple people. Last week one of my tweets about a recipe was retweeted by a handful of followers and got hundreds of clickthroughs and a lot of new followers for us. How do we replicate this success with content relevant to our industry and at the same time enhance our brand? More importantly how do we leverage tweets to reach my talent acquisition goals? It’s a two pronged strategy, first we’re starting to monitor search terms relevant to greetings and the creative community as a whole in order to respond and engage with people doing cool stuff. For instance this past week we reached out to the official funny poet of Wimbledon! Another strategy is to interact with people outside of Twitter. For instance, in one of my personal side projects I’m reviewing every coffee shop in Boulder (bouldercoffee.tumblr.com) and have been using twitter to post “where is Joel at today” posts with a prize for the person who finds me in real life. This has been really successful. The combination of engagement, fun and games and relevance to my highly localized twitter following has resonated well. So that’s my amateurish approach and we’ll see how it works. I know some readers are the country’s foremost social media and community management experts. I’m talking about you @MikeFraietta, @AndrewHyde, @SativaBella, @tcabeen. Use that comment box and give me your thoughts.

At the moment we’re nobodies in social media, but after 3 months completely engrossed in the technology startup community we’re hooked. The value of this medium to propel your brand, enhance your influence and even help gain traction for your product is huge. As with everything, find the people who do it best and learn how to improve.

Learning What Makes You Influential In Social Media