There is a lot of buzz about Twitter, but many people still shy away from the popular social networking site, pretending like it is just a "fad" or something useless. Some people naturally avoid anything new or different.... and they might come along later and check out the micro-blogging platform. Most people I talk with who avoid Twitter are simply overwhelmed by the scope of the whole thing. They cannot understand how it relates to their career, especially if they focus their work on a geographic area.
The point that is missed by most people who talk / write about Twitter is that it is not some "global networking" thing... but instead Twitter is a local tool that can help you grow your personal and professional brand in your own backyard.
I have been on Twitter for two years and have found the real power that the service provides is the ability to help me make real connections with people who live in a twenty mile radius of my house. Sure, I follow people from all over the world, but I never will meet or bond with most of them. However, those Twitter users who live nearby cross my path on a daily basis.
In the past we might have never met, now we seek each other out at networking events, or can schedule coffee meetings at any time.
What? Twitter's real value is as a local tool?
The "Guru's" will tell you it is all about how many followers you have. I cry B.S. It makes no difference how many follow if nobody is listening. The pet shop owners in Topeka, Kansas who follow me are most likely wonderful people, but I have not seen anything that I have in common with them, and will not likely meet them anytime soon. No offense to these animal lovers in Dorothy's home state... but I don't care about the Saturday Sale they have on GloFish. I am not sure why they followed me in the first place, but I did not follow them back.
Yet I will return the follow to any grown up who lives in Central Texas. Why? Because the odds of us meeting in person and forging a real connection are high.
This does not mean that millions of people around the world have not found value in the global reach of Twitter. I too have found value and made contact with people elsewhere. I have gotten to understand and "know" many interesting people around the world, but it is harder to develop relationships with those you will never see in person.
But the local experience of Twitter has had a direct material impact on my career.
Austin is a town that has embraced Twitter and there are often "Tweet-ups" (happy hour get-togethers of Twitter users in a local venue) and other gatherings that are promoted on Twitter. I met one guy at a conference who came up and said "Hi, I follow you on Twitter". We are now friends, and working on several business projects together. I see him, and others who I met this way, as people... not just random "followers".
The world is a big place, and when we can make it smaller - we stop being overwhelmed.
There are people who have created "real" friendship with online contacts whom they have never met in person (I have done this, too), but there is something different about relationships that involve being able to meet for coffee, meals or beers.... and proximity of geography makes this much easier.
Embrace the local power of Twitter. Seek out people in your own area whom have similar interests and follow their Tweets. Engage them in conversation. Re-Tweet their profound statements. Support their causes. Focus local and you will find a whole new set of friends whom can help you discover the power of Twitter.
Have A Great Day.