Twitter is a personal addiction for me. When I was home for Thanksgiving, I actually got into an argument with my father about the validity of Twitter as a professional tool, rather than just a way to tell everyone what you had for lunch or what cute shenanigans your cat is up to. It dawned on me that a lot of people out there…and I mean a lot…aren’t using this platform to its full potential. Why?

Because everything you know about Twitter is wrong.

1. Twitter isn’t confusing.

One of the most common complaints I hear from people is that Twitter is too confusing. They log on, watch about seven billion 140-character messages fly by, get overwhelmed, and log off without actually using the network. It’s too confusing to do any kind of good.

Not so. You just have to take a deep breath and actually get used to the platform. It’s like anything - remember how confusing the Internet was the first time you logged online? If you go into it with an attitude that Twitter is hard and/or stupid, changes are that you won’t get anything out of it. Start with a good attitude!

Twitter isn’t about reading every single thing people say. Think of it like a crowded party. You walk in an have a few conversations with people or groups of people, but you don’t get to talk to everyone. Someone indicates that they want to talk to you by using @ and your name, or they can repeat what you say if they find it interesting in some way by typing RT (which means retweet). You can find other people talking about things that interest you by using # and the topic (like #career or #jobhunting).

2. Twitter isn’t a promotional tool.

Well, it is…but it is so much more. Again, think of it like a party. If you’re job hunting, you don’t just walk into a party and start shouting that you want a job. You walk in and have conversations, mentioning it if it comes up as you’re talking. Twitter is about making connections and building your network. Yes, you can use that network to boost your career, but you have to get to know people first. Spend most of your time replying to other people, not talking about yourself.

3. Twitter isn’t a time-waster.

I hear a lot of people say that they never log onto Twitter because if they did, they’d never get any work done. I call bull on that. I’m lucky enough to have a job where I can have Twitter running on a desktop client whenever I’m at my computer, and to be honest, I haven’t really seen a decrease in my daily productivity. Sure, you can spend a few hours reading tweets from your friends, but it can also save you time. For example, say you and a co-worker are trying to decide where to go for lunch. Instead of spending 20 minutes debating the options, just jump on Twitter and ask if anyone has a recommendation. Pretty much anything you could search for on Google, you could also ask on Twitter.

4. Twitter isn’t boring.

Yes, sometimes I mention what I had for lunch. That doesn’t mean that Twitter is boring. People talk about everything on there, from their plans for the night to larger matters of life and death. The awesome thing about Twitter is that if someone is boring you, you can just unfollow them. Or, you could put the most interesting tweeters on a single list, so you can hone in on those people when you log online while not offending other people following you.

Ok, so how can you use Twitter?

  • Connect with people you know in real life so you can stay in touch. If they remember you exist, they’ll send you leads when you’re job hunting, offer career advice, etc.
  • Follow the celebrities in your industry, as well as news outlets. The more up to date you are about what’s going on in your industry of choice, the better.
  • Build relationships with people at companies where you want to work. Companies are more likely to hire people they know.
  • Build an audience for your blog or website, if you have one.
  • Talk to others who are also struggling to find the right career path - it’s a reminder that you aren’t alone and a way for you all to trade tips.

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