TwitterMore than two years after joining Twitter, I still find myself the target of blank stares more often than I'd like to admit. When it comes to skepticism, I've heard just about anything you can imagine, with most dismissive questions usually taking on some form of the following: "Wait, isn't Twitter, like, an instant message to no one?"

Well, not really. Whenever I'm asked something like this, I try to hold onto the last few seconds of their attention span by explaining I might never have landed an acceptance to graduate school, two internships and a handful of job interviews without paying close attention to the way I used my Twitter account.


Usually, news of my Twitter triumphs buys me about another minute of attention, during which I tell the confused listener that my first job out of college was as a reporter in my hometown. There, I started a pop culture blog (full disclosure: in 2007, most stories revolved around "Grey's Anatomy" or Lindsay Lohan, but, gradually, people started tuning in). When I started posting blogs on my Twitter feed, journalists, PR professionals and other media types began to follow. And when I tweeted that I'd applied to my dream school for a graduate journalism program, one of my followers turned out to be on the admissions committee. Then I got in.

I didn't realize it until recently, but my life changed rapidly after that, and for the better. I can't help but think I owe a lot of the change to Twitter.

I'm not claiming to be at the high point of my career, but I can honestly say that Twitter helped me along professionally in ways I really never would've expected. It may sound ridiculous, but approaching Twitter strategically really is important, just like good Twitter etiquette really does exist. Here's a few tips:

  • Start following like-minded people. Think about people in your industry whom you really admire. Chances are, they're probably using social media to connect with people they respect, too. Let's say, for instance, that you're an aspiring chef -- use Twitter to start following your favorite restaurants, celebrity chefs and food companies. Then check out who else is following the most popular people in your industry. Start following them, too.

  • Ask questions of -- and reply to -- people you respect. One of the more respected people in my industry is Jay Rosen. For those of you out there who aren't news nerds, suffice it to say that he's somebody trying to pave the future for the floundering industry that is journalism. I asked him a question via Twitter one day, he tweeted a reply, and I ended up with this blog. As a result, I ended up with more followers and, more importantly, more people to learn from.

  • Pay attention. People I follow often tweet job or internship postings in their respective fields, and I've even applied for a few jobs just by messaging that user a link to my resume. You can also peruse job-focused Twitter accounts using the site's search function. If you live in Cincinnati, for example, a simple search for "Cincinnati jobs" should turn back at least a few accounts that might come in handy.

  • Everything you need to know about Twitter, you learned in kindergarten. I try to live by this theory in general, but it really comes in handy when it comes to social media. If you see a link or news story you like, be sure to give credit where it's due. Send a congratulatory tweet when a colleague lands a job, gets a promotion or produces something you really enjoy. If you're sincere, you'll end up leaving an imprint on the people you network with. It's a great way to leave favorable first impressions.

  • Beware the tweet overload. It's hard to find a balance between reaching out to people you find interesting and being totally annoying. As someone who works with social media, it's something I struggle with, and I don't think I always succeed. If it's a one-word reply you'd like to send, use the Direct Message function to keep communication along the lines of "OK!" or "Thanks!" from spamming up your personal feed. Think of your Twitter feed as an extension of your personality -- you want a good blend of news, professional insight and personal thoughts. It feels beyond ridiculous to say so, but throwing off the balance of any of these can impact your presence negatively.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for more. If you end up building a friendly relationship with someone in your chosen industry, be sure to add them as a contact on LinkedIn or a friend on Facebook. Store their e-mail in your personal directory. You never know when the time might come to ask for a recommendation, an informational job interview or an in-person chat. As long as you remember to be genuine while building these relationships, you'll foster an entirely new network of people who could help you out along the way.

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