At this point it's hard to predict the long-term repercussions of life in the Twitterverse – a world where 140-character bursts of self-expression have replaced meaningful, personal interaction and followers are the new friends. Still, for anyone trying to make a mark in this modern age, the current message is clear: Tweet or be Tweeten. With that in mind, we offer some pointers on how to increase your online popularity and influence. #howto #worlddomination
Diversify your portfolio
Imagine your digital presence as that mythical "perfect dinner party" that is always going on at Barbara Walters's apartment. To paraphrase Babs: Fill a table with like-minded, similarly employed people, and you'll probably be bored before the soup is cleared, but throw a banker beside a gossip blogger beside a beat poet, and you'll need a hose to put out the conversational sparks. Translated to the digital sphere this means be sure to follow and friend all sorts of people – local and international, Nobel Peace Prize winners and your funny friend from the gym. "The people you follow are a reflection of who you are," says Michael Crom, executive vice-president of Dale Carnegie, which recently released an updated version of its classic self-help tome, called How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. "Following a wide variety [of people]shows that you are a multi-dimensional person with many interests."
Tweet as you want to be Tweeted
Social media has taken navel-gazing to new highs (or rather lows), with many Tweeters and Facebookers offering up personal minutia as if they were details from Plato's Republic: "Can't wait for the weekend" or "I love being a mom" are examples of the drivel that passes for broadcast-worthy information. "The line between sharing stories from your personal life and self-indulgence is a hazy one," says Toronto-based media personality and frequent Tweeter George Stroumboulopoulos (a.k.a. @strombo). There is a critical difference between "Stuffed after delicious Thanksgiving dinner" and "Just picked up half-price organic turkey at @VanMarkets." Neither will have the Pulitzer committee calling, but the latter is relaying information that might actually be useful.
Take an interest in others
An age-old golden rule updated for the digital age: To make a friend, you need to be a friend first. "If you expect people to take an interest in what you have to say, it's a good idea to do the same," Mr. Crom advises. In other words, be a social-networking butterfly – read other people's Tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts and comment on them in a way that shows you are engaged. The channels of communication run both ways, and unless the object of your online affection is @justinbieber (who might be busy with his 13 million other followers) chances are your interest will be reciprocated. When e-expressing yourself, it's also a good idea to include as many Twitter handles as possible. Maybe Margaret Atwood is your great white whale. Scoring her as a follower is probably a long-term project, but Tweeting along the lines of: "My favourite line in @margaretatwood's latest: [insert line here] will put you on the radar of other Atwood fans, and could earn you a bunch of new followers.
Silence your online Eeyore
Avoid the inclination to complain on Twitter because 1) unless you're @denisleary or @OscarTheGrouch, people aren't that interested in your gripes, and 2) it likely says more about you than it does about whoever you're whining about. "Complaining about your partner is incredibly boring for other people," says Mr. Stroumboulopoulos. "If we know who 'someone' is, we're embarrassed for them, and if not, we're embarrassed for you." On Twitter, as in life, people are attracted to others who seem positive and upbeat. "We talk about a smile online, which is a good way to think of it," says Mr. Crom.
Don't do this: Tweet when you're angry, drunk or engaged in actual human contact, like a dinner date. The first two could land you in trouble later and the latter could get you ditched on the spot.
Special to The Globe and Mail