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How I overcame my Twitter guilt

I love to blog, argue about serial commas on LinkedIn and find out what my friends are up to on Facebook. But I don’t get Twitter.

I tweet mostly about new posts, which don’t happen frequently enough to stake my territory. I tried to feel more part of the gang by tweeting more about my upcoming book, Write like you talk–only better.

The trouble with Tweetdeck
I even got around to moving to Tweetdeck. Mind you, I have to keep turning it off, as the sounds and flashes interfere with my concentration.

Sadly, I couldn’t stick to my plan to tweet about the book several times a day, excited though I am.

After all, I don’t yet have a place to send people to buy the book, my tweets weren’t all that profound and they didn’t attract many new followers who weren’t looking to hawk nude photos, singles events or other stuff I’m not interested in.

The angst of selling
Besides, I always feel people should come to me and beg me to work, which may be part of the reason my billings were down last year. It’s a miracle I have run my own business for more than 15 years, bought a house and raised two kids, mostly on my own.

I detest hard sales, which is why I love the content marketing philosophy and blogging so much.

So I stopped the buy-my-book tweets.

Still, I felt guilty, like I didn’t measure up to my colleagues who are up there all the time: Donna Papacosta, Sue Horner, Cyrus Mavalwala, Bernard Hellen and more.

The lack of time
I don’t know where they find the time to tweet, let alone do all that reading. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big reader. But by the time I get through my emailed posts and my RSS feeds, the good stuff has already been hyper-tweeted.

Then there’s all the time consumed by clients, book revising, worrying about my son’s dodgy school attendance and the rest of my life.

I’ve told Donna I could spend most of my day exploring her links. Yet she manages to accomplish a lot of billable work and have adventures in the rioting streets of Athens. Must be a super woman.

Breathing easy
I was so relieved when I heard Rob Campbell, aka Smojoe, speak this week. Don’t worry about Twitter, he told our group, the Professional Independent Communicators, a bunch of Toronto writers, designers and other indies who belong to the International Association of Business Communicators. Long exhale.

Blogging is where the action is, Rob insisted. Let me confess I’d heard Rob before and hired him to help me, as he puts it, pimp my blog. The plan is to finally turn this time-sucking labor of love into the money-making machine I require to send my daughter on that school trip to Paris and replace my aqua bathroom fixtures.

The funniest part of his presentation was when he parodied the countless social media seminars you’ve probably attended that start with a call to raise your hand if you’re on Twitter, Facebook etcetera, then a bunch of Power Point-disenhanced stats about how they’ve grown.

What have you sold on Twitter today?
Raised hands and stats are always impressive, but they’d be a lot more meaningful if they were in response to questions about what people have accomplished, aside from another way to work for no money and have fun.

Sure, there are lots of excellent examples of social media spurring sales for beer and other products intended for that consumer demographic. But I agree with Rob that the benefits for many of us have been over-hyped. It’s the tulip-mania of 2010.

Social media I love
I’m sticking with blogging because it’s an amazing showcase for writers like me. It should also help me sell my book and give me a forum to discuss the feedback I receive.

I’m staying with Facebook too. Many of my friends are strictly social and don’t really care what I do for a living. I will continue to resist their pleas about Farmville and Mafia Wars, which don’t interest me at all. But the updates, photos and groups are a great way to stay in touch.

I may even spend more time on LinkedIn. I’ve yet to attract any business that way, but I enjoy connecting with people who have the same interests as me. Maybe I’ll find a group to help me live with the aqua bathroom fixtures a little longer.

I’ll continue to tweet my new posts, after 3.00 p.m. on Friday, as a study Cyrus tweeted advised, when people are goofing off and more likely to read and retweet you.

But that’s it, for now anyways. Twitter, you are the acquaintance I talk to briefly and occasionally, not a friend I’m fired up about hanging out with all the time.

Don’t take that personally, Twitter. It’s all about me, not you.

You are your web site

Earlier this week I was reviewing the web site of a company that helps the children and spouses of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

These people, as I know from personal experience, are ready to explode from the stress that builds up from trying to prevent Dad from wandering into the ravine or Mom from destroying the bathroom.

When my mother’s degenerative brain disease was getting out of control, I didn’t want to read clinical descriptions of services. I didn’t want to look at happy snaps that reminded me of what life used to be like.

I needed to find someone, right now, who would make sure my chain-smoking mother didn’t burn down the house when my father took a well-needed break on the bike trails. I needed someone strong enough to stand up to her rage. And that was just the beginning.

Talking to the people who run this service was so much better than reading their web site. They were passionate and compassionate, expert and experienced. They understood me and my mother and father and the millions like us. I wish I’d known them when my mother got sick.

Unfortunately, like so many other small business owners, they thought they could write their own web content. After all, they are experts in their field. They have excelled at university, written countless essays and been published in professional journals.

Unfortunately, organizations like these don’t think they can afford to hire a writer, a good one anyways. So what should they do?

Write like they talk. That’s my top piece of advice and the inspiration for the e-book that I’ll be publishing very soon.

Like the Alzheimer’s helpers, most people, especially those with businesses and causes, are quite articulate and emotional when they talk about what they do.

The trouble comes when they treat writing as something utterly divorced from talking, worse still when they forget that web sites are about starting conversations.

Too bad. People like them don’t make money by exploiting the desire to look cool or young or whatever. As anyone who has fallen down the caregiver rabbit hole can tell you, they fill a profound need.

Their site wasn’t all bad, but it needs to be much better so more despairing caregivers can be reassured that there’s quality help available.

So let’s hope they can learn how to write like they talk. Or make enough money to pay someone.

After all, their web site is their introduction to the people who so desperately need them. They are their web site.

Let me entertain you

This post has been updated and moved to

Just write

This post has been revised and moved to

More from Write like you talk–only better

First impressions

First impressions mean everything, whether it’s your first day of kindergarten or the first paragraph of your post.

Hook your readers with a clear summary of your point and a compelling reason to continue.

The art of persuasion

People respond to people, not faceless organizations.

Persuasion directs specific benefits to individuals; inspiration offers higher ideals for the greater good.

More coming soon in the interactive e-book Write like you talk—only better. 3 steps to turn good talkers into great writers.

My top grammar peeve: it’s and its

Read me today on Write to Done, where my I talk about how this frequent mistake can damage your reputation and offer a simple rhyme to help you remember.