I started using Twitter, after thinking about starting for at least six months. It’s very scary to start something new and have no idea what I’m doing.
But I also know that all the excitement in my career has come from my willingness to try stuff that is scary—because I don’t know if I will be good at it and also because I don’t know if it will pan out. So, here are five steps I took to overcome the scariness of trying something new. (And until I get Twitter onto my blog sidebar, here is where you can find my Twitter feed.)
1. Trust the buzz on what’s worth a try.
Many people in my life think Twitter is totally stupid. So for months and months, every time I said something out loud about how much I would like twittering, a cacophony of naysayers would send me in the other direction.
Then Guy Kawasaki told me I should Twitter. And Laura Fitton. And I told them both that I was too busy and I thought they were too busy too. And they told me Twitter is an amazing way to connect with people and I’d love it if I just tried it.
They told me that nonstop, over dinner. And every time I tried to steer the conversation to our sex lives, they would steer it back to Twitter.
After dinner, I went to twitter.alltop.com and started clicking on peoples’ feeds. To be honest, they all looked stupid. Even Guy’s. I didn’t understand Twitter at all. But I knew that if Guy and Laura were both telling me I’d like it, I needed to try it.
2. Don’t hide the lame stuff.
When I started blogging, I had no idea what I was doing, and Dennis Yang walked me through each first step. I asked things like, “Can I list columns that I wrote before I started blogging?” Dennis said, “Yeah, that would be cool.”
I remember him saying those exact words, because I thought it was nuts. I didn’t understand the rules of blogging and in print media, that would have been totally insane. But I did it. And then I spent a month trying to figure out what to blog about.
I wrote very short pieces and I tried to be funny and clever. But gradually I started writing longer and trying less hard to be clever. And I found that when I was back to writing a regular column, just with a lot of links, I was writing my best. Being my true self was writing my best. It’s so hard to find our true selves in a public forum, but really, that’s what we do offline every day when we leave our house.
3. Get mentors.
Social media changes peoples‘ lives. So anyone who is blogging or twittering or uploading photos to flickr would be happy to help because that is what mentors do, they are enthusiastic to help you with what they love. I know this because I am so willing to help someone else start blogging, and I should not have been surprised when Laura (read her Ode to Twitter) spent a whole morning emailing back and forth with me about how to get started on Twitter.
4. Just start doing it.
I was touched that Laura’s final email to me that morning was so similar to the advice I give people who spend months emailing me questions about blogging: Enough. Just get started. You cannot learn about social media by talking about it. You have to do it.
So here’s the advice I give to you, and to myself when I worry that I’m doing Twitter the wrong way: There are no mistakes. There are just ways that make good connections and ways that don’t. Experiment to find the ways that do. And all time is well spent when you are searching for ways to express yourself and make connections. After all, what are we doing here, on earth, if not that? And in this respect, I love Twitter already.