Twitter Is A Community—Why Most Artists, Authors, Pastors & Celebrities Don’t Get It

Twitter is a community. Community defined is a social group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.

But let’s face it, most creatives are unaccustomed to functioning in true community.

Most artists detest order and rational thinking. Almost everything they do is spontaneous and sporadic. At best, they are somewhat organized—at worst they cannot function in a rational world.

Authors are lone rangers. If they get anything done, it usually is accomplished in isolation. At best, they are socially awkward—at worst they come across as intellectual and social elitists.

Most pastors suffer from a large dose of entitlement and cultural irrelevancy. As one adage states: They are so religiously minded they are no earthly good. At best, they overcompensate and are “religiously correct”—at worst they are despots.

Celebrities don’t know who to trust. They are afraid to let the few trustworthy people they know—that will relate to them for who they are instead of what they do—come inside their inner circle. Who can blame them? The celebrities I know have been repeatedly burned and taken advantage of. At best, they trust a very limited amount of people—at worst they are desperately alone in a world of adoring fans.

These factors (and many more) make it virtually impossible for these people to understand Twitter.

Here are a few suggestions—since by virtue of the road I’ve traveled, I can (painfully) relate to each of these creative lifestyles. As my friend would say, “I resemble the remarks above.” I have been an artist my entire life, an author the past four years, a pastor for twenty-nine years, and a “celebrity” on center stage and television each week at two mega-churches with tens of thousands of fans, I mean, parishioners for fifteen years.

You will never truly be a respected and functioning member of the Twitter community if:

1) The rare Twitters you post are only about your latest blog post, book, accolade or accomplishment.

2) You never reply or retweet anyone unless you have a vested interest in them.

3) You only follow a few people, despite hoards of people following you.

4) You don’t say thanks to people who brag on you, retweet you, or mention you.

5) All your tweets are mostly superspiritual, superpolitical, or superegotistical.

6) You have someone else Twittering for you.

7) You Twitter intensively for several days, then disappear for weeks.

8) You are narcissistic, intellectually snobbish, or boring.

9) Your Twitter persona is different from your real personality.

10) You only Tweet quotes, spiritual sayings or Bible verses.

11) You are culturally irrelevant.

12) ?

13) ?

What say you?

What other suggestions should we add to help our creatives truly join and bring value to this new and extraordinary community we call the Twittersphere?

57 Responses to “Twitter Is A Community—Why Most Artists, Authors, Pastors & Celebrities Don’t Get It”

  1. It’s funny that in your number list, the number 8 turned into an emoticon with sunglasses ;)

  2. Good thoughts. Facebook is even worse! I know pastors who love to tweet, but won’t do facebook. They would never admit it, but twitter at least gives you the possibility of one way communication – to promote your latest blog or book or drop the name of the person you had lunch with. Facebook requires you to be in relationship. It’s sad – both mediums provide such potential for ministry if you’re willing to truly connect and interact.

  3. Anyway, I enjoyed the post!

  4. Great post Randy. I know this isn’t really what you asked but #4 on that list jumped out at me. I’ve been thinking lately how “thank you” seems to be going away. Those two little words can have such power to make someone else feel really appreciated.
    Jason´s last blog post ..Book Review- Gracenomics by Mike Foster

  5. Kathleen Overby October 4, 2010 at 13:28

    The first time you thanked me direct message for a RT – it astonished me. Simple acknowledgement from a somebody to a nobody? Unheard of. You consistently continue
    to respond in such a manner, like you’re grateful, instead of entitled to ‘followers’. What a novel idea….

    I have found great encouragement in your writing on all the fronts mentioned above. If you took a shape it would be a balanced octagon. Rare dimensions indeed.

  6. 12) You complain a lot about everything.

    13) You don’t interact w/your followers. Random observations and pithy quotes without any interaction sort of defeats the purpose of social media. It’s a conversation, not a monologue.

    Twitter is not for everyone. If done badly, it can hurt your public image more than help.
    katdish´s last blog post ..Billy Coffey versus the grocery store by Billy Coffey

    • @katdish, Yes. Ouch, and i tend to complain too much myself. I must do better!!

      Your quote is powerful!! “Twitter is not for everyone. If done badly, it can hurt your public image more than help.”

  7. That is one thing I respect about you Randy! You engage us no matter where we are on the ladder of success compared to you.

    Thanks for always thanking me when I re-tweet you, it’s encouraging!!
    Rocco´s last blog post ..Dear Future Me

  8. This is great stuff Randy and good advice all around. I still get puzzled by people that turn their nose up at Twitter or laugh it off by saying, “Nobody wants to know what I am doing all day.” Well that’s true, but that’s not what Twitter is about.

    They mistakenly believe it is this narcissistic application that only says, “Look at me and what I am doing!.” And yes, if people send out tweets like you pointed out, that’s all it becomes.

    I’ve heard people say, “Twitter is about conversation” and that’s true to a degree, but I like your assessment of it being a “community” even better. I am living that out.

    Tomorrow I will be driving up to Atlanta for the Catalyst Conference. I won’t just be attending. I will be working with the Catalyst Backstage crew doing photography. This doesn’t happen if not for Twitter and the connections I made with the 8Bit crew. I’m happy to say I’ve become personal friends with people I’ve met on Twitter. It’s been amazing.

    The youth pastor at my church in Florida is planting a church in Nashville. I also happen to know a young man that is moving from St. Louis to Nashville got them together because I know they can both help each other.

    I just wish more people would learn what they could unlock through the power of a tool that limits communication to 140 characters!
    Jay´s last blog post ..Andy- Emily and Mason Cangialosi

    • @Jay, Great observations, Jay. Yes, Twitter had much to do in firmly establishing our “Campus” community in Franklin. It is a powerful and amazing tool.

  9. I use Facebook because it’s the most collaborative way for me to keep tabs on and communicate with friends from all the phases of my life. I continue to keep a MySpace account, though I seldom use it, because it is the only way to keep in touch with a few friends who refuse to go to another format. Twitter is an absolute bother to me and I only keep an account to say hello to some folks who solely use that as their communication format. For those that love Twitter… I think it’s great they’ve found a way to communicate that suits them.

    In the real life community I live in we’ve had an ongoing discussion about an “official” communicating platform. Ideally, it would be great to get everyone on Twitter, Facebook, or something of the like. The realistic view understands that not all people communicate in the same way and it would be absurd to expect everyone to do so. I don’t aspire to be a “respected and functioning” member of the Twitter community mostly because I don’t have the time to focus on that format of communication Perhaps I’m intellectually snobbish or culturally irrelevant, but mostly I just choose to communicate in a different way.

    • @Eddie, I did not intend to imply that everyone should use Twitter to communicate. Just trying to explain why creatives don’t get it.

      You have chosen not to be a part of that specific community. that is your prerogative.

      I love your “real-life” communities idea (and think it will happen soon) for an aggregation of the real life of social networks to happen.

  10. I think this can be said of Facebook too. Too many times it has been used as a platform to preach a one sided message to hundreds, if not thousands, of followers just because you “friended” them. How can you really be a friend if all you do is talk, and don’t take the time to listen and cultivate the friendship & community that comes along with that. It’s for this reason I routinely prune my list of “following” and “friends”. If there is no personal interaction, all it becomes is more noise that clutters up my already noisy life. And as a creative, too much noise can kill the creative spirit sometimes, and I will be the first to admit when I need my quiet.

    Like many others, I appreciate the RT’s, thanks, and mentions, and the exchange that takes place with you on Twitter.
    Michelle´s last blog post ..Update to Save Blue Like Jazz

  11. Great post, Randy! Many people (esp. pastor-types…hey, I am one too!) seem to use twitter/fb as a platform to spread their msg. only and never even seem to read what others are doing, much less comment or interact. It’s a one-way conversation that totally misses the point of social media!

  12. I don’t think I can add to the fantastic comments here. Not to mention, your post.

    As I’ve studied creatives over the years, it’s occurred to me that the A-listers and beyond seem to arrive in packs, thanks to their respective communities. Your great post on the Medici family spoke to this.

    In Literature, you have the Transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau, etc.) , the Lost Generation (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, etc.), the Harlem Renaissance (Hughes, Hurston, etc.), the Beat Generation (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs), the Inklings (Lewis, Tolkien, etc.) and my list could go on.

    It’s happened in the music world, the art world, the business world and beyond too (Tom Peters and Ken Blanchard were fraternity brothers.)

    We’re designed for community. And greatly benefit from it.
    Keith Jennings´s last blog post ..What do you like on the side

  13. Well Stink! This confirms that I am not very good at the twitter community thing. I am a multiple offender.

    I am a former pastor, scared to death of open forum vulnerability. I have a need to please that I desperately want to shed. I am scared to death of offending and have learned to carefully edit potential controversy… as well as authenticity, vulnerability, self.

    Randy, you inspire me, encourage me and give me hope.

  14. 12) You tell other people how they should use Twitter
    Joshua Blankenship´s last blog post ..Growing is Not the Same Thing as Succeeding

  15. i just think its important to keep the social in social media. being relational and remembering that if you have 10 followers or 10,000 followers…you are not above one single person.

    and honestly…im not fond of the term “follower”. i think that goes to peoples heads.

    • Jan Noel-Smith October 4, 2010 at 21:36

      @tam, I agree .. I’m not really comfortable as a “follower” .. I derive a great deal of inspiration and motivation from those I “follow” .. but the term makes me feel more like a “stalker” .. I don’t throw my two cents in often, but I am always encouraged when someone like Randy responds kindly.

      I’m often surprised when someone follows me and do always check them out. If they seem to be following me because they want to sell me something, i don’t engage. If they’re a real person, I engage sparingly. .. My work duties are such that I see a Twitter feed all day, but don’t feel comfortable responding while at work, which limits engagement as well.

    • @tam, Love it, tam. Keep the social in social!! Thanks for joining the conversation.

  16. Randy, thanks for the good post. I think a lot of people don’t get the interactivity of Twitter, in particular those people who are used to communicating in only one direction like a lot of pastors, celebrities, and marketing people often do. You already mentioned most of the things I would suggest but a couple more…

    12) You never/rarely check @replies or DMs

    13) You don’t think of Twitter as an opportunity to serve/help/empower others by looking for and retweeting or mentioning great things other people are doing/saying.
    Paul Steinbrueck´s last blog post ..Website Tips Video- Adding a Table to Your Site

  17. I think the post says it all. Social media is a two-way dialogue. It’s not always what a person says, but being a good listener. I forgot about that recently while being a political candidate. I spent more time talking up one subject. I even saw a conversation that talked about friends returning to normal once the election was over. One guy stopped following but said he would refollow once the politics was done. And true to the guy’s word, he refollowed me. It reminded me that consideration of the individual listening must take place in Twitter (and also Facebook).

  18. Good post. I think there are caveats to 2,3,4…where the others might be considered “commandments” I’d look at those as suggestions. A counter-example that shows this in my mind is Bart Millard. He interacts but rarely RT/@replies. It’s clear he reads every @ and that’s enough to encourage me to interact. Also interactions are not limited to @replies/RT’s, but also Direct Messages. Different ppl respond in different ways.

    When it comes to follow-backs I’ve blogged about this. I call it the “follow fallacy.” The celeb who follows all 10,000 of his followers back is not reading the tweets of 10,000 followers. He is reading the tweets of the folks he would be following if not for the “courtesy follow-back,” either through Twitter list, client settings or another Twitter account. + @replies. IOW, they are basically reading the tweets they would be reading if they weren’t doing courtesy follow-backs. Besides, if you’re saying “those who don’t follow everyone back doesn’t _get_ the purpose of Twitter” then I guess @ev and @biz (Twitter’s founders) don’t “get” Twitter.

    As far as RT’s/@’s of thanks, it’s a proper courtesy thing for certain but I’ve been around Twitter long enough to remember when you could see every Tweet of someone you follow, even @’s to ppl you didn’t follow. I followed someone who would personally thank each person who RT’ed something of theirs or said something kind and at times I’d hit “refresh” and get a page full of thank yous from this one person to everyone else. While obviously things are better now that you can only see @’s to common followers, that held me up from doing personal “thx” on a regular basis for a while after…

    Generally I’m right behind you, as I already said on Twitter. Combine 2,3,4 with a simple “interact w/ your community” and you’ve got me. ;-) I know from my perspective I tend to promote those who interact/engage/go “off script,” not necessarily because they are stroking my ego but because I’m appreciating them more as people. They make me want them to succeed.

    • @Dan Gross, Thanks, Dan. Very interesting. It is late and I want to re-read your comment in the morning when I am fresh and i will be able to dialogue more fluently.

      But definitely, thanks for your perceptive, thoughtful and in-depth reply.

  19. Great post, Randy! I would add these 2:
    1. ALL you tweet are RTs of people recommending you or giving you props.
    2. ALL you tweet are RTs from other people in general.
    Grant Jenkins´s last blog post ..All The Poor &amp Powerless

  20. Great post, Randy! I read it because I happened across your link to it from Twitter… :o)

    I think there are some exceptions to one or two of the rules you posted above, but those are few and far between and such exceptions certainly don’t apply to your everyday tweeters / individuals.

  21. Hey Randy,

    Forgive my ignorance on this but how do you know when someone has retweeted you? If I knew that I’d gladly say thanks.

    Bob

  22. Randy, just to throw a spanner in the works, here’s the latest musing on Twitter from John Mayer. You know that he threw himself in to Twitter and held nothing back, and then he just stopped. Here’s what he says…

    “It occurred to me that since the invocation of Twitter, nobody who has participated in it has created any lasting art. And yes! Yours truly is included in that roundup as well.”

    Here’s the link to the blog post. http://johnmayer.com/blog/permalink/5620

    Interesting eh? What do you think?

  23. ChandraHester October 5, 2010 at 12:10

    Randy, I have been doing twitter all wrong. Thanks for the post. I hope to do better and find more friends.

  24. Randy, this post may have come at just the right time for me.

    The future of my twitter account is uncertain. I have been an active twitterer for nearly two years with the goals being to increase my audience and to benefit people by encouraging thought and conversation. I have been prompted to consider how I am moving toward those goals.

    What I discovered was that I am at a standstill. Many people (including some real life friends) who had enjoyed my tweets previously had unfollowed me. I’m a big boy. I can take it but I wanted to learn from this: what message were they trying to send me? The best answer I could come up with was that I was wasting their time. This was more than an opinion. It was a verdict.

    I went back through a year’s worth of tweets and deleted ones trivial and others I wasn’t especially proud of. I made notes of what I didn’t like, what I didn’t want to repeat, and what was embarrassing. The voice I had found seemed to be returning as an echo. I resolved not to return until I knew what I would be doing there.

    I have decided in the meantime to spend more time developing my blog. And in an effort to keep in touch with twitter friends, I have violated your numero uno.

    I’m a creative and I don’t get it.

  25. i recently had a friend ask if the discussions at Seeker Solutions had all moved to twitter, and i told him most of what i glean for worship ideas comes from twitter and the relationships that i have formed with people. and i believe there are some amazing real relationships. i do tweet my blog posts, but view twitter as an avenue to communication rather than self-promotion. if i’m really doing good work, then others will promote what i’m doing.
    in my opinion, many of the “rockstar” Christians who are on here are no different from other “celebrities” in regards to how they use twitter. i don’t need a sermon from you, i just want to know that you are like me. Thank God for people like Pete Wilson who use twitter to engage culture.
    thanks Randy. again great thoughts.
    it’s like you say…
    “The Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy nor Roman….discuss…”
    Chuck Harris´s last blog post ..another poem…

  26. Scott Stratten recently stopped in Nashville on his multi-city book tour for his new “Unmarketing”. My greatest take away way how he summed up Twitter. “It’ not a tool for marketing TO people, it’s a tool for communicating WITH people”.

    Your post reminded me of that.

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