Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

They Laughed When I Sat Down to Twitter

Years ago (1926), when novice advertiser John Caples (1900-1990) sat down to write ads, he wrote “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano…But When I Started to Play!”–
In his ad, Caples described the local bar-crowd having fun at the expense of one attention-craving buffoon. But one day things changed.  After a dramatic entrance, this socially inept guy strode to a grand piano in the bar, shook out his silk hanky with a flourish, dramatically dusted the piano keys, then flawlessly played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata–much to the amazement of those who had earlier egged him on.

In just a few minutes, the jokesters in the crowd went from mocking their favorite taunt-target to singing his praises.

Caples’ ad quickly became a model for highly successful direct-mail advertising campaigns.

Some of us, as Twitter newbies, can identify with Caples’ ad character.  As we started to tweet, we more or less bumbled along until we figured out what this form of social media was all about.

A few friends tried Twitter, too, but they just didn’t get it. After three or four tweets to a friend or two, they decided that telephoning and texting were far more efficient. And didn’t they laugh at us when we announced we were “tweeting”?

“What? You? Tweeting on Twitter? What on earth for?

Hold on. Consider these six reasons why we find value in posting mini-messages on Twitter.

1. We make lots of new friends. It’s slow at first, but then it becomes addictive. We connect with a few like-minded people, then snag some of their friends. Then we learn about #hashtags, those seemingly magnetized key words that connect people with common interests. And we join funny-numbered groups like #WANA112, #WANA711, and #WANA1011, led by social media guru Kristen Lamb. (See Kristen’s blog at www.warriorwriters.wordpress.com, read her book We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and find her on Twitter @KristenLambTX.)

Kristen has a heart for newbie tweeters and bloggers. She puts us in a group and spoon feeds us info on how to be successful in our social media endeavors. She constantly reminds us that “We Are Not Alone” (WANA). And she teaches that encouraging others is more important than becoming important ourselves. What can be better than that?
 2. We become better writers. It’s tricky to write a 140 character message on Twitter—12 to 15 words, one or two sentences. How can you say something meaningful in that bit of space? Write more than that, and Twitter tweets back: “You have to be more clever.” And with a chuckle,  we reword the tweet; choose better, shorter words; abbreviate; or just delete irrelevant words. In short, we become tighty writees.
 3. We stretch our imaginations. Writer challenges flourish on Twitter as writers encourage each other. Can you write your bio in 140 characters? Can you write a story in exactly 100 words? Can you write a novel in six words or six sentences?  Can you write a novel in 30 days (NaNoWriMo)? Can you write a nonfiction book or article in 30 days (WNFIN-write nonfiction in November)? Poets join the fun in April (NaPoWriMo). These challenges not only provide mutual support, they test and develop our writing ability.
 4. We learn to proofread better. Snarky typos sneak into our writing without so much as polite notice or fake apology. We type, check, and check again. We post a tweet, and there, glaring in its naked arrogance, is a typo, an error in grammar, a misused word. We think faster than we type, and our eyes fail to catch the typos before we hit send. It only takes a few embarrassing errors to prod us into proofing better. Good lesson to learn before we finish that novel or nonfiction book!
 5. We make commitments to our new writer friends to take our writing more seriously. A number of brave writers join #ROW80 and commit writing goals not only to paper but to the others ROWers. With promises to report each week on progress, these writers keep on writing despite the many time-consuming obstacles that crop up in our lives and steal our writing time.

 6. We build our personal brand. Many newbie tweeters and bloggers join Kristin Lamb’s WANA tribe. Not only do we make instant friends, we can ask dumb questions without embarrassment. “Blogging babies” (as Kristen calls us) further along the blogging trail help us with their own new-found expertise. These friends become our first readers, our first commentators, our first subscribers. And they become plain good friends.

Jeff Bullas (www.JeffBullas.com) suggests other business-related reasons for tweeting in his blog post, “10 Reasons Why You Should be Using Twitter….” His reasons relate primarily to business and focus on Twitter as a major marketing tool. But we newbies are happy just to be writing, making new friends, and having fun in the process. Maybe later we’ll worry about making some money.

We mastered Twitter, and now we’re starting to blog. Don’t laugh. We can do this!

Here’s someone else who was teased by his friends. George Formby (1904-1961), British singer, songwriter, actor, comedian played his banjolele and sang “They Laughed When I Started to Play.” I thought you might get a chuckle out of this video clip.


YOUR TURN: How did your friends and family react when you started to tweet and blog?

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24 thoughts on “They Laughed When I Sat Down to Twitter

  1. Great post!! My mom was actually on Twitter before I was, and my dad is also there. The only response I get from them is that I tweet far too much. 🙂
    For a couple years, I didn’t tweet, I simply followed celebs and news stations. When I started tweeting as a writer, I kept the accounts separate, trying to keep separation between my personal and professional sides. I also was worried about the follower to following ratio that I had heard so much about. Eventually, I found myself tweeting from the wrong account and just combined them into my original account. I decided that was easier, and I didn’t care if people know that I follow a whole bunch of celebs from the 80s and 90s, or that I have a bit of a crush on Jim Cantore from the weather channel. It is just part of who I am, so why shouldn’t it be part of my online persona? 😉

    • Thanks, Susi. I, too, have interesting Twitter friends. I am not sure how some of them have gotten on my list, but there they are. We are only a few key strokes away from the greatness of others. It’s fun to tag along! I have met so many writer friends on Twitter; that encourages me to write more. And I follow Dan Skeldon, our local weather man. Dan has a great dog named Bailey, and together they report on what’s happening at the beach–a topic frequently on my mind.

  2. I’m the lone Tweeter in my family. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, but tweeting does become addictive. And, yes, they laugh.

    I, too, love meeting all the great writers that are out there. Not into the blogging as much yet. It takes more time to write a blog and be sure it’s totally error-free. I am working on blogging more though.

    Thanks for a great blog topic.

  3. Great post Janice!

    I agree. Blogging and Twitter have made me a much better writer. I’m more careful about what I say and how I say it. (I’m still trying to figure out #hashtags, though.)

  4. Hi Jacqui, Thanks for your comments. I am still learning about hashtags, but I follow all the wana hashtags on Tweetdeck. It’s hard to keep up with the general running commentary on Twitter, so the hashtags help me focus in on particular groups and comments. I’ve been getting to know a lot of writers there.

  5. I found Twitter very intimidating at first. I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would, but am still frustrated by the 140-character limit. Brevity has never been my strong suit, but if it finds its way into my writing & editing, that will be a good thing. LOVED this post – GREAT job!!

  6. Thanks, Elaine. I have found Twitter to be so much fun. Of course, it pulls me away from other things I should be doing. But hey, I’m retired. Wasting time is not only a privilege, it’s a responsibility! Seriously, I do work one day a week in teen rehab teaching computer applications, and various other days are eaten up with family matters (eldercare), church activities, and writing (well, thinking about writing). I love that frog on your blog page! He makes me smile.

  7. They laughed and continue to laugh but only because they are unsure what to make of it all. My husband tells people I’m a “Twit” just to get a laugh, but I can tell that over time, the term has become more of a compliment than a curiosity. He sees and hears how Twitter has served me (mostly emotionally although perhaps one day financially) and how happy I am making all of these new connections, some with people whom I’ve been searching for lately, other writers trying to figure out how to get their words in front of more than just family and friends. This post really resonated with me. I look forward to reading more and will say hi on Twitter (I think I already follow you :)).

    • Thanks, Sara. Yes, my husband chuckles about my Twitter use, but he also see that I enjoy making new friends. I have found it encouraging, amusing, and challenging. I love seeing how widely bloggers’ interests vary, and I feel that I am learning something new with each blog I read. See you on Tweetdeck!

  8. Great post, Janice! And thank you for putting the link where I could find it! lol… 🙂 My husband still laughs at my twittering, but I think he’s ok with it…deep down!

    • Thanks for your help, Laird! I heard my husband make a positive comment about my blog after church. I thought he wasn’t paying much attention to it. Now I am working on Triberr. Always something to learn.

  9. Few of my peeps are Tweeps, so I had to start on the ground floor with it. I like what you said about it teaching you to write more efficiently. I’m always having to erase and start over — “What!? That can’t be 20 characters over the limit!” Your site is looking good. By the way, how do we follow you on Twitter (nothing in the sidebar).

    • Thanks, Julie. I am having fun looking at other bloggers’ posts, too. I am trying to comment more also. I tried to get a Twitter follow button on my page, but haven’t figured it out yet. Soooooon. Each new thing has its own learning curve! Happy day!

      • Julie, Finally figured out how to add the Twitter Follow. I would like a different one, but this is okay for now. My Twitter address is @janiceheck

  10. Twitter IS pretty amazing, isn’t it? It’s funny. At first I loved it. Now, I have so many followers and follow so many others that I can’t quite keep up with it, and honestly, it’s more of a burden than a pleasure. My family…was like “You’re on Twitter?Really?” I explained why – for my brand – and then they were all like, “Ooooh, okay. That makes sense.” Only my sister and her husband are on Twitter out of my family and friends, but they’re hardly ever on at all.

    • Yes, I see what you mean. I used to be able to thank my followers, but now it’s too hard to keep up with that, although I do try to respond to wana writers. Thanks for the visit.

    • Thanks, April, for the comment. My husband doesn’t get it about Twitter, but he sees that I have fun with it, so he doesn’t bug me about the time I waste use. Oops, gotta go, he’s calling me!

  11. Great post, Janice! I’ve retweeted it!

  12. My sister told me that all this talk about Flickr and blogs sounds like a foreign language. Many of my friends are reluctant to use social media, but I am quite happy using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Oh, and blogging! Just need to figure out better time management!

    • Yes, I agree. Time management is the biggest problem. Twitter and Facebook eat up gobs of time, leaving less for blogging. Hopefully we can figure out a better balance.

  13. Pingback: Favorite Posts from My Archives | JaniceHeck

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