The four stages of mastering Twitter

Love it or loathe it, social media has become a vital marketing tool for freelancers and businesses. And in an era of fast-paced change, you’re likely to find yourself under constant pressure to update your knowledge and skills.

While it takes time, patience and support to develop competence and confidence, it’s also helpful to reflect on how you actually learn. What does it take to progress from novice to expert? Juliet Landau-Pope, certified coach and professional organiser, outlines the four stages of mastering Twitter.

Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence

At this initial stage you don’t know what you don’t know. Sceptics tend to dismiss Twitter as trivial, a passing fad, or a waste of time. “What could I possibly convey about my business in just 140 characters?” they ask. In retrospect, my own initial reluctance to engage with Twitter was based more on ignorance than informed choice. It all seemed rather daunting so rather than explore and experiment, I preferred to deny and detract.

But times have changed and Twitter can no longer be ignored. Nowadays, the only people you’re likely to hear expressing these kind of ostrich-like, head-in-the-sand views are celebrities who employ teams of PR professionals to generate publicity by explaining ‘Why I’m Not On Twitter’!

Stage 2: Conscious incompetence 

There comes a point when it’s no longer tenable to remain in the dark about social media. Curiosity may get the better of you. Or perhaps fear of being left behind in a competitive environment. Whatever the impetus, this stage is marked by the realisation that there’s a lot to gain – and motivation to learn.

My interest was sparked a couple of years ago when Lesley Spellman (@ClutterfairyUK) spoke at the conference of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (@apdouk) about  getting started on Twitter. I began to notice how other professional organisers were promoting their services, and was particularly inspired by Rivkah Caroline (@SoBeOrganized) who taught herself to tweet in order to market her first book, From Frazzled To Focused: The Ultimate Guide For Mums Who Want to Regain Their Sanity.

I attended a couple of talks at networking events and spent some time scrolling through the very useful Help section of the Twitter website. Mostly, I consulted with my resident IT consultant (my teenage son) to find out how to create an account, design a profile and launch myself into the weird and wonderful Twittersphere.

Stage 3: Conscious competence         

Once you’ve mastered a few basics, such as how to post Tweets and how to follow other users, it’s not long before you’re hooked. This stage can feel like being admitted to a club where you’re still grappling with the rules, but starting to appreciate the in-jokes. You’re still figuring out how to engage in conversations but now you can laugh at hashtag humour.

Yet this stage is marked by more than a little uncertainty. While you focus on grasping technology, you may not yet have developed your own Twitter brand or personality. You can handle the media but might not yet have mastered the social aspect – how to nurture connections that work for you and your business.

Now that I could tell my RT from my MT, I started to focus on using Twitter more strategically – learning how to use lists, to monitor my followers and to schedule tweets in advance so I could maintain a presence without being glued to a screen all day. And all the while, I continued to marvel at how much more there was to learn, mostly by doing. I also gleaned tips by watching online resources such as David Schneider’s brilliant mini master-class.

Stage 4: Unconscious competence 

By the time you reach this stage, you no longer worry about finding time or content. You’re so accustomed to Twitter that you find yourself thinking, talking or dreaming in 140-character sound-bites! You’ll realise what an expert you’ve become when people turn to you for advice – and you’re able to offer guidance. For some, it’s like falling in love. One of the most eloquent descriptions of this state was written by author Kathryn Schulz in the New York Times.

There’s no doubt that Twitter has become part of my daily routine. I’ve learned to manage the issues of how, when, where and what to tweet. More importantly, I’ve found ways of transforming virtual communication into real-life collaboration – not only finding clients but also sharing ideas, information and inspiration. It was through Twitter that I discovered Talented Ladies Club as well as other channels for promoting my business and enhancing my own professional development.

But while basking in the glory of my twitter success, new challenges are beckoning. When asked if my business appears on Pinterest or Tumblr, my inner ostrich reappears and suddenly I’m back to that first familiar phase of unconscious incompetence.

Give your social media skills a boost

Here’s my advice for anyone keen to acquire new social media skills:

  • Research different platforms – talk to people who use each platform. Find out how others in your field are using social media and learn from their mistakes, as well as their successes.
  • Invest in training – but focus on learning by doing. It’s only by experimenting and imitating others that you’ll build your own confidence and find your own voice on social media.
  • Master one platform at a time – unless you’re hiring someone else to create and manage all your accounts, it will be overwhelming to develop several different skillsets at the same time.
  • Maintain a positive mindset – remember that all beginnings can be tough, that it takes time, patience, practice and support to move from one level of competence to the next. Monitor how your confidence and competence grows – what boosts your motivation and what undermines it.
  • Celebrate success and be proud of your achievements – there’s always more to learn – and there’ll always be people who seem more capable or effective – but try to find satisfaction in the learning process as well as in the results!

Need more help with social media?

You can find plenty more expert advice to help you master social media in these articles:

Juliet Landau-Pope declutters homes and runs clutter coaching groups and workshops to promote time management and organisational skills. She also coaches parents, professionals and teenagers while decluttering their homes. Follow her @jlpcoach and find out more via her website.