Nurturing Twitter

By Rebecca Layton Gunter

Can you explain Twitter to a second grader?

Last week I had my laptop open on the counter. Multiple screens open, multiple browsers, several tabs: all blazing on various websites and platforms. Hunched over my laptop and squinting at the screen, I catch Lucinda, my eight year old daughter out of the corner of my eye. “Whatchadoin’?’ I keep my eyes on the keyboard and try to stay focused. “I’m posting something for Twitter for The Client.” She seems interested and then drops the $10K question.

What Is Twitter?  (And why do we care?)

My mind starts whirring, looking for the way to frame it for the second grade set. It’s a website. It’s a platform. It’s a social media site. Blank stare. It’s a place for people to talk to each other.

“Like SKYPE?” she asks. She’s been on SKYPE with her grandmother, her aunties, her long-away friends. Pursed lips; knitted brows.

Twitter is a website. People go there to type messages. Those messages are about things that they are thinking, saying, and doing. They post small notes and pictures about their observations on the world or things they want other people to think about or to do.

Clicked. Interest. Thought bubble.

“What are you saying in your message?” I am posting for The Client. Because I get paid to. Because my boss has promised to make sure that there are always interesting things for people to read. People who want to know what The Client has to say.  Because outsource.

“Well, what do they want to say?” They want people to buy something. They want people to talk about them. They want people to become interested in their company and then seek out other things to learn (and feel) about their company.

Then I showed her how I nurtured my own Twitter and how I post about tips on marketing, what’s happening in DC, and spotlight on exceptional people.

I showed Lucinda her school’s official Twitter page. Whuuuaaaat? See, here are things about school being closed, or interesting things in education, or what teachers are doing. Here is some stuff about how fun it is to live on Capitol Hill.

Then I showed her another feed about her school. Some clever parent — a marketing person no doubt — was running an alternate at  @SWSelevator and it’s hilarious. It’s written from the perspective of a personified busted elevator. Lousy with clever, hilarious tweets about life, this dysfunctional piece of equipment was holding it down in a public school full of promise but low on budget.

She starts scrolling down past quips of prose about the unshoveled sidewalks and musings about the students the elevator encountered all day.

When she stops hunkering over the text, I can see her itching to walk away. I’d like to think that we had a lightbulb moment. It's hard to tell if Lucinda suddenly got bored, if she’s ready leave the elusive world of Twitter for another day. Probably for another five years.  

What I do know is that explaining an incredibly vast, complex social phenomenon to a second grader is a hella good way to wrap your own head around it.

If you’re still not quite sure what to make of Twitter, it’s tremendously eye-opening to someone who doesn’t have the slightest idea what it’s all about. Clear out of the noise, and “should be”s, and the “what should I say?” and just thinking about “What is the point?”

For example, for The Client, it’s a place to spread brand awareness by leaving love notes about their industry, products, and people, but for me, it’s a place to talk to other people interested in branding and marketing and spotlight on folks rocking their brands.

Here’s how:

  • Show your social media platform to your niece, son, or technophobe.
  • Explain to them what it’s all about and how you use it.
  • Show them ones that you like and one you don’t.
  • Get a grip on how they work a brand voice. Notice how the great ones have a few topics into which they dive deep and long, not lots of topics that may or may not be relevant.
  • Coach them on how to engage with an online audience.

Then let them drive the keyboard and rock your message. In 140 characters or less.