In its five years of existence, Twitter has continued to defy traditional communication barriers that have existed for hundreds of years between people all over the world. Other platforms may have allowed interaction between people that hadn’t been able to talk to each other before, but the simplicity of Twitter has leveled the playing field in all forms of communication, and it’s awesome.
Revolutions are happening, consumers have a new voice to communicate with brands, and anyone – I mean anyone – can start up a conversation with anyone else. Yeah, it’s cool to watch some of my friends have the opportunity to talk to their favorite music artists, actors, or professional athletes, but, in my opinion, Twitter presents an even cooler opportunity for those who use it properly.
I will finish my four year degree at the University of Oregon in four months, and because of Twitter, I will enter the workforce with more than just an education. I will enter the working world with amazing mentors, advice-givers, friends in the industry, and relationships with people who are doing what I want to do and are generous about sharing how they got to where they are.
It does take some guts, and maybe a little courage, and there’s definitely the possibility of some failure at times, but using Twitter as a tool for finding generous real-life teachers and mentors is ground-breaking for rookies and veterans alike.
John Wilpers is a long-time master of the media industry with a past of doing everything from reporting to being an editor in chief. He’s now president of his own media consulting firm in Boston, and he really values mentoring, boosting career paths, and having a mutually beneficial relationship with his mentees.
Wilpers has even developed a four-step, career-boosting mentor/mentee program for the interns that help him recruit bloggers for various news sites. He described the relationship as something that “becomes a collection of fascinating personalities who are all really excited about what you do and gets everyone excited about what each other does.” Not only are valuable relationships built, but it’s also a learning experience. One thing that really stuck out to me from my conversation with Wilpers was that he suggested something I didn’t expect. He said we should do the exact thing I fear: once the conversation with the mentor candidate has begun, just ask them, “Will you be my mentor?”
On that note, from the experiences of some friends here at TNGG, and my own history with mentors like Edward Boches and John Wilpers, here are a few stories, tips, and pieces of advice on how to successfully find a mentor online.
1. Be curious and clever. I promise you, curiosity did not kill the cat. If it did, I would have been dead a long time ago. Ask questions, do research, and even lurk awhile. Finding and understanding the right person to be a mentor on Twitter often means learning how they engage and interact with people. It’s important to understand their personalities and what they find interesting online so that you can spark conversation with them.
“It’s really awkward and difficult to reach out to someone you don’t know, but it’s almost expected on a platform like Twitter and most people truly are interested in connecting with enthusiastic young people,” said Christine Peterson, 23, TNGG’s Community Manager, who now works in PR. “The biggest challenge is simply a fear of rejection, or a fear of looking desperate. All I can say is, get over it.”
2. Cherish generosity (that means you be generous, too). This is a big one. Not only do you want to find generous people to talk to, but you should have something to offer them too. Sometimes friendship and valuable conversation is enough.
Dylan Kylmenko, 24, now a copywriter at Mullen, remembers how his conversation with Boches started. One day in the early years of Twitter a friend retweeted Boches saying something along the lines of, “New to this thing, any young Creatives out there?” and the rest is history. Kylmenko responded and a virtual mentorship ensued between the two, resulting in Kylmenko’s job. Sometimes, all you have to do is join the conversation.
3. Have an authentic, unique voice. You’ve heard it before: find a niche. Talk about your niche, your passion, but don’t lose your authentic voice. There are plenty of Twitter accounts out there already tweeting the latest news and trending topics, there isn’t any glory left in those tweets. If you’re going to share something, make it valuable, and find a way to make it relevant to you. I’ve found there is a very human or IRL (in real life) factor to Twitter. Now obviously Twitter isn’t “IRL,” but sounding like a real-life person out there like everyone else is important – that’s what you are anyway, right?
“Connections and voice are key. Often I see people trying too hard to fit in or be buddy-buddy, but twitter is a transparent chatroom. Honesty and authenticity, having a voice and point of view, and showing genuine interest and promise will get anyone far,” said Jesse Brightman, 23, a strategist MIR New York who found a mentor on Twitter.
5. Be relevant and focus on quality over quantity (of tweets). Follow, tweet, retweet. It sounds so simple, but really it’s an acquired skill that takes practice. First of all, just because the person you’re following doesn’t follow you back right away doesn’t mean the cause is lost. Especially in the case of a person with thousands of followers, you need to give them a reason to follow you. By this I mean good conversation, not just a good bio. Have something purposeful to share, but be smart about it. You don’t need to overdo it. Trust me, I have before, and it doesn’t work.
6. Making someone laugh goes a long way. I’m not saying to sacrifice your niche or genuine interest to become a sarcastic comedian on Twitter, but sometimes making someone crack a smile can be your “in.” People remember you when you make them smile. However, understand the person’s sense of humor before hand.
I hope this is helpful and worth while. There is nothing to be afraid of. I mean, what have you got to lose?