Imagine to be important enough to be told to get your own Twitter account, now, in 2016.

just get on Twitter. Just watch out you don’t get in trouble with anyone, also, make it marketing-friendly. Oh and be fun and also yeah just suddenly ignore all the (sometimes very sensible) reasons you haven’t gotten on Twitter so far. Oh and the audience is going to be both vicious and anonymous, you get more negative feedback to begin with, and they all know more about social media and will laugh if you make mistakes and don’t instantly absorb the culture of it all.

For anyone in any position of either authority or interest who gets told to ‘just get on Twitter’, at this point, it really is difficult. Considering that there are a lot of people being told to ‘just get on Twitter’ every day, they are all people who matter (in different ways), and we want them to not have a terrible time, I think it is important to acknowledge that and actually deal with it.

We now generally agree that Twitter has become a medium for grown-up, professional people to engage with. We also have a grown-up, professional industry telling us how to do it, why to do it, and how not to do it. Much of it is run by marketing-focused digital agencies and PR departments who think of the audience in old-school terms.

If you think about Social Media in these terms, it seems very much like something you should be able to outsource. After all there is a whole industry of communications professionals to do this, right? You, meanwhile, are a business leader (or whatever it is your are), not a performer who should worry about an audience, a writer who worries about words, a marketer who aims to enthuse outsiders for a product.

Suddenly being told to get on Twitter as a person, dealing with writing and answering tweets, really does not fit when you think of Social Media like that. For digital agencies and consultancies to run training on Social Media, which they are often asked to do, does not sit well either. If you’ve ever thought to yourself that should be a different set of professionals to tell you ‘don’t you worry, we can speak for you’ and ‘ah, yes, you want to speak for yourself, of course we can help you achieve that too!’, you are not alone.

The key difference between communications professionals and a personal Twitter account? Very often, communications professionals will think of the content, the ‘what to say’ last. Social media professionals often sub-contract that bit. In digital agencies, the lowest-paid ‘marketing executives’ end up writing the actual status messages. I’ve been offered (and have accepted, once) those positions, often even as freelancer, continents away from what was actually happening.

For a personal presence, the ‘content’ – what you are saying – is exactly the reason you have been asked to have your own account. And that complete reversal in what ‘social media’ means and how it works can mean real conflict with anyone running other people’s communications. And because they are the ‘professionals’, you as someone just starting to have your own Twitter account very often think they must be right and your feelings about this are probably wrong.

And that’s how we’ve ended up with everyone on Social Media just marketing themselves.

Back to what we were talking about. ‘Just’ getting on Twitter. The five main problems someone getting on Twitter now needs to overcome, and should ask for help with:

  • Learning a new way of communicating and developing a personal voice in a new medium
  • Dealing with the Fear of saying or doing something wrong
  • Technical skills
  • Getting rid of preconceptions formed over 6 years of hearing about social media and actually learning to ‘be with people’ in an online space
  • Keeping legal teams happy

The process of becoming comfortable and confident in allowing your actual voice to become text and appear online, as a separate but connected entity, for people to engage with, is not something that happens automatically. Everyone who has become good at it have had practice, most of us are just lucky enough to have had that practice when times are easier and mistakes weren’t so public.

This is how I would deal with the need to practice today, without fear of terrible repercussions: Create a space of trust. Add people who are also going through this process or who have done it and are happy to help. Experience both having a voice and listening and replying to other people in a small circle. Maybe allow someone to facilitate conversations there. It is very easy to do this by just having private Twitter accounts and all following each other, then establishing some basic rules – check in and tweet something twice a day, for example, also read what the others have been saying and reply to it.

Have someone run you through the basic technical skills and set you up on your computer and on mobile, if needed – this, by itself, does not take more than a few hours.

Learning that your fears are justified, that your learning needs space if you are to really develop, and creating and taking advantage of that space is a far more difficult and personal process.

Allow yourself, and others, that space. Don’t ignore the need to feel safe to try new things. Ask for the help you need.

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