I can distinctly recall a conversation I had with a friend in the spring of 2009 regarding a too-long text message that sent in two parts.

“Don’t you know that everything needs to be tweet-sized now?” he joked.

“Twitter is stupid. If I want to read status updates all day long, I’ll just stick with Facebook. I don’t really get this microblogging that all the kids are doing these days,” I replied.

But then a few months later, something happened that changed my mind: Michael Jackson died.

(That might seem like a giant leap in logic, but stick with me, here.)

Michael Jackson died and it broke the Internet. It took several tries to load webpages, but when I finally got on Facebook, I saw status updates that said things like, “The King is dead. R.I.P.” and “RIP Michael Jackson.” I started frantically searching the pages I could access, but news sites online were reporting the same things that their television counterparts were telling me: MJ was hospitalized, but nothing else.

Later, once the Internet returned to its fully functional state, I started reading all of the “Where were you when you found out Michael Jackson was dead?” accounts and was baffled at how many people said they found out on Twitter. Confronting my own friends who had posted to Facebook, I discovered that they’d found out on Twitter, too. I was intrigued by this dissemination of news via eyewitness accounts, though still a bit reluctant to believe everything I’m told on the Internet. In any case, I signed up for an account the next day.

And for a year and a half, I used that account in basically all the wrong ways. For starters, all I did was post status updates. I gained a following — people with shared interests, sure, but mostly just those looking to increase their numbers — and I did build a few Twitter relationships. I shared interesting articles… sometimes. Mostly it was about me floating out in the cyberspace ether, blabbering on about mostly nothing. Still, I was fascinated by the way Twitter spread news and how quickly it happened.

When there came a point that I began to take social media much more seriously and use it to help me in my job search, I started to become aware of what it meant to have a personal brand. It wasn’t just something one could “get” — I knew it had to be created. I also knew that it wasn’t happening with my Twitter account.

So I went back to the drawing board and created a new Twitter account (@writingrenee), a fresh start that would allow me to practice all of the lessons I’d been learning. In three months I’ve already surpassed my original account in followers. My followers on the new account are also not just number-seekers, so I feel more like I’m networking (a definite plus for a job-seeker). What’s more, I feel like I actually belong to a community.

And though it feels like I’m talking to myself a lot, I know that I have to crawl before I can wobble, wobble before I can walk, and walk before I can run. The growth needs to be organic to be meaningful. As I continue asserting myself and trying to engage others in some type of exchange, more begin to oblige. It’s happening as slowly as I knew it would, but it’s happening.

That all says nothing of the absolutely invaluable lessons (industry and otherwise) I’ve learned from the people I follow and look up to who write informative, interesting blog posts and share relevant articles. Whereas I once thought Twitter was for the birds (pun intended), I know now that it’s an incredibly powerful tool that allows me to converse with friends, make new ones, network, and, most importantly, learn. Twitter is an education in itself if you’re following the right people. With so many people coming together in one place, you can really learn anything.

And speaking of the great people I’ve encountered there, you might want to check out…

  • @MargieClayman, whose kindness and helpfulness is always appreciated, and whose blog is always thought-provoking.
  • @markwschaefer, who, despite a large following, continues to engage and interact. His blog {grow} teaches me something new all the time.
  • Marcus Sheridan (@TheSalesLion), who shares interesting content and runs a wonderful blog.
  • Alexandra Samuel (@awsamuel), a social media blogger who is full of character. Her blog is also fantastic.

And, of course, feel free stop by and say hi to me, @writingrenee. I’m always interested in chatting!

Image Source: Wikipedia