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Twitter 101 for us outdoorsy types

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
6 min read

So, for some time, my climbing friends have teased me about my twittering… when I pick up my Blackberry, my climbing partner says “tweet tweet!”… One of my Twitter friends, @benwills, who I hadn’t met before in real life, came out for a visit, earning himself the nickname Ben Wills from the Internet during out Tieton trip this summer… I’ve even had friends repeat my Myspace status as a joke when talking about never hearing from me because of work and climbing: it’s “Oh, just follow me on Twitter already.”

But, I’ve found real value in Twitter, from a bunch of different angles. Here’s a quick rundown of what Twitter is, why I make time to Twitter, and why you should too.

Update – and, here’s information about a project some of us are working on to help climbers find each other on twitter…

What is Twitter?
Twitter is a free “microblogging” or “social network” service that lets you find and “follow” friends, as well as publish your own micro-updates. Each published twitter message is a “tweet,” limited to 140 characters of text. In addition, you can also reply to other users’ tweets and direct message other users. I won’t go into exhaustive detail — that’s been done before, and better, by wikipedia — but that gives you a quick overview.

How do I use Twitter?
Personally, I use Twitter from my computers through the web interface at http://www.twitter.com; I also use TwitterBerry on my Blackberry when I’m out and about; and, when I don’t feel like using TwitterBerry, I can send tweets, direct messages and replies via SMS text messaging as well. Finally, I have my Twitter feed going to my Facebook status, so that when I update Twitter, my Facebook status gets updated. I think it’s also going to my Plaxo profile, but I can’t remember, and I’m too lazy right now to log in and check.

Why do I use Twitter?
I don’t recall why I first signed up for Twitter… I think I followed a link from a rock climbing blogger’s “follow me on twitter” and then signed up. I do believe it may have been @tmarkiewicz — the blogger (and all around great guy) behind allclimbing.com. I added the “follow me on twitter” link to my blog, and readers started to sign up. Whenever I come across a rock climber on Twitter, I follow them… and every once in a blue moon, I follow or am followed by one of my “real life” friends (shout out to @markhughes and @lesliehughes among others!).

I tweet my new blog posts; I tweet climbing stories; I tweet about my work day; I tweet about the odd little events that make up my life. I tweet about Hana-the-dog, and I tweet about news and other events that might be of interest to my followers. I’ve made “real life” friends on Twitter — like any other friendships, it doesn’t happen overnight, but over time, even just through short messages and reading each others’ blogs, you do get to know each other. This morning, when I sat down to catch up on an email conversation with a friend I met on Twitter and with whom the correspondence jumped over to full fledged email, I was thinking about the ten or so Twitter friends that I wish I could have over for Thanksgiving dinner, since they’ve become so much a part of my daily social life. Twitter is no substitute for real life — but having done this “internet thing” for a lot of years now, it’s the single best tool I’ve used for meeting people I have something in common with (namely, climbing) and building a network around that something. At this point, I have Twitter friends that I could meet up with for a belay in many of the climbing areas around the U.S., and probably could go anywhere and meet up with a friend of a friend. Twitter has also helped me foster relationships with other climbing bloggers, which has been really fun. We’re a relatively small community, and it’s nice to have a way to chat technology and climbing with other people who are also making time to indulge their passions during their free time.

Why should YOU use Twitter?
I have a few answers for that particular question. If you’re a climber, you might have a similar experience I have, and enjoy meeting other climbers around the world, and chatting climbing. It’s not a big commitment to log on to Twitter every few days if you follow and are followed by only a handful of folks.

If you’re a blogger, you definitely should be on Twitter. I get a sizable amount of web traffic to this blog from my Twitter profile. I get traffic spikes, for sure, when I tweet an announcement of my new blog posts. Aside from traffic, there are a lot of bloggers on Twitter (I’m always surprised when a Twitter profile doesn’t link to a blog) so it’s a good way to learn about blog tools and strategies.

If you’re In The Biz (as in, in the outdoor or climbing industry) you definitely should be on Twitter. I follow @REI_CoOp (welcome to Twitter, REI!), @ibexwool and @ibexgirl, @thenorthface and @hardware (Mountain Hardware’s Twitter account — updated 12/8/2008 … they’re alive and tweeting!). I routinely look for other outdoor industry favorites, in the hopes that they’ll get on the band wagon. The companies I follow on Twitter earn my brand loyalty.

A perfect example of outdoor industry Twittering done right is Ibex. The main Twitter stream is under the account name @ibexwool, and @ibexgirl tweets also. I own a variety of wool baselayers, among them one Ibex top. I stumbled on Ibex on Twitter, and followed. Since then, I’ve gotten to know Keith and Jessica through their tweets; I’ve heard about their sales, their travels, Jessica’s trip to a NKOTB concert (rock
on sister — banana clips 4 ever!), their puppy raising, and other tidbits interesting on both a professional and personal level. Because I “know” Keith and Jessica, I want them to be successful, so my brand loyalty to Ibex has gotten much stronger.

140 characters? Seriously?
For those of you who read this blog, you know I’m never exactly short winded. But you can communicate a lot, and have a big impact, in a surprisingly small number of characters.

The outdoor industry isn’t mega. The climbing industry and the climbing community, especially, is a tiny little neighborhood in an already small town. Twittering like a neighbor would chat over the backyard fence is valuable for companies and consumers alike. I am unbelievably thankful for the friends and connection I’ve made on Twitter (you know who you are, my dears) and I look forward to fostering more Twitter friendships and taking more of those connections offline into climbing trips and the “real world.”

I just refreshed my “Twitter” home page, where I can see tweets from my friends. A snapshot… I have a series of updates from @wsdot about traffic conditions; a few witty/funny observations from friends; a tweet from my girl @redheadwriting that she’s on the way to the climbing gym to meet @dylanhettinger… bear with this convoluted explanation… @benwills and @dylanhettinger are friends, and were replying back and forth about something, so I followed @dylanhettinger. When @redheadwriting relocated to Denver recently, I “tweetroduced” her to @benwills (who was temporarily in D-town) and @dylanhettingeer. I adore watching the bonds in my little Twitter family grow closer as we all introduce each other around and get to know each other better. Another Twitter friend just pointed me to a song he thinks I’d like. I’ve been tweeting ideas back and forth with another Twitterer who’s an injured climber, about the benefits of injury time (painted nails? time for your finger tendons to heal? an opportunity to shave the callouses off your big toes).

Aside from brand loyalty… aside from blog traffic… I appreciate my extended network of Twitterfolk. When I need a pick me up, one (or more) of my followers is always happy to pitch in. When I need advice, they’re there. When I need tech tips, they’re there. When I need a laugh, they’re sure as heck there. Again — Twitter is no substitute for real human interaction, but out of all of the ways I’ve “gotten connected” with people online, Twitter is by far the way I’ve made the closest friends out of people who started out total strangers.

Now, it’s your turn.
Who do you follow on Twitter? Who are your favorite climbing or outdoor industry Twitter-ites? If you are a Twitter-ite, what value do you get from Twittering? Leave a comment, below, and don’t forget to follow me!

Not Climbing

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.