May 26, 2011

Twitter for Storytellers: Try It on Saturdays

NOTE: this post was updated June 25, 2011

I was using one of those services that analyzes your followers on Twitter. As it was parsing the activity of the 458 names of people who follow me (and are thus nominally interested in what I have to say), I read the instructions that suggested that I look closely at the bottom of the list. If I found Twitter accounts that hadn't posted anything, or hadn't posted since the day they signed up, and that did not have many followers, these could be trouble: automated spam bots.

I looked at my list, and lo and behold, there were dozens of accounts that hadn't posted anything, or hadn't posted since the day they signed up, and who didn't have many followers.

Twitter logo
Funny thing, though. They weren't spam bots. They were storytellers. (I recognized their names from conferences, festivals, the Storytell list, and Facebook.)

I get it. The value of Twitter is not immediately obvious, especially to a pre-mobile phone and pre-digital generation. So this post is a call to reluctant storytellers to try out Twitter again, with baby steps.

Storytelling magazine has been running a primer on how to use Twitter, provided by Slash Coleman. He's got a version of it on his blog, here.

And even if Slash's crash course on @ and # still doesn't make much sense, I'm going to suggest that you try out Twitter again just one day a week. It can be any day, but, if you can manage it, try it on Saturday.

Here's why: Storyteller Paula Reed Nancarrow (@prnancarrow, on Twitter) of Minnesota has come up with a hashtag #storytellerSaturday for storytellers and storytelling fans. That is, every Saturday, there will be a (growing) number of people posting links and comments on storytelling in an effort to connect with other storytellers. They will add "#storytellerSaturday" to their message simply to label it so that storytellers can find it.

UPDATE: to save room (Twitter has a 140 character limit), #storytellerSaturday has been deprecated in favor of #storySat

(#storySat is an obvious analogy to other Twitter traditions, including #followfriday and #teacherTuesday)

There is an active hashtag #storytelling-- unfortunately, there's a lot of noise, as competing interest groups use it, mostly corporate/business storytelling types, but also brand marketers, and those who want to talk about transmedia stories, journalism, and screenwriting-- and not just in English. I've seen the hashtag used in French, Spanish, and Portuguese tweets. And what's with all the tweets in Dutch? Isn't there a word for storytelling in the Dutch language?

So dip your foot into the Twitter waters. Saturday. Go to You don't have to have an account. If you have account, log in.
In either case, use the search box (or from and enter: #StorySat
and see what and who comes up.

Want to join in the conversation? Feel free to reply to any of the tweets (if you've got an account).
Follow the people you find there. Or, post your own 140 character message (you'll need to add the phrase #storySat to your post, so you really only will have 120 characters to get your message across).

You may want to check in several times during the day. There are only a handful of people using the hashtag right now, so it won't be a fast, dynamic scroll of information.

You could also check in on Sunday, and get a complete list of tagged tweets posted the day before.

Baby steps.

And if you are on Twitter, and know what you're doing? Start using #storySat


Limor said...

Hi Tim,

Lol about the revelation at the bottom of the list. Figures but I'm saying it from a kind place.

Verteltheater is storytelling in Dutch if I'm not mistaken :) Interesting since it means - stories theatre.

Making a suggestion - why not tweep-up our snatched feed and add #storytelling alongside #StorytellerSaturday ?

Michael D said...

Right On Tim for helping to drag some of us into the 21st century:)

Tell Stories & Tweet Stuff:-)
Michael D. McCarty

Anonymous said...

Automated spam bots, indeed. Just call me Roboteller. Every since I started #StorytellerSaturday I've been wishing I used something with less characters. Unfortunately we can't shorten it, like #ww for #writerWednesday or #ff for #FollowFriday. I mean, who wants to post to the #ss?

You're right about all the noise. In addition to the corporate branders, the hashtag "#storytellers" appears to be popular slang in some circles for liars, hustlers, and people who, in general, don't deliver on their promises.

I found Twitter overwhelming when I began, and because I'm obsessive when I'm learning things, I thought it would help me to focus each day on one topic. I try to post things that I think would be of interest to storytellers, culled from my list over the week. So far it's been a mix of tech advice, promoting upcoming events, discussions of theory and practice, funding opportunities, audience development strategies, and arts education. I've especially enjoyed getting to know two storytellers I have never met in real space: Limor Shiponi and Stuart Nager.

I am actually new enough to this that I'm not quite sure what Limor means when she says "tweep'up our snatched feed" - though I assume it means capturing the conversation and storing it somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Oops. If I'm not going to use my Google account, I Guess I should have signed that.

Paula Reed Nancarrow

Tim said...

I think Limor was suggesting that with enough critical mass (i.e. more "tweeps" (tweeting people) we can reclaim the #storytelling hashtag, simply by force of numbers.

The intermediate step, using both #storytellerSaturday and #storytelling in the same tweet to under 110 characters!

Tim Sheppard said...

As Paula says, the #storytellingSaturday tag is far too long, especially if using any other story tags too. Why don't we agree on a shorter one? #ss is already in use and too uninformative (#FF was #followfriday for a long time until everyone knew what it meant). How about #storysat or even #storytellingsat? The former is not only much shorter but guards against misremembering and putting #storytellersat instead.

Tim said...

Wonder if we switch to another language, we could get it even shorter.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it is too long. Though the DOTW principle depends on alliteration, so I don't know whether another language would help there. I considered #tellerTuesday, or #tellerTues, but so many storytellers have day jobs that I thought Saturday would be better. #storySat would be shorter, and might still distinguish us from the folks who use storytelling as synonymous with branding. If we wanted to break free from DOTW altogether, #tellerTweet might work.

One thing that is really obvious to me - I knew it theoretically, but there's nothing like show and tell - is how much better Twitter works when it is linked to a healthy blog following. My very old fashioned diary-style livejournal has got to go. Just another task on the schedule.:)

My thought was that if I treated Twitter like household chores (Monday's washday, Tuesday's ironing, etc) it would give me a framework for limiting myself and not following every thread I was interested in on every single day and then not getting ANYTHING ELSE DONE. Not sure how well that's been working so far on a personal level, but I'm not really married to any hashtag. Happy to use what the community finds most useful. Paula @prnancarrow

Tim Sheppard said...

Mea culpa! In my comment above and a couple of tweets, I mistakenly thought #storytellingSaturday was the original tag instead of #storytellerSaturday. I didn't intent to create a new tag! But on Twitter things spread instantly. Please DON'T use #storytellingSaturday, it's not needed (and it's even longer!)

Paula said...

So is it official? Is #storytellerSaturday becoming #storySat today? I hope so, because that's what I'll be using.

About Sean Buvala said...

I like #storysat for the Saturday sharing.