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Locals all atwitter for tech trend

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein, Gold Country News Service
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If you were monitoring Assemblyman Ted Gaines’ Twitter feed at 11:24 p.m. on July 24, you knew just what he thought of a proposal to increase income-tax withholdings from employees’ paychecks. “Ugh.” The Roseville Republican, who Twittered throughout the 20-hour budget-voting lockdown from inside the State Capitol last week, has developed an audience among local political wonks for his posts on the trendy microblogging site. But you don’t have to be a public official to gain a network of “followers” – people who subscribe to another poster’s stream of updates. Local Twitterers are telling audiences ranging in size from a few dozen to nearly 20,000 all about their businesses, opinions, observations and hobbies. So, should you be on Twitter? These days it’s more like, why aren’t you? We asked some of Placer County’s top Twitterers their tips for making a twixsperience a positive one. Here’s what they said. • 1. Share what’s up – within reason. Twitter asks users, “What are you doing?” But here’s a tip all our Placer Twitterers agreed on: keep some of it to yourself. “I think a lot of people, when they first get on there, it’s ‘I ate a sandwich. I’m now doing this,” said Roseville’s Melissa Dressler, managing editor of Western Retailer, a furniture industry trade magazine. Dressler’s recent Tweets included observations on new store openings, a developing Starbucks addition and links to furniture industry news. “It’s kind of finding the right mix,” Dressler said. “I’ve learned if I have nothing to say, I probably shouldn’t. And you don’t want to say something you wouldn’t want your boss to necessarily see.” • 2. Have a point. Got a passion? Tweet about it. Rocklin resident Larry Gaian already had a popular blog, thebbqgrail.com, devoted – big surprise – to all things barbecue when he opted to open a Twitter account. On Twitter, he posts links to new content on the site, shares quick thoughts on grilling and meets other barbecue aficionados. Sample tweet: “I am off to cook some pork chops on a propane outdoor cooking device. I'm sure I will have nightmares tonight.” “But it still primarily is meant to drive people to my blog,” he said. “That’s what I use it for.” • 3. Market yourself. Many business owners are discovering the power of marketing through the site. Thunder Valley Casino recently hopped on the bandwagon, posting pictures of jackpot winners and giveaway announcements. “With Twitter, we can reach people that fit a different demographic than some of the customers that normally come into Thunder Valley,” said Thunder Valley Spokesman Doug Elmets. “The demographic of Twitter skews younger.” But blatant advertising is a sure way to turn people off, said Ruth Perryman, a Roseville-based QuickBooks software consultant. Perryman should know. She’s the area’s No. 1 Twitterer as measured by number of followers (18,822, as of this week). A couple times a day, she tweets a tip for using the accounting software, and an occasional discount offer. “I wouldn’t post, ‘buy QuickBooks from me,” said Perryman, president of The QB Specialists in Roseville. “It’s more useful info. It has to be presented in a way that is helping them.” • 4. Think before you tweet. When Michigan Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra tweeted “Just landed in Baghdad” in February, he broke a national security embargo by divulging details of the still-secret congressional trip. And the media caught him on it. Gaines, who admits to having some help from staffers in twittering, occasionally goes personal (“Rooting for Roddick at Wimbledon this morning”). But it’s mostly official business: coffee klatches, legislative positions and where constituents can meet him. “I think it is a mystery what we do down at the Capitol,” Gaines said. “If you can give folks an update that is real in terms of what’s happening, that’s a good thing. But you got to be a little careful you don’t reveal confidences.” • 5. Take some time off. A recent survey showed most Twitterers don’t Tweet soon after signing up. Others go in the opposite direction. For Perryman, her introduction to Twitter was almost too successful. “In the beginning, I was badly addicted,” admitted Perryman, president of The QB Specialists. “I saw myself doing it all day. It was just so exciting. It’s really easy to do.” Now, she has designated Twitter time, and automates her non-personal Tweets using a third-party program. New to Twitter? Here are some points to get you started: What is Twitter? Twitter is a free social-networking service that lets you send short, 140-character messages called “tweets” to your “followers” or friends. Why is Twitter? Twitter lets you stay on top of what your contacts are up to (“Meeting after work @ Crush 29”) or thinking about (“Can’t wait for Tiffany to open @ Galleria”) no matter where you are. Updates can be sent to a computer or mobile phone. And many people are using Twitter to market their business or services. How do you Twitter? Create an account on Twitter.com, then log in using your user name and password. From there, you can search for people to “follow” using the search function. Their updates will then appear on your Twitter homepage as they post them. How do you gain followers? Connect with your friends first. Twitter lets you plug in your e-mail contact list to see who’s already on Twitter. And don’t forget to post a link to your Twitter page on your outgoing e-mails, your Facebook page and business cards. What should I Twitter? It’s up to you. Keep it going with frequent, but not overly frivolous tweets. Post links to news stories or photos that would interest your followers. “If you’re going to be on it, actually tweet,” said Melissa Dressler of Roseville. “Don’t just sign up and have an account and never tweet.”