Twitter Lessons from George

Posted on November 12, 2009


Interestingly enough, I was reminded of some of the best twitter practices IRL (in real life) today as I waited for the person I was meeting to come to Starbucks today. I didn’t realize it at the time, it wasn’t until now that the post came to me.

I parked my car in the usual stop, you see I’m a regular. The Norm in this particular store location along with a few other regulars at this haunt. After ordering my regular drink and bantering with the staff members who have become friends since my life change (a layoff after working for 10 years at the same firm), I grabbed a seat and glanced out into the parking lot enjoying the beautiful early November morning.

Across the street, I saw George, a homeless man, who like me, is a regular at Starbucks. George was dressed in his usual baggy trousers, navy sweatshirt and beat up shoes. In his hands, he held a red plastic rake and vigorously raked up many leaves from the parking lot. His face was clenched in deep concentration, sweatshirt drenched in a hard worked sweat gathering every single leaf in the large parking lot.

I commented to the staff. “Wow,” I said. “He is really doing a great job. Much better than any of my neighbors did this last weekend.”

The staff glanced out and smiled. “Yes, he takes care of all of the parking lots around here. Rakes leaves, picks up trash, cleans a table. It is almost like he owns the surroundings or works here. He is a good guy”

“Really,” I said glancing back out the window as I watched him bend and pick up a bunch of leaves and put them into a black bag.


Now, something you need to know is that the staff also takes care of George. They hand him coffee when he shuffles in and occassionally some treat to eat. George wipes off a table, picks up trash that is on the floor, rakes some leaves, gently folds up a newspaper. Seems like a good relationship for everyone.

So, what does this IRL have to do with twitter? Well, I do many a presentation about twitter, facebook, linkedin or other social media tools and technology. Far too much of the time, people want to focus on the geek technology aspect and don’t realize it is the human aspect that is far most important. Tools, technologies will come and go…they are simply a vehicle for the relationships you build whether online or off.

Far more important are the basic human best practices that I watch with George and the staff, which include…

1. Care about each other: Truly spend time getting to know your tweeps. It is amazing what you can learn in 140 characters about another human. The staff have gotten to know this strange older man who talks to himself and sometimes laughs by himself at only something funny in his head. They don’t judge, they simply accept that this is George. Engage

2. Say thank you: George doesn’t talk much…a man of few words. But, when a cup of hot coffee or iced coffee, depending on the temperature is handed to him, he expresses his gratitude in words, and then in action. The staff does the same when George takes care of them. In twitterverse and IRL, a thank you goes along way.

3. Be Helpful: If someone asks for help or maybe doesn’t ask, but you notice they might need help, try to help them or refer them to someone who can help…either one person or the twitterverse. It is amazing how much the twitterverse can help others. I’ve seen money be raised, clothing given, referrals and other support to those in need, including me. When I got laid off, I was tremendously lonely. I can’t even begin to give back the support that was given to me. In my darkest days, @jeffmello played songs that made me feel better and I developed a very good friendship with this wonderful tweep.

5. Care: Remember that tweeps are real people. Simply knowing that people care about you is tremendously powerful. When I was depressed, I would get DM’s asking me how I was. When I know tweeps are going through a tough time, I check in to see how they are doing. I can’t tell you how much it means to me when the tweeps check in with me.

In IRL, when George is missing for a few days, the staff worries about him and I can’t even begin to tell you how happy they are when he returns and they give him a hard time for not checking in.

Posted in: Twitter