Cheatin’ through Tweetin’ – Sipping from the Social Media Water Cooler

Cheatin’ through Tweetin’  Sipping from the Social Media Water Cooler

GWA 2009 Tweet up (7)

Michelle Gervais @Michelle_at_FG, @Susan L. Morrison, Teresa O'Connor @SeasonalWisdom

On Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 18:42, I opened a Twitter account.  As I get ready to celebrate – yes, celebrate – my one year Twitter anniversary, I wondered how I got here and why.

I kinda remember my friend @DebraPrinzing suggesting I start, but beyond that, I don’t recall how I connected so well with Twitter.  I didn’t go gently into that good night.  I went kicking and screaming. Never would I have guessed I would be the Twitter champion I am today.  Yet, intuitively, I knew I must tweet.  Just as I knew I  must have a Facebook account (fan me at Helen Yoest and fan my business, please, Gardening With Confidence Facebook Fan Page and a LinkIn account.

I took to social media.  I don’t otherwise consider myself very social.

If you ask my former colleagues, from when I actually worked in an office, if I was always so social, they would laugh out loud- or LOL to some and LMAO to others.  I’ll let you figure that one out, but here’s a hint, this four-letter acronym  (LMAO) has a  three-letter naughty word in.  Acceptable to some, but to others like my friend @DebraLBaldwin, she would stop following you for using a bad word.  I respect this.  I’ve read some $%&@ on Twitter and really never thought it was necessary.  I like it when folks challenge themselves to find a more respectable word to convey these sentiments.  I like to convey thoughts  in a clean, I want to write this as if my children will read it, sort of way….but I digress.

Back in the old days when I worked in an office, the local social media was held at the water cooler.  The water cooler for me was nothing more than a small sip water.  Yes, I valued it for needing to tap information in a casual way, but I could always go to their office.   If I wanted water, I would fill my water bottle from the fountain.  I had work to do. I didn’t have time to chat at the water cooler.  So why is Twitter so different, you ask?  It’s not.  Twitter is a modern day water cooler.

When I first messed around with Twitter, I just didn’t “get” it.  I hear that a lot from others. Yet, I knew I needed to figure this thing out.  I was determined to make the time to “get” Twitter and it was made easier with a few helpful tips from fellow tweeps; they had me “getting it” in no time.

Some of those folks still tweet, others don’t.   This is not uncommon; not unlike at college when the professor, on the first day of class, asked you to look left and then look right to exemplify one of you will not be there at the end of the semester.  Would you not go to college because of these odds?  Nope.  So, would you not tweet because of these odds?  Nope.

By many standards, my social media meter is still on low side of the social scale, but I at least “get it” enough to play, and have a great time doing so.  But it’s more than that, of course, in the process of trying to “get it”, I befriended some fantastic friends.  Not just great like-minded people, but the cream that rises in any setting.  I’m sipping, and going back for more.

As these social friends became real friends, as my friend Laura Schaub @InterLeafer puts it, I became to value and respect who they are and what they do.  I cannot think of any other way these meetings would have occurred.  Folks from California were not likely to be hanging around my Raleigh, NC office water cooler….now they are.  As such,  I began to tap their expertise.

I  find Twitter to be an incredible resource.  One day, alone working in my office, preparing a presentation on creating a backyard wildlife habitat, I had a great image of a spider.  I didn’t know the name of the spider, but wanted to know it in case someone in the audience asked me.  I remembered sharing many tweets with Debbie Hadley @AboutInsects. During the course of our tweet relationship, I found her to be really nice, incredibly knowledgeable and totally into her field.  So I figured I’d ask her.  Otherwise, it was pulling resource books or googling until I found what I was looking for.  A click to @AboutInsects with an accompanying photo and tweet asking if she would mind identifying a spider for me, please?  I had my answer in less than 10 minutes, common and latin names, no less.  Next up was a frog.  A tweet and an uploaded photo to Kelly Senser @klsnature resulted in an answer in less than a half hour.

It is not uncommon to see a posting and photo to the tweepsphere for help in identifying a plant.  Answers arrive is seconds!

For my presentation preparation, the generosity was unbelievable.  The delivery was professional and spot on.  I felt like I was cheatin’ through tweetin’.  It was really more than that.  I had resource at my fingertips and I like to think I have since reciprocated to others.

We are a family of friends of mutual respect, committed to our craft, no matter what it is.  Casual conversation brought us together, tweet by tweet, we built respect, while also sharing about ourselves.  If I need to know what tomatoes I should plant next year, I know I can count on Teresa O’Conner @SeasonalWisdom to suggest some to me (yep she did, and yep they are on my list for next year.)

If I need a plant identified, no doubt, Christina Salwitz @Aracdia1 will top my list.  If it’s a really weird plant, I heading over to Keith Alexander @Hyperating; he knows his stuff and is willing to help out.

I have @joegardener and @ShawnaCoronardo to give me green advice (as well as many others), there’s @SusanLMorrison @SusanCohan, and Lynn Felici-Gallant @IndigoGardens to bounce ideas off of.  I also have easy access to my editors and publishers.  @gardenpublisher also keeps us abreast on the state of the book publishing world.

On the days I want a dose of some really weird garden humor, I can count on Steve Bender @grumpy_gardener.  If I have a social media question, I’ll shoot a DM to @JeanAnnVK.  If I want to see what’s on edge in the gardening world, I head over to @GardenRant

My social standing is not 6 sigma.  But my water cooler has me sipping from nearly every state in the US and abroad.

A year later, it is very clear why I tweet.  My first tweet was something like, “Ok, I joined Twitter, now what?”  One of my first tweet replies was from my now friend Katie Elzer-Peters @GardenofWords telling me to just start writing.  So I did.

I use to talk Twitter up and found I was trying to convince folks the value of Twitter.  I no longer do that.  I’m beyond convincing anyone to tweet.  They need to figure it out on their own.   If they don’t get it, they don’t get it. But, social media is not going away – thank goodness.

My story is no different from many naysayers. My excuse for not wanting to tweet @HelenYoest, was because I didn’t have the time to tweet.  I found the time and I’m glad I did.

Not “getting it” seems to be a popular excuse not to tweet.  Some of these folks, I think,  hope  if they can say it loud enough, it will make it go away.  I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

As I end this post, I’m getting thirsty for knowledge.  I need a sip from the social media water cooler…here I come tweeps…

Post Script I was not able to mention all the tweeps I follow and admire.  For a full list, check out @HelenYoest following.  A a very personal thank you for all the tweeple who have given me tips, advise, and friendship – you know who you are!



  1. Arcadia1 said

    Wow! Helen what an honor to be mentioned here with such an excellent group of Tweeters.
    I really think that you put a terrific verbal perspective on what it means to Tweet with all of our wonderful and knowledgeable online friends. Anyone who hasn’t tried Twitter may not understand the camaraderie and sense of community we all feel. But, as with so many things in life, once you “get it” the difference it can bring to our everyday lives and professional lives can be everything you could ever want it to be.
    It really comes down to the quality of the connections that are made here. And the effort you put into those connections. I have truly been richly rewarded by my own attempts to connect.
    Thanks for this lovely post.
    Christina Salwitz
    The Personal Garden Coach

  2. Wow, so many great folks to follow on Twitter! I’ll have to come back later, cut, paste, find them on Twitter and start following 🙂

  3. Great post Helen, and I heartily concur! When I first joined Twitter I didn’t get it either. I didn’t understand that who I follow is important, because their tweets ARE my content to interact with. I didn’t get that my followers were important, because that’s who I’m ‘talking’ TO.

    After a couple of weeks I saw a tweet from Michelle at Fine Gardening (@Michelle_at_FG) asking to identify a mystery plant, and I knew what it was! And I could tell her! And include a link to a website with a picture and description!

    That was my AHA! moment, and my Twitter community has become an increasing important part of my life. I like to say that my world has expanded 1000x because of the people I interact with from all over the country. Now I understand what it’s like to live in colder climates (a killing frost in September? Oh my!) and harsher climates (weeks of 100+ temps during a drought year? Oh my!)

    And as you say, these connections and friendships often translate beautifully into ‘real life’ as personal AND working relationships. As our community evolves beyond months into years, it will be interesting to see what develops.

    I am so grateful to have found so many ways to share my work, my gardens, even bits of my personal life with the world, through Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc. I might live alone and work alone, but I’m NEVER alone.

    So thanks Helen, and I sure hope you can join me on MY porch (or under the Red Umbrella) one day! llsxoxo

  4. This has GOT to be one of the best posts I’ve ever read on this subject. All I have to say is AMEN!

  5. Kerry said

    Helen – My friends and family think I’m certifiably out of my mind to be so into Twitter, especially since I still totally don’t get Facebook or Linkedin. You have captured the experience beautifully.

    I have found knowledge, humor and friendship in this very strange sphere. It still amazes me how much human kindness, generosity and information (ok, and sometimes exceptional banalality) can expressed in 140 characters.

  6. Yep, yep, yep, yep and yep! Once you get it, you totally get it!

    Christina @Arcadia1 you were one of my very first. At the time, you were still a drawing, and I was @GWConfidence. Glad I made the change to @HelenYoest…at least my whole name is there! I like your avatar and love knowing you are there to answer any question. You know, it really shows how comfortable tweeters are with themselves. They don’t guard their knowledge, they share it. Thanks for sharing.

    Alison, you were one of my first nature following. So glad I found you.

    Laura, I am sooo looking forward to spending time with you, one day, under the red umbrella. It is high on my list of things to do before I ….put myself to bed for the winter.

    Thanks Kylee, I so look forward to seeing your face one day ;~} So glad we connected.

    Kerry, me too. I really just got FB this summer and still don’t get Linkin. But I agree, what fun to find the perfect 140 words to express a point…somehow it makes it all the better.


  7. Lynn said

    Dearest Helen,

    I, like Christina, am flattered and honored to be included in your post among giants in the garden twittersphere. This was one of the most beautiful posts you’ve written; it was so heartfelt, it made me cry.

    I am so grateful that you joined twitter about a year ago, and am happy to report that we have that in common, as well. I joined on Thanksgiving in 2008 while visiting my brother in Florida. It’s a bit embarrassing to say now, but we were racing at the time to see who could amass the most friends on FB, competing as siblings often do. I trumped him by joining twitter. He relented. And I soon discovered that twitter wasn’t about collecting followers; it was about making friends.

    It has taken my the better part of this year to convince those closest to me of the value of twitter. A good friend of mine likened it to having professional office mates or coworkers for those of us who are self-employed and find ourselves alone too often. I thought her comment was insightful, just as I find your analogy to the water cooler brilliant and insightful.

    It doesn’t matter to me any more that people don’t get it. Many have come around, but for those who haven’t, such is life. They will never have the opportunity to meet a Helen Yoest. And that will be their great loss.

    Thank you for your friendship, Helen.


  8. Dear Sweet Helen,

    Thank you so very much for including me in this post. Like you, I have found some wonderful, special, and amazing friends on Twitter. Christina, Laura, Joe – all dear, wonderful friends because of social media. And like Lynn and many of the others above, I felt my heart tugged towards mushiness after reading your beautiful post.

    Many of these wonderful people I have never met in person, yet they have become soul-friends in my ride through life and I am deeply grateful to have met them.

    You, Helen, are wonderful and have made my life happier just by being the person you are. I hope some day I can meet you in person because I consider you a good friend and a joy to share the social media adventure with.


    Shawna Coronado

  9. tina said

    A nice post about tweeting indeed. I joined but found it is just not for me. Maybe if I didn’t blog so much I might be more active but I don’t even think so. It is so great you get to meet so many folks and get to chat at ‘the water cooler’ from home.

  10. meghan said

    love this! since i am on facebook ALL of the time, i’m going to become a fan of your page. 🙂

  11. All very true Helen. As our channels of human communication grow, morph, and expand, I can’t help but think about telegraph users who had to pay for every word they sent. My message to you might go something like this…

    Helen, I would not have met you so easily STOP
    Twitter away with me and please don’t STOP

  12. Yes, this Twitter is an amazing thing. I’m coming up on two years and I can tell you it gets better all the time and has allowed me to connect with people in ways never dreamed of!

  13. Lynn and Shawna – y’all stop and back atcha! Seriously, the feelings the same.

  14. Hey Meghan, Thank you; I look forward to seeing more of you.

  15. Tina, I know. I can still remember your tweet name @TinaInTN. Was that it? I can easily find you without Twitter and glad I can. H.

  16. Susan, so clever. Yes, social media is new age. What is to come hasn’t even been invented yet. It is trilling, really, to be on the cusp. H.

  17. Carol, I’m trying to remember if I knew you first through tweeting or through your GBBD. I remember you getting a met station for Christmas and now know your weather. Strangely comforting.

  18. Debbie said

    An excellent post about the power of Twitter. Like so many others, I joined Twitter unsure of what to expect, or how it might benefit me. I soon learned the value of the connections I’ve made through Twitter. At any hour of the day or night, I can converse with people about shared interests, ask questions, request help, or learn something new.

    And thanks so much for the kind words!

  19. Recall the day you tweeted about that frog, Helen! You asked first about a butterfly, which I recognized instantly (the silver-spotted skipper you included in your “Ecosystem Garden” guest post, if I’m not mistaken?). But felt the pressure was on when you inquired about the amphibian, as I know fewer of those by name. Helping you helped me learn a new species. Thanks! So glad we met via Twitter. It’s wonderful having someone so passionate about wildlife gardening (you!) to talk to. Happy day, my friend.

  20. Kelly, on yes, the butterfly – I should have know that one…it was so easy after you told me LOL. The Frog was another matter. Glad to hear I challenged you! Meeting you and Carole Brown (Ecosystem Garden) would most likely only ever have happened on Twitter. Thanks for hanging out with my at my water cooler.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: