What I Love About Twitter – following George @Strombo

George at CBC FoodBank Day

Call me shallow, but I love a twitter interaction with someone famous. I’m a huge fan of George Stroumboulopoulos – Twitter handle: @Strombo. George first appeared on my radar when he was doing The Hour on CBC television. I was living in the city, working at the university and I never missed his show. The guy is a phenomenal interviewer. Check out his interview with Jake Gyellenhaal – George got this guy down to the emotional core with so much style and finesse it will blow you away.

Toronto Island - Bruce Witzel photo

The Hour - Guenette photo (2)On a trip to Toronto in 2008, Bruce and I were fortunate enough to sit-in on a live broadcast of The Hour at the downtown CBC Building. After the taping, George spent time taking questions and interacting with the studio audience. I remember George’s response to a group of journalist students who had all kinds of questions about getting to where he now stood. His said something like – be a decent person through every part of your career. (I think he actually said don’t be a dickhead.) That was sage advice that a few at the CBC could have heeded.

The Hour - Guenette photo (1)

George was the first person I followed on Twitter. One day, about a week later, I read a tweet of his – he was at an airport somewhere waiting for a plane. I gather this is something he does on a regular basis. I tweeted that he could follow me if he liked. I said I was a big fan, I didn’t over tweet and I wasn’t hard core into selling anything. And he did follow me. Wow!

As an interesting sideline to a diverse career (from Much Music, to The Hour, to George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight to NHL hockey commentator), and I suspect this sideline could be his major love, George hosts a three-hour radio show on Sunday evenings on CBC Radio2 called The Strombo Show.  This broadcast is an eclectic mix of music, some great interview segments and insightful snippets into how music radically shapes who we are.

Strombo Show tweet

Both the show @TheStromboShow and George, follow the twitter stream on show day and during broadcast so they can interact with fans. It’s great fun to try and tweet out something of note that relates to a piece of music or an interview and have that picked up and spread to others. To me, that is the type of dialogue that twitter should be about.

One Sunday evening last summer while I was making dinner and listening to The Strombo Show on the radio (the show airs at 8:00 pm in Toronto – so I live stream on the internet out in BC at 5:00), George was in conversation with Jeremy Taggart (drummer for the Canadian band, Our Lady Peace) about a cause close to Jeremy’s heart – youth suicide. The conversation side-stepped into music, as most conversations should, when mention was made of the Neil Young song – Needle and the Damage Done. Someone said, that was written about … and they blanked on the name. I ran outside, screamed the question to Bruce (a died-in-the-wool Neil Young fan, I often say Neil is his man-crush) and he answered, Danny Whitten. I came back in the house and tweeted the name and got a thank you twitter response from Jeremy Taggart a few minutes later. Now that was sort of cool – right?

George tweet motorcycles

Through my Twitter relationship with George, I have followed him on a few motorcycle trips (awesome pics), got tuned into a number of causes (love those causes) and I’ve been introduced to a few things that were not in my common lexicon of knowledge – I just discovered today that when George types Fugazi he probably means the post-hardcore Washington band that formed in 1987 and he doesn’t need autocorrect to mess with that.

George retweet

Now and then, I spread my George groupie status (that’s what my daughter calls it) to others. I read an interview where George talked about the good wolf and the bad wolf and the idea of spreading good in the world rather than adding to the negative energy out there. He said; feed the good wolf, my friends. I used this analogy to end an email I sent to parents who asked for feedback in dealing with some news about their son that could have profound implications for the boy’s future. Later, I heard that these parents spread my email message around and it was George’s analogy about the good wolf /bad wolf that stuck with people. (So glad the academic in me attributed the thoughts to him.)

George - Amnesty

George is a strong proponent of human rights, he cares about the causes I care about; he’s a famous guy who is actually, from all that I can see, what he appears to be – nice. What I love about Twitter is that it allows me a window into the life of a person I admire that I wouldn’t normally have.

George in the red chair


I’ll tag George on this post and maybe I’ll get a response. Who knows? The Twitter universe is a wide pool, my friends.

Twitter: The Ongoing Saga


It’s been about six weeks since I entered the world of Twitter. I thought it might be time for an update on how it’s been going.

I started off searching out everyone I could find who had anything to do with self or indie publishing. I was following about 70 people and had about 35 people following me. Then I got disillusioned by all the tweet, tweet, retweet, retweet stuff I was seeing. I had somehow gotten trapped into a circle of people tweeting themselves and each other’s work over and over and over again.

I dropped a whole bunch of people and then a whole bunch of people dropped me and that’s where things sat for a bit.

In the meantime I started following a ton of CBC reporters and radio shows that I like – soon my account was all news all the time. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I started Twitter. It had turned into a one way street – news tweets coming in and not much going out. I did manage a couple of tweets a day but it was mostly retweeting interesting quotes or tweeting about my latest blog post.

I did have an exciting time when I heard that George Stroumboulopoulos (@strombo), one of my favourite CBC TV personalities, was in an airport somewhere. I sent him a tweet that said, “If you’re bored you could follow me. I don’t tweet too often, I’m not selling anything, I’ve always loved CBC – just wondering.” About a minute later I saw via email that he was following me. He has over 319,000 followers and follows 9,900 people himself – so I was pretty pumped by that experience.

For a while after that I was nervous about everything I tweeted or retweeted – always asking myself if George would approve. Thankfully, I got over that.

Then there was the day I did a really stupid tweet – I won’t even bore you with all the details. Suffice to say, I wasn’t meaning to sound racist – I simply didn’t read the original tweet properly. It was before I understood how to decipher a string of hashtags quickly and effectively. I responded exactly opposite to what I would have wanted to say. By the end of the day there were a string of people wondering what was wrong with me. That slowed me down for a bit and I’ll probably never tweet to that site again.

But, I screwed my courage to the sticking post, as old Will the Bard would say, and got back on the horse that threw me. I began to find people to follow by entering hashtag prompts and seeing who came up – things like #amwriting, or #amselfpublishing, or my latest great find – #writingtip.

I’ve tweeted 204 times and have now built myself up to following 170 people with 84 people following me – this ratio of approximately two to one seems to be OK for now.

I’ve discovered how to screen who I follow by checking out the last few tweets they’ve done – if it’s all buy my book, buy my book, or buy this person’s book over and over, I’ll skip them.

The group of people I’m following now is an interesting and eclectic mix. I’ve started picking up WordPress bloggers who have an option on their blog to follow them via Twitter. Lots of good contacts have come to me in that way. I’m finding other people’s blogs to put a tweet out for and that’s great – my posts have been tweeted a few times as well.

I try to tweet at least three times a day. I’ll often tweet my most recent blog post twice because the medium is moving so fast, I think it can bear a repeat. I try to do some type of interesting update and maybe retweet a good quote or two.

I’m only beginning to understand twitter etiquette, so I apologize if I’ve offended anyone. I read somewhere that I should acknowledge anyone who retweets me or favourites something I have tweeted – I’m still figuring out how to track all that information in a timely fashion. When I get that down, I might be able to be more polite.

So – all and all – a bit of a rocky start, a few hiccups along the way, but I really like the twitter world. It’s fast paced and interesting and I’ve found links to a ton of great articles and blogs on writing and self-publishing. Here’s just a taste of what I discovered – The Self-Publishing Tool Kit. Every time I see a tweet about a new article on this site, I pop over. The current article was on how to win with twitter – if you’re going to be self-promoting your own novel you’ll find these tips helpful.

Twitter is win/win my friends. If you’re not out there tweeting yet, don’t be afraid – it’s a forgiving world – maybe because it moves so fast. Anyway – I’ll tweet you later – OK?


Spring is coming!

Like a Bird on a Wire (or a wooden bench)

Bird on Wooden Bench - Stanford Campus, CA

My unquenchable desire to spread my social media platform beyond the confines of the known universe had me turning to Twitter this week. I have always thought that Twitter was the exclusive purview of people with fancy little cell phones who had mastered the art of typing on tiny keyboards. I put this comment up somewhere on a discussion and a few people told me that they Tweet from a laptop or home computer. I decided to give it a try. Like most things out in the social media world – getting signed up was no problem.

Things happen fast, fast, fast in the Twitter world. I managed to follow a few news sites almost immediately. Found a great Indie authors site that offered this bloggers connect up thing. That meant I had to add a Twitter follow to my blog. I managed that. I started connecting with people in the World Literary Café. I’m not sure what I did there, but people started following me back to my blog. Good, so far!

For the most part I was just watching the Tweets mount up on the screen without having much of a clue what they meant. They looked like strings of gibbeley-goop. But then it all started to make sense. Like when you watch the loading bay at a large factory – everything seems like random activity. Trucks are coming and going, forklifts all over the place and people buzzing around. Then all of a sudden, a pattern emerges. It all falls into place – fascinating!

I started following George Stroumboulopoulos around – I’ve been a fan for a while. Bruce and I had a chance to see a live taping of his previous show – The Hour – at George’s studio in the CBC building in Toronto. That was back in 2008. George was amazing – full of energy, humour and generosity. He stayed for at least an hour after the show was wrapped up – just interacting with the audience and answering questions. There is something a bit incredible about seeing George tweet that he is in the Ottawa airport and being able to reply within a few seconds – I feel sorry for all the time you spend in airports, George. Pseudo-intimacy for sure – George and I are not buddies. But he is fun to follow around.

Last night I actually figured out what a hashtag is and from there I tapped into a trend. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages – tears were streaming down my face as I read through tweets that were arriving in groups of 40 or 50 at a time – #ImSoSickOf – I had no idea that Twitter could be so much fun. This was my favorite – I’m so sick of how ten years ago we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash – now we have no jobs, no hope, and no cash. I jumped on that one right away and was the 76th person to re-tweet it.

I think I’m starting to get a handle on the social media world. What I’ve learned so far leads me to think the following:

  • Facebook – for interaction with friends (real friends – the kind of friends you would want to show pictures of your grandkids to or share your home renovation projects with – OK, let’s just leave aside for a moment the issue of whether friends are ever interested in your home renos.)
  • Facebook Fan Page – people can like me or follow what I’m up to without me having to accept them as a friend who can see pictures of my grandkids and home renovation projects – sounds good – fans, not friends.
  • My Blog – the place I get to share who I am with whoever wants to read (and hopefully someday be able to say – here’s my book, guys!)
  • Pinterest – a place to see and share beautiful images, mostly with strangers (also a place to link up blog posts – especially if they contain great pictures.)
  • LinkedIn – the place for professional networking, establishing credibility in terms of education and past work experience (also a great place to link up blog posts and connect with people from times in my life gone by.)
  • Twitter – fast connections with total strangers about anything and everything (a lot of people are using Twitter for crass and in-your-face promotion – I figured that out quickly. Glad to say, that’s not my style and most of it is easily ignored.)

I guess in closing, I would say – don’t be afraid of social media platforms. Don’t write off opportunities to connect with others before you even give them a whirl or a tweet for that matter. I am not a techie or a computer whiz woman. I’m just a regular computer user and I am able to maneuver my way around. Maybe I’m like the person who buys a pricey microwave oven with all the bells and whistles and only ever uses it to heat up coffee – but still, I am using it! You can, too. Give it a try. Then we can tweet together, like a couple of birds on a wire (or even a wooden bench, but you can be the drunk in the midnight choir. I’ve never been a great singer.) Sounds like fun – right?