How to Win at Twitter

twitter-logo-birdOnce upon a time, I quit Twitter. I got bogged down by too many spammers, too much self-promotion, too little actual connection and I just gave it up. Closed my account and everything.

And then, about a year ago, I went back. I rejoined, determined to do it better the second time around. And, for the most part, I think I have.

Fair warning: This is not a guide to getting a million followers. I have no secret to amassing followers. This IS a look at how I manage to stay sane on Twitter, make the most of it, and occasionally have a grand old time. Here are the learnings I’ve gleaned from my time, efforts and frustrations.

1. Have conversations, make connections. Twitter is most fulfilling and fun when you’re really engaging with the people on your feed. If you’re just tweeting out into the void, never actually responding to anyone else’s tweets or engaging with people who respond to yours, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re thinking of your followers as notches in your social media conquests belt, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, plenty of people and organizations do it that way. But, I find that when I’m just “broadcasting” instead of actually engaging, the entire experience is very hollow.

Instead, if I have a real back-and-forth conversation with someone at least once or so a day (the exchange doesn’t need to be lengthy, and it doesn’t even have to be with someone who agrees with me), I feel way more connected and invested in the process. It feels like someone is actually hearing me and I’m actually getting something from someone else. So, I do my best to make this happen, to engage with others instead of just chirping my thoughts into the cacophony of millions of other chirps.

2. Manage your tweets smartly; Buffer. Buffer is a social media management tool that lets you add posts, then schedule when and where you want to share them. It’s an amazing boon for my Twitter use. No more having to either bombard people with everything I’ve read/seen/found out within the span of an hour, or having to remember to post something at a certain time, then (inevitably) forgetting. I just add interesting articles, quotes, thoughts I have to my Buffer, space out the posts so that I’m not rapid-fire tweeting everything in the span of 10 minutes, and Buffer does the rest.

Of course this doesn’t replace actually going on Twitter and reading my feed to see what the people I follow are up to, and engaging in conversation with them, or tweeting in the moment, but it’s a great way to organize things I might want to say later in the day, or tomorrow, or things I might want to post again some other time.

3. Don’t obsess over unfollowers. It stinks to be unfollowed. It’s a little like being given the cold shoulder by someone you thought was your pal, at lunch, in middle school. It used to get to me a lot. Now, I try to take it in stride.

But, people unfollow for all manner of reasons (and sometimes unfollowers are spammers who only wanted a followback and left, tail tucked between legs, when you didn’t oblige), some of them having little to do with the content of your tweets or you as a person. Sometimes your interests are just too different. It’s rarely an indictment of your character or personality.

4. Engage with people who don’t follow you. If you want someone you’re following to follow you back, the best thing to do is engage with them. Retweet something they said, mention them, respond to something they’ve tweeted. Not in an overzealous way, not in a way that makes you look desperate or spammy. But, just, start a conversation. Be friendly. Be social.

Sometimes they’ll follow you back. Other times, you’ll just get a lovely exchange out of it. Once in a while, you’ll get radio silence. Either way, the best way to put yourself on someone’s radar is to introduce yourself.

5. Follow accounts that genuinely interest you. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made on Twitter in the past is following accounts that I thought I was “supposed” to follow, instead of accounts I actually found interesting. I’d follow some big name writers/publishing folks and then not really get very much out of their tweets. Or I’d follow a ton of incessant self-promoters who sounded more like robots than people. I’d follow lots of news organizations, when in reality the majority of what they shared was neither breaking, nor news, nor very interesting.

Now, though, I follow people and organizations I find interesting (be they small time, big time, writers or not). I follow people who have the skinny on local happenings, because I like to know what’s going on around me. I follow writers who post interesting content, who discuss the writing life, who like engaging and conversing about writing.

6. Share the love: Retweet. Retweeting is a great way to keep your feed lively, interesting and diverse for your followers. If all you ever post are your own tweets, you’re missing out on the amazing capability of Twitter as a place to pass along good ideas and information, you’re missing the chance to be a conduit for great content that can come from someone else, and through you, reach a larger audience.

So, if someone on your feed tweets an awesome article, quote, thought, idea, etc., share the wealth and retweet it. It’ll keep your feed from being a monotonous one-person show, and help you engage with others.

And speaking of not making things a one-person show, what are your thoughts? If you’re on Twitter, how do you make the most out of it? Share your thoughts.

  4 comments for “How to Win at Twitter

  1. June 5, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Thanks for the insightful post, Cornelia. I really like all the points you make, especially the one about having conversations and making connections. Also, the point about following those who interest you is an important one. When Twitter sends suggestions of who to follow I go through the list and see if anyone matches my interests. If they do, I follow them.

    • Cornelia_LO
      June 6, 2014 at 11:59 am

      Thanks, Matthew! Sometimes it’s funny what accounts Twitter suggests I follow. Pretty much anytime it’s a Reality TV star, I shudder and move on.

  2. Chris
    June 6, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Good post, Cornelia. I admit to going through my own ups and downs with Twitter. But even if you don’t engage, there’s so much useful info getting posted there.

    • Cornelia_LO
      July 1, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks, Chris! That’s very true. There’s a lot to gain even just as an observer/sponge.

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