Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Join the Party on Twitter

I've written some columns about Twitter, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and wanted to approach it from a different angle. Most people, if they're going to get on Twitter, probably already are; and if they aren't, they still hate it and people who talk about it just as much.

This isn't for those people. It's for the ones who have joined Twitter but are still staring at a blank screen, not knowing how this "Twitter thing" works. Not getting what all the big deal is about, not sure where or how to jump in. And sure, the new Twitter sends you helpful little "Who to Follow" prompts, but how do you know who to follow? How many are too much? Or too little? And really, most of all, what is the damn point of all this?

I've been thinking a lot about all this, and a new idea hit me. It's a party. (You can cringe if you want to.)

The single most important thing, now that you've finally broken down and signed up to this dreadful thing (as if anyone needs another social media site, harumph!), is who you know. Or, more concisely: Who You Follow. (The second most important thing is Who Follows You, but you can't control that.)

So, as I've documented elsewhere, when I first joined Twitter, I was adding people like mad (rather like I did on MySpace and Facebook). If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn't do it that way.

Here's what you need to know: Twitter is about interaction. Passive watchers might as well not even join. Because everyone, even the shyest wallflower, has something to say about something.

Keeping those things in mind, try this strategy on for size.

1. DON'T, I REPEAT, DON'T go mad adding celebrities. In fact, if you're a Twitter newbie, I would suggest that you refrain from adding ANY celebrities or really famous people until you've been on Twitter at least six months and have regular people you know and chat with. Why? By and large, those with millions of followers won't be chatting back with you. Actually, those with millions probably won't even be reading you. And, if you are only going to add ten people, make those ten count. NO CELEBRITIES. Make each of those ten people who will interact with you, will Follow Friday you (the only celebrities that I've seen Follow Fridaying anyone are other celebrities), will thank you for your comments and RTs. Generally someone who values your commentary, and treats you with respect. Do I have to tell you that that ISN'T a celebrity? Nope. Not even Oprah. Seriously.

Really think about what you want to get out of Twitter. Here's what you can get: knowledge, news, sports fans who share your passions, fans of any subject who share your passions, and if you're really lucky, and choose well, people who can really help you make it through your day.

So, I'd like you to think of this as a great party that you're designing. You are the host/hostess, and you get to pick the guest list. (Again, refrain from inviting celebrities, because they will dimish YOUR sparkle.) Who else would you want attending?

When your mind comes up blank, try this instead. Go to someone whom you think would make a great party guest that you know is on Twitter. Start by examining their follower list. Or their following list. Cull from there. Keep in mind that the BEST person to add to your Twitter list is someone who's following/follower totals are roughly equal. Say, 1500 following to 1750 followers. That would be ideal. It shows someone who's engaged, who actively participates in their Twitter stream, in essence, someone who'd make a great party guest, and not monopolize the conversation.

Conversely, if someone is following NO ONE, avoid them like the plague, no matter who they are. They clearly don't get it.

2. Pick interesting people. I highly suggest that before you add someone, click on their profile first. Check out some of their comments. Look at a full page's worth. If ANY of the comments annoy you, or make you roll your eyes, go to the next person. Life's too short. Also, if what you are looking at is either: all RTs, no original commentary; or all links, move on. You want someone, ideally, who mixes it up. Who RTs people, but also comments. Who posts interesting links, but also engages with you. (I also do this in reverse. If I see someone's comments in my feed now that annoy me, I'll go back to their profile before I unfollow them, just to be sure. They may just be having a bad day.)

3. Find subjects that interest you. You want people who stimulate your mind. Find people who share your interests. For example, I like music, and subscribe to the service, which posts songs I'm listening to to my Twitter feed. Some people really hate that. Other music lovers have RTed the songs I've picked. People who like the same music I do tend to stick around. Whatever it is you are interested in, there are people who like that same thing and talk about it. Try searching for that subject, and adding people that you find that are interesting.

4. Find people who inspire you. There are plenty of them on Twitter, I assure you. Some people like those who post inspirational sayings. Others get bored silly by such stuff. Whatever your own spiritual touchstone is, make sure you add some people who reflect that. Who make your heart swoon at their comments. You should have a good chunk of these kind of people in your Twitter stream.

5. Find worldwide folks. I like Twitter for its coverage of news. But to find this, I didn't start adding TV or radio news folks (although you could do that, too). I made sure I had people on my Twitter stream from different countries, some speaking different languages. I don't want to just know what's going on in America (though maybe you do). But having a diverse spectrum across the world will also ensure that whatever time you are on Twitter, there is going to be something coming across your screen. I assure you. My Facebook often dies, once the people in my geographic area go to sleep. This is never true of Twitter. It's 24/7.

6. Job searching? Add headhunters. I have heard about more jobs on Twitter than any other social media service, which is enough reason to sign up for it, if you're not already on it, IMHO. But to do that, I had to add people in various fields that I work in who might be responsible for adding jobs. If you're an actor, there are plenty of casting agents on it. There are all kinds of headhunters, and job services as well. Search for them. Add them.

7. Drop in some romantic sparkle. What would a good party be without some sexy members of whatever sex you're attracted to? Make sure that you add some sexiness, to whatever level you feel comfortable with. I personally have three Twitter accounts, to varying levels of sexiness. The last thing I want when I'm in a business situation is to have someone sending over pics of their naked body at me. So I don't have that at all on my business Twitter. But on my personal one? heh That a whole other story.

8. Minimize or avoid the companies that advertise at you. Yes, I know, many companies out there will cringe at that one. They see Twitter as the next new gold rush area, and are just looking for a way in. My personal rule with all that is that anyone that markets at me is Unfollowed. Period. I don't have anyone (of the 2000 people I'm following) that is a company or a marketer. My life is blissful. Plus, Twitter isn't FOR that. It's for people to talk to each other. To interact, as I said earlier. Advertising/marketing people still haven't figured that out.

Again, think of it like a party. If you were at a great party, deep in the middle of a fascinating conversation, would you want someone spewing about their latest product at you? No. It would spoil the vibe, wouldn't it? Twitter should be, and is, like that, too.

9. DO talk about politics and religion. Everywhere else, these items are avoided like the plague. But on Twitter, I have found the most educated, enlightened, actively seeking minds I've found anywhere. I feel blessed to have them in my Twitter stream. Mind you, I only have the folks who espouse the same things I believe in. One woman started getting on my case about my sexuality, espousing her "Christian" values at me, and I can't tell you how quickly I blocked her. The block button is bliss. Use it often.

The other great advantage about this is that you'll hear when things happen. I heard about the strife in various Mideast countries on Twitter WAY before mainstream media even covered it. So maybe it's a party with giant screens all around the room with current news flashes suddenly on the Jumbotron. If there's an earthquake, you'll hear about it on Twitter (as everyone on the East Coast now knows).

10. Don't be bored. If, once you've added your successful party guest roster, you find you are still bored with people's comments, add more people. Maybe, at this point, add a celeb or two (judiciously). For me, there isn't a day that I'm on Twitter that I don't get a new piece of information, a new way to look at things, and some uplifting inspiration from my Twitter stream. That's how yours should be, too.

Have at least 100 people that you are following. A good conversation is the sign of a really good party.

Add me: @michebella on Twitter.



  1. Michelle, this is a very well thought out and written post. I've had my twitter account for about a year but have only been actively tweeting for a few months. I'm still having trouble realizing how it can help me in my business and drive clients instead of just using to "waste" my time and entertain me. I am bored with Facebook, so much banality and crap that I get sucked with people I don't like nor will ever convince to see my "side." I really have to de-friend some people that work my last nerve, including the chefs that only post about how great they are but never comment on any one elses page. As for Twitter, I've not quite figured it all out yet. I don't want follow anyone out of obligation as suggested by a Florida food group, follow me and I'll follow you. Honestly, half the time I'm not even sure what some people are even talking about! I also feel that Twitter can be more ego driven than FB as it seems a bit one sided? Great post, I'll consider some of your advice, thanks, Miche! x

  2. That was supposed to say "sucked into arguing with people..."

  3. Me again! I meant to ask you, how can a person follow so many people and what is the point? Thanks!

  4. The point of following a lot of people is so that you always have a stream of interesting comments going. If you only followed one person, for example, all you'd ever see is that person's posts. Very boring.

    But my list is filled with interesting people from all over the world, so no matter what time I log into Twitter, there is someone there, saying something.

    As far as "growing one's business," Twitter is a very tricky thing (much more than Facebook). The whole "you follow me, I'll follow you" thing is Twitter etiquette (or at least it used to be, until they put a cap on how many people you can follow: 2000).

    But in a very real sense, I've found out about WAY more jobs and job postings and money making things on Twitter than I EVER have on Facebook.

    The only thing is, you have to get in there and get to know the people on your list, or follow ones whom you want to do business with.

    For example, if someone had hired a caterer and that caterer suddenly had a family emergency and couldn't make it, do you think that party would go to Facebook, looking for another caterer? No. They'd do that on Twitter.

    I've seen that over and over and over again. That's what Twitter is about, people helping other people.

    Facebook is more like high school. And that's why I'm on Twitter much more often.


Please leave a comment. I encourage and welcome the dialogue.