22 Important Lessons I’ve Learned about Twitter

22 Jan

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Twitter is so much more than just a social network.

It’s a news service, a networking party, an instant messaging platform, a marketing channel, a photo album, a customer service tool, a personal journal, and a performance venue, all in one.

That’s just one thing I’ve learned from my three-plus years of being a tweeter.

I’ve also learned that the more you give to Twitter, the more you can gain from it: relationships, job opportunities, laughs, support, discounts and deals, insight, information, and connections. Lots and lots of connections.

If you use Twitter well, and you keep at it, people will find you and want to connect. It’s worked for me, and last week, I made my 2,000th connection — or rather, she connected with me. So for that, let me recognize and say thank you to Heshie Segal, who was follower number 2,000. Hooray!

Why do 2,000 people follow me? I’m just some random guy who tweets a lot. If you have that same question, then maybe you can understand why I consider that many followers to be a bit of an accomplishment.

So on the occasion of having reached this milestone, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learned from my years of tweeting. Here are 22 easily tweetable lessons … things that may help you reach a similar milestone:

1. People who just share headlines aren’t really adding value

Yes, Twitter is a great place to share information and great content. But just sharing a headline as-is doesn’t really say much — about why the article is good, why I should click the link, or why you’re sharing it. Especially because so many headlines aren’t very good. If you’re going to share an article or blog post, at least make your tweet interesting. (Click here to tweet this)

2. You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you

Twitter doesn’t run on a quid pro quo system. If someone is tweeting stuff you find interesting, follow them — regardless of whether they’re following you. If someone follows you and you don’t like what they’re tweeting, then don’t follow them. There’s no obligation to follow back. (Click here to tweet this)

3. Twitter makes it really easy to feel like you know total strangers

Active tweeters who are good at using Twitter give you a window into who they are. So much so that it’s possible to forget you don’t actually know them. That’s happened to me on multiple occasions. But it’s all good. By replying to people I don’t know, I’ve made many new friends and broadened my own network. (Click here to tweet this)

4. Paper.li is such a big waste of good technology

The less said about it, the better. (Click here to tweet this)

5. Pre-scheduling tweets isn’t a bad thing

There are some who say Twitter shouldn’t be automated at all. Some of those people will tweet a bunch of stuff, all within a 10-minute span, often when nobody’s looking. I like to space out my tweets over the course of a day (one every half hour or so, generally) by pre-scheduling them. That keeps me visible in the fast-moving stream and doesn’t annoy my followers like some handles (ahem, @mediapost) do. Some days I pre-schedule more than I do on other days. And yes, I also tweet in real time when I’m out and about. Most importantly, though, thanks to my iPhone, I’m alerted when someone has responded to something I’ve tweeted, so I can acknowledge it right away. Really, it’s about balance: Automation and pre-scheduling aren’t bad, but don’t completely rely on them.  (Click here to tweet this)

6. You shouldn’t auto-share your tweets on Facebook

If your settings are set so that every time you tweet, it gets shared on Facebook, turn that off. Now. Keep those handles, hashtags, and URLs on Twitter, where they belong. (Click here to tweet this)

7. It’s really hard to “fake it” on Twitter

Attention CMOs and CEOs, and everyone else who doesn’t tweet for themselves: If someone is tweeting for you, it’s obvious. Especially if all you’re doing is sharing article headlines. Authenticity is key. Do it yourself, and be yourself. (Click here to tweet this)

8. It’s possible to make offline friends on Twitter

… and to use Twitter to become better friends with people you only see once or twice a year. Heck, I’ve even dated someone I met on Twitter. (Click here to tweet this)

9. @ElBloombito is the only consistently good parody Twitter account worth following

“Trendy” meme parody accounts get really old really, really fast. (@FiredBigBird, anyone?) which makes this long-running parody of New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s penchant for “Spanglish” all the more impressive. (Click here to tweet this)

10. People who “stick to their knitting” are boring

If all you do is tweet about one topic, you’re going to run out of material very quickly, and you’re going to get monotonous. Especially if that topic is how wonderful your employer is. (Click here to tweet this)

11. Twitter makes going to conferences and seminars more fun

I love tweeting at conferences because it helps me to pay attention better, it helps me to meet people more easily, and it helps make the sessions more interesting. I know not everyone likes tweeting during a conference, but I love it. (Click here to tweet this)

12. I follow a lot of people who don’t ever tweet

I don’t mean hardly ever. I mean, like, ever. Never. Not even once. I guess I’m just too curious about what they will eventually tweet to unfollow them. And it’s not like they’re clogging up my feed. But let me echo something I said above: Twitter is a social network. That means you should be social with other people and interact, not just listen. If all you’re doing is listening, then you’re not really using Twitter. (Click here to tweet this)

13. People who buy followers have it all wrong

Grow your followers organically. Don’t buy them. It’s just that simple. There’s no real value in having a ton of followers who are either fake or don’t care about what you have to say. (Click here to tweet this)

14. Using a tool like HootSuite makes using Twitter so much better

It can help you to keep things organized, to know when people mention you in a tweet, to separate out all the tweets with a certain keyword or hashtag, and to pre-schedule your tweets, if you’re so inclined. (Click here to tweet this)

15. Some days, it’s just more of the same

Truth: You can only tweet the same types of articles so many times. There’s a lot of monotony and copycatting going on. (Click here to tweet this)

16. People who protect their tweets are lame

… especially if they’re in a field like marketing. Open the floodgates! Be social! (Click here to tweet this)

17. People who tell you to retweet them don’t trust their own tweets

I’m not a fan of people who tell you in their tweets to retweet them. It comes off as desperate — no matter what the “scientists” say. If the thing you’re tweeting is interesting enough, people will retweet it. (Click here to tweet this, and no, that’s not irony)

18. Twitter was not invented so you can share all of your Foursquare checkins

Especially if it’s the office, gym, or coffee shop you go to every single day. (Click here to tweet this)

19. Big events are just more fun with Twitter

The Super Bowl, the Oscars, the election, the Lost finale … you name it. When there’s an event that everyone’s talking about, being a part of that regional, national, or global conversation is just more fun. (Click here to tweet this)

20. It’s a challenge sometimes to have a substantive discussion or debate when you’re limited to 140 characters at a time

Especially if you’re like me, and you’re prone to saying stupid things, or you’re self-conscious and obsess over every word and need a few more to get your point across effectively. As great as Twitter is, sometimes you just need more characters. (Click here to tweet this)

21. No one ever follows the people they see in a #FF roundup

It’s a nice way to give a shout-out to your friends or people you like, but that’s all it usually is: a shout-out, and an impersonal one, without any context. (Click here to tweet this)

22. It’s not the quantity of followers that matters, it’s the quality

I saved this one for last because, while I know there are many people on Twitter who have more followers than I do, I know I have the best followers out there. They interact with me, they retweet me, and they make Twitter worth using. Thank you to every one of my 2,000 followers for being interested in me and what I’m sharing. (Click here to tweet this)

Are you on Twitter? What have you learned? Do you agree with the lessons above? Share your thoughts in the comments section below … or feel free to just tweet this blog post.

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8 Responses to “22 Important Lessons I’ve Learned about Twitter”

  1. Hunter Boyle (@hunterboyle) January 23, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Great post, Martin. I agree with almost all of the points here (haven’t used Paper.li enough to weigh in) and I’ve tried to follow many of them myself. Especially lately, as changes to Facebook have made it much less appealing — plus Twitter excels at connecting with new people, particularly during and after events.

    Congrats on surpassing the 2,000 mark. Looking forward to reading more of your insights.

    Cheers — Hunter

    P.S. Thanks for the @ElBloombito tip — that’s good stuff! I’d #FF that!

    • Martin Lieberman January 23, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      Thank YOU, Hunter. I appreciate the comment and the kudos.

  2. sara k January 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    I have tried to figure out #FF… help me out?! Argh, still a newbie.

    • Martin Lieberman January 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      How can I help? #FF is short for Follow Friday. It’s a weekly thing where people promote the Twitter handles of people they think all their followers should be following. It’s a nice gesture, but too often, the FF tweets are just a random group of handles, with no explanation or context for why we should follow those people. They end up just being shout-outs to your friends or people you think are cool, and I suspect that not many (if any) people actually take action based on the people they see included. Make sense?

      • sara k January 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

        Totally. Seems to me that context and relevance are the are the key factors no matter what the tweet. Yet, like you said, not always easy in 140 characters. Oh, and TGIF, just sayin’ :)

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