The Best Way to Use Twitter

Update 9/27/11

Here it is in a nutshell. You don’t need to read the rest of this post: Don’t worry about getting followers. Just fill your inbound (who you follow) with cool people your interested in who, and this is key, whose information will somehow make your life better. Help you learn cool new stuff.  That’s how you get value. And the same would go for Google+.

date 6/23/11 –

Just saw this tweet from @steverubel (Good guy to follow) “How To Answer The Question “How Often Should I Tweet?”http://j.mp/kyTYGR ” – Thought it’d be a good and perhaps valuable read for this subject.

Update 2/06/11

If you’re a member of Twitter, then I’m sure you got this email recently from the Twitter team on how to get the best experience from Twitter. I’ve copied and pasted it hear and put my comments in parenthesis:

Happy New Year,

Our resolution is to help you get the most of out of Twitter this year. To start, we thought we’d send this note with four simple suggestions. Come on by our web site to try these out anytime! http://twitter.com

1) Follow your interests. We’ve found that the people who enjoy Twitter most tend to follow a variety of accounts: friends, family, people in their profession, local shops and events, and most importantly, people who share their passions.
(This hasn’t been easy in the past. For the first few years twitter was all “techies”, but now that it is becoming more mainstream, it’s becoming more possible.)

2) Get specific. Like sports? Follow your favorite leagues, teams, players, coaches, commentators, writers and fellow fans. Love food? Follow chefs, restaurants, critics, bloggers, specialty shops and respected foodies.
(Obviously, no-brainer. 🙂

3) Don’t panic. People turn to Twitter during emergencies. Snowstorms, power outages and fires are just a few emergencies where Twitter may be helpful. Search for #hashtags and follow local civic accounts to stay informed.

(This may be one of Twitter’s most understated assets. Search in general on Twitter is not that good. But when you are searching for something that is happening right now, it’s fantastic. For instance, my team was playing the other night. Their schedule said it was broadcast on “CSS” which is Comcast something. I don’t have Comcast. I have Dish, but I thought maybe somebody was “Ustreaming” or something. So I did a real time Twitter search (Search is the box at the very top center of the page). Couldn’t find anyone Ustreaming it, but what I did find was even better. Someone tweeted loud and clear, “Arkansas vs Georgia on @ESPN3 tonight” ESPN 3 is the online streaming arm of ESPN. )

4) Return to Twitter. There are about 200 million accounts on Twitter now – that means new interests, new voices, and new ideas every day. We offer services in seven languages, apps for most devices, and SMS worldwide.
(Wow, 200 million is a serious number. But I believe it. Every where I go, everything I hear, Twitter and Facebook are mentioned in the same breath, same tandem. So it makes sense that Twitter would start to be getting “Facebook Numbers” so to speak)

Thanks for being part of Twitter,

@Biz, @Ev, & @Jack
Co-founders, Twitter

Part I: What’s in it for You?

Firstly, I wish the follower counts weren’t listed on Twitter. It becomes an obsession, and it works against the first tenant of how Twitter is best used for the “average” user.

If you are an average human being, who isn’t interested in being “recognized” or being a digital “star” the best way to look at Twitter is simply what value you can attain from it. You shouldn’t care a hoot who or how many people follow you. You should only be concerned about following people who interest you, who can give you value for your life, entertain you, whatever turns you on. You’re first objective is that Twitter should be a pleasure, not a strain. You should look at it as a media source, the same way you look at which book or magazine to buy that will give you those same things.

  • So, firstly, you should find 150 or so great people to follow or whatever your “Dunbar” number is, and leave it at that. Don’t follow people just so they will follow you back or just because they are following you.
  • You would rather follow 1,000 of the most awesome people in the world and have 0 followers, than have 10,000 followers and be following 5,000 people who tweet things that aren’t adding value to your life.

That really could be the end of it for most of us. Think of Twitter like a book. If you’re reading an awesome book that enriches your life, do you care if that book “Like you back” so to speak, or “follows you back.” Heck no. Even if you were Ashton Kutchner or John Mayer, you would be better off with ZERO followers but following only people who were enriching your life. This really is the top priority of Twitter. What can I get out it that adds to my life. Not, oh, if I can only get Roger Ebert’s or Steve Martin’s attention!

Part II: Your Still Not Satisfied

OK, so you still want to be a “Digital Star” part of the “digerati.” If you do want to attract honest to goodness followers, and by that I mean folks who aren’t following you just so that you follow them back you need to

  • Create original content in a subject that you are passionate about, preferably in video format.

It’s easy to tweet interesting content that someone else created, say the New York Times, the Tech Blogs, etc. But everyone is doing that. It’s ok at times, and especially if its something you find truly interesting and that you have actually read yourself and thought about, but people are more interested in the source. They may follow you, but they are listening to and influenced by the source. Because the source is the guy who is passionate about his subject, he’s going to deliver the most interesting, not only content about it, but perspective and opinions about it.

So find your passion, no matter what it is, and create original content around it. It may not be tech or some of the other popular Twitter topics, but even if no one else on Earth was interested in what you were covering (and that’s highly unlikely) at least you’ll be living on the edge of excitement all the time.

And one of the points of Twitter is that you would rather have 1,000 followers who are truly interested in your tweets than 10,000 who are only following you so that you follow them back. That is akin to having a conversation with someone who is only there so that you’ll listen to them.

What are your thoughts about the best way to use Twitter? Love to hear your insights.

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