In late December of 2009, I decided to finally check-out Twitter. I created an account and started to play with it. Reflecting now after a couple of years spending a decent amount of time on the platform, here are some things I have learned in the process. Unfortunately, as with most things in the world, there is a lot of waste and fluff with little substance. But, if you can find that value, Twitter is a pretty neat way to network.
1. Define what “success” on Twitter means for you.
People see Twitter as many things. If you choose to participate, understand how it can be of use to you. As with any tool, appropriate use is more important than use. Personally, it is sad to see people just use it as a method to inundate links to junk websites or as a method to feel as though they are really connecting to someone famous, but if that works for them great. For me, it is a tool to tap for immediate news and information locally and with people around the world on topics I care about.
2. Don’t let the tools/apps limit you.
This goes for Twitter itself as well as the various add-on companies that want to extract something you as a by-product of your tweets. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years options on what services to use and other options have actually decreased. Twitter acquired Tweetie then Tweetdeck to exert control over the client interfaces of the service. This was also done to unify the client platform so they can better dish ads and promoted tweets in an effort to finally monetize Twitter. I contend that lack of options is bad for the end-user.
Image hosting and URL shorteners want you to use them so they can generate traffic off of you to dish ads and get analytics for their own purposes. If you don’t care about any of this, great. I do and don’t want my efforts being taken for puposes I have no control over, so I run my own image hosting service and URL shortener. You don’t have to go down that route, but just don’t let the increasing limitations of the companies involved distort your value in the communications platform. Thankfully, there are still client applications out there that give you flexibility. Don’t just take what Twitter or iOS dishes you as the only method.
3. Don’t stick to just the people you know.
It’s pretty sad to see people stick to the same circle of people they knew outside of Twitter. They do paper.li aggregations with the same contributors each time because they either don’t want to include others or are unable to read others tweets. Don’t be this type of a contributor if you want to grow your perspectives and learn about other opinions.
4. The “Big Dogs” of Twitter are typically a waste of time.
Twitter might recommend them. They might have a million followers, but most all of them are a waste of time. For me, the value of Twitter is to easily interact with those people that are actually doing the work out there in the world. The tech people or celebrities that everyone tells you in various ways to follow are actually pretty weak in imparting decent information. If you are the same kind of person that friends Coke on Facebook, then clearly you are in for the kind of marketing the celebs and people that make their living on best practices of social media do on Twitter. I’m not. Here is a list of the “big dogs” but there are many different lists out there of supposedly key people to check-out.
For me, Twitter is a powerful tool to interact with other people like you on topics of interest. These people are the ones actually doing the work and implementing new ideas out there. Following a celeb or a tech person who hosts a radio show or something is of little value because they to not have the real insight of those that actually do the heavy-lifting.
5. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
I think everyone makes this mistake initially in life and in Twitter. If you do this, you are bland. Why would anyone want to read bland stuff? I see this all the time. I did this for quite while too. People will add you and drop you for various reasons that you don’t have any control over. There are a lot of social media experts that tell you to stick with specific topics you know to better classify yourself for others. I disagree and it is been my experience that you will get more recognition by people of real value if you show that you are a real person that has many interests.
Twitter and social media is a constantly evolving medium and people will take it and run with it various ways. Whatever you do, think about what you want to use it for while leaving your options and mind open to broaden your horizons.