5 Twitter Tips for the Busy and Clueless (like me)

A colleague of mine, @CatherineKillo1, recently joined Twitter. She’s way more social-media savvy than I; nevertheless, she’s new to the Twitterverse, so I offered to send her some tips. She said yes please, and then I thought, why not make it a blog post?

So here goes.

I joined Twitter (or rather, joined with my current persona, @JocelynRDavis) in April 2014. As of today I have about 865 followers and am following about 845. I don’t know how good those numbers are, but I think they’re not bad when you consider that a) I’m not the least bit famous, b) I spend very little time on social media and have no helpers, and c) all my followers are actual people.

If, like me, you are un-famous, have little time or aptitude for social media, and find the idea of buying imaginary followers unappealing—then you may find these tips useful.

Tip 1: Tweet Two to Five Times per Day, on Average

Twitter rewards those who participate. I don’t know exactly how it works, but I know that those who tweet regularly will get more followers than those who don’t.

I set a goal from the beginning that I would tweet three times a day and once a day on weekends. I have pretty much stuck to that, and it has worked for me. I’ve read that as a business owner I should be tweeting once every 15 minutes, but c’mon … I’m not devoting my life to Twitter. Yes, I know one can build up a bank of tweets and schedule them, but still, that means I’d have to come up with 50+ tweets per day. Seriously?

The good news is, if you have the Twitter app on your phone and follow Tip 2, it’s not difficult to hit the three-tweets-per-day mark.

By the way, it also helps to have a profile blurb that captures your “brand”—i.e., what you and your tweets are about. I adjust mine everyone now and then. Oh—and don’t lock your account so that you have to approve follower requests. That’s pointless (you can always block a bad egg), and it discourages most people from following you.

Tip 2: Don’t Stress About Original Content

People will tell you that tweeting original content, such as your own blog posts or your own witty-profound thoughts, is essential to getting followers. Maybe that’s true, and I do try to write an original blog post once a week (that’s another story), but honestly I don’t notice any difference, follower-wise, between the weeks when I’ve tweeted original stuff and the weeks when I’ve simply tweeted articles or posts by other authors.

How do I find content to tweet? I’ve identified several main interest areas—leadership, learning and education, and writing—and I’ve signed up for seven or eight “feeds” in those areas: a couple of newsletters (like this one), a few LinkedIn groups, Medium, ReadThis, and The Needs. They push articles to me in daily emails. I’ve also bookmarked a bunch of websites I like—various companies, publications, and blogs—and when my email feeds fail to inspire me, I’ll visit one of those sites and see what’s new. Almost every article and post these days has a Tweet button, so it’s easy to hit Tweet when you’re so inclined.

I don’t agonize about what to tweet. I tweet whatever strikes me as interesting that day. I do think it’s important to have a few core topics, but you don’t need to stick rigidly to them; in fact, some of my most-viewed tweets have been “off-message,” just stuff I thought was cool.

Tip 3: Follow Back

For a few months I followed only people who seemed to share my interests. People would follow me, and I would check them out and maybe follow them back. As a result, my followers number would shoot up one day and drop back the next: 2 steps forward, 1.9 steps back.

Then I tracked my followers on a spreadsheet for about a week and the light finally dawned: If you don’t follow back, most people will unfollow you.

The way to lock in your followers is to follow back. Once I realized this, I started following nearly everyone who follows me. The exceptions are individuals who:

  • Are only about selling something
  • Tweet things I find offensive (profanity, borderline racist remarks, etc.)
  • Don’t seem to be trying at all (3 tweets since 2012 and nothing in their profile)
  • Have clearly bought their way in (see next point)

Re purchasing followers: When I first got on Twitter I was amazed to see quite a few non-celebrities with 100,000 or more followers and very few tweets. It took me a while (yep, clueless) to realize that one can buy followers and that some folks do this to make their numbers look good. The “followers” are accounts set up by the truckload by enterprising tweeters who will, for a fee, follow you with those accounts.

You will receive plenty of pitches from these people. No harm in it, I guess, but it seems a bit creepy—like being followed by an army of ghosts.  Aragorn was OK with it, but I’m not.

Tip 4: Drop the People Who Drop You

The flip side of the tip above is to unfollow the unfollowers.

Certain tweeters use a sneaky tactic in an effort to boost their follower-to-following ratio:  they follow you, you happily follow them back, and then a week or a month later, unbeknownst to you, they unfollow you. The way to catch these nefarious types is periodically to scroll through your Following list (I do it about once a week) and look for the “Follows You” note on each one. If there is no such note, you know that person has unfollowed you—and you can choose to unfollow them.

Now, there are some people I choose to follow even if they don’t follow me, but I have learned to limit these one-way follows to two very small groups:

  • Dedicated creators of content in my areas of interest (such as certain newspapers or bloggers)
  • People or organizations I really want to support (such as certain charities or authors)

Of course in the first month or two, you’ll want to follow a bunch of people just to get some traction. But after you get going, there’s not much point in following those who don’t follow you. If you want content pushed to you, sign up for newsletters or email feeds (see Tip 2). And if you desperately want to know what the Kardashians are doing—fine, follow them, but then you’re probably not reading this post.

Tip 5: Forget About Actually Following Anyone and Embrace Serendipity

Since Twitter purports to be about “following” people, it’s natural at first to think that you’re supposed to do just that: Keep up with all those tweets. Watch what everyone is doing. Read what everyone is saying.

In fact, there’s no need to do anything of the sort. When I first got on, I spent maybe a week trying to read all the tweets in my feed and another week panicking and cutting back my Following list to a manageable size (I know … clueless). Then I realized I didn’t have to read any of it if I didn’t want to. It’s sort of like browsing a bookstore. You visit when you feel like it; maybe something catches your eye, maybe nothing does, maybe you buy something, maybe you don’t.

Nowadays, I find myself visiting my Twitter feed one to three times a day, on average. I scroll for a few seconds. If something catches my attention, I’ll click on the link or maybe do a retweet. I have stumbled across a lot of fascinating stuff this way.

Serendipity. Or should I say: Seren-Twipity.

I am still learning. What are your Twitter tips for the busy and clueless?


About Jocelyn R Davis

Jocelyn Davis is Principal of Seven Learning, a leadership development firm that creates a lasting lift in leaders' effectiveness using classic books, films, and stories.
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2 Responses to 5 Twitter Tips for the Busy and Clueless (like me)

  1. Kate says:

    Serentwipity? GROAN. I say that with the utmost respect and admiration. A good pun is like a piece of dark chocolate – perhaps unnecessary, but welcome nonetheless.

    Great tips! The only thing I would add is that it’s possible to get an enormous amount out of Twitter without tweeting at all. I read it fairly often, but haven’t tweeted in :mumble mumble: months (years?). It’s a very efficient way of getting a pulse on things that interest you. It won’t get you any followers, of course, but that’s not the goal in this case.

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