A guide to the Twitterverse
by Tony Dunst | Published: Apr 11, '12
It took me quite a while to come around to Twitter. When I first heard about it my initial reaction was "Jesus, narcissistic idiots need a medium beyond Facebook to update their friends and family about what they just ate?" However, over time I realized I was the one being an idiot, and that Twitter has tons of practical applications and exciting implications. And it would appear that Twitter is very much here to stay--at least until someone invents an even more immediate and ADD-friendly form of celebrity stalking and highly public self-promotion.
I recently read an article about the top mistakes poker players make on Twitter by the charming Katie Dozier. It inspired me to look up what other methods people suggested for increasing your following and the overall quality of your tweeting. I've used the website regularly for over a year now, and I must confess the whole thing fascinates me. It's become an integral form of self-promotion for those looking to establish a career that demands or benefits from a degree of exposure (applicable for 90% of the people you meet on the West coast) and a launching pad for those that don't have an alternative method for reaching a wide audience. The quantity of your twitter following has become so important for some people that they essentially use it as a way of measuring your 'life score', and near everyone using the service understands that there's potential money to be made if you can reach enough people through it. I won't pretend that I'm a huge expert on the topic or that I have a gigantic following, but after some thought and some research I've come up with a few suggestions to help people establish themselves on the website:
1. Stop tweeting so much: I'm big on tweeting-efficiency. Apparently, many people feel every inane and banal thought they have is so ingenious that the Twitterverse should--no MUST--be made aware of it. I'm here to disagree. In the conversations I've had with people about what they like and dislike about other people's tweets there's often unanimous disdain for those who over-tweet. Nothing so clearly communicates to me that I should unfollow someone than noticing that they have a five-figure amount of tweets that well surpasses their four-figure amount of followers. While I know every tweet can't be highly relevant or comedy gold, I also think it's not that hard to refrain from filling your followers feeds with pointless dribble.
2. Don't respond to everyone: This one goes against pretty much every grow-your-following post or column I've read on the topic but I still stick by it. Accrue enough followers and you'll get people who ask you questions that could be solved by spending two seconds on Google. You'll get people who tweet random, pointless stuff to you that leaves little room for sensible response. You'll get people tweeting hateful insults. You'll get tons of polite, supportive remarks to the degree that I feel responding to each with a quick, thoughtless message borders on disingenuous. One of the better known and successful artists of our time was Andy Warhol. Beyond his accomplishments in art and fashion Warhol was known for throwing wild parties at a large Manhattan apartment where he invited all variety of guests, ranging from Hollywood big-wigs all the way down to random vagrants, illegitimates, and drug dealers he found fascinating. However, despite his raging and eclectic social life, Warhol was also known for hardly speaking. People would chew his ear off while he stood there bordering on mute, and when he finally spoke the scarcity of his words made the recipient of them with feel as though they'd truly won his attention or interest. I'd encourage you to take the same approach with your Twitter responses: make people earn them instead of just handing them out to anyone who gives you a little attention.
3. Pictures, pictures, pictures, especially of hot girls: Seeing as I've never posted a picture on Twitter I'm in pretty clear violation of this rule, but everyone enjoys a good visual, and nothing so consistently draws eyes like the sight of hot girls. If people are fascinated by you and your life they'd almost certainly love the opportunity to see more, so don't deny them that. And anyone over the age of 100 can easily recollect that only days after the initial television broadcast in 1925 an overflow of Girls Gone Wild infomercials began infesting the airwaves. The business model was so successful that nearly a century later every student of marketing understands that nothing sells quite like sex.
4. Stop being such a blatantly desperate follower-slut: Because people are aware that enough followers can be directly converted to exposure, opportunity, and money, the degree in which some attempt to court them--both online and in real life--reaches an agonizing level. I'm of the opinion that you shouldn't have to tell people to follow you on Twitter because if you're actually generating a quality feed then followers will come naturally. Of course it's sensible to link all your other forms of social media into Twitter and make mention of your handle in instances where it's professionally applicable, but I sure as hell don't classify friendly or passing banter as a professionally applicable moment to pull the old "Hey you should follow me on Twitter!" I've become so sick of that particular statement that my pre-loaded response to it is a flat and seriously toned "Well sure, but I trust I'll receive the obligatory handjob with this follow, right?" *Ziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip*
5. It's about them, not you: I know what you're thinking: "What the fuck dude? Clearly MY twitter feed is about ME". Not if you want followers it's not. Unless you're already famous for something you need to give people a reason to follow you, which means you need to spend time considering what appeals to them. Some will be attempting to appeal to a pretty esoteric audience and if so it's important to structure your tweets around that audience's interests. Others will be hoping to build a broad following, in which case you're better off attempting to make yourself useful to your followers and posting things that have the potential to be highly retweeted. This includes stuff like interesting articles you come across, breaking news stories for your industry, amusing or humorous pictures, the strange and absurd, opinions of other well-known people on Twitter, or hopefully clever remarks you think your audience will appreciate.
6. Don't shy away from conflict: It's not necessarily in everyone's personality to be confrontational or controversial, but people are enthralled by a good conflict and argument and often love to get involved. Twitter allows you the opportunity to call someone out on a global scale, then let it ricochet immediately towards anyone who could conceivably become involved, multiplying the conflict. Eyes inevitably follow. When a fight breaks out, nobody averts their eyes; they freeze where they stand and watch how it plays out, and if they're in high school they swarm around the combatants and chant "Fight! Fight! Fight!"
7. Quit your bitching: I mean fuck, quit your bitching already. It's just not a good look. Poker players: Just got three outed in a tournament? When will it end? The second I unfollow.
8. But there's a caveat to the bitching: Which is the meltdown. Be they originating from a celebrity, professional athlete, or just casual acquaintance everyone loves to witness a truly epic Twitter meltdown from the safe distance of their smart-phone. That shit is hilarious.
9. This whole retweeting business intrigues me: I feel like retweeting takes a little finesse, and it develops over time. But people are polarized on this one. Some do it constantly yet do it well, often showing love to their followers or examples of self aware humor. Others struggle with the retweet button, and develop a certain addiction to it. Suddenly, everything is worth a retweet! And I'm sure nobody will mind their feed clogged with a slew of redundant retweets about my highly esoteric interest! Others still guard the retweet button with their life, handed out as sparsely as Medals of Honor, saving it only for what they deem to be truly brilliant. Yea, I like retweeting stuff sometimes.