Strategies To Make The Most Of Twitter, If You Want To Interact

by Thomas MORADPOUR on December 1, 2010 · 16 comments

Most tweets fall in the woods without making a noise. Ignored, completely ignored. You’ve probably read this Wired article revealing 71% of all tweets generate absolutely zero reaction by the tweetosphere… no RTs, no response, nothing. Did anyone even read them? Who knows. If you’re on Twitter to listen and get news-fixes from your trusted sources, that may not be a problem, but if you’re like me – seeking the added value of networking and conversations - then that’s pretty much your biggest issue with Twitter.

HOW DO YOU GET HEARD IN A CROWD?

For most, Twitter feels like Grand Central Terminal at rush hour. A big crowd of strangers moving past you, each individual with his own agenda. Come back an hour later – new crowd. Very hard to find the right people to engage with, and create meaningful dialogue.

In my first months on Twitter, I struggled. I would post my thoughts, retweet interesting (to me ) links, and maybe interact with a handful of nice tweeps who I randomly stumbled upon. My experience of Twitter is completely different now: I’ve created relationships with a large group of amazing active users who also seek engagement and interaction. The value I get out of it has increased ten fold.

A WIKI POST – STRATEGIES TO HAVE A MORE ENGAGING EXPERIENCE OF TWITTER!

I have experimented, but I don’t know all the answers, so will start this as a collaborative post… My thoughts starters are below, and I’d ask my readers and friends to post their own thoughts on how to make the most of Twitter if your objective is to interact.

TWO STRATEGIES THAT DON’T WORK – THE FIREHOSE & THE TOURIST.

Here’s two type of users I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have. The first is the Firehose. Someone who pumps out tweet after tweet with links to his own content, without ever responding to anyone. You’ll spot him easily by noticing short bursts of 4 or 5 tweets, all with links, all only a few seconds apart. Most probably automated – don’t answer, you’d probably be talking to Hootsuite! Some people do this and also interact – the only way to know for sure is to check their timeline. Those who never answer back are… Firehoses. I won’t judge, but if you want interaction on Twitter, this can’t work, so don’t mirror your behavior on them.  The Tourist is the polar opposite… someone who comes on Twitter on a Monday, then comes back on a Friday the following week. Very few people will invest time to get to get to know someone who simply never shows up. You need to be on Twitter somehow regularly… not to say spend all your day (like some), but it’s better to be active 10 mn every day than one full hour only once a week.

THE HOLY GRAIL – BEING A LIGHTHOUSE

Here’s who I’d like to be. Someone known for having a point of view and original ideas others gravitate to. A Lighthouse is a user who shines a beacon that others navigate towards… someone who will start conversations… stimulate followers with fresh thoughts… yet value interaction with others to fuel their own thinking. Now, I’m not there, and my guess is I won’t be for a while. But I sure will try and mirror some of my own behaviors on such lighthouses. If you want good examples of Lighthouses, you’ll want to follow people like @unmarketing (Scott Stratten), @thebrandbuilder (Olivier Blanchard) or @JessicaNorthey (Jessica Northey).

A GREAT WAY TO START – PAYING IT FORWARD

A great way to start is to pay it forward. Don’t wait for others to mention and retweet you. Follow people you find interesting, respond to their questions, retweet their content, mention them in your tweets. Very soon you’ll be known as someone who likes to interact and you’ll be brought into more conversations. After a while, if some users still ignore you… dump them and move on. Life is too short and the crowd is too big.

THE MOST EFFECTIVE (I FOUND) – USING “MEET ME HERE!” SIGNS

The fastest way to get interactive on Twitter is to join chats. Here’s a full list. Chats are great because they’re “by appointment” and “by interest” – show up at the designated time, and use the designated hashtag in your tweets (e.g. #LeadershipChat or #MMchat), you’ll be sure to have a dialogue with users who do want to engage on topics you care about. Follow them and continue the conversation after the chat.

I can’t conclude this post without mentioning #usguys! I won’t tell the story again, it’s in an earlier post. Using the #usguys in your tweet, at any time, is like wearing a badge that says “I want to have a conversation”. Quite a powerful statement – and it works because a growing number of tweeps use a #usguys search as their starting point in Twitter, rather than their full stream (I know, I do)… So I don’t need to run it past Wired or their research company to know that the 71%-of-tweets-ignored rule does not apply to #usguys. In fact, I’m pretty sure that number is zero.

MORE IDEAS IN COMMENTS PLEASE!!!

I still find it hard to find the right people in the crowd… those who will join a conversation. How do you do it?

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  • http://www.patrickprothe.com Patrick Prothe

    The Lighhouse is such a great analogy. I think we’ve all seen way too many people who join as firehoses then get disillusioned because they’re not seeing any results. The tourist as well.

    It’s something I often talk about to the skeptics within our company who say they’ll never Tweet. Most often I hear that they don’t want to tell the world what they had for lunch. With that comment I know they don’t yet understand that it’s possible to form meaningful connections and friendships in a neighborhood on Twitter.

    I must say it took me a few months after joining in 2007 to get it. I also recommend Twitterville by Shel Israel – he does a great job showing how people of all stripes find value and community on Twitter > http://www.amazon.com/Twitterville-Businesses-Thrive-Global-Neighborhoods/dp/1591842794

  • http://smartel.posterous.com Sylvain Martel

    Keeping the good work Tom, nicely done again!

    Not much to add apart that some very basic Twit-etiquette rules apply, such as respect the sources when RTing AND be thankful for mentions and RT from other Twitter users (yes people, it means to say thank you when somedody RT one of your post).

    One last thing: yes 71% of tweets do not create any “direct” and “measurable” actions. It does not mean there aren’t any reactions at all. In display avertising, we call them “latent visits”, or visits to a web site after an exposition-without-interaction to an add. So call it here “latent reactions”. Out of this 71% of non-interacted tweets, a large proportion have been read. By someone. Somewhere. A read that may, one day, have an impact on this “exposed” person’s behaviour.

    Nice job again!

    SM

  • http://smartel.posterous.com Sylvain Martel

    Me, again.

    Forgot a very simple but so important rule: Add a photo to your profile. People don’t want to interact with an egg. (aka Twitter default profil pic)

  • http://jasonmikula.com Jason Mikula

    Hey Tom!

    Want to reinforce two of your points from my personal experience.

    When I first started using Twitter, I didn’t have any friends. A said but true story. I searched through my email, but any of my friends who use Twitter do so to follow media outlets or celebrities or the local food truck, not to engage.

    So, I made a list of “thought leaders” and “important people” in the space I wanted to be in – social media, marketing, public relations, media, etc. Now, I didn’t think I’d immediately get followed by Brian Solis or whoever, but it did give me a chance to watch the discussion, find new people to follow, and begin engaging with people.

    That approach introduced me to Twitter chats, which I’d recommend as the single best way to start engaging with people & find new people to follow. Chats like #IMCChat (integrated marketing & communications), #B2BChat, and #MMChat introduced me to great tweeps like @MargieClayman (@RLMadMan at the time), @CarlSorvino, @Josepf & many more. They also made me feel like I was part of a community.

    Jason

  • http://www.pmorganbrown.com Morgan

    Tom,

    Great post. I think a key to success on Twitter is, ironically enough, meeting people in real life. There’s nothing like connecting with a group of folks on Twitter and then meeting them at a conference or Tweet up. It’s those real life bonds that get built while we’re off the grid that cements the relationships on the network.

    Of course we can’t meet everyone, but finding local Twitter users and then organizing a meetup, or organizing a meetup at an industry conference is a great way to build your network of connections on Twitter and take them to the next level too.

    Morgan

  • http://www.rbm-t.net Ritch Brandon

    Tom,

    Thanks for the hashtag/”Meet Me Here signs” suggestion and list. I have been using a list of my “favorite tweeters” but still struggle to parse through the stream to the best content.

    Your firehose, lighthouse and tourist analogies are dead on. Maybe another classification could be the “annoying street corner pusher” or the “Hyde Park barker” who tries (repeatedly) to use Twitter as a push platform to yell into the crowd about his wares. They’re missing the point of “social media”.

    Regards,
    Ritch

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Oh I love your Hyde Park Barker class!
      Tom

  • http://www.redesign2.com/blog.html Paul Biedermann

    Really great thoughts and insights, Tom. Only recently have I been spending more time on Twitter, as I begin developing relationships and appreciate the great content I’m exposed to daily.

    Even more recently, I started joining some Twitter chats. I’m beginning to see how this new kind of interaction could potentially open up a whole new world within the social media realm. Admittedly, I’m struggling a bit with how to best manage my time with it all (and strangely, I still feel like I’m not doing enough!). I’m sure these things will sort themselves out — it just takes some time, and hey — why should adjusting to a new communications model be any different?

  • Alexander Nikolov

    Hey Tom:

    Nice post, once again.

    I found out that using lists is a great way to find new interesting people & conversations. I regularly check out the new lists I’ve been added and who else is listed there. I normally skip the auto-generated lists because they are hardly by interest/topic.

    Cheers
    Alex

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Alex, thanks for reading and commenting.
      I agree – I do the same.
      I find automated list quite useful… as a private tool to keep track of who interacted with me and my content. But hand-crafted lists have more value – they are deliberate.
      Tom

      • Alexander Nikolov

        Manual lists are deliberate – excellent choice of words!

        And you’re right about auto lists. We are becoming an automated society, did you hear about that factory for robots in Japan that could operate for 2 months without any humans at all? We’re doomed.

        ;-)

  • http://circleofignorance.wordpress.com Karen E. Lund

    Your photo of Grand Central Terminal inspires me. I happened to be there a few days ago and it would be impossible to engage with everyone at once. (Not sure I’d even want to… Well, maybe now, but there was a time it was a bit scary.)

    The thing is, while I was passing through I noticed a tour group admiring the architecture. Somewhere in the middle of the group a guide was talking to about two dozen people. He’s what you’d call a Lighthouse, talking about what his followers wanted to know. Hundreds of other people didn’t care, but it doesn’t matter. These few had found their like-minded peers and a guide.

  • http://www.mantywebdesigns.com Jill Manty

    I think Twitter can be a very lonely place when you’re just getting started- ironic since there’s human communication going on all around you. But it can feel like your first day at a new school- everyone seems to already have their niche. Starting small is crucial. Find a few people you can interact with regularly. And it helps to remember that there are certainly others who feel as out of place as you.

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  • http://twitter.com/markdavidson Mark Davidson

    I’ve had a fair amount of success on Twitter and I can tell you that you are on the money with your lighthouse… You are really adept with analogies. I’m going to have to take a peek at your Twitter account and see how you are using it. Over the last 4 years, I’ve developed a style that’s uniquely my own but seeing how much I agree with your post, I’m curious to see how you apply it. Great job with this. You captured my Twitter philosophy perfectly.

  • http://twitter.com/markdavidson Mark Davidson

    I’ve had a fair amount of success on Twitter and I can tell you that you are on the money with your lighthouse… You are really adept with analogies. I’m going to have to take a peek at your Twitter account and see how you are using it. Over the last 4 years, I’ve developed a style that’s uniquely my own but seeing how much I agree with your post, I’m curious to see how you apply it. Great job with this. You captured my Twitter philosophy perfectly.

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