15 years and 100,000 tweets later: 3 tips for Twitter you can learn from

Twitter profile

Twitter reminded me the other day that it was fifteen years ago when I signed up for a Twitter account.

December 7, 2006, was that day and the message I posted was like many you saw at the time when people started signing up – pithy and full of insight :)

Signing up for Twitter :)

Indeed, it was so unremarkable that it didn’t get a mention in my blog at a time when I was paying a lot of attention to what was happening in tech and communication and writing many articles.

That changed over the following few years as more people signed up and Twitter gained traction and other networks emerged, many falling by the wayside or being acquired by the stronger ones (remember Jaiku?).

In November 2013 Twitter become a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange following an IPO.

And here we are at the tail end of 2021 with Twitter still with us as a prominent part of the digital landscape, and still evolving. This landscape has changed in ways that we couldn’t imagine fifteen years ago, with that landscape seen by many, many people today as a toxic place, one that requires significant change, control, and regulation.

Seven years ago, in March 2014, I wrote an article about Twitter’s eighth anniversary, noting:

Who would have imagined Twitter would become such an integral part of the way in which a lot of people connect with others and with things that interest them?

That indeed is what Twitter does, embracing the good, the bad, and the ugly, of human behaviour and interaction. In recent years the social network has made efforts to remove undesirable elements and bad actors such as the big house clean of fake followers in 2018.

Today Twitter is used as a communication channel by politicians, organisations, and celebrities to make announcements that previously would be done with a press release or other formal and controlled communication, and to engage in discussion. It’s also a powerful advertising platform for business, used by global multinationals and small businesses alike.

Twitter verification is becoming more important as a signal of trust validation for a particular account and its owner. (As an aside, Twitter verified my account in early 2017.)

Twitter has evolved its offering in a major increase in scope such as Twitter Spaces social audio, and the Twitter Blue paid subscription service currently being piloted.

Is there value in a big number?

Looking back at the past fifteen years of my use of Twitter, I reflect on my focus on Twitter primarily as a means of engaging organically with people on matters of mutual or topical interest, mostly on business and technology topics with the occasional political-oriented opinion thrown into the mix (let’s not mention Brexit or Christmas parties).

It’s also a place I use to think out loud, especially useful if such thinking prompts comment or amplification from others. You can learn a lot from this.

In the 2014 article about Twitter I mentioned earlier, I wrote this:

From the communicator’s perspective, there’s no doubting the value of this tool today as a method of listening to what people are talking about – a foundational step in communication planning, something you do before you start talking. It also offers you terrific opportunities to engage with others once you do start talking.

In my view, there’s no right or wrong way to use Twitter from the business communication perspective, only effective or ineffective ways. And like all online communication tools and channels, Twitter is a mirror on the behaviours of people, reflecting what they say and do.

I think these words are equally valid today, notwithstanding the changed toxicity surrounding the platform and social media generally.

And so I come to the number 100,000 which represents the volume of tweets I have posted since December 2006. I hit this number on December 10 when I tweeted comment regarding an article Bill Gates published on his website about the outlook for 2022.

The 100,000th tweet

That tweet moved the odometer to the 100K mark.

100,000 is quite a number. I’m actually a little amazed that I have posted so much organic content online, much of which is undoubtedly ephemeral and of little real interest beyond the passing moments of when those posts were published. I sometimes wonder what historians or archivists would think if they encountered any of this content in the digital archives of The British Library or the US Library of Congress.

Three tips

Yet I have found immense value in the ephemera and the connections that result from publishing content others may find of passing interest or even value. While I’m a lot quieter these days in term of what I post and how frequently – quiet indeed compared to ten years ago when I would post 20 or more tweets daily for days on end – I will continue to be active on Twitter, probably listening more than talking. I’m particularly interested in what Twitter Blue can offer.

And what have I learned from 15 years and 100K tweets (not to mention thousands of likes that aren’t included in the big number) as an individual tweeter communicating at the intersection of business, communication, and technology?

Three things readily come to mind:

  • Be authentic. Yes, it’s an over-used word, but it’s an appropriate one in the context of how you appear and behave on Twitter. You’re not a marketing persona, you’re a real person: ensure your profile is complete and has a photo to help you present the unvarnished and unfiltered you to your audiences so they can get the measure of you through how you behave and what you say.
  • Be clear on why you are on Twitter. Whether you tweet once or twice a week or multiple times every day, you have a reason to do that. Know that reason with clarity and be there if you have interests and opinions that really matter to you, and you want to connect with like-minded people to share them. Whether your Twitter presence is a primary one, or whether it’s an entry point to your blog or website, be clear on your purpose.
  • Listen first, always. This is a principle of effective communication. The biggest mistake I’ve seen is people who start on Twitter and immediately talk. Worse, shout, spraying their opinions or links to “interesting content” far and wide without listening. That’s not communication never mind engagement. My tip: follow ten people (if you’re a communicator, here’s a good list to choose from) and listen to them for a month. Then like or retweet some of their tweets, perhaps as quote tweets with a comment if you want to make a good start. If a few of those tweeters start following you back, you’re on the right track.

If you’re active on Twitter, what’s your opinion on the value or otherwise of your activity? Have you reached some big numbers? What tips would you share for others to learn from? Share your thoughts.

In the old days of social media that would mean leaving a comment on this blog post. You’re welcome to do that, but perhaps more apt would be a tweet.

So, tweet me @jangles