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How to Use Twitter. What it Is, is Not, and Should Be

Posted: 2017-01-06 18:46:52

A few people inspired this post. Federico Alvarez San Martín,'s Quality and Affinity manager, a.k.a "Fede," first brought up the death of Vine. I'm OK with it. I had no idea why Twitter bought Vine in the first place.

Others brought up Twitter's 350-person layoff. They claim it's an omen.

Not Really. Layoffs are rarely seen as a bad thing on the Street. Yes, it's a disaster for the 350. Not so much from the stock valuation side. Those 350 salaries go straight to the bottom line.

That's not what prompted me to write this.

The inspiration for this post came from Graham Edwards who said, in a comment on another post:

Hi Paul, is there any way to tag and categorize the followers and then have the old tweets sent out in a more targeted way? Since the stream is "chaotic" and getting faster, frequency does make sense... again you are, like everyone exposed to reader fatigue. Take any of this with a grain of salt as I am still struggling with the utility of twitter. - Graham Edwards

You are not alone, Graham. I think that even Twitter struggles with Twitter's utility.

I know I did for quite a while.

Allow me to step back a bit. I'm new to social media. I started on LinekdIn in May of 2015. Many people think LinkedIn is a complex and tough nut to crack. In some ways it is. Lord knows I made a few boneheaded mistakes at the beginning.

Still, it has a basic identity that, rightly or wrongly, many embrace.

After a few initial slip ups, I started rolling right along, on LinkedIn.

Not so with Twitter. If anything, Twitter's seeming simplicity belies its purpose and true complexity.

Some people mock it. Yet it has 4X the number of active monthly users as LinkedIn!

Some people mock it. Yet more businesses promote there than on LinkedIn.

Some people mock it because it's noisy. Yes, it is. It's democratic. Democracy is noisy.

It took me 3 kicks at the can to do Twitter right.

I tried to engage with people, but no one talked back.

I tried to connect with people, but no one discussed anything.

I even wiped out my following twice before I finally settled on a Twitter strategy.

It's normal to expect a duck to waddle and quack

That's what ducks do. But this particular duck refused to waddle and quack. Maybe it was n't a duck after all?

Social platforms should be. . .well. . . social. If you expect Twitter to be a social network you will be sorely disappointed.

It just isn't.

It may look like one, but, no, it's not.

It may call itself one, but, no, it's not.

You may call it one, but, still, no, it's not.

I read an article recently. The author called Twitter a waste of time. He complained that he asked a question on Twitter and no one answered. This despite the fact that he had 500 followers. LOL

No shit, Sherlock.

Twitter isn't Facebook Messenger. Likely, not a single one of his 500 followers even noticed the question. If any did reply (a miracle, BTW), I doubt he would have noticed that reply.

Like Graham pointed out, a Twitter feed can seem chaotic. No, scratch that, it doesn't seem chaotic. It is chaotic!

Sort of like Life.

Twitter is not for random conversations.

Twitter isn't one-to-one. It's many-to-many or one-to-many.

That's why Tweet-Meets are popular. That's why NFL broadcasts work. That's why any sporting event or even concert would work. That's why breaking news works.

That's why a single question gets ignored.

It's also a big hint about how to use Twitter.

The Big Scoop: Engagement is Nil on Twitter and That's Okay!

No, I haven't gone nuts. Outside of specific circumstances, there is very little engagement on Twitter. And, yes, that is a good thing.

Did you notice the bolded text? There is no engagement ON Twitter. That does NOT mean Twitter is useless. There is plenty of engagement FROM Twitter.

Therein lies the crux of the matter. There lies the re-birth of the platform. There lies the value that most people just don't get.

Maybe it's too obvious.

Maybe it's because that's not what a social media platform is supposed to be.

Whatever. Recognize Twitter's strengths. Use them to your advantage.

Twitter is not for engagement. It's for promotion!

It doesn't matter what you want to promote. You can promote it on Twitter.

You can promote it easily and cheaply.

Guess what? People need promotion. Ergo, people need Twitter.

226 million eyeballs every month can't all be wrong.

Twitter is like a Radio station

At least, that's how I think of it. I listen to the radio. I get some news. I hear some music. I hear some ads.

I do not interact with the newsmakers.

I do not converse with the musicians nor the announcers.

I do not buy, on the radio, what people advertise on the radio.

I just hear it. I do not engage on the radio. I can't. I engage because of the radio.

I may form opinions on the news I hear.

I may be moved to buy music or concert tickets from musicians I like.

I may hop over to a store or restaurant whose advertisement I heard.

I don't do any of that stuff on the radio itself. Nobody does. Nobody can.

Another similarity is the chaotic nature of the broadcast. Right now, I don't have the radio on. My favorite song may be playing at this very instant. So what? An ad may be playing that will solve an issue I currently have. So what, again?

I hear what I hear when I hear it. I don't when I don't. That's the way radio is. We're all okay with that.

Enough of us act because of what we hear when we hear it. That keeps radio stations in the black.

Advertisers spend U$30 billion every year on radio. That's just in the USA.

The analogy doesn't end there

No advertiser ever speaks of a single radio slot. They know that's meaningless. It isn't about the single slot. It's about the campaign. It's about the schedule. It's about a bunch of slots taken as a whole.

A single snowflake is a fragile thing. A whole bunch of them is another story altogether. All those fragile little beauties become an avalanche, a veritable force of nature.

Twitter recognizes that fact, even if they don't openly admit it.

Twitter has its own scheduling system built right into the platform. There are 3rd-party systems that expand its functionality.

Don't think a single tweet will cut it. Schedule many. Think radio advertising.

The analogy continues

There are 12 to 16 minutes of advertising per hour on the radio. That surprised me. Since the ads themselves are all mixed together, I never noticed.

Then something happened in the Fall of 2015. It helped me better understand Twitter.

Maybe it was a programming error. Maybe the ad sales guys just had a really bad week. I don't know. What I do know is that the exact same ad played in every single ad slot for about three hours.

That's the same freaking ad 45 or more times. . . in a row!

That's when I realized mixing spots up was a good thing.

Some people say to tweet no more than 5 to 8 times a day. I assume they mean don't tweet the same tweet more than 5 to 8 times a day. If not, that's really bad advice.

I tweet anywhere from 30 to 90 times a day.

I do not tweet the same freaking tweet that many times. I mix 'em up.

I tweet 10 retweets from close Tweeps (Twitterese for "peeps") that we call a Pack.

I tweet 18 retweets from influential accounts as a public service and growth strategy. We call those people Alphas, their tweets form Super-Packs, topic groups.

The rest are split between tweets promoting posts that I like and tweets promoting my own posts.

You may notice that I tweet more of other people's stuff than I do my own. That's no accident.

I subscribe to the philosophy of 3:1. Three shares or retweets for each personal tweet (tweet). It works well for me. It's also why I wrote my original Twitter management app and founded

Scheduling tweets with Twitter's Scheduler is a bitch. Scheduling from multiple controlled accounts is a nightmare. We fix that, plus a bunch of other stuff.

I hope this post sheds some light on your question, Graham. It's tough to put several months of trial-and-error into 1000 or so words.

Feel free to ask anything else either directly or in the Live Chat.

Bye for now

Title Photo credit: International Wolf Center - Don Gossett

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