A 15-minute guide that introduces the essential tools and insights for leaders to maximize their use of Twitter and how to make it a positive medium in a reactive age of negativity.
Since 2009, Twitter has been the hot spot for social media activity. Since the 2016 election in the USA, Twitter has become a place for government officials to informally declare policy intentions. Even though late adopters have finally joined and then wondered why it took them so long, I still discover people who are Twitter-adverse but want to get started. I also discover people who have little interest…. and that's okay too. I’m not a social media expert, nor do I usually write about social media. However, I’ve found Twitter to be immensely helpful and not as time-demanding as it seems. In recent weeks I've also found that Twitter is depressing because the content of most people's posts focuses on what's wrong or centers on complaining.
Since I get asked about Twitter from time to time, I thought I would share a short guide for getting started with Twitter and instantly benefiting from it. If you spend the equivalent of one lunch meeting a week with Twitter, you can have hundreds of mini-lunches with other leaders, connect at a new level with your constituencies, and learn and grow (even spiritually!) in ways you can’t imagine.
9 ‘Fast and Easy’ Steps to Becoming a Twitter Pro
Despite the fact that it's been around for some time, I couldn’t find many Internet articles designed to help leaders get started with Twitter, though I think this popular post on Twitter basics by Michael Hyatt has helpful tips that show the Twitter posting essentials. If you are new to social media and have time, you may want to jump over and read that first before continuing.
- Be clear on why. Twitter will take a lot of your time if you’re not clear on how you’re going to use it. If you’re planning to just promote yourself or your product, you may want to reconsider. Your goal should be to engage people, listen, learn from them, and then help them. Your goal isn’t just visibility, the goal for Twitter is engagement with others. We often mistake “connecting” with others with the idea that “they got to meet us.” (Click to Tweet) That’s pretty self-focused (though common). No, the goal of Twitter is to engage with others. Twitter can bring us together like virtual campfires of people talking about various topics, causes, and organizations. But you will need to set it up to do that or the algorithms (the Twitter software is set up to profit) will limit this.
- Choose to stay committed to it for a full year. Get on Twitter and use if for a full year. If after that you don’t like it (and you’ve given it a fair chance), then you can quit. The early months may seem slow to get started, but a good year will allow you to see your community connections grow as you spend time learning and engaging others.
- Sign in and use your real name as your ID, not your organization’s name or some nickname. Since the goal is engagement, others will connect with YOU. We can then hear about your work, personality, life, and interests. Twitter is a “behind the curtain” experience for those who follow you. And again, your learning from them will make them stay connected. So, use your real name. Many of us Twitter users rarely follow organizations, books, or businesses.
- Create a strong profile. Starting on Twitter is super easy, so I don’t think you’ll have any problems. For your profile (the description of who you are), use short words/phrases, and be sure to include your URL for your website.
- Learn to Tweet well. When you Tweet, share what you’re learning, seeing, thinking, or doing. I have a leader friend who shares his latest kitchen creation since he likes to cook when not out of town. People love that and feel a personal connection to the person, not just the “role” we have when leading. There's nothing more telling about motives than seeing people with automated tweets regarding products in the middle of a pandemic.
- Join and use HootSuite to manage your reading of your Twitter. HootSuite is browser-based and allows you to schedule Tweets, which is good from any computer. TweetDeck is popular too and my favorite (it is owned by Twitter). Each gives you control over Twitter in profound ways and you can see your lists better too (more on that later).
- Follow well. Don’t be one of those leaders who only follows 50-80 people while 1000+ are following you. I know that’s my personal opinion, but it looks bad to many folks who may want to follow you as if you don’t really want to connect with others and you’re just a one-way conversation. The general rule of thumb is to follow back people who have followed you and seem interesting/helpful to you. However, over time you'll find that you may not want to follow people due to the content of their tweets.
- Here’s how to manage this and stay focused: Use Twitter.com to create a core list of people you follow. Make it private (not public). THIS can be the list of 50-200 people you want to focus on while on Twitter. You can have HootSuite or TweetDeck make a column just for that list. Then, when you go to look at your Twitter feed, that’s the column you focus on. This aves time and maximizes usefulness.
- In HootSuite or TweetDeck, you may want to add pre-established columns for “Mentions” (shows Tweets by others that mention you) and “Interactions” (this one is only available on TweetDeck I believe. It shows when people follow you) and Direct Messages (private messages sent to you only). I know it may sound overwhelming, but it’s not too bad really.
- The startup into Twitter will take 10-15 minutes and the setup of HootSuite or TweetDeck will take you less than 10 minutes. Then, going forward, you can just have a 5-minute check-in to Twitter (or programs) to stay focused, productive, and yet connected.
- Participate in your growing online community. Twitter does happen in real-time, so it’s good to jump on once or twice a day and read through the Tweets. If you reply to a few, that is good.If you see an interesting hashtag, you can click on it and see what’s going on in a new column. You’ll soon find out that news hits Twitter first in big events. Reply to a few Tweets as you want to and enjoy the conversations
- Join Buffer and use it to manage your Tweets going out. Buffer allows you to save time by scheduling tweets from your smartphone (yes, there’s an app for that) or from your browser (Chrome works best for me). HootSuite offers this feature as well (and has some advantages), but Buffer is more user-friendly, quicker, and you can buffer from a wide range of places. You can pre-set a schedule of times to go out each day or you can schedule each Tweet’s time. As I read something helpful or interesting to others, which often happens early in the morning or late at night (not times people usually check Twitter), I load it into Buffer and it’s set to go out on the schedule that I set.
- A good rule of thumb used to be to not Tweet more than 6-8 times a day. I break it sometimes, yes, but you may push people away if you bombard folks with something every hour. Some motivational-types post every 15-30 minutes and that’s what they do for their followers. What I’ve done is preset 4-5 times a weekday (none on weekends usually) where Buffer will fire off a tweet for me. Please note that the free version of Buffer only lets you load a certain amount of tweets (roughly 10) ahead of time, but enough to keep you active on Twitter each week without having to spend much time. Set up Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with 3 Tweets per day, ranging from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Buffer allows you to post regularly to Twitter without having to be on Twitter and interrupt your work. Posting every two hours for 3-5 times a day seems to be a good rhythm for leaders. I’m writing this on a Saturday and my Monday tweets are already set from this morning of reading blogs (more on that in a follow-up article. You can find help from here or here). Sometimes, I’ll have one of these post to Twitter while I’m teaching a class. This scares my students in class (“Is Dr. Terry tweeting during class?” Uh, no.) AND it lets me know who’s checking their phones during my class (very helpful in enforcing class policies).
Now, here’s a veteran trick: Don’t worry about Tweeting much on Friday’s, though you may want to have a few go out on the weekend. If you only Tweet on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays each week, you’ll be fine. Friday is one of the least active days on Twitter, though it’s Facebook’s most active weekday. I also think for those in the northern hemisphere, it’s not imperative to tweet or blog much in July or August. Take a break! Most others are on vacation anyway. Same for Christmas break. It’s good to have a social media fast when possible.
Remember: YOU are in charge of social media. Social media is not in charge of you.
Oh, and connect with me @TerryLinhart when you jump into Twitter and let me know how it’s going for you. I’ll even help you with any questions you may have too!
If I missed anything here or you reach a step and can’t figure it out, let me know and I’ll add the information. (There are also many helpful YouTube videos for much of what I mention here)