Yesterday, I passed into the land of 1,000 Twitter followers. What does that mean? Nothing – and something.
Does it mean I have 1,000 new friends? No. Am I glad that those people have taken an interest in the commentary that I push forth on Twitter? Yes.
Do I pay attention to all 1,000 of my followers or the 1,300+ Twitter users that I currently follow? Nope. Just not enough time in the day. I mostly find myself taking quick peeks throughout the day to see if anybody’s tweets catch my eye, and sometimes a tweet will be interesting enough for me to take some sort of action (Respond, ReTweet, Click a Link, etc).
Monitoring Twitter (and other social media hubs) throughout the day can be a delicate balance. If (like me) you’re at work, taking action on too many items can be a big time suck. On the flip side, not paying attention at all means you could be missing important opportunities to interact (and grow). As for me, I really have to pick and choose my spots.
Many people have a far bigger following and many more people that they keep track of. Take my friend and local social media star Nate Riggs for example. He’s developed a following of over 18,000+ people, and manages to follow about as many. I may never reach that. How he manages it I may never know? His ability to keep up with his following on Twitter (and have a high level of personal interaction) while still managing to write daily blog posts and run a business astonishes me. It makes me think he might have figured out a way to add a 25th hour to the day?
In 5 years, I may not get to where Nate is at right now. Does that mean I shouldn’t try? Yes and no. Let me explain.
There are tools to make you more efficient, but keeping up with it all can still be fairly overwhelming if you’re trying to be everything to everyone. And, if you try to over-extend yourself you’re destined to fail (or at least feel like you’re failing even if you’re not). I’ve been in this boat before. I may be there again. But for now, I try to stick to certain principles to help push forward while keeping my boat between the shores so to speak.
I see these principles as a set of small behaviors that I inject into my daily routine that I believe will lead me where I want to go with regard to Twitter (and probably other things too). As always, I may be right and I may be dead wrong? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
My Principles & Habits
- Be yourself. Social media is about using technology as a way to bring your personality and your personal interactions online. The most interesting people are those who take their awesome personality and traits and bring those online in some compelling fashion. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, but (for goodness sake) show people who you are.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t get caught up in numbers or follower counts. Think quality over quantity. Developing a base of 30 people with whom you can have quality personal interaction with is far more valuable than have 100 followers who you don’t talk to at all.
- Be worth following. Speaking of gaining more Twitter followers, remember that you have to be worth following in the first place. A person isn’t going to be naturally inclined to just follow you, you have to give them a reason. Give people something good to take away from following you.
- Help Others. This might be the most important point on this list. Help other people further their goals and initiatives by sharing their tweets, re-tweeting their blog posts, or just spreading the word about their cause. Do things for other people and most people will return the favor. However, don’t help other people just to get something in return. Be genuine and people will appreciate you more – and reward you by promoting your initiatives when the time comes!
- Don’t be overly promotional of only pushing yourself. Everyone has a friend who only talks about themselves. Nobody likes that. The same goes with social media. It’s okay to promote your initiatives sometimes, but don’t make that the only thing you do. Chances are, you’ll turn all of your followers off and you’ll just be talking at people or to nobody at all.
- Don’t be lazy. Either jump in with both feet or steer clear. Taking a half-assed approach to Twitter won’t help you. In order to stay top of mind and build a following, you have to work it at. If you claim to be engaged with social media, don’t get caught going large amounts of time without posting something.
- Don’t be selfish, follow people back. Nobody likes a person who is self-centered. Nothing annoys me more than to see a Twitter profile that has a lot of followers but follows few back. People don’t have to follow you, reward them by giving up a small amount of time to follow them back. Who knows when a simple follow can turn into something bigger like a business relationship or speaking gig. Note: I get a lot of spam followers, so my general rule of thumb for following people back is you either must be a legitimate human, an interesting business or website, or do something else that peaks my interest. Otherwise, it’s a no-go on the follow. Nobody needs another spammer clogging up my feeds.
- Follow First. I call it the 80% rule. Sure, some people will find you and follow you first, but if you really want to gain more followers, you’re probably going to have to knock on some doors yourself. In my experience, about 80% of the people I follow end up following me back. This is not to say that you should or need to follow everyone – follow people who interest you. But know that you’ll probably get a lot of followers from people you’ve followed first.
- Use Tools to make you efficient. I like to use tools like Hootsuite and NutShell Mail to make it a little easier to manage my network. Remember, social media takes time but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to spend all day doing it!
- Tools are not a replacement for personal interaction. I repeat – tools are not a replacement for personal interaction. Tools should serve as a way to make it easier to manage your personal interactions, but are not there to give you an excuse to be lazy. If people wanted to talk to robots, we’d have built them Jetsons-style by now!
- Take it offline and out of the box. Remember how I said don’t be overly promotional? Well, I fibbed just a bit. You shouldn’t leave social media in its online box. If you’re doing a presentation or webinar, mention your Twitter handle. If you’re doing a public speaking gig, sneak in your Twitter handle. If you’re making business cards, mention your Twitter handle. Get the point?
- Integrate It, Don’t Focus on It. Most people don’t want to do social media because they think it will take away too much of their time, or it will just be a waste. If you let it be, then it will be a waste of your time and energy. However, if you integrate it into your daily routine, you’ll find that you should be able to do it without a hitch. For example, each morning when I come into work I check my follower count to review my new followers (from there I either follow them back or leave them alone). I leave Hootsuite running in a second browser throughout the day, and quickly glance every so often to see if anyone has has mentioned or DM’d me, or to respond or RT to something I find particularly interesting (there are plenty of tools that do this). Also, if your job is primarily online, as you surf the web and find things of intrest – take 2 seconds to follow them or RT them.
- Treat Others As You Wish To Be Treated. This one is self-explanatory. Be courteous and professional, and you’ll likely be treated the same way in return. Act like a douchebag, and other douchebags will come out of the wood works and crucify you publicly.
- Dirty Laundry / Public Forum. To go along the same lines of treating others in a courteous and professional manner, try not to let your dirty laundry air out publicly by treating people poorly and getting into nasty spats on Twitter. Disagreements are okay (and healthy), but letting that spill over onto Twitter (or anyplace) can end up doing much more harm than good. If it’s about to get REAL with another user, I suggest taking it offline.
- Set goals. What is it that you want to get out of social media. Whether you’re a business, a personal brand, or just a casual user, setting and understanding the goals of your social media interaction can go a long way in ultimately determining how successful it is.
These are the principles I try to go by when using Twitter. I’m sure there are some that I’ve left off, and some of these points also translate over into life lessons in general.
I’m interested in hearing from you. What are your Twitter principles?