Hey there. I really hesitated before publishing this post, because it’s going to be about Twitter and how I use it, and I’m pretty sure this is an adequat topic for trolls and flame (and flaming trolls). But, a friend asked me to talk about this so here it is.
Before I get started though, don’t take this as the bible or anything. It’s just how I made my way through Twitter after a few years (almost 4 to the day as of writing this), and how I can still enjoy using it today, despite all the problems it presents. Might not suit everybody, or you could also have a different opinion, that’s totally fine.
How do you make something out of your Twitter account as a worker of the IT industry? And by this, I mean how do you grow a Twitter audience, if there is even such a thing.
I’ll start by stating the obvious, but the first thing to enjoy using Twitter is to actually use Twitter. Follow people, read what they say, react to what they say, and bring your own content. You know, nothing ground-breaking there.
Try to find your limit: when you can’t really browse through your timeline anymore because there is too much noise, try unfollowing a few accounts to see if it gets better. My personal limit is 500 followed accounts. I can’t really keep up when it gets higher.
The main problem is that Twitter is fundamentally broken for new comers. It is a social network where nobody can initially read you. Let this sink for a second. When you join Twitter, you can read everybody’s words, but nobody can read yours.
Joining Twitter is like arriving at a party and talking alone in your side of the room, hoping that someone will care enough to join you. Trust me, it sucks.
Unfortunately, there is no good solution for this. The only one I know is to keep producing meaningful content hoping that people will notice, retweet your content, follow your account and so on. From my own experience, the first hundred followers is the worst part. If you can get past this stage, slowly but surely it will get better.
I know that some people reached a very decent followers count by following (literally) thousands of accounts, hoping a few of them will follow back. It does work, however you end up with an audience that has little to no interest in what you can say, because they just followed back almost mechanically, not because of your content. I’d advise not to do that.
Tweet often. Produce meaningful content. You know the saying, “if you build it, they will come.”
Don’t be afraid to give your opinion
Tweeting links, articles, citations and such is a very fine way to build your audience and to tell the world you exist and share insightful content, but it is also fine to give your opinion. Especially on topics you feel confident enough to have one.
I personally do not follow people only for what they share, but also (and mostly) for what they think and say. Even if I don’t always agree, I like reading people’s opinion about our industry, our work, my work and whatelse.
I suppose it is important to find the good balance between giving opinions and sharing resources. Some people will like one more than the other. Bringing a bit of all on the table helps gathering a larger audience.
Avoid too much off-topic
I have really no problem with people tweeting about their life, what they enjoy doing outside of work and anything not web industry, but I know for a fact that a lot of designers, developers and workers from our field on Twitter do not enjoy it.
If you want your Twitter account to grow, I would advise not to do too much off-topic. It’s fine once in a while, but I guess on Twitter we all follow someone for a reason. For instance, I follow Brad Frost because he tweets insightful links and content about Responsive Web Design. That said I am perfectly fine with him talking about anything else from time to time. But when it gets too much like Christian Heilmann, I am losing interest. That’s also the nice thing on Twitter: we can kind of pick what/who we want to read.
But again, some people will be completely fine with this, and some people won’t like it at all. You can’t please everybody, so it really depends on how you envision your Twitter account.
Take care of your profile
Ironically, I believe this is the kind of thing that matters less and less when your account is getting more and more attention. However when you get started and nobody knows you, it is worth spending a bit of time on your profile to show who you are, what you do and what you are using Twitter for.
Put a picture, a background image and find a short bio. I hate writing bios so I am definitely not an example here, but that can be short and sweet. I personally tend to dislike bios that are a super serious list of all the achievements and titles of a person. I don’t really care. I’d rather have a smile at a joke, or simply see what is the person interested in.
I also noticed that company / product / project accounts usually perform worse than user accounts. Probably because they are less personal, but that’s still an interesting thing to acknowledge.
You can also pin in a tweet on the top of your timeline. It has no impact on users browsing Twitter through a third party client such as Tweetdeck. But for those on the .com, they’ll see your tweet right away when visiting your profile.
The feature being fairly new, I am not entirely just about what is the best to pin up there. I chose a tweet that had some impact and could be useful for beginning developers. But a fun tweet could also work I guess. Think about what you’d want people to think when checking your page.
Just enjoy it
Last piece of advice would be to just enjoy it. It should not be a pain for you to tweet or to browse your timeline. Twitter is also so specific that I’d say it’s not for everybody. Not in the way that some people should not use it; just that I understand how some people could dislike it.
Find what works for you on both sides of Twitter: reading, and tweeting, then stick to it. Patience is what works on this social network. It takes time, but that’s part of the journey.
Enjoy it. The more you do, the more you will. :)