Eight lessons I’ve learned from Twitter

Twitter visualization

I’m writing this blog as a way of accepting a challenge from my friend Venessa Miemis.  Always glad to be pushed in new ways!

I’ve been a devoted Twitter-er for nearly a year.  In that period I’ve moved from reluctant skeptic to poster-child advocate.  Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

1) Respect the person behind the icon.  Early on I “blocked” a young lady because her icon was a little provocative. My assumption was that she was spamming me or worse.  Later that day she wrote a comment on my blog — she was a student trying to learn from me and she was disappointed that I turned out to be a smug elitist. Wow, talk about being humbled. I apologized profusely and now we’re friends.  This was a great lesson and I’m glad it happened early in my Twitter career. Think about the real people behind the icon.  You should be honored they are interested in you. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

2) This is best kind of networking.  About a year ago I was attending a live, weekly meeting with a networking group that had the initials “TNT.”  Every time an attendee reported something positive, everybody would suddenly yell “BOOM!”   TNT … get it?  Scared the crap out of me every time. The long meetings, the referrals, the score-keeping and gimmicks — not for me, especially after I discovered the power of Twitter.  Nearly every customer, partner and supplier I currently work with came through Twitter. This is the NEW networking. No limits. No scary noises.

3) It’s not for kids. This is a business tool.  Get in the game.

4) It’s not for everyone.  I have not quite placed my finger on it, but there is a certain subset of the human race who will not, can not tweet.  I think it has something to do with being an engineer, but I need more data on this. : )  Accept them. Love them. Move on.

5) Go to the party.  One of the most over-used descriptions of how to succeed on Twitter is adopting the “cocktail party” persona:  Be nice, entertain, be helpful, don’t sell.  It might be trite, but it’s also about the best advice you can give anybody.  It’s a metaphor that’s easy to understand and it’s accurate. If people will pay attention to you at a party, they’ll pay attention to you on Twitter.

6) Adapt and adopt.   If you spend too much time trying to “find your audience,” you will completely miss the amazing audience who has found YOU.

7) Twitter is an appetizer. But to get to the main course, you need to write your new friends, call them and, if possible, meet them.  That’s when the real magic happens!

8) Don’t tweet drunk.  ‘Nuff said.

Please tell me the lessons you’ve learned from Twitter.

Illustration: This visualization came from a place calledMentionMap. I have no idea what it means but it looks very high-tech and cool, don’t you think?  I have always wanted to be a node. 

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  • Good lessons all, but wait a minute, you aren’t getting off that easy. What was the challenge from Venessa?

  • One of my roles is to help other people at my organisation to ‘get’ Twitter. This doesn’t just mean loading up Tweetdeck, explaining RTs, etc etc. I’ve found that you need to explain that Twitter is, in itself, not the big deal. The big deal is: Do you want to share information with your peers?

    If you do, if you find it interesting, if you like the idea of building relationships, if you want to learn more to be better at your job, and if you appreciate that sharing your opinion/knowledge is part of that, then you can now do it – because Twitter makes it easy for you.

    I tell them that if they don’t have that desire to share or learn, don’t bother with Twitter. They are perhaps the people you refer to in #4, Mark, and I have better things to do than try to convert them. I think there may be one or two such people here, but the majority get it.

    My – rather laboured – point is that I have learned that Twittering is not about Twitter, it is about sharing info/opinion/friendship for mutual benefit. And if people get that, they get Twitter, because Twitter simply makes it easier.

    Again Mark, thanks for getting me thinking.


  • I signed-up to Twitter in early 2009 then pretty much left it dormant for a few months because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing. Then a chance encounter with an old friend who had transformed themselves into a ‘Social Media Guru’ sparked me back into action. I started following them and then scoured their 2000+ followers for other people who I thought relevant and interesting to Social Media and B2B marketing. I then started tweeting, @ replying and RT’ing with real enthusiasm and engagement. I quickly realised Social Media would be of immense importance to me, my agency and my clients. The thing to understand is that Twitter is not just about 140 characters and what you had for breakfast (although I have been known to tweet about this!)it is a transit technology that takes you to an Aladdin’s cave of valuable information; research findings, visionary comment, widgets and some hilarious and entertaining stuff. But the most important thing is the relationships I have developed with people on Twitter, many of whom I would never have access to in ‘real life’ but are more than happy to engage with me. Twitter has energised me and opened my mind to the ‘art of the possible’

  • Mark, this is a great outline of the why’s and how’s around Twitter. An author friend of ours (and master of relationships) continuously tells us that the easiest way to connect when we enter a room full of people is to enter with the attitude “There you are!!!” not “Here I am”…. The same holds true in Twitter. It’s all about “them”.

  • Signed up on Twitter four months ago initially just to watch and come to an educated conclusion as to the value (or not)of Twitter and the strategy I could incorporate into my Business Plan.

    First lesson I learned was that you must see for yourself in order to accurately judge the benefits of Social Media and in particular Twitter. As a business person you have to be adaptable to change and you must not be lead by “nay sayers” that could impact the further success of your business.

    Second I continue to be humbled by the kindness, sharing of knowledge, and respect that is so evident and generous. A continuous feel-good experience abounds on Twitter and as long as you hold true to the ethical standards that you have set for yourself, you will reap the reward of friendship, business relationships and assistance toward increasing your own success.

    I have always believed that most of us really want to be helpful and know that we possible made a difference in someone elses life. I have to say that my experience on Twitter exhibits that to me every day.

    Love to learn, stay as current as possible and I’m definitely a communicator. Connecting comes perhaps more naturally to me than to some but Twitter is the Professor and the grade we get is totally our responsibility.

  • Kate Voth

    Mark, great points. I’m constantly floored by the way Twitter allows us to form deep and lasting relationships with people whom we otherwise may never have met. It’s wonderful to learn more about others by interacting with them online and–you’re right–even better when we take things a step further by meeting in person. Tweetups are a beautiful thing!

    I especially appreciated Lesson #6: Adapt & Adopt. Upon joining Twitter this past summer, it took me awhile to find my voice. My account fluctuated from a stricly personal to a strictly business theme until it became a mixture of the two. It finally dawned on me that I shouldn’t try to please any particular audience; all I should do is be myself and let people “take it or leave it.” We can’t always please everyone, but when we present ourselves as we truly are, we open the door to more meaningful relationships.

    The beautiful thing about social media is the transparency it demands/creates. If you’re faking it, people will know. If you’re lying, people will call you on it. If you’re working your tail off to be the best person you can be and to help others do the same, people will recognize that, too.

    Be yourself, be there to serve and be willing to give others a chance; your audience will come to you.

  • Mark, great article. I’ve found Twitter exceedingly helpful and interesting. It’s a tool for discovering, access, relationships, learning and community. The golden rule is strong on Twitter. Thanks for the piece.

  • Mark

    @Gregg — Venessa is condusting an experiment, collecting Twitter best practices, so I joined in.

    @John — I like that. Myabe that’s the key point. Sharers vs. non-sharers. You might have hit on it.

    @Jeremy – “Twitter has energised me and opened my mind to the ‘art of the possible” … what a beautifully-written sentiment. Thanks for sharing your story here my friend.

    @Steve Leil would be so proud of you! I must show her this post!

  • Mark

    @Diane “I continue to be humbled by the kindness, sharing of knowledge, and respect that is so evident and generous” .. could not have said that better myself! Agree!!!

    @Kate — so much wisdom here. Your comment is a self-contained blog post in its own right! WELL DONE!

    @Olivia — This this may be the first time you’ve commented here? Thanks and welcome! I’m so glad to hear your voice in our community.

  • Mark, I will always remember 2009 as the year that started more grim and dim from a business perspective, than any since our B2B marketing agency began in the mid-eighties. But I will also remember it as the year I saw the light.

    In my case, it was the lightbulb that wouldn’t go away after reluctantly reading Seth Godin’s book TRIBES.

    I at least had enough sense to know I wasn’t ready to “lead” anyone on twitter so I started by following. Lucky for me, I found leaders like you that were willing to share ideas, great questions, better answers, and even lessons learned from your mistakes.

    I’m not sure I would have made it past several bouts of “twitter fatigue” (term I think my strategist @patrick_maness invented). Learning from you and other marketing professionals I follow on twitter, I even endured waves of half-dressed pornbots, and swarms of work-from-home-500-followers-a-day-make-money life coaches that all wanted to follow me for some reason.

    What I’ve learned most of all from twitter this year is to never quit learning. I learned that the best and brightest on twitter will also follow back. I also found hundreds of marketers and creatives that have an ongoing passion for their profession, interesting opinions and open minds.

    Thanks to twitter, and thanks to you for helping this year end as one of our brightest my friend. I’m looking forward to 2010.

    Have a happy holiday and a wonderful new year!

  • Mark

    @billy Thanks for the lesson in tenacity, optimism and humility!

  • MMark,

    If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times now, I would not have launched Make Good Media and b2bbloggers.com if it were not for Twitter.

    I reluctantly started my Twitter account not knowing what to expect. But not more than 30 days or so after I became @jeremyvictor, I realizes the power of Twitter as a network of communication, discovery, and learning. So my business was born.

    I’ve lost count of (and now stopped counting) the number of relationships I have started on Twitter…it now just how I meet most people. And its been great.

    To your number four, I find its the editorial perfectionists, that have trouble with Twitter. They just can’t the Tweet just right, so they can never hit the send button on their Tweet.

    Finally one more wonderful thing about Twitter. You’ve listed eight lessons you have learned thus far from Twitter…it’s promise to all of us is that we will continue learning more from it the more we use it. I look forward to your next eight lessons.


  • OK, first of all, I may be on the threshold of breaking lesson number 8, but I didn’t want to see this discussion end just yet.

    I am too impressed by Mark’s list and inspired by today’s article from @copyblogger to let this twitter course end at just 8 lessons.

    I’d like to add to Mark’s list and would really enjoy hearing what others that follow him would add too. Sure, he’s a genius futurist, humorist, braniac and overall marketing maniac, but he doesn’t really “know it all” does he?

    My lesson number 9, if I was subbing for Mark, would be:

    9. Write with a purpose: pause, proof, and then post.

    Surely we can get this list to 12.

  • Mark

    @Billy rules are made to be broken. Especially number 8 : )

    I like the challenge.

    Christina Kerley issued a similar opportunity on her blog and I would encourage all in the {grow} community to check it out and contribute.

    link: http://bit.ly/8ZiJ4M

  • 10. Don’t tweet and drive.

  • Rizki

    Love the cocktail party part. So true. Good write up!

  • LOL love that last point. Though it can be a bit fun.

    Great points Mark.

    I originally spent a month studying twitter to see if the stream was a place for brands to advertise. I proved it wasn’t (meaning can’t you get your message seen often due to the high volume of tweets). But it turned into an indispensable networking tool for my career. And everything you described and suggested is true/great advice.

  • Mark, These are all good, learned them myself along the way. But the drunk thing… is it ok to just be sipping on the wine, like now? 😉

    To #5 I’ll add: know which party you’re attending.. and don’t crash. ITA that it’s about business and WORK, so tweet accordingly. But I wouldn’t advise jumping onto a hashtag or chat, just to pimp yourself. Need to be a good party guest, politely introduce yourself and meet people first.

    Another thing I’ve learned about Twitter: You can’t make every party.

    You will miss tweets and blog posts. That’s why I’m happy to read, comment and RT this post.. 6 months later. And encouraged to dig up and recycle some of my older posts. Thanks.

  • Mark

    Superb points, Davina. And thanks for adding some fun to the mix too!

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