In 9 years of Tweeting for work, here's what I've learned

Posted by Marshall Kirkpatrick on Mar 7, 2016 8:59:44 PM

9 years ago today, March 7th 2007, I created my Twitter account - and I thought it was going to be stupid. When did you create yours?  Do you remember what you thought about it then - and do you still think about it that way now?

I thought Twitter was going to be a big dumb waste of time.  

I was going to start an account so I could go to the South by Southwest conference and find out about which bars people were gathering at. I was a professional blogger at the time, blogging for a startup company, in between my time at TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb - and I thought maybe I could break some news using Twitter.

And then I was going to shut it off.


That’s not what happened, though. Instead, I was captivated.  Nine years later, I’ve built a career on top of Twitter, first as a news-breaking journalist and then raising millions of dollars from awesome investors (like Mark Cuban, Jason Calacanis and many more) to build a company (Little Bird) that helps some of the coolest companies in the world use Twitter better, too.

I’m about to leave for SXSW again this year, but first I want to pause and reflect a little.  In nine years of Tweeting I’ve posted 41,300 times (12.5 times per day, every day!) and am just 28 followers away from 60,000.  I’ve learned a thing or two - and I’d like to share some of those things with you.  Maybe you’re going to SXSW this week yourself and are ready to change your life and business with social media.  Or maybe you've been tweeting for a long time too. Let's compare notes.

Twitter is still popular, no matter what people tell you

300 million people use Twitter every month - that’s a lot - and there are still a ton of kids on it.  I found that out the hard way when I accidentally tweeted the most retweeted post of my life last week:


That's not the kind of conversation I really want to be having on Twitter, I was just playing around, but it was an interesting view into many other people's use of the network.

It’s not just celebrities: Twitter makes many people more accessible than ever

I don’t much care for Justin Bieber (I did notice the day he followed me on Twitter, of course, and it wasn’t his birthday) - but I love how I’ve been able to connect with serious business thinkers on Twitter!  I’m a nerd about the internet and I get excited about different kinds of people. John Hagel from the Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation?  I’m scheduling a conversation with him in Austin right now.   Andrew MacAfee, the man who coined the phrase Enterprise 2.0 and now writes all about robots? He follows me.  I’ve connected with a ton of super smart women futurists on Twitter.  As a child of the late 80’s it still blows my mind to know that I’m one of 491 people followed by Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell.  Thanks Twitter!  

Thanks to Twitter - we can talk to people like that!  If interesting people don’t follow you on Twitter, yet, you should try posting more interesting tweets.

Taking risks is good

All the biggest things I’ve posted online were things I felt a little nervous about, in the pit of my stomach.  I wasn’t sure they were correct, but I’d thought about them pretty hard and took a risk.  If it makes me nervous, it’s usually good.  I've mostly been nervous about blog posts, and tweeting about them, and they almost always turn out great when I'm really nervous.

You can be critical of people, too.  That’s a no-no in business, people say, but online if you do it from a foundation of respect, and you do it with intelligence, I’ve found that many people respect you more for it.


Impressions and clicks are low, it’s really about the connections

I have almost 60,000 followers on Twitter - but do 60,000 people see most of the things I tweet? Absolutely not.  Most tweets get 1,000 impressions, give or take.  I'll post a few each month that get 3,000-10,000 impressions, according to Twitter's analytics. That’s not very much, and it’s more than most people get.  Twitter’s not a place to stack up big numbers, in my experience.

Every one of those impressions are from real people, as real as you and I.  Today I had a sales call with someone fantastic and before it I watched a video of one of his speeches on YouTube. I was the 35th person to watch it - and we were both really glad I did!  It's not just about big numbers.

Even more important than numbers are the connections you form with people by participating in the conversation.  Connect with people online first - then when you meet them in person, you’ve got some context.  Or, just before you get together with someone offline - look up their recent tweets.  Your conversation will be even better.

A good Twitter List is a beautiful thing

Here are some of my recent favorites: 10 top Artificial Intelligence experts, 250 top African Americans,  Disability Rights experts.  Here's one curated by the NFL of football players! Awesome: it’s like a peek into a specific community’s collective perspective.

Push notifications are good

It’s easy to get mobile push notifications turned on for specific people - and that’s one of the best ways to increase the likelihood of seeing those peoples’ tweets.  The more often you see someone’s tweets, the more likely you are to see one you want to engage with.  The more often you engage with someone’s tweets, the more likely they are to know who you are.  The more they know who you are - the more likely you are to build a relationship, do business together, fall in love, get in an argument - whatever.  

Twitter is people and the people you have on push notification have a special place in your life.  These days I get a lot of Anil Dash and Sarah Lacy on push notification, among other people. It’s great.  I am part of a global conversation in real time.  You can be too.

Consistency is key

 Keep showing up. Keep tweeting. Keep reading. Keep engaging.  It’s necessary, unless you just want to be an occasional lurker or a shouting broadcaster without much in the way of ongoing connections.  Like I said, I've tweeted an average of 12.5 times a day, every day, over the past 9 years.  Sometimes I don't tweet at all and then I'll tweet 25 times the next day, or whatever.  Maybe you don't need to tweet that much, but sticking with it (like with anything else) is key to seeing results.

There’s broad use of Twitter

Lorna Richardson is an archaeology postdoc in Sweden.  She tweets every day.  Furniture makers, on the other hand, don’t engage much, but there are thousands of them tweeting, if that’s what you’re into.  Musicians, athletes, lots of marketers, lots of academics, religious people, ballet dancers - there are many, many very interesting people on Twitter. Almost too many.  It’s great.  It's an embarassment of riches. 

Every Tweet is precious

 I thought tweets were trivial when I started using Twitter.  But they’re not.  You might not agree with this one, but this is what I believe.  Every tweet is precious! Every one is a point of intersection, between one or more people, a place, a time, often a link or a hashtag.  Every part of that little story can be sat with and considered, or followed to find more and related stories.  




Those are some of the things I’ve learned in 9 years of Tweeting. I am deeply thankful for all the connections, the knowledge, and the opportunities that tweeting has delivered to me.  I am very glad I gave it a shot and didn’t give up.

I hope you'll find incredible value for your work on Twitter, too.

I invite you to come connect with me on Twitter, and with Little Bird

Want to use Twitter more effectively for your business?  Many of the biggest, smartest business in the world are using it already. Ask us how you can too.



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