Twitter has been in trouble for quite a while now, and since Microsoft bought LinkedIn, the rumour mill seems to be in full swing as to who will buy them. It’s an interesting debate but it’s missing the point. First have a look at these three charts (which tell you everything you need to know about Twitter’s recent troubles), then I’ll tell you what I think the issue really is…

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Value. That’s the problem, people are struggling to find as much value in Twitter as they used to. You see, as much as we love Twitter, and wish to see it go from strength-to-strength (like its more “friendly” counterpart), the main reason that it is not working as well anymore is because people have forgotten how to use it. Even many of the people who have been on the platform since the very beginning, have forgotten how to use it.


Why did this happen? It’s not like it’s changed beyond all recognition. For the most part it’s essentially the same platform as it was when it was built ~ a news and information network, built on top of a social platform, that connects everyone in real-time.


And that’s why I wanted to share something I found this afternoon. I discovered an old hard drive as I was looking for something in my office, so I thought I’d see what was on it. Low and behold, the top file contained notes that I made about Twitter, the very first week that I joined. It was August 2008 (I originally joined under the name of my agency), and I had no idea real idea how to make sense of it.


And therein lies the problem – the majority of users still don’t know how to make sense of it, which is why growth has not extended far enough beyond the tech community, engagement rates have dropped, and the average person on the street doesn’t understand why they should be on it.


So here they are, my notes from almost 8 years ago about how to use twitter, taken from a series of Chris Brogan’s blogs. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of them are as relevant today as they were in 2008.


Notes On How To Use Twitter (2008)


First Steps

  1. Build an account and immediate start using Twitter search to listen for your name, your competitor’s names, words that relate to your space. (Listening always comes first.)
  2. Add a picture. We want to see you.
  3. Talk to people about THEIR interests, too. I know this doesn’t sell more widgets, but it shows us you’re human.
  4. Point out interesting things in your space, not just about you.
  5. Share links to neat things in your community. (@Wholefoods does a good job).
  6. Don’t get stuck in the apology loop. Be helpful instead.
  7. Be wary of always pimping your stuff. Your fans will love it. Others will tune out.
  8. Promote your employees’ outside-of-work stories.
  9. Follow humans as well as brands. Even people who work for brands. Like RichardAtDELLLionelAtDELL, etc.
  10. Talk about non-business, too.


Ideas About WHAT to Tweet

  1. Instead of answering the question, “What are you doing?”, answer the question, “What has your attention?
  2. Have more than one twitterer at the company. People can quit. People take vacations. It’s nice to have a variety.
  3. When promoting a blog post, ask a question or explain what’s coming next, instead of just dumping a link.
  4. Ask questions. Twitter is GREAT for getting opinions.
  5. Follow interesting people. If you find someone who tweets interesting things, see who she follows, and follow her.
  6. Tweet about other people’s stuff. Again, doesn’t directly impact your business, but makes us feel like you’re not “that guy“.
  7. When you DO talk about your stuff, make it useful. Give advice, blog posts, pictures, etc.
  8. Share the human side of your company. If you’re bothering to tweet, it means you believe social media has value for human connections. Point us to pictures and other human things.
  9. Don’t toot your own horn too much. (Man, I can’t believe I’m saying this. I do it all the time. – Side note: I’ve gotta stop tooting my own horn).
  10. Or, if you do, try to balance it out by promoting the heck out of others, too.


Don’t Go Crazy Trying To Keep Up

  1. You don’t have to read every tweet.
  2. You don’t have to reply to every @ tweet directed to you (try to reply to some, but don’t feel guilty).
  3. Use direct messages for 1-to-1 conversations if you feel there’s no value to Twitter at large to hear the conversation.
  4. Use services like Twitter search to make sure you see if someone’s talking about you. Try to participate where it makes sense.
  5. 3rd party clients like Tweetdeck and Twhirl make it a lot easier to manage Twitter.
  6. If you tweet all day while your coworkers are busy, you’re going to hear about it.
  7. If you’re representing clients and billing hours, and tweeting all the time, you might hear about it.
  8. Learn quickly to use the URL shortening tools like TinyURL and all the variants. It helps tidy up your tweets.
  9. If someone says you’re using twitter wrong, forget it. It’s an opt out society. They can unfollow if they don’t like how you use it.
  10. Commenting on others’ tweets, and retweeting what others have posted is a great way to build community.


The Negatives People Will Throw At You

  1. Twitter takes up time.
  2. Twitter takes you away from other productive work.
  3. Without a strategy, it’s just typing.
  4. There are other ways to do this.
  5. As Frank hears often, Twitter doesn’t replace customer service (Frank is @comcastcares and is a superhero for what he’s started.)
  6. Twitter is buggy and not enterprise-ready.
  7. Twitter is just for technonerds.
  8. Twitter’s only a few million people. (only)
  9. Twitter doesn’t replace direct email marketing.
  10. Twitter opens the company up to more criticism and griping.


Some Positives to Throw Back

  1. Twitter helps one organize great, instant meetups (tweetups).
  2. Twitter works swell as an opinion poll.
  3. Twitter can help direct people’s attention to good things.
  4. Twitter at events helps people build an instant “backchannel.”
  5. Twitter breaks news faster than other sources, often (especially if the news impacts online denizens).
  6. Twitter gives businesses a glimpse at what status messaging can do for an organization. Remember presence in the 1990s?
  7. Twitter brings great minds together, and gives you daily opportunities to learn (if you look for it, and/or if you follow the right folks).
  8. Twitter gives your critics a forum, but that means you can study them.
  9. Twitter helps with business development, if your prospects are online (mine are).
  10. Twitter can augment customer service. (but see above).


It’s a great list isn’t it? And like I said, almost as relevant today as it was 8 years ago.


Like I said, I got all these tips from Chris Brogan, who I was slightly obsessed with at the time. Gary Vaynerchuk got me onto Twitter in the first place. Brogan showed me how to use it.


Maybe it’s about time we all had a refresher course…



  • Chris Brogan is a good egg. You should follow him on Twitter or check out his stuff.

Communications Designer @IBM • Climate Reality Leader • Lover of Old Business Books, Clever Technology and the NHS • Based in London, UK.

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