Why Twitter Confuses Novices & How to Avoid It

How best to follow people on Twitter.

For the record, I dislike the word “novice.” It sounds patronizing, so please understand that that isn’t my intent.

What I couldn’t fit in the headline is this: Many business and corporate executives are confused about the value of Twitter – to their brands and to themselves.  After signing up for Twitter and exploring it for a while, they are still finding the content rather trivial.

Their reaction remains: “This is it?  This is what all the hype is about?”

Why, they wonder, do 165 million people believe Twitter is worth spending time on?

Let me help you with a few insights and a few nuggets of advice that will clarify how Twitter works – and how it can provide a lot of value for you if you take the right steps.

First of all – and this is most important:

Every user has a customized Twitter stream – so it is different for everyone. The quality of that Twitter stream depends on whom you decide to follow.

So if you follow only a half-dozen people and most of them are old high school and college friends, you probably wonder what all the fuss is about.  After all, while it’s nice to stay in touch, what is so valuable about reading tweets about where my chums buy coffee or updates on vacations and weekend activities?

Valid point (although think about how valuable that information would be if you were say – Starbucks or an art museum).

If you want to use Twitter beyond its capabilities to connect you with friends, family and acquaintances then you need to set up a stream that provides you with the information you value

Let’s use an example.  An executive for a New York book publisher that specializes in mass media fiction (thrillers, mysteries) has begun to use Twitter and would like it to become an information stream for the industry – as well as a way to stay connected to industry leaders and peers.

How should she set-up her Twitter stream?  Here is what I would do – step by step (and which can be customized for whatever industry you work in).  There are links provided at the end of this post to give you more details.

1. When you sign up for Twitter, have the service automatically connect you with anyone on your contacts list already using Twitter.  Twitter makes it easy for you to follow all of your contacts in Outlook or Gmail or any other email provider.  You can customize it or simply follow everyone.

2. Use Twitter Lists to find groups of like minded people in your industry. In the example of our book publishing executive, there are literally hundreds of lists dedicated to trade fiction mysteries and thrillers.  You can follow the entire list or peruse it and self select the people, companies and organizations that you value. One example is @krimiblogger’s “Crime Fiction” list that is following more than 321 accounts connected to writing, publishing, reading and reviewing crime fiction.

3. Twitter also now automatically makes suggestions for people or organizations to follow.  This suggestions are based on who you are already following.  So pay attention to the suggestions and add those that you believe would be a value.

If our book executive followed these three easy steps – and tinkers with it on occasion – she will have set-up an account that will be providing her with industry news, insights, rumors, gossip as well as an easy way to interact with movers and shakers in the world of thriller and mystery book publishing.  She can ask questions of those she follows, provide her own opinions on industry news, add links and information to the stream and meet a whole collection of new and old colleagues and industry followers.

Our executive can also go to places like Muckrack – an online service that tracks media working in different verticals that use Twitter.  So you can now add reporters, bloggers, editors and trade publications in your industry to those you are following.

This is the way Twitter can provide a lot of value.  It brings you inside the industry you work in – and personalizes just for you.

Does anyone else have any tricks and advice for those people just starting out on Twitter and trying to decide who to follow?


Twitter Help Desk: How to Import Your Address Book

Twitter Help Desk: How to Use Twitter Lists

Krimiblogger’s Twitter Account

Krimiblogger’s “Crime Fiction” List

Twitter Help Desk: Who to Follow

Muck Rack

Photo by David Spinks (via Flickr)

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