Ten Steps To Twitter Zen

Posted: January 8th, 2010

Photo by CC Chapman (Flickr)

Photo by CC Chapman (Flickr)

I’ve been using Twitter over the last nine months or so. Now, I may not exactly be deemed “popular” by follower standards but I’ve used it enough to know what makes a good user experience, not just for yourself, but for your followers too.

There are, of course, rules to live by when using Twitter and other social media that should be understood.

But here are my two cents on the matter.

Be Yourself, Be Nice

Treat Twitter as if you were talking to real people.

People can easily spot suck-ups, frauds and salesmen in real life but guess what? They can also easily see this through your tweets. So there’s no point in trying to win over new followers or inundating everyone about the new ebook your selling.

Be you. That’s all your followers ask of you.

And keep it nice too. No one like negativity and the badmouthing of others so stay away from that. Also, abide by the conversational rule of refraining from tweeting about religion or politics unless, of course, these are what you normally tweet about.

You Must Give In Order to Receive

Sure you want to promote something over Twitter whether it be your blog or something you sell. Before that can ever take place you have to give by sending out tweets of value that people find useful. In other words, you need to develop a reputation as being a source of great information.

Then and only then can you send out a tweet that promotes what you have. Just keep it to a minimum and “sneak” it in with the other links sent out.

Follower Count Isn’t Everything

A common belief is that the higher your follower count, the more popular you appear to be.

Well… yes and no.

The popular people on Twitter fall under two categories: celebrities and gurus who are pretty much celebrities. You can easily identify them by their follower count nearing the 100,000 mark, or reaching much higher, and follow relatively few people themselves.

As for the rest of twitterverse, the follower count isn’t even close to being as important as the followers you already have. After all, which is better? Knowing a thousand people and talking to only a few or knowing a hundred people and talking to each and every one of them?

Conversation Is Not One-Way

You could be that all-knowing guru of marketing, web design or whatever and tweet links that could really help out your followers. If you don’t bother to interact with your followers, however, you are essentially standing on a soapbox and speaking into an empty room.

Take the time to scan through your feed and answer questions, retweet useful links and spark up conversations. Then you begin to notice that followers begin to notice and listen to what you have to tweet.

Mix It Up A Little

I’ve been guilty of this but if you’re say, a freelance web designer, don’t just tweet everything on web design or else you’re seen one-dimensional. The point of Twitter is to tweet interesting links whether it be news, funny images, thought-provoking quotes or articles unrelated to what you do.

And try to eliminate those plain “Eating cereal right now” tweets. Unless you can add a funny or interesting spin to it like “Eating Cheerios with water, hmmm, not so bad” it’s likely to draw a “who cares” reaction.

Know The Proper Way To DM (direct message)

A real sore spot for most Twitter users is the unsolicited DM. It is often seen as no different than receiving a Viagra pitch by email. So turn off that auto-DM for new followers and refrain from sending mass DM’s to get your followers to read that new blog post.

The DM is used primarily to communicate privately with followers you already interact with. If you want to DM a follower you never communicated with before, though, make sure you personalize it with their name, looking it up in their profile or from the website link in the profile.

But remember, in a DM, don’t try to sell your shit or ask to join some mafia boss thing either. That’s the number one way to get unfollowed.

A Non-Follow-Back Is Not Cause For Concern

Twitter is not a game of I’m following you so you better follow me back. So not receiving a follow back shouldn’t be considered an insult and trigger your inner fury. It’s important to not equate this with being rejected as a person.

The truth is you will decide not to follow those that follow you for reasons that have nothing to do with the person behind the username. It’s nothing personal, it’s just how Twitter works.

If You Want to Increase The Likelihood of a Follow Back…

  1. Upload an avatar in your profile and have a link to your website or Facebook page.
  2. Add a descriptive, interesting bio to your profile too.
  3. When landing on your Twitter page, there should be some RT’s (retweets) in view.
  4. If you are a new user, have at least 10 – 15 tweets posted with a few RT’s thrown in. Seeing one tweet or no tweets at all might lead to you being mistaken for a spammer.

You Can Always Unfollow

Once in a while you’ll come across someone’s tweets that you find annoying or inappropriate. Or you’ll get once of those annoying DM’s to buy some crap you don’t want.

That’s the beauty of the unfollow button. One click and you never have to hear from that person again. Ever. No need to get angry and respond with hate tweets.

Give Thanks

This is entirely up to you but, if someone takes the time to visit any link I tweet, then retweets it, I’ll send them a reply thanking them for the RT. In my opinion, that person appreciates the acknowledgment and is likley to notice and retweet more of my links in the future.

Besides, I think it’s good karma.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Twitter.

14 Comments. Join In!

  • Tweets that mention Ten Steps To Twitter Zen - The Freelance Rant -- Topsy.com

    January 8th, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Johnny Spence, Jenn Hardy. Jenn Hardy said: RT @freelancerant: Ten Steps To Twitter Zen […]

  • Leo Sarabia

    January 9th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I read when I first got on Twitter to follow people who had the same interests about a specific subject and communicate. How many followers I have is not the point. I do not ask for followers. They just happen. Thank you Twitter. AND I love your BLOCK button!

  • Johnny

    January 9th, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. At the moment I have 627 followers and I realized I probably have communicated with maybe 50 of them. My goal at the moment is to concentrate on these followers and start dialogue with the other 577. I know I won’t get to them all but I’ll be happy with at least half of them.

    That’s what Twitter is about… interaction!

  • 10 Ways to Really Enjoy Twitter | Twitterrati

    January 9th, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    […] For more thoughts about “Twitter Zen”, check out The Freelance Rant. […]

  • econsultant

    January 9th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I reached here following a tweet writen in french. I read this post and I’ve learned new ways to use Twitter better. Thanks. I’ve a french speeking person. Other french people will arrive here certainly. let me introduce an article witten in french language : how to use Twitter and what twitter attitude take ?

  • Johnny

    January 9th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks… we’ll add this for our French-speaking readers!

  • tea4kate

    January 9th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Good stuff. I especially like the point about being nice ! There is enough junk out there, but since it is a “social” media, let’s be sociable !

  • Johnny

    January 9th, 2010 at 5:21 pm


    Thanks for your comment. It’s funny how some people on Twitter fail to realize the “social” aspect of it. It’s a good thing there are those that do!


  • Eleanor Edwards

    January 10th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I just wanted to thank you for the great post. Although I registered with Twitter about a year ago, it’s only been in the last couple of months that I’ve started playing on a daily basis. I wanted to echo what you sad about the social aspect of Twitter. I’ve already learned to ignore those constant teeth whitening tweets but am enjoying the conversation.
    Thanks again,
    P.S. I look forward to reading more of your rants 😉
    .-= Eleanor Edwards´s last blog ..Reasons To Be Joyful In January =-.

  • Heidi Siefkas-Cassemiro

    January 10th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Everything about social media can be taken down to the how you would treat other relationships. Think before your speak….so think before your tweet.
    Give credit where credit is due…so RT and mention creators or source of info
    And it is a two-street….so don’t just braodcast, but comment, pass along, and the like.
    Heidi Siefkas-Cassemiro

  • laura orsini

    January 10th, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Great advice from a fairly newbie! I will share these in my next marketing class – of course, giving appropriate credit!

  • Johnny

    January 10th, 2010 at 11:04 pm


    Little by little you learn how Twitter works. It doesn’t matter if you just started using yesterday or a year ago. Tweople accept you the same way but as long as you abide by the code of conduct which is, essentially, add value to the conversation and don’t be an (ahem) asshole.

    Thanks for your comment!


  • Johnny

    January 10th, 2010 at 11:30 pm


    You’re exactly right… be cool and (pardon my french) don’t be a dick and SOCIALIZE. I can’t say that was always my motto with Twitter (I wasn’t a dick though) but, going forward, it’s all about getting everyone involved and appreciating those who happen to follow you.


  • Johnny

    January 10th, 2010 at 11:41 pm


    I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would be a subject or reference in any class but I am very grateful this post is such. But remember to tell the students to not abuse the DM’s and they’ll be good Tweeps.