So I haven’t blogged in a while because… I have been busy as all heck.

Many have blogged and twittered and videoblogged and webinared how to work with twitter. Some of the more egregious “click my junk”ers even charge users for the “inside information”.

I advise clients on strategies in integrating digital and social tools within their marketing architecture and inside the enterprise. Finding, implementing and using tools like blogging, twitter, video, wiki, etc is what I do. In the last 24 hours I have had 2 conversations around guidelines for working with Twitter (and a big thanks to @Micah on twitter and and who got me thinking about this). How to jump in, use it, not abuse it, get something out of it and connect with people. This isn’t a post about getting to 25,000 users (I only have 1000+) or making money with Twitter, or how Social Media saved my . Here are some tips I give clients about Twitter, and getting in the right way.

1. Be human. Have a real person behind the @name – even if it is a brand, you need someone there, a real person and preferably someone in the org and not the agency (ghost twittering isn’t authentic). BestBuy’s developer group has Keith Burtis, @Comcastcares, etc. are all real people. They talk about real stuff. Sure, sometimes it is more corporate, but its nice to see the human behind the curtain.

2. Listening, listening, listening – whats the point of having this live, 24/7 stream of distributed consciousness/conversation and dozens, hundreds, or thousands of followers if you dont bother to listen to the users when they mention you, your product, your brand, your category you are leaving money on the table. Pandora does a great job of listening, so does JetBlue (who responded to me via DM after an incident at the gate for one of their flights). Start with Summize or take a big-boy step up to use search in tweetdeck or go nuts with Radian6 or one of their competitors and really start paying attention.

3. Attention is a currency. Following back is a gesture. Retweets are a powerful way to say to your followers “I dig this” and to the person you are retweeting “I dig you”.

4. 50-50 rule, Pay-It_Forward, etc . Do you want fail at twitter? Talk about yourself all the time. Me, Me, Me, is Boring Boring, Boring. Spend half as many of your tweets on your followers and the people you follow as you do yourself. Spend the time to show you are listening by paying into the shoutout economy – celebrate what your users are doing, congratulate them for a job well done, or send your condolences when their dog dies. You can do this publicly w/ an @ or privately with a DM. If one of your followers says something interesting, profound, funny or worthwhile, RT (retweet it). Add value and then your followers won’t mind checking out your new blog post, or youtube video, or “hey guys can you take my poll”. My friends don’t ask me to “click their junk”

5. Consider following back other real people. Someday your ratio might matter

6. If you can’t commit to twitter its OK. Don’t force it. Don’t make the intern run the twitter feed. Don’t agonize over every tweet. If you are the agency, don’t drop this on the client as the next big thing without helping them understand it. Walk them through it, have them open their own personal twitter accounts. Even better, get their internal team on Yammer to use microsharing INSIDE the org first.

7. Make your tweets inherently “retweetable”. Brevity is the sole of wit and kindof a requirement when you only have 140 characters. Take advantage of a URL shortener, there are a bunch (and some are built into tweetdeck and the twtiiter architecture itself uses tinyurl). Supposedly has an interesting measurement capability if you want to see the reach of a tweeted URL – i need to look into it

8. Auto DM is generally bad. Especially if you have a “click my junk” in your autoDM. When you go on a blind date, do you start with a “free e-book offer”?

9. Fill out your whole profile. Make a background image with your URLs (linkedin, facebook, website, blog, etc.). Make sure your main URL is part of your profile so it is clickable.

10. You can leverage twitter if you build trust. @skydiver is on there a lot with urgent HARO requests, because he has paid it forward. Macheist recently did a giveaway for Devonthink software. You can ask your followers questions and they will respond – see #2 above

11. Rinse, repeat, make mistakes, learn from them, get better and don’t give up.

12 thoughts on “My 11 Twitter Guidelines

  1. Siva

    thank you for this article, as a me twitted user it was very handy info!!!

  2. Nora

    Thanks for the twitter tips! I always try to respond to tweets that I catch that interest me and try to strike up conversations and I’ve always tried to RT something that I enjoy or find interesting. Great blog I’m gonna add it to my blog list.

  3. Sean Post author

    Thanks for the kind words Nora and Siva

    I havent blogged in a while, but Micah got it started for me with a question and I have been providing this feedback to a couple clients for a while now – getting it out of my head and on the blog seemed right at the time. 🙂

  4. Ritesh

    Timely and fab post. love it

  5. Bill Cammack

    Good tips, Sean.

    It’s relatively funny to see people catch on to something two years after I joined it and I believe three years after it was created. At the time I joined, all I was doing with it was keeping up with people that I actually knew, so the conversations were always relevant. The people that would follow you were always part of “the scene”. There wasn’t any value in random people following random people OR having a large follower count, because if you weren’t following the RIGHT people, your list was worthless and just a bunch of noise.

    Somehow, it became a fad to have a lot of followers and then “having a lot of followers” became something people were given credit for as if it was something tough to do. Once that happened, the ways of using Twitter shifted, and now people are being told to use it without being told what it is and what they should use it FOR.

    Your tips will help them get closer to the essence. 😀

  6. Sean Post author

    Thanks for the comment Bill.

    I watched the founder of a pretty popular site at Barcamp a few years ago talk about the competitive aspects of social networks, and how, over time, some people weren’t looking for quality, but to compete with their friends on “adds” and “follows”. Which is FINE if thats what you are in the game for.

    A big part of this is a speech I give clients about twitter and social media in general, and how its not a campaign but a commitment, and how to get better at it. A post from Micah was the final impetus to write it down and post it.

    People and companies are jumping in and feeling their way around – some well, and some not so well. Every person they follow is a chance to learn something. Every “twitter disaster” is a chance to learn how not to do something. “Click My Junk” or “Get My Millionaire Coaching” or “Learn the Master Secrets of Twitter” adds too much noise to a platform that has so much signal.

    Hopefully its a little #payforward from me

  7. mark_hayward

    Hey Sean – GREAT to see a post here. 🙂

    I think the people (non-celebrities) who find success with Twitter follow some semblance of your list above. If someone @’s me I do my best to respond in a timely manner.

    Most days I am amazed at the power of Twitter and how much I am able to learn just from listening. In fact, because of Twitter I am having a meeting with the folks at TripAdvisor when I come home to Boston in April. Without Twitter…that connection never would have been made.

  8. Bao Tran


    You are a marketing maven. Great article!

  9. Tae

    Great advise. It’s easy to forget to just be a decent person and engage others respectfully when there is a lot of push about using Twitter as a marketing/sales tool and personal branding blah blah blah that makes people think me me me is all about good branding.

  10. paul merrill

    I tweeted this!

    My fave one is the value of retweeting. Thanks for the great tips, Sean.

  11. Sean Post author

    Mark, Bao, Tae and Paul

    I am humbled by the response to this post (probably my most commented post yet). i really figured all that could be said about “how to use twitter” had been said or was being co-opted by the make-money-with-social-media crowd. Micah from was the catalyst.

    Paul – to me, retweets are prob the biggest currency right now on twitter. If more folks were building tools to thread in the favorites it might be more valuable, but for now RT is it. For me the beauty of Retweets is that they are both a gesture of value to your followers and a gesture BACK to the person you are retweeting. What I try to get across to my clients is they need to write good stuff and be conscious of the size of their tweets. I HATE editing someone elses’ words to get the RT out (but I have been known to change “and” to “&” on occassion. 🙂

    Tae –

    I think decency is underrated. I think brands (big and small) need to ease into twitter with the right mindset – this isn’t another “channel” to me-me-me.

    Bao –

    Incredibly kind as usual, but I ain’t no maven! 🙂 I am a student of this like everyone else. I happen to have done this kind of work for some big and small companies and like to share. Sometimes I CANT share because of conflict or non-disclosure reasons, but when I can…

    Mark –

    First post in literally months. If I told you the number of times I have made WRITTEN committments to myself for blogging frequency…

    This was kinda written for agency-types and people advising clients originally. Real people are going to learn their own way over time, and especially following guys like you, @chrisbrogan, @debs, @ccarfi, @deanland, @dsearls, @pistachio, etc. The asynchronous nature of Twitter makes it situationaly important – I will always followup, but I am not always following.

    To me, the most amazing thing about the power of twitter is how small it is right now. We aren’t even close to a tipping point, President Obama, Ellen and Jimmy Fallon notwithstanding. The idea that this small micropublishing platform, right now the realm of geeks, early adopters and success/life/millionaire coaches (lol) is helping get guys like Keith Burtis a gig and getting you a meeting with TripAdvisor blows my mind.

    And its only Monday

  12. AJ

    Very sound advice (as always). Neatly states expectations and codes of conduct. We don’t often hear these things stated so clearly in our world.

    Many thanks,


Leave a Reply