How I’d Use Twitter If I Were to Start Today

It took me a long time to land on a title for this particular blog post since semantically nothing sounded too appropriate or “clean” enough for my liking.

Contextually, I’m not starting over with Twitter (i.e. rebranding or using a new account) nor am I new user for those who are encountering this blog post (and me) for the first time.

What I am trying to posit in this post are some helpful tips for those who are thinking about signing up for Twitter soon (or have signed up recently) and for those who are dusting off their unused accounts so as to make a serious go at it.

For some additional context I have been a Twitter user since April of 2008 (the 11th to be exact). My first tweet was a response to a friend 2 weeks late. I was a late adopter historically-speaking but started getting used to it quickly. I celebrated my 6th anniversary earlier this year (and wrote about my 5th here).

I saw an opportunity only a few months later and used Twitter’s really shitty API to build what would become a very significant project and entrepreneurial startup which was acquired after being featured in TechCrunch. It would be my 2nd major exit and acquisition.

It wouldn’t be until much later, though, where I “figured out” what I wanted to do and be as it related to Twitter. After a number of rebrands and restarts I finally landed on @Saddington as my permanent handle.

It was also around this time that I focused my efforts specifically on Twitter as my go-to social network. I removed everything else and the results were astounding as my follower count grew exponentially. I tell people often, especially as it relates to online personal branding that this strategy will serve them very well and will help focus one’s efforts and maximize effectiveness. Why be mediocre at 10 different social networks when you can be a complete badass at one (or two)?

Earlier this year I also quit Twitter for a month and it personally challenged me to think about the account that I had created and my own perception of who I was as a digital native. I am still heavily considering a permanent exit and I’m trying to figure out the best timing for that. I’ll share more thoughts on this in the (near) future per my usual (I did it: I QUIT).

But without question, Twitter has been an undeniable force for my own professional success. I am extremely thankful for the service and am glad I’ve been a user for the last 6+ years.

Starting Over (Starting Clean)

So, now that I’ve given you a bit of context for where I’ve been and how long I’ve used Twitter here are some thoughts on how I’d approach starting a new account or dusting off an old one for serious use.

Perhaps it might even help the existing user as well as they refine their strategy and tactical implementation of the service.

1. A Good Username

The first and most important thing is to get a good Twitter username. At this point in time most of the “good” ones are taken. When I say “good” I mean your full proper and canonical name (e.g. “@JohnSaddington”).

If you’re lucky you can get it but at this point you’ll have to be a bit clever. I don’t have any particular tips except this: Keep it simple and make sure it’s memorable and easy to spell.

That’s about it. I’ve seen an increase use of “_” (underscores) and I don’t have a terrible problem with that but personally if I had to say “Follow me At John Underscore Saddington” every single time I think I’d puke.

2. Create a Rhythm

Building a schedule and a consistent approach is how I’d start out. I currently don’t have one because it’s sort of like breathing air to me at this point but for those who are newer to the service this can be a boon for focused attention and time-saving.

I’d start with the following:

  • 3-5 tweets per day, 1-2 on weekends
  • 1 tweet per day about something personal or candid or off-the-cuff
  • 1 tweet per day with a picture
  • 1 tweet per day referencing a blog post that you wrote (are you blogging?! you should be…)
  • 2 tweets per day referencing an interesting article related to your industry and/or tweeting at someone you respect or that you just decided to follow. Perhaps they could be retweets. Doesn’t matter.
  • The weekend tweets can be anything. Referencing a blog post that you wrote earlier in the week makes sense too.

I’d also put this on the calendar. I know, that sounds so fabricated and manufactured, but at this point you’re trying to build a rhythm and get your feet wet with the medium. Who cares if you’ve scheduled it in anyways. I think it optimizes your time.

Finally, I’d also calendar in time to actually read tweets too. Or you could quickly find yourself wasting a ton of time. Just block in a few minutes after lunch and perhaps once before dinner. No need to overdo it.

3. Followers, Following

I don’t have any hardcore thoughts on following people as I am not exactly the best model to be copied but I’d imagine that you’d have a mix of friends and colleagues as well as industry leaders that you respect and admire.

You gain nothing by “storming the castle” and following 100 new people day #1. Take it slowly as you’re going to find a complete time-suck.

Gaining new followers is exciting and but you might become distracted if you have notifications turned on. Remember the scheduling tip above? Limit your engagement for your own sake and sanity.

4. Design, Customization, Lists, What…

I’d get a really great avatar, one that looks professional (at the very least). People establishing a presence here need this more than those that already have one I would think.

Get a good background image and then fill out your bio with relevant content and links. This is just a no-brainer.

If you really want to get fancy, create Lists for certain users early in your use as this will help you navigate the complexity of the stream when it becomes overwhelming. Lists didn’t always exist and many people never really “figured” it out.

Finally, if you want to go super-pro you can look at the keyboard shortcuts (for the web version). Not necessary though.

5. Apps

I use Tweetbot for OS X and Twitter’s native app on my iPhone. Tweetbot also have an iPhone app but it has gotten worse over the years, strangely.

But my use isn’t your use and so I’d recommend using’s web service for starters. There’s no need to be doing anything super-fancy at this point in time and attempting to learn multiple services and technologies. If you do go mobile, just use the free Twitter App.

And that’s that.

6. Everything Else

I would entirely ignore most (if not all) of the “popular” blog posts on Twitter usage as most of these are from super-lame marketers who are trying to look all super-badass. They aren’t. They are dumb and most of them complicate what is really a simple service. Anyone who tells you something like “YOU MUST DO X, Y, AND Z TO BE AMAZING AT TWITTERRRRRRRRR” is to be instantly ignored.

Start small and start easy. No one cares more about your use in the beginning than you so you’ll create your own level of pressure for “Twitter excellence” which is impossible to qualify and quantify.

Finally, time box your experience. That is to say, set a schedule for your own personal experimentation and see how you feel about it after that amount of time is over. For instance, give it a consistent try for 30 days. Evaluate how you feel after 30 days of use. Then give it another 30 if you’re unsure or if you feel somewhat okay about it.

A good rubric or test if you will is simply this: Am I having fun with Twitter? If the answer is a clear “No” then stop. What a waste. Trust your gut on this. Don’t trust others and their gut. Why? Because their gut isn’t your gut.

I’m quite serious about this. If you don’t feel good about it then just straight-up quit. You lose nothing, trust me. Go find something else to use and be super-happy about your decision. Life is too short to be doing something you unhappy about doing.

I’m personally at this place as well and so I’m trying to determine the right exit, if you will. Twitter is not fun for me anymore. I’m not entirely sure if it ever was…

Oh, and remember, Twitter popularity and growth is nothing but magic. MAGIC I tell you. MAGIC.