Category Archives: Twitter Community

Three Movements That Are Redefining Twitter—And The World

From flash mobs to the Arabs spring, to #OccupyWall Street, using Twitter to promote and organize social and political movements has begun changing the world we all live in.

In fact, Twitter has the power to let any one person anywhere in the world help people everywhere.

But is there a way to make it easier for one person to reach people? And can Twitter overcome it’s spam and hijacked account problems? I think the answer to both questions is”Yes!”

But first, let’s take a look at how Twitter has begun changing the world…by changing us:

1. Social And Political Movements

Yes, Twitter Has The Power To Change People Into Real-Word Activists

Some, such as writer Malcolm Gladwell, have argued that social networks have done nothing to tap into our collective psyche to change a person’s real-world behavior. They have said social networks are only used for organizing people who are already willing to be active.

There are several reasons this is wrong. Here’s my proof that Twitter has developed the power to fundamentally change and connect people in real-world ways.

The first step is becoming aware of events before we can participate in them. No controversy here: Twitter’s power to develop and share event information widely is recognized as unparalleled.

Media Power

Much of the information that starts flowing on Twitter turns into mainstream news later. In fact, a lot of mainstream outlets simply filter and repeat what they are seeing on Twitter.

Of course, new information coming from strangers has rarely been a way to motivate real-world action from people before.

That means the next hurdle is: can Twitter get us to want to connect with people we don’t already know? To seek out and welcome strangers?

People Use Twitter To Connect With People They Don’t Know.

This is a big barrier. As many folks say,

“Whenever a stranger tries to be my friend [on Facebook] I would immediately become guarded and skeptically investigate them.”

But Twitter doesn’t work this way for many of us.

“Just yesterday I had two people I didn’t know start following me on Twitter and I immediately investigated my new followers with a sense of excited curiosity. That has never happened on Facebook.”

Hence, many people have actually learned to seek out and welcome strangers on Twitter…but not on Facebook or anywhere else. As the article ” Twitter, The Social Bridge” points out:

“Twitter has managed to seamlessly bridge the two types of social networks that I assumed were always disparate, (1) personal networks where you connect with people who you already know and (2) interest driven networks where you connect with strangers.”

Or, as one of the most popular Tweets says:

“Facebook is where you lie to your friends. Twitter is where you’re honest with strangers.”

But will we act together with others that (1) we don’t know in ways (2) we haven’t before?

Our Desire To Connect Already Exists

First, the willingness to do something because other people around you are doing it as a group, even if you are unclear on what or why it is being done, has always existed.

This motive is so strong in people that they will even do things that are very questionable when caught up in a group taking action. This is sometimes known as the “mob mentality.”

So people who are NOT activists will get involved in something, even if they have never been involved before.

The question is, has Twitter been able to tap into that desire we all posses to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and cause us to take real-world action? Yes it has, and there is one simple proof for this: flash mobs.

Flash Mobs

At first, people began to be willing to join entertainment event flash mobs. Then they started expanding the kind of events they were willing to participate in.

Of course, this means in many cases people are accepting advice from people they’ve never met or interacted with to “show up at this time for an event.” Sometimes bizarre events, like everyone showing up at a birthday party. We’ve all seen examples such as

“Teen’s Facebook Party Cancelled As 200 Thousand Feared To Show Up”

Most of those people did not know the person whose birthday it was. So we are feeling our connection with one another over Twitter and social media.

Yes, Twitter Does Have The Power To Change Us, And The World

In summary, Twitter:

  1. Focuses us and engages us in event information
  2. Helps us want to connect with strangers
  3. Taps into our desire to be part of something bigger
  4. Gives us exact directions on where to go and what to do that we want to listen to

I predict political and social movements are going to be using Twitter much, more than ever before. In fact, I think Twitter is the future of politics. People have shown they want to be involved. Look for more and more real world involvement to start on Twitter. I think the world is going to be changing more and more rapidly, thanks to the power of people,  and the power of Twitter.

And new tools are making it easier for one person to reach others

2. Optimized Scheduling

Thousands Of People Might Retweet Your Tweet

One of the attractions of Twitter is that everyone can be a star.

Appreciation of praise or recognition is built into us, in fact physiologically it’s been compared to an addiction. People love to be acknowledged.

Getting a response to something we tweet can be addictive. Twitter can be addictive.

And once people start responding to us, we start trying to figure out how to get more people to respond, more often.

Enter The Optimizers

They do two things well: They make sharing and reaching more people simple and powerful.

The leader in this new category of service is the free service BufferApp (paid options also available). Very simple, very powerful.

BufferApp simply adds a button (the “buffer button”) to and and all the places you already like to share things from, such as from your browser, your favorite app, Twitter.com, Google Reader and more places all the time.

When you have something to share, you just click the Buffer button. It automatically writes a tweet you can then edit, and with a click schedules it to be sent when the most people are likely to respond.

200% More Clicks And Retweets Of Your Tweet

A survey showed new users of BufferApp receiving 200% more clicks and retweets on the things they were sharing. Plus, Buffer give you analytics on all your tweets.

And there are many alternative uses of BufferApp.

One thing I like to do is set up Buffer to send a tweet every few minutes in the morning when I get up. Then I simply buffer every reply I’ve received overnight, and go into my Buffer dashboard to edit all my replies. I can even drag and drop to have more urgent replies go out faster, or immediately if I so choose.

Get More For Free

And when you try Buffer, be sure to recommend it to your friends! Everyone who signs up from a recommendation gets a larger number of tweets they can add to their Buffer AND for everyone that signs up, YOU get a larger number of tweets you can add to your Buffer too! So share the love :)

(Once you’ve signed up for BufferApp, go here to refer people.)

Finding The Best Time To Tweet Apps

Many apps have begun integrating Buffer (their API is being tested, and Facebook integration is coming soon). If you want to customize when your tweets go out, take a look at

Apps that show when your followers are active online include Tweriod, TweetWhenTimelyWhen to Tweet ,and 14 Blocks. (Queued.at is a little different, in that it attempts to automatically schedule your tweets for the most likely best times.)

3. Spam And Hijacked Accounts

Hijacked Accounts Are A Problem Shared By Everyone

You have to rely on the kindness of others to find out you have a problem, because if you’ve been hijacked, other people will usually notice first by receiving your spam tweets.

You often get hijacked by clicking a link that takes you to what looks like a Twitter login page. (This can happen from your computer, too, not just in tweets or direct messages.) You assume you just need to login to Twitter, and fail to notice that although the site looks identical to Twitter.com, it does NOT say “twitter.com” anywhere in the website address/URL. Once you type your password into that page, it is stolen, and the hijackers will usually use your account to send their own spam messages. Sometimes they will also change your password, and you will need to request a password reset.

Often the first messages they send from your account try to hijack other accounts.

Why It’s Hard To Prevent

It’s easy to complain that people who have had their accounts hijacked have made some kind of mistake that we ourselves would not have made.

But hijackers get more clever all the time. They often rely on their messages seeming somehow relevant to something that just happened for a few . So for example if you have recently ordered a package, and you get any e-mail saying there is a problem with your package delivery, you might not realize that it is a spam message.

Also, messages that you might not reply to or be interested in yourself, might be relevant to other users.

For example, it’s fairly common for someone to have a problem with another user being abusive of them on social networks. It’s very frustrating, and many of these abusers will open new accounts, start blogs, or spread their comments and abuse where ever they find opportunity to do so.

So if you have an abuser, and a friend of yours sends you a private direct message saying “did you see this bad blog about you?” you might think it’s another attack from the abuser, and click the link.

Also, some homes have children who might open your account, see “did you see these photos of you?” (or something similar) and click the link, then leave the computer at fake login page. You come home, login without checking the page, and bingo! You’re been hijacked. There are many, many scenarios, and you only need to make one mistake to be hijacked.

What Twitter Does

Twitter does block bad links as soon as they become aware of them. But then spammers just change the link

Twitter could block messages that contain bad links from being sent, but preventing the links from working prevents people from being hijacked.

What You Can Do

You have to let people know when you suspect they’ve been hijacked. We have to watch out for each other. And if you help someone who doesn’t respond, and you don’t know them personally, unfollow them. People who don’t check their accounts and won’t fix their problems shouldn’t be followed.

The more people help one another instead of judging one another, the harder it is for the spammers, scammers and hijackers to take advantage of Twitter overall. United we stand, divided we fall. The question is, can we save Twitter from ourselves?

What Are Your Thoughts?

Does Twitter have the power to change people…and the world? Are you using an optimizer like BufferApp yet? Do you help others if you see their account has been hijacked? Leave a comment below!

Twitter User of the Year, 2011: Mark Schaefer

@MarkWSchaefer is an all-around Twitter wise man, mentor and a great help to all who come to him for help and advice. He’s a worthy follow-up to the TweetSmarter 2010 Twitter user of the year, @Alyssa_Milano.

Mark teaches social media marketing courses at several colleges and is a faculty member of the graduate studies program at Rutgers University. He also runs one of my favorite blogs—Grow (an AdAge Top 50 blog).

But the main thing you need to know about Mark is that early in 2011, he released the book “The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business.” I highly recommend it (and available in the Kindle edition for just $5.99!). The philosophy he outlines in that book can make Twitter better for businesses, individuals or communities.

I asked another one of my favorite users, @LeoWid of BufferApp to catch up with Mark and ask him to share some of his advice with the Twitter community:

1.) What does Twitter mean to you?

I don’t think it is too bold to say that Twitter has changed my life.

Twitter is a powerful networking tool and I have met many amazing people who have become my friends, collaborators and customers. I have built a good part of my consulting business off of my blog and Twitter. Important achievements such as becoming a consultant to the UK government and obtaining a teaching position at Rutgers University have their roots in connections I made through Twitter. So, you’re right. Twitter is more than “what I had for breakfast.”

2.) How is Twitter different to other forms of communication?

In a way, that’s like asking how wine is different than milk. Both are popular beverages but they serve different purposes in time and place.

There is a place for phone calls, a place for email, a place for Facebook, a place for Twitter. And, not everybody enjoys wine and not everybody may enjoy Twitter. It suits my lifestyle because of the opportunity for quick connections and updates that often lead to more meaningful discussions and global relationships.

3.) Is there a piece of advice you would have liked to have when starting out on Twitter, anyone new to Twitter should know about?

Twitter is easy to do, but very difficult to understand.

With all these hashtags, links and acronyms tossing about it can be intimidating and strange. If you’re serious about really giving it a chance (and I think you should!) ask a friend to get you started or buy my book The Tao of Twitter. I don’t mean to be self-promotional, but the specific reason I wrote this was to help people cut through the clutter and get up to speed very quickly. It has helped thousands of people, which is very rewarding.

4.) If you could give someone reading this 3 quick pointers on making the most of Twitter, what are they?

  1. Focus on connecting to people who have a reason to care about you. I provide unconventional advice on this topic. I recommend that newcomers should have a goal of having at least 200 followers as soon as possible. Why? Because less than that, you will be bored and want to quit.
  2. Get in the habit of continuously sharing interesting content. As you go about your day and you are reading articles and blogs, tweet them out to share with your friends. It doesn’t have to be just about business. If you tweet as you go along in your day, it will also make Twitter more time-efficient.
  3. Tweet during normal business hours. I know that may sound counter-intuitive but research shows that is when most people are reading.

5.) I saw lots of fantastic reviews about the Tao of Twitter. Why should people pick up a copy of your book?

I have really been overwhelmed by the feedback on this book. People have told me that it has changed their lives. That is pretty amazing to hear. There is no reason to struggle with Twitter now that this is book is available. It’s cheap, it’s fun to read and in 90 minutes you will have Twitter figured out!

About the Author:

Leo Widrich is the Co-Founder of Twitter App Buffer, an App that allows you to tweet all the great content you find more intelligently without flooding your followers. He writes more Twitter Tips and updates every week on the Bufferblog. Say hi @LeoWid anytime, he is a very nice guy and always happy to chat.

On Social Media, curate people, not just information

Let’s take Twitter as an example. Your Twitter account is like a library.

Every link you’ve ever tweeted is like a book in that library. So who are you? You’re the librarian, of course :)

You are the “curator” of all the information you’ve gathered together by tweeting about it. Some people take the job of curating information via their Twitter account very seriously. These people are great to follow if the information they curate is something you are also interested in.

Two keys to making Twitter work for you

So to be a great Twitter curator, you need to find great stuff and tweet about it.  This will help you build a community, as people begin following you because of the great content you share. But to get a lot out of Twitter for yourself, you need to find other great curators.

In other words, you need to become a curator of people, not just information.

In fact, it’s better to find great people first, because not only will they make Twitter useful for you, they will help you find the great information that you can then share with others.

Finding great people is the real secret to Twitter

Not only will great people lead you to great content, but they are good mentors to teach you how to learn Twitter and the purposes of social media better. Twitter use is always evolving, and you need to follow great people to learn the latest tips and tricks.

What you will learn from great Twitter mentors is this: help other people on Twitter first. If you help people, they will help you get everything you need to succeed: reputation, followers and content. They will help you become incredibly popular. So start by finding great people and helping them. As you do, you’ll learn a lot. Following great people will make Twitter less work, and bring more benefits to you.

Also, realize that this is not specifically a following strategy. There are many reasons why you might want to follow lots of people beyond just the best people you find. That’s okay. You should follow the best people you find, but you might also want to put the best of them on a Twitter list so you can focus on just them.

There are two kinds of social media mentors

There are those who can help you figure out what social media is good for, and those who can help you figure out how to learn the ins and outs of a particular platform, such as LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Many top names in social media are not good mentors for how to use a particular platform. And many experts on the ins and outs of a particular platform are not big names.

Why? Because what it takes to become a celebrity is not the same as what it takes to become an expert.

Beware: Big names sometimes do dumb things

Realize that just because someone has written a book on social media doesn’t make them a good mentor for how to use a particular social media platform. Surprisingly, some top folks on social media are too busy to be good examples. Their popularity means they get a lot out of whatever site they join, because of their celebrity. So they don’t have to be a good example, or seek out advice on which tools will help them.

Chris Brogan is just the latest social media “guru” in a long line to ignore the advice of Twitter platform experts that auto-follow-back would make Twitter unusable for him unless he combined it with a variety of tools. He didn’t listen, and ended up unfollowing everyone because he didn’t know how to deal with the consequences of his actions. Another way of saying that is that he didn’t know how to use Twitter well. But he’s a great mentor for understanding Social Media in general for businesses. He’s just not a good platform mentor.

How to reach important people on Twitter

For difficult-to-reach people, you may be able to connect with them via Twitter.

The first step is to follow them. No matter what you do next, if they notice you, you want them to see you are following them, and give them the chance to direct message you on Twitter. Especially don’t make the mistake of sending a direct message to someone that follows you that you don’t follow—they won’t be able to reply!

Don’t fail to follow them and then suggest connecting by email. Some people don’t want to give out their email to people they don’t know, other simply want to avoid it to keep the number of emails they receive low.

How do you find the right people?

You’ll want to be familiar with “How to find and engage influential Twitter users” and “How ANYONE can become incredibly popular on Twitter.”

You have three options for connecting:

1. Connect with someone already connected to them

If they don’t follow too many people, check to see who follows you that they follow, e.g.

If person you want to contact follows someone (an intermediary) who follows you, the intermediary is the person you want to get in touch with.

If they follow a lot of people, look at who they are sending tweeted messages (@replies) to. When you find one, use Twitter search to see if they have communicated with them more than once recently.

2. Connect with them via comments (such as on a blog)

If they provide a link to a website (or an internet search turns up a link to their website) comment on their blog. Particularly if they have a post that is relevant to what you want to talk to them about. If they don’t respond to you, see who they DO respond to, and try to make a connection to that person.

Why not just tweet them?

Some people respond to tweets from people they don’t know, others do not. It can be because they get too many tweets, or because they don’t want to be accessible to people they don’t know. Some just realize that if you make the effort to reach them some other way, it shows you are making an effort to learn something about them.

If you want to tweet them, start by retweeting a few things of theirs to possibly get their attention, and show that you are a real person paying attention to what they are doing on Twitter.

3. What if it doesn’t work?

Try asking your contacts, both on and off Twitter, if they have any connection to the person you’re trying to reach. Reaching people is a networking skill, and networking can take time.

What should you say when you make a connection?

You should spend some time making a connection before asking for anything. Do as much as you can for them before asking for anything. See “An easy way to get someone’s attention on Twitter” for some simple ideas to get you started. Learn more about what you can do for someone by browsing through “How ANYONE can become incredibly popular on Twitter.”

Scroll down to “How to tweet your request for help” at this post for ideas on what to say.

How a porn star made a blog about Twitter more popular

You never know how connecting with someone will turn out.

I don’t investigate people who ask for help on Twitter, I just do my best to help them. Sometimes later I find out that they are people very different than myself.

This also happens when people share help or tips. I just say thank you, and credit them if I share their tips. I at most do a quick click to make sure that if I am linking to a site or social media account, that it actually exists.

How a helpful commenter helped create my most popular post.

Nearly a year after I wrote about how to make your Twitter sidebar transparent, a commenter wrote in with a fix for a problem some people have been having. They linked to their Twitter account, so a quick click showed that it was a real account (at a glance, nothing about it was remarkable), and I went ahead and updated the blog post and credited them with finding and sharing the tip.

Eventually, someone pointed out to me that my blog linked to a porn star on Twitter. I eventually figured out that it was the helpful person who had shared the tip.

The blog post they offered the tip for has long been very popular here, and has been gaining a lot in popularity since including the tip. Several commenters have pointed out that my blog post has the tip/fix while others elsewhere on the same topic do not. The extra popularity from the tip has meant many hundreds of extra visits.

I have found the same phenomenon happens on Twitter.

People very different than me recommend my Twitter account

When I see someone has recommended @TweetSmarter to a friend, I sometimes check out their tweets. It’s not uncommon to discover that they are someone I would be unlikely to otherwise have made a connection with due to our differences. It’s actually quite common.

If I refused to help people very different than myself, and if those same kind of people refused to help or recommend me, I wouldn’t be surprised if this blog or my @TweetSmarter account reached 70,000-100,000 fewer people than it has today.

You never know how connecting with someone will turn out.

Why you need to do much, much less on Twitter

In “How Twitter became my secret weapon” reference is made to large amounts of money changing hands between folks who first made contact on Twitter. This is a great reason it’s worth applying some version of the 80/20 rule to who you follow on Twitter. It goes like this:

Follow the best, and keep finding more of them

Say you follow 100 people. 20 of them are giving you 80% of the value you are getting out Twitter. So unfollow the other 80. Now you have a new standard: the 20 people you are left with. Try to find new people to follow who are as high quality as those. Of course, it’s not that simple, but you should always be trying to unfollow lower quality people and find higher quality people to follow.

A wealthy man once asked a much wealthier man why they seemed to do similar work, but the wealthier man made many millions of dollars more income. The advice came back: “Get wealthier friends. Yours make about what you do. Mine make much more than I do. They lead me onwards.”

Of course, quality people can be measured in more ways than money, but the principle is the same: Try to follow absolutely the finest people that will engage with you on Twitter. Additionally, be a mentor to those that are also mentoring others. Always be helping, always be finding better and better people who will help you.

Less work, more benefits

Following fewer people but following more that are very helpful to you mean you’ll get much more out of the time you spend on Twitter. Now you might be thinking that this means follow just dozens of people, and that could be true for some. But there are so many quality people on Twitter that there are accounts that follow tens of thousands of people, and each one is very carefully vetted for quality, and people are regularly replaced.

So there is no specific number, but you should always be trying to refine your account down to a smaller quantity of very high quality folks if you want to get the most learning and help from your Twitter network.

What are the benefits of Twitter for business?

I had a client ask me for a brief explanation of this recently. This was my response:

Twitter has more beneficial use cases than Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs combined. This is one reason people are confused by Twitter. Millions of people are using it in dozens of different ways, all simultaneously. To implement the most valuable use cases for Twitter require the most training and planning. One reason Twitter is so flexible is that it can support so many other existing technologies and business strategies.

Where’s the profit?

For business, I believe the top uses, from highest profit to lowest profit are:

  1. Consulting, education and joint ventures specific to making your business more profitable (networking with others in your field).
  2. Finding prospects to sign up for your mailing list (converting them later to paying clients/customers).
  3. Building your brand and reputation.
  4. Promoting offers, products and services.

How do you get started?

However, I suggest using it in a different order than I listed above. First, you must have a web presence, ideally at minimum a blog and Facebook page for your business. You will be building an online community, and community needs places for people to engage in different ways. Then use Twitter in this order:

  1. Consulting, education and joint ventures specific to making your business more profitable (networking with others in your field).
  2. Building your brand and reputation.
  3. Promoting offers, products and services.
  4. Finding prospects to sign up for your mailing list (converting them later to paying clients/customers).

Why not start by getting lots of followers and selling things to them?

Mainly because this doesn’t work well, and there is another way that works very well. Here is the key: The higher the quality of your Twitter account, the better everything else you do will work.

What steps should you follow?

  1. So begin on Twitter by connecting with other high-quality, influential people (here’s how), and keep your initial use to finding people that you can help, and people you would like to connect with. Think of it this way: If people describe you offline as a “high quality person” it’s important that you appear as a high-quality person online as well.
  2. As you use Twitter in this way, you will learn easily, because you will be making friends who will help you use Twitter well. Also, they will naturally teach you how to build your brand and reputation by their example and tips.
  3. Once you have built the foundation of a quality reputation and connected with influencers in your niche, you can begin sharing more about what you do in your business. It will happen naturally. People will be asking you about your business, and engaging with you on your blog and Facebook page as well as on Twitter. You can now begin promoting offers, products and services. Work to provide specials only available to people online, and to find joint venture opportunities with the people you have connected with on Twitter. Start by helping them in whatever way you can with their offers, products and services. Many will then help you with yours.
  4. Finally, you will have built a high-quality presence on Twitter, and your followers will be growing organically. Now you can concentrate harder on how to build a high-quality Twitter following, and using Twitter as a tool for getting signups to your mailing list. You do this in a two-step process: (1) Sharing educational material in tweets while positioning yourself as an expert, and (2) Providing offers to people to signup for your list on all parts of your web presence and as part of all your educational materials.

I consulted with a Twitter user who build up a 60,000+ mailing list in ~18 months on Twitter by sharing educational videos that included at the end offers of more information for people who signed up for their mailing list. While I can’t divulge their username, they attributed over six figures of their annual sales in their second year on Twitter to prospects from Twitter who converted to paying clients.

 

 

How NOT to deal with a confusing Twitter issue.

UPDATE—Synopsis: Two twitter users use the same word “mention” to mean different things. Each then thinks the other is a bad example of how to use Twitter. Drama ensues, many tweets are written,  followed by clarification and reconciliation—Aaron and I are planning to meet in person in Minneapolis later this year.

I’m afraid I have to call myself out on this one. Let me start specifically by making a very public apology to Aaron Biebert for my behavior. I apologize. I was wrong, and behaved poorly. This all could have been avoided had I acted differently. I certainly know better. I’ve also apologized in detail on Aaron’s blog here.

  • Update: Thanks to all the people who sent direct messages of support! I understand completely not wanting to be publicly involved while third parties were tweeting their misunderstandings of what was happening. A typical DM of support: “…just wanted to say that was one of the classiest explanations/apologies I’ve seen.”
  • Update: I’ve updated this blog post in response to suggestions from several people, including Aaron.

Late on a day when I had only gotten 3 1/2 hours of sleep the night before, after skipping my usual morning meditation/contemplation (bad idea!), I was searching Google and aggregators (example 1, example 2) and I found this post about a company that had a problem that people were warning them about on Twitter. I thought it was well written and that the author (@Biebert) had made a really excellent observation about the importance of being on Twitter. I tweeted it, and he responded by DM, asking that it be tweeted again, with him being mentioned as author/tweeter.

And then things went something like this:

How I start to screw things up

My initial (oh-so-very wrong) understanding was that Aaron just wanted more exposure for his blog, and wanted his Twitter username included. We get requests to @mention people and tweet or tweet again their posts all the time, sometimes nearly hourly throughout the day. Because we get so many similar requests, doing that on a regular basis would be the end of any value we provide to our community.

While that was kind of what he was asking I got the reason he was asking all wrong—he thought we were retweeting his tweet, and had left out attribution of him as the source of the tweet. Since I had found his blog post in a Google or social medial aggregator search, and never saw any tweet—his or anyone else’s—I misunderstood his intent. He was trying to educate me, and ask for a correction of my mistake. Perfectly reasonable, and very courteously worded—a good example for anyone trying something similar.

It began confusingly. When I said “mention” I mean adding author mention to a retweet. When he said “mention” he meant simply adding regular attribution to a retweet. The main problem was, my tweet wasn’t a retweet! Here were the first DMs from Aaron (he’s said more publicly, so I don’t feel I’m breaking any confidence here), and below that, my first two DMs, and first two public Tweets.

Of course, It wasn’t really about retweets (the main confusion), since I wasn’t retweeting anything, but I jumped on the word “retweet” and stirred things up by linking to an explanation of retweet credit. So after my first mistake of misunderstanding, I then made these mistakes in quick succession:

  1. I switched from DMs to public tweets. I should have stayed private, and listened more, instead of linking to information.
  2. As Aaron started sending a lots of tweets to and fro, I began responding publicly, littering my stream, lecturing instead of listening carefully.
  3. As Aaron brought other users into the discussion, I also @mentioned them. Basically, I told myself I was “educating,” but I should have been listening. Listening could have cleared things up! I ended up basically arguing with a mob. Not a good plan on my part.
  4. Because I had not tried to clear things up by listening, the good points Aaron made were hard to acknowledge, because everything was getting so muddy.

The misunderstanding behind it all

So Aaron thought I had retweeted him, and simply refused to give his tweet credit, seemingly because I was such a “big shot” that I didn’t have to. Boy, that would really rub me the wrong way too if it were true! He tweeted a question to @twitter about whether we should be suspended, and sent a bunch of tweets to some of his friends about the situation, and a bunch of other tweets.

I completely get it, and I forgive him. Aaron thought he had met the biggest jerk on Twitter! And I thought he was just asking for some additional exposure for him and his blog post. We were talking about two different things. A communication problem that is far too common, in my experience. I know enough to try to clear things up first, such as by saying “Do you mean…” or “Are you asking about…” but I totally failed in this case.

To me, worst of all was that I completely LOVE retweeting people with credit! People love it, I introduce people to other great people, and it’s nothing but fun for me! People send thanks and praise whenever their name is mentioned, in my experience, and recommend us to their friends. It’s win-win-win. So I’ve always done it, and written a bunch of blog posts about how and why to do it.

But the reason I retweet so few people in practice is that I’m forced to use search, aggregators and alerts because they are 90%+ accurate in letting me know when something is new, and my job is to find new articles about Twitter. Unfortunately, I have no easy way of telling from a Tweet with a link if the link is to something new. So I only rarely find new content from tweets, which I’ve written about here and elsewhere.

Should we just do favors for people?

It’s been suggested we should have just done what Aaron requested, that it would have been common sense, and avoided the whole brouhaha that erupted.

Unfortunately my initial (very wrong) understanding was that we were being asked to sent a second tweet closely following our first tweet because the author wanted his name mentioned, and wanted it done in another tweet. While true to a point, I misunderstood the reason—totally! Since we get requests to @mention people and tweet their things all the time, sometimes nearly hourly throughout the day, we can’t do it—It would be the end of any value we provide to our community.

I have a very, VERY small number of times in the past accepted special requests from people, and it worked out very badly: People upset that so-and-so got a favor and they didn’t etc. Because of past experience I make a pretty serious effort to treat everyone equally. I even do crazy things like discouraging people from auto-tweeting our blog posts! It just feels better to find the right principles and follow them, instead of accepting special treatment, trading favors, etc.

That said, I’m always learning! We get suggestions all the time on how we could improve, and I welcome them all. The community around @TweetSmarter is a direct result of us listening to and following good advice

My biggest mistake

It’s a funny thing about tweets or short emails: they seem to lose all personal, human context. When I saw the emotion happening, I should have stopped tweeting immediately, and written this post so things could be clarified and taken to a space where it’s easier to clear things up, or waited for Aaron to pause his campaign of tweets to us and others and write a blog post. Tweets bouncing around just tend to make things worse.

In my defense, being on the receiving end of many rapidly tweeted, less-than-charitable tweets seemingly because I didn’t send a second tweet with an @mention about a blog post was frustrating. Also confusing, irritating and sometimes bemusing! A bunch of people were unfortunately led to think I didn’t believe in giving proper credit on Twitter, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Summary

What turned into a campaign of tweets against @TweetSmarter resulted in uninformed and non-charitable tweets about us for some time, none of which were based on past experiences with us. It was all directly a result of my mishandling the initial misunderstanding. I had the power to avoid everything that happened, and I’ve apologized in detail to Aaron on his blog as well as in the first paragraph of this post. However, my follow-up tweets with other folks mostly seemed to fall on deaf ears, and I admit that people saying inaccurate things about what I do on Twitter bothers me.

Aaron of course took a classy approach to resolving things, showing that he deserves the high and positive reputation he has among his community. I’d also like to make special mention of Cheri Allbritton (the wonderful @ArveyColumbus), along with Aaron another one of the many class acts on Twitter, for playing the role of peacemaker between us. It was an interesting opportunity to “walk my talk” as just weeks ago I had said during the @TweetSmarter Klout interview:

“…I learned that the more transparent I am, the faster I learn. This can admittedly be tough. It will mean changing how you do things sometimes. But my advice is to accept all feedback, and take a shot a staying in harmony with absolutely EVERYONE who ever contacts you, by listening. “

As always, any and all comments and advice are welcome!

Twitter users need your help

On the list below at left are people asking us for help with Twitter. Can you help them? We’ll be too busy for a few days to get back to everyone. Thanks! You many have to scroll down, as there are also other kinds of questions mixed in. For more information, scroll down to below the lists.

Plus, if you really like helping, look at this list of people asking Twitter questions, or this list of people you can help with their Twitter questions.

People who need help People giving help

What’s this about?

Above is a list of people that could use your help (read the tips first, though). Please help anyone you can! Why? A great way to get followers is to find people you can help…and help them! The right hand column is a list of people who are giving help.

In fact, feel free to visit this post anytime you would like to find people to help! When you help someone, if you would add #tshlp to your tweet, that will help me see it so I can thank you :) And if you want to tell them about this post, give them this link: http://j.mp/GetGiveHelp (to encourage them to understand what you’re doing, and what they can do).

Did someone help you?

Tips (or click here for help resources)

1. What if the tweet isn’t a question at all?

Ignore anything that doesn’t look like a question. What’s shown below are Twitter search results (that I’ll try to keep updated) but it won’t be perfect.

2. What if the question is hard to understand?

  1. See tip #4 and #5 below for how to see the conversation that led to the question
  2. If that doesn’t help, tweet the user and ask them to clarify their question
  3. Sometimes it works just to guess at what they’re asking and say whatever seems like it will be the most helpful thing

3. How will you know who helped someone?

  1. If you add #tshlp to every tweet you write when helping someone from the list below, that will help me see it so I can thank you :)
  2. At the very bottom I’ve included a link to people who are helping (at least those that have remembered to include the #tshlp). Also, figure that tweets that are over a day old have probably already been helped.

4. How can I see the tweet on it’s own page for more options?

  1. Underneath each tweet it will say “[X] hours ago”. That is is a link you can click. It will take you to a web page where you can see the tweet all by itself, and depending on your web interface, there will be a variety of extra options, such as…

5. How can I see the conversation the person is asking about

  1. When you are viewing a tweet on its own page there will usually also be some words that say “in reply to TweetSmarter” (or whoever). That is also a link. Click that to see what the person is replying to.

6. What are some resources I can use to help people?

Google search is all you need much of the time :) …but here are some of my favorite links for helping people:

  1. For questions about Twitter applications, use the controls at the top left of the OneForty website.
  2. http://j.mp/TwitterFixes
  3. http://j.mp/LearnHashtags
  4. http://j.mp/TheTwitterBasics
  5. http://j.mp/SearchOldTweets
  6. http://j.mp/MissingTweets
  7. http://j.mp/TwitterSuspension
  8. http://j.mp/TweetSafely
  9. http://j.mp/TwitterTrademarkRules
  10. http://j.mp/TheTwitterLimits
  11. http://j.mp/TwitterAbuse
  12. http://j.mp/HowUseLists

The Twitter following controversy

I’ve learned that the more transparent I am, the faster I learn, and learning is really important to me.

I keep getting comments from the anonymous Twitter user “Alan” complaining about how he/she thinks @TweetSmarter follows and unfollows people on Twitter. You can see those comments on many of the blog posts that are just before this one, such as “following secrets I’ve never told anyone before,” and “how you don’t have to follow lots of people to get followers.” Here’s my latest response:

Dear Alan,

Thanks for your concern for my reputation (you said “I think you’re providing a nice service for lots of folks. Don’t erode your brand with this nonsense.”) I appreciate your recognition that I’m here to help, and that you’re trying to advise me on how to protect my reputation with the “veterans of Twitter.” I’m sure that, like yourself, people will make up their own minds, and that’s fine by me.

Here’s the short summary: I’m trying to be ever more selective of who I follow while I get rid of people I don’t want to follow, of which I’ve accumulated too many. So less following and more unfollowing is happening. But you just see large numbers in following and even more so in unfollowing and therefore I must be doing the same junk everyone else does. Or you just think that doing lots of following and unfollowing can only be bad, no matter how it is done. I wish it were just semantics, and we were simply using different words for the same thing.

I’ve pointed out that I really can’t recommend following large numbers of people on Twitter, because it’s so ridiculously time consuming to do well, and people who try it do it poorly, and most are doing it for the wrong reasons. I do it much more poorly than I wish I did and I’m constantly trying to improve. I’ve already explained a lot of the things that can go wrong in trying to get followers, that’s it’s the wrong thing to try to do in the first place, and pointing out how even getting more retweets can be a bad thing when it’s just junk accounts retweeting you.

I claim that I use following as a carefully thought out tool, spending lots of time finding the “people who help us help others” that you call part of a “laughable” and “intellectually bankrupt justification” on my part. Gosh, don’t sugar coat it, tell me what you really think, lol! Again, it seems to be the numbers that bother you. You’re sure they’re too large to be well thought out on my part. You’re sure I’m just doing what everyone else is doing and I should just admit it and stop doing it.

I claim that I’m building a community in part by using lots of analytical tools to follow quality people a fairly high rate/high volume. You claim it’s just what you call “pump and dump” following and unfollowing.

You’ve positioned yourself as an expert, saying your expertise allows you to “see through” my “rambling justifications.” So let’s test that expertise a little bit, in an admittedly completely unscientific way (rambling justification alert!)

I’m going to give brief overviews of three unscientific examples of the power of the community that has formed around @TweetSmarter. They won’t “prove” anything, but maybe you’ll get a glimmer.

Basically, I could NOT do what you describe and have had the extraordinary community that has formed around @TweetSmarter form as it has. The test is this: You have no way of explaining how these things could happen. If I’m doing what everyone else is doing, how can the @TweetSmarter account have such an extraordinary community?

Let me anticipate your most likely explanations: that since I spend a lot of time on Twitter helping people, and have a lot of followers, that explains why there is such a devoted community that has built up around @TweetSmarter. True to a point of course. Yet, there are around 1400 accounts with more followers than we have, and more all the time. @TweetSmarter is not growing, it’s shrinking, at least when compared to the overall Twitter community. Also, there are hundreds of people, authors, bloggers, CEOs who are tremendously active on Twitter, famous outside of it, and have fanatically devoted and very large communities. And yet, measures of the community that has built around @TweetSmarter have ranked it among the highest in the world for years. @TweetSmarter is not just influential, it’s more influential than any remotely similar account in the world. It’s sometimes the most influential.

You don’t believe my explanations of why and how I follow. Perhaps a couple of examples might make you wonder if there really is something more to it:

Influence analytics

On Twitalyzer our account was measured as one of the 5-10 most influential in the world for most of 2009. We reached the #1 spot repeatedly, usually trading place with @GuyKawasaki for it. When Edelman’s Tweetlevel came out, we debuted at #3 in the world. And even as Twitter grows, we spent nearly all of January 2011 on Edelman’s list of “top 20″ most influential in the world, peaking at #5 on January 21st.

Maybe you’ll notice that these things don’t really have that much to do with number of followers. There are 1,393 accounts on Twitter that have more followers than @TweetSmarter does as of this writing. Hundreds of them are very active, with great communities around them. And yes, hundreds more are simply celebrities who don’t really use Twitter very well. But many of the other accounts on the top 20 during the times we appear on the list have millions of followers. Our follower numbers are nearly inconsequential. It’s the number of “people who help us help others” in our community that matters. Take for example a list of users from a quick search I did, their number of followers and their Klout score. All except @Scobleizer have a LOT more followers, yet NONE of have a higher Klout score than TweetSmarter the day I checked. Note that the founder of Klout says it doesn’t care how many followers you have. Numbers are expressed as network/overall online influence. Network mean “how often engaged by influential people,” meaning not even @LadyGaga with 8.4 million followers is engaged by influential users more frequently than @TweetSmarter is. :

  • 93/86 @TweetSmarter  0.24
  • 91/87 @Mashable  2.2 Million
  • 86/86 @Twitter 4.3 Million
  • 89/85 @CNN 1.6 million
  • 89/86 @ConanObrien 2.4 Million
  • 87/82 @GuyKawasaki 0.31
  • 88/86 @Aplusk 6.3 Million
  • 88/81 @Scobleizer 0.17
  • 78/73 @Biz 1.7 Million
  • 93/92 @LadyGaga 8.4 million

The 2009 Shorty Awards

The first year of the Shorty Awards, I thought I might try to win to see how positive an effect that would have on building our community. (I’ve tried all kinds of things and this was another.)

I competed in a category that had fewer competitors, and simply tried to keep the number of votes for us near the highest, without trying to look like a clear winner until near the end. I had no idea of how many votes it would take to win, or if we stood a chance at winning…but we did win. The real revelation came afterwards.

A scandal

After we won, I read some information from a more competitive category than ours. Apparently there had been a scandal.

Dan Zarella, an extraordinarily successful and well-respected expert and social media researcher, said that no matter what he did, he could never seem to get more votes than this other guy (who I won’t name—all info is still on the web if you care to research). Dan made it clear he was going all out and still falling short. So he did some digging, and discovered the other guy was buying votes!

So here you had a social media expert going all out to win in a competitive category, trying to stay ahead of someone who was just buying votes. Dan won (the other guy was disqualified), and you would expect that he had a TON more votes than we did, right?

Actually…no. In fact, our account had more votes than most of the winners in any of the categories. But the real revelation was this—@TweetSmarter could have gotten probably four or five times as many votes, easily—I was only trying to keep it close in our category! I had no idea our community was so much stronger than those around others. It really opened my eyes.

Let me just add one little addendum: I haven’t competed in the Shorty Awards since then. Why? While it demonstrated to me the strength of our community, it was clear it had very little to do with building or nurturing community. And yes, I mean in part it doesn’t bring in many followers. But of course I mean it doesn’t bring in GOOD followers, while you’re probably still just thinking about the numbers. If popularity mattered, we’d still be competing—and winning. (Never say never, the value of the Shorty Awards could change in future years. And then I’d compete again.)

How did I do it? I simply asked a small percentage of the people who engaged with us to vote for us—the same thing everyone else was doing. I could have asked tons more. No rocket science. We just had a stronger community.

Why I’m responding

I’ve learned that the more transparent I am, the faster I learn, and learning is really important to me.

But also, what I’m doing is I think is at least a little controversial, because I’ve basically tried a little of everything over the years, and I’m trying to be as fair and smart as I can with what I’m doing now. The more I try to do things on a larger scale the more I have to use tools—the most important of which are analysis tools—but which means automation of some things, some of the time. I think you basically applaud my reason for being here but  misunderstand some of how I do it and feel that some of it shouldn’t be done. Clearly you think searching for good people is fine, but we disagree beyond that.

Can you admit that maybe, just maybe, I work as hard at find good people to follow as I say I do? And that it has made a difference to growing a community that is both large and high-quality?

And that’s what really bothers you, isn’t it? It’s the numbers. I must be “bad” for doing lots of following/unfollowing, why won’t I just admit it? I must be “bad” for using following to find good people. I must be “bad” for unfollowing my mistakes—and having made so many of them.

Despite demonstrating that I could achieve what you seem to think I’m doing by other, more automated and secretive methods, you’re not convinced. You see big numbers, I must be doing bad things. I’ve pointed out a lot of the better options I could be using if I was just trying to do what you’re accusing me of doing, to no avail.

I’ve watched people try every trick in the book on Twitter for building their communities. There are a ton of people with 40,000-300,000 followers who have done “pump and dump” from day one and still do it today. There are a significant number with more followers than @TweetSmarter has. We both know this. You’re saying I’m doing the same things they are, and I’m saying I’m doing something different at a similar volume.

But there is definitely something addictive about connecting with lots of great people around the world, and I’m going to keep trying to find ways to do it better.