I was pretty socially awkward until my late 20s, just a few years ago.
Still, I managed to figure out Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn over the years.
But Twitter was always a mystery to me. It was different and I just didn't get it.
This changed in 2022. I've now been active on Twitter for a few months, and I love it. So, I'm dedicating this article to my 400 followers and Twitter friends.
Here's everything I know about Twitter so far:
A brief history of me on socials
I got my first PC with a dial-up modem when I was 12.
There were no social networks back then around here (in Latvia), but IRC was all the rage. So, my early online years were made up of a dozen small channels and DMs with the people I knew, mostly classmates and friends.
I was a massive introvert back then, so I had little interest in the early social media of the mid-2000s. Hiding behind an IRC handle was one thing, but putting my real self out there for everyone to see was different. Intimidating. It just wasn't for me.
So, I spent years scoffing at Facebook and Instagram before finally caving in and signing up in the early 2010s. Around that time I went through my first identity crisis. This made me just a little bit more comfortable with being myself online and offline. Still, I was relatively private on socials, and mostly interacted with friends.
This was also when I signed up for Twitter. But it wasn't a big deal around here in 2013, and I had no friends on Twitter, so nothing came of it. I didn't tweet once.
By 2018, I was running my small software biz. That's when I got active on LinkedIn, started publishing my thoughts on the marketplace industry, and built up a network of about a thousand followers. I was still self-conscious at that time, but I learned to put on a professional mask on LinkedIn, which made it bearable.
Why not do the same on Twitter?
Well, I gave it a try:
See what my problem was?
Yep, I didn't understand the essence of Twitter. I was all over the place: a little bragging, a little personal stuff, a bit of business. Zero engagement.
Here's how I understood the different social networks back then:
- Facebook is for staying in touch with friends, bragging about my social activities ("I'm meeting people, everyone!"), and ranting about life.
- Instagram is for showing the way I see the world, bragging about life ("I'm traveling, everyone!"), and sharing my thoughts.
- LinkedIn is for professional connections, sharing my thoughts on business, and occasional self-promotion ("I built this great thing, everyone!")
- Twitter is...
...I had no idea what Twitter was.
A few things confused me about it:
I just didn't get Twitter
How do you (typically) get started on Twitter?
You sign up, follow the people you're interested in, and start interacting with them.
That was my first problem. Who was I actually interested in?
Back then, I saw two main use cases of Twitter:
- Personal, local. Interact with the people around you, e.g. friends, coworkers, politicians, local personalities.
- Professional, international. Follow the people in the industry, in my case tech bros, founders, investors, journalists.
Kinda makes sense?
But it didn't work for me:
- I didn't need Twitter for personal and local use. It wasn't big here, my friends were on Facebook and Instagram, I wasn't into local politics and culture, and...
- ...I already had LinkedIn for professional use, where I could connect with the people in the industry, locally and internationally. And it worked fine for me.
So there was no real reason for me to use Twitter.
My second problem was that I didn't get "tweeting".
I was a long-form person and a photo person. It was either publishing articles, or sharing photos, but not sharing thoughts or interacting.
Social anxiety was one of the reasons. Publishing an article was stressful enough, but it didn't happen often. Twitter, though? Absolutely draining. I could spend an hour crafting a seemingly offhand tweet just to be 100% sure I don't accidentally embarrass myself somehow. I could write a LinkedIn post faster than that!
Another problem was the mix of professional and personal.
In my world, these things were strictly separate. Personally, I was a Latvian dude struggling with my tiny business. Professionally, I was a founder of a marketplace software company primarily working with international clients.
It felt weird seeing Silicon Valley entrepreneurs casually mix their personal and professional things. My compartmentalized brain couldn't quite process that.
Finally, I felt irrelevant on Twitter.
Since my business was international and I was generally inspired by the US tech industry, I mostly followed the big US tech accounts on Twitter. Yet I had little in common with them. I lived in a different world, both geographically and culturally.
I knew I could reply to Elon Musk, but I'd be one of a million people replying to Elon Musk. I felt like I was just a drop in the Twitter ocean. Completely irrelevant.
I was an NPC tweeting into the void. And I didn't last long.
What do you want out of it?
There's nothing wrong with being a casual Twitter user, an NPC.
You're free to follow whomever you like, share your thoughts and photos occasionally, retweet things you enjoy, and reply to Elon Musk.
If that works for you - great!
I wasn't really enjoying it since I was getting zero engagement. What's the point? I had other socials for "being a casual user", and doing it on Twitter made no sense.
What if I told you there's a better way to use Twitter?
That's right. It's called having a good reason to be there.
Here are a few good reasons to be on Twitter:
- To stay informed about what's going on (in the world, in your country, in your industry, in your community, in the niche you're in).
- To meet and connect with like-minded people, find new Twitter friends with common interests, and expand your social circle.
- To promote your business or sell your products and services. Twitter is a great way to do it without being pushy.
- To share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with the world. Create serendipity around yourself!
- To help people who are currently at the stages of their lives that you've already gone through. Share your lessons!
See? This instantly makes Twitter more purposeful.
It also gives you a clearer path forward than simply following a bunch of people, tweeting random stuff, and feeling completely irrelevant.
And there's no reason to stick to a single goal, too. You can (and should) have a mix of reasons to be on Twitter. It's perfectly fine to want to connect with people while also promoting your business and sharing your thoughts.
But first, there's one more thing I want to talk about:
How do you feel about niches?
The first step to success in life and business is to find your niche.
Whew. How did that line make you feel?
If you're a generalist like me, you've just sighed and rolled your eyes.
"Find your niche" is my least favorite advice out there. As a generalist, I'm interested in ALL the things. Sometimes I like to imagine the possibility of getting cloned and seeing my clones become scientists, lawyers, electricians, adventurers, plumbers, and motorcycle racers. And a thousand other things.
Is it weird? Am I the only one doing it?
Anyway, I find it almost impossible to limit myself to pursuing a few specific things. That would mean missing out on everything else that's out there!
And yet, "find your niche" isn't the worst advice you'll hear.
It's kinda true. There's only one life, and there's only 24 hours in a day. Not focusing on anything at all will likely mean not achieving anything in particular. It's hard to make meaningful progress in something when you're all over the place.
Lately, I've come to accept the fact that I need to focus.
Still, I don't call it a niche. That's way too limiting. Besides, I'm still curious about a bunch of different stuff, even when I'm focused.
Instead, I call it my core set of interests:
Here's my core set of interests:
- Creating things, e.g. building products, creating content, entrepreneurship, creativity, etc.
- Making things happen, e.g. managing people, projects, and products, organizing processes, etc.
- Psychology, especially related to productivity, habits, mental health, communication, "how people work", etc.
In addition to this, I'm big on two other areas:
- Skills related to my core interests, e.g. writing, speaking, networking, presenting, organizing, etc.
- Things I enjoy in life, e.g. dogs, extreme sports, nature, friends, and whatnot.
See, it's not quite a "niche". Niches are more specific, but this is as specific as I'm willing to go, at least right now. Still better than not having anything at all!
Are you a niche person, or a core set of interests person?
Find your Twitter people
Now let's find the people you'll hang out with on Twitter.
If you're introverted, how do you feel about being alone at a party or an event?
Some of my memories from the mid-2010s are about attending various high-powered startup events where I would just awkwardly sit somewhere in the back row all by myself and fumble with my phone for hours. Not exciting!
What if you knew at least a few people? A world of difference! Even if all of you are awkward engineers that would rather not be there, it's still better than being alone.
Twitter can be like that, too.
Just like in real life, knowing a single person who's part of your Twitter community makes the experience more fun. And when there's one, there's more. This is crucial especially if you're just starting out on Twitter.
Here's my recent experience:
I got back on Twitter in November 2021. At this point, I had about 200 random followers from my previous run, but I didn't know any of them, so you might as well say I had 0 followers. I was definitely not part of any communities, and I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere on Twitter.
So for a few months, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I published occasional tweets about nothing in particular and tried interacting with random people:
I actually lost a follower in November, and then another one in December:
Oh, come on! It felt like 2018 all over again. What a waste of time.
But this time, I was absolutely determined to figure it out. So when the New Year rolled around, I finally started doing research. Meaning I googled "how does Twitter work" and "I don't understand Twitter".
That's how I found out about Jay Clouse and his Tweet100 community dedicated to being consistent on Twitter. But it was more than just that! Most importantly, it was a friendly group of people with diverse interests aligned around a single goal:
That's exactly what I was missing all along!
I signed up for the Tweet100 challenge on the second week of January, and that month I gained followers for the first time in years:
Notice the difference?
Similar numbers of tweets and impressions, but a lot more profile visits and mentions. I was interacting with the people I had something in common with.
And unlike my 200 random followers I didn't know, these were real people. They became my first Twitter friends, and it was only up from there.
Do you absolutely need a formal community or a challenge?
Nah. I enjoyed Tweet100, and I recommend you take part in it, sure. But the important thing is to understand the community aspect of Twitter, and how it works. Then, all you need is a place where like-minded people gather, which can be a hashtag, a big account, or a group of experts.
Here are a few of my personal community suggestions:
If you're getting started or leveling up your Twitter skills, check out:
- Kevon Cheung's Making Twitter Friends course and other resources.
- Arvid Kahl's Find Your Following course and YouTube channel.
- Jay Clouse and the Tweet100 challenge I mentioned earlier.
They also have great resources for creators and are big on building in public. And they're all amazing humans, too!
Now, a few more suggestions based on my core interests:
- For more public builders and creators, start with #buildinpublic, Dagobert Renouf, Alex Llull, and Tony Dinh.
- For writing online, start with Dickie Bush (Ship 30 for 30) and David Perell (Write of Passage). There's also #WritingCommunity for writing in general.
- For product management, start with #prodmgmt, Jason Knight, John Cutler, and Shreyas Doshi.
A quick tip: don't simply follow them. Keep reading for a better way.
I'm also maintaining lists of people grouped by my interests, the big ones being:
- Product+ for product people.
- Creators+ for creators and builders.
- Thinking+ for people who make me think.
Finally, there's of course me and my Twitter friends.
Follow me and join us - being part of a community is way more fun!
Never tweet into the void again.
The right content mix
Alright, so what do you tweet about exactly?
As you've seen above, I used to tweet about pretty much everything:
- I made sock-buying product management puns (it wasn't THAT bad!)
- I asked for website and comment system recommendations
- I wrote threads based on my daily writing prompts
- I complained about products not working
If you saw my timeline around that time, could you tell what I was really into?
Nope. My content was all over the place.
I was one of the two Twitter extremes:
- Talking about everything without focusing on anything in particular. You can be all over the place personally and professionally.
- Focusing exclusively on one topic, such as promoting your business, sharing productivity advice, writing marketing threads, and nothing else.
There are two problems with these approaches:
When your tweets are all over the place, you don't give people a good enough reason to follow you. (Your personality and random thoughts and observations are usually not a good enough reason to follow you.)
If you're my friend, I may find it interesting because it's part of you. But if you're a random Twitter user, I don't really care about your life stuff. You might be a great person, but I won't know this until I start interacting with you. And I won't start if you don't give me a reason to do it.
This is why I was losing followers last December, even while tweeting regularly. I was tweeting about random stuff, and people didn't care enough to engage with it.
What about going all in?
It's not perfect either.
When you go all in on one topic, you risk losing your personality. You will attract followers, but they won't be your followers. They're after your content.
In the worst-case scenario, you'll turn into one of those faceless accounts sharing stale productivity quotes or banal marketing tips. Or into one of those profiles that don't tweet anything except shortened links to their blog posts and product offers.
When I see these profiles, my first thoughts are "But who are YOU, the person behind this account? Do you even exist? And why would I follow you?"
Look, I appreciate good productivity advice or a useful marketing tip, but that's not the main reason I'm on Twitter. I can get content in a million different places, so if content is the only thing you can offer then I'm not interested.
You can grow your following by being ultra-focused on a single topic and tweeting a lot. It might be one of the fastest ways to get followers, in fact. But if you're looking for meaningful long-term Twitter relationships, that's not the way. When you're a content account, people don't care about you, the person.
What's the alternative?
A healthy mix of personal and professional.
Make the bulk of your tweets about your core interests, then infuse your profile with your personality by sharing things that are personal to you. I primarily tweet about product management, building, and habits, but I also let my personality shine through e.g. by sharing my love for dogs and telling stories from my life:
What should the professional to personal ratio be?
I don't think there's one right answer. I like to keep my ratio at around 80/20, but I'd say if you're above 50/50 it's a good start. If at least half of your tweets are related to a particular topic you're into, you're doing alright.
And remember, you can always weave professional into personal. Are you a new parent? It might be a good opportunity to share your tips for staying focused. Remodeling your home? Perhaps there's a project management lesson in there.
Just don't overdo it. Not everything has to be a lesson. Let yourself be yourself!
Be a person, not a Twitter handle. Humans are drawn to humans, not content.
Strategy doesn't have to be complicated
"Martin, that's a lot of stuff! How do I keep track of it?"
Let's pull it all together and create a strategy that will guide your Twitter efforts!
Now, I know strategy may sound daunting. (And that coming from a product manager.) If you're like me, you prefer doing rather than planning. Action!
But no worries. You can keep your Twitter strategy simple and minimalist.
At its core, your strategy answers the questions I've covered above:
- Why are you on Twitter? What do you expect to get out of it?
- Why should people follow you? Who are you and what can you offer?
- What will your process be? Who will you interact with, and how often?
- How will you keep yourself on track? Keep moving in the right direction?
When I worked on my own Twitter strategy back in February, I wanted to keep it as simple as I could.
Here's what I came up with:
See? Pretty simple! And half of this is brainstorming that I trimmed down later.
It's not a perfect strategy, and a new version is long overdue. But it did help guide me through the early stages of my Twitter journey, and that's the important part.
What's your Twitter strategy?
So what's the process?
Alright, let's do it!
But how exactly?
I see the Twitter process as three types of activities:
Publishing is the easy part.
To me, Twitter is primarily a social platform, not a publishing platform.
When you're a smaller account, creating high-quality content that will get seen by exactly zero people is a waste of time. This makes Twitter different from writing online. Blog posts or articles have a long shelf life and get discovered over time, while tweets disappear pretty much immediately never to be seen again.
So, I don't focus on publishing too much. In my early days, I wrote one tweet a day as part Tweet100, and that was it. Nowadays, I publish 2-3 times a day to cover most of my core interests. And I schedule my tweets in bulk (more on that later).
Then there's socializing.
That's what Twitter is all about! Putting yourself out there, discovering other like-minded people, taking part in conversations, and being friendly and helpful.
Yet so many people don't see Twitter this way!
So how do you socialize exactly?
That's what your community is for. Start following people, topics, and hashtags, and the Twitter algo will pick that up and show you the relevant conversations.
Now, just go and hang out in replies and profiles. Answer questions, make jokes, follow the people you're curious about. Replies are socializing gold mines!
It's a great way to get noticed and make friends. I call this "socializing broad".
Another part of socializing broad is retweeting, which means you consider the content worthy enough of being shared with your audience.
I actually prefer quote tweets to retweets. They feel less lazy and allow me to complement the original content with my own thoughts, adding value:
When I socialize broad, I not only put myself out there and become more visible, but also generate ideas that I can later turn into new tweets and articles.
Again, the point is to be genuine, be helpful, be entertaining. It's not about spamming and canned replies. Quantity matters, but so does quality.
In contrast to socializing broad, "socializing deep" is strengthening your existing connections. This simply means interacting with your existing followers: thanking them, talking to people in DMs and replies, and generally doing whatever good friends do.
If you think it's a waste of time because you don't actively gain followers this way, think again. It's a crucial part of building authentic connections.
Socializing is more than just chasing numbers.
Finally, there's analyzing.
If you want to keep moving in the right direction, you need to be strategic about your Twitter use. This means understanding what works and what doesn't, and doubling down on what works.
How analytical you get is up to you. It's a spectrum from just trusting your gut and being yourself to analyzing the performance of every tweet and reply over time. I'm closer to trusting my gut, but I'd like to be more analytical than that.
What does your ideal Twitter process look like?
What about Twitter tools?
There are lots of great Twitter tools out there. Surely it makes sense to use them?
Like any tools, Twitter tools are a double-edged sword. They can make Twitter easier, or they can be a waste of time and money if you don't know what you're doing. We humans like to surround ourselves with tools while completely disregarding the basic principles of whatever we're doing.
I'm a big believer in doing things manually at first to figure out the basics, then gradually introducing tools to automate the things I know should be automated. During the first month of my Tweet100 challenge I published all of my tweets manually to establish the habit, and only started looking into the tools later.
Now, let's briefly review the tools you can use to simplify your Twitter experience.
I like to broadly group them into three main categories:
- Publishing tools make publishing easier, e.g. by offering scheduling features or better thread creation interfaces.
- Analytics tools provide you with additional insights that you don't always get from native Twitter analytics.
- And some tools just don't fit any of these two groups.
Hypefury helps me automate parts of my Twitter publishing process:
- I (usually) schedule a week's worth of tweets on Sunday, which makes up the core of my content.
- I also use Hypefury's Evergreen feature to retweet some of my older tweets automatically.
- Occasionally, I schedule Quote Tweets throughout the week.
I don't always have time to be on Twitter during the week, so scheduling tweets and retweets with Hypefury ensures I don't disappear completely.
Some of the popular Hypefury alternatives are Buffer and Typefully.
Additionally, I use Black Magic for extra analytics and to occasionally schedule replies. It's a powerful tool with many more features, so I highly recommend you check it out. And definitely follow Tony, the founder of Black Magic.
One popular alternative to Black Magic is ilo.so.
Finally, there's Twitter Demetricator by Ben Grosser. It's a browser plugin that hides all metrics, such as the number of likes, replies, retweets, and followers.
And I just love it:
Without the numbers, I'm a lot more mindful about my Twitter use. It also allows me to focus on the content, not the vanity metrics, when browsing Twitter.
Give Demetricator a try!
If I had to go with a single tool, I'd go with a scheduler. Writing and scheduling tweets in bulk is a lifesaver when you have other stuff going on in your life.
Still, if you're just starting out, I suggest not using any tools at all. Except for, perhaps, the Demetricator, to silence the part of your brain that's constantly obsessed with your engagement metrics. Don't worry about engagement at first!
Any tools that I missed?
No matter what happens to Twitter after Elon Musk's acquisition, I want to believe it will remain a great social tool. Dare I say my favorite one?
And now that you know how it works, I'm sure you will get value out of it!
To wrap this up, here are a few additional Twitter tips that I've learned over the past few months that have gotten me to where I am today:
- Be yourself. Authenticity trumps cool every time (just found this cheesy quote on Google). You can fake it elsewhere, but it's hard to do on Twitter.
- Be socializing! I've gained most of my friends and followers from interacting with people, not from publishing. Crucial if you're a small account.
- Make friends, not numbers. It's tempting to chase followers, but I suggest you focus on building meaningful connections. The numbers will follow.
- Stay consistent. From my experience, disappearing for a few days stops growth. You need to be out there to be growing. At the very least ensure you have a few daily tweets scheduled for when you're unavailable. Although I still try to spend at least a few minutes per day replying to the people I care about.
- Keep going. I guarantee you will encounter plateaus. You may also feel like it's all a waste of time and that Twitter is full of shallow bits and clout chasing. I still get this feeling once in a while. It's not true. Keep going, it doesn't last long.
And that's everything I know about Twitter so far.
I hope this was helpful!
In any case, find me on Twitter and let me know. Happy twittering!