Monday, March 05, 2012


There's been a lot written about writing tweets that get retweets or followers (or both). What I haven't seen covered exhaustively is how to tweet purposefully. How do we, as individuals outside of a corporate interest, consistently create microcontent that provides meaning and value to a self-selected audience of consumers? I'll leave it to sociologists to define what sort of implicit social contract exists between followers and the followed, but I'm a believer in increased retweets and following being an outcome of well-intentioned tweeting, as opposed to the objective.

I've been working recently under the mantra "five good tweets" daily. What makes a good tweet? I don't have a rigorous code, but I notice myself focusing on a few principles as I progress through the day:
  1. Evaluate the environment (physical / digital) from the perspective of your followers. I haven't gone as far as to create specific personas of followers, but I try to pay close attention to who's following me and why. Every so often, I'll spend additional time exploring the social graphs of some of my followers. What am I saying that got their attention in the first place? What am I looking at today that they would find interesting?
  2. Sift for value. Lots of things are interesting, but I try to aggressively filter for those items that will have a beneficial impact for a reader. Look for the nuggets that: are  immediately useful (tools, approaches, emerging practices); provide a unique, new or contrarian perspective on accepted wisdom; or, serve as a spark for future creativity and improvisation.
  3. Trust the idea. If a concept has made it past my internal censors to reach this point, it's time to let it do the work (in 140 characters or less). Don't hard sell: it turns followers off and demonstrates a lack of confidence in your perspective and voice. On the flipside, don't undersell...there was a reason you selected this idea out of all the noise you could have squaked about. Let the idea write the tweet: where's the value? what will resonate with your followers? why does the idea WANT to be understood?
So, that's it. Hopefully not earth-shattering, and probably said better elsewhere.

Looking back, have I acheived my "five good tweets" goal? Hardly! Somedays I struggle to find anything relevant, and I end up silent or pushing dreck (sorry about that). That doesn't reduce its aspirational value, and it ensures that I'm doing my part to maintain the Twitter-mediated relationships that I have with a host of intelligent, dynamic humans.

The approach has other intrinsic rewards. Beyond extending my peer group into diverse and remarkable areas, I find that I'm better at conscious observation and filtering. It's easy to to be a passive consumer of the Internet firehose; it's much harder to stick your head in the onrush and find importance. Asking the question "is this worthy of one of my five good tweets" helps me to more efficiently filter out the trivial and get to ideas that are relevant to both me and my peers.

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