Calling Birds: A Twitter Confession


My name is Elf Emily… and I am a Twitter n00b. I realize that’s a risky confession coming from someone getting back into the SEO industry- but I am a believer in full disclosure.

Don’t misunderstand – when Twitter first entered as a major player in the social media scene, I signed up for my account like everyone else to test it out and see what it was all about. To be honest, I was intimidated by it because I didn’t really know how to interact in a meaningful way.   So, when I ended up transitioning to a job in traditional marketing, I used that as an excuse to ignore Twitter’s existence. “Oh, I don’t need to care about Twitter, I design brochures now.” And I lived in my own little world of denial for three years.

Fast forward to that moment when I realized I had left my heart in San Francisco Internet marketing and found myself staring vacantly at the 188,453 missed Tweets in my previously-abandoned account.

You know that awkward feeling when you walk into a party and you’re way too late to even be considered “fashionable” AND you’re not appropriately dressed?

Well, that’s how I feel about Twitter. I feel like I am walking into a crowded room of people who are already comfortable and having a good time… and I am just standing there. Awkwardly. Clutching my drink and looking for the nearest corner to hide in until the party is over.

But, I can’t do that.

I need to be professional. I need to put my big girl pants on.

So I devised a plan. One that I think may very well work in both awkward social situations as well as in the Twitter world. It’s a list of Twitter tips for beginners (like me!) to help them get their feet wet and avoid those awkward first encounters.

  1. Stand quietly and observe for a while: When you first walk into a crowded room of people, it can feel uncomfortable and overwhelming. The best thing to do is observe everyone and take mental notes of who I would like to meet and engage with. I plan on doing the same with Twitter: find who interests me, follow them, and then just sit back and listen for a while to see if what they are talking about makes me want to join the conversation.
  2.  Start with small talk: I would never walk up to a stranger and start talking to them like I have known them my whole life… that would be rude and sorta creepy. For the same reason, I plan to start with simple interactions. Complimenting or retweeting certain posts that interest me, asking questions when I want to know more, and making sure to listen before I tweet.
  3.  Add value: As I begin to get more comfortable with Twitter, I need to make sure that my interactions actually add to the conversation – and that I begin to start conversations on my own. It isn’t enough to always say “that’s great!” to what everyone else says. Neither is announcing my coffee choice every morning. I need to be self-assured enough to know what I believe, to talk about issues that really matter to me and to stand by the statements that I make.
  4.  Make adjustments as needed: One of the biggest mistakes I made the first time that I tried Twitter was that I followed a bunch of people that I “thought” I should be following, even though they didn’t interest me. The result was a really boring feed that I had no desire to engage with. Now I have significantly pared down the people I am following, and I am slowly adding people I really, honestly, and truly want to follow.  And now…. I am starting to see why people like Twitter.
  5.  Balance “fun” and “function”: Twitter is a valuable tool… but it’s also meant to be fun. I find that my favorite follows are the profiles that mix both valuable content and enjoyable, casual conversation. All work and no play makes Twitter a dull social media platform. All fluff makes it nothing but a time-waster. My goal is to create a profile that is both fun and functional so that I can build up my followers and be part of a conversation that is both engaging and educational.

That’s my plan for becoming a confident and valuable Twitter user. What other rules should I live by? What rules do you use to guide your Twitter participation?

[This post is part of our 12 Days of SEO series where we’ll be publishing a different nugget of knowledge related to the sounds of the season. We’ll be updating the 12 Days of SEO page as new posts are published.]

Your Comments

  • Dan M

    This is my favourite post of the 12 days, so far.

    I’m also not very good at Twitter, and I’m not even new to the platform. I think the part I’m getting completely wrong is who I’m following, and how. My feed is disorganized and noisy; I should be using lists and being more judicious in who I follow. The organization of content is what I love about RSS and Google+, I should apply this to Twitter, too.

    Can’t wait to read more of your posts :)

    • Elf Emily

      Dan, thanks so much! It was a little scary admitting that I am still pretty new at Twitter, but your feedback has helped to put my mind at ease – thank you! And, I hear you on the feed-organization thing – I definitely need to work on that too. Lists, here I come! :)

  • Trina

    Thanks for the twitter tips. I like that I get to be like a bird and stand out on a limb and sing my little head off, but I do notice that even birds listen for the songs of other birds. Constantly tweeting “Me, me, me, this is what I’m doing” is different from broadcasting “Here I am, here I am, here I am, where are you?” I like following all the other songs out there. At some point I figure I’ll hit on the right combo of notes to make others sit up and listen. And maybe even start to follow me:)

  • Casey M

    Elf Emily – I have to say that I’m in the same boat :P Although I have been in SEO for many years now I never jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. I guess I felt that it was just a fad and by the time I wanted to learn I was a little far behind so I still hadn’t taken it very seriously. After SMX this year I learned I needed to get my butt in gear and just started from the ground up. Hopefully I can learn some useful Twitter tips fast!

    • Elf Emily

      Casey, thanks a bunch for the response! I am glad to know others have run into the same issue. If you find any good Twitter tips, please feel free to send them my way. :)

  • Prateek Modi

    That’s one of the simplest guides of starting out on twitter that I’ve come across. I have to admit, I feel exactly like you felt three years back. I’m so lost and hopeless at tweeting all the time!
    I guess I’ll start with the most important tip on the list – listen and follow only those who really interest you so that you have an interesting feed.

    Thanks for writing this post Elf Emily.

  • janwong

    Welcome to the Twitterverse, Elf Emily :) Twitter sure is intimidating when you’re just starting out. I started by first following friends I know and I eventually started to participate in different Tweet chats to meet new people and it just grew from there. Since you’re on SEO, you may want to check out: Twylah – it creates SEO-able pages for your tweets which is pretty cool (been testing it lately myself).