4 tips to get Twitter helping your career


By Neil Patrick

Until about one year ago, I thought that Twitter was the biggest waste of time ever invented.

Why on earth would I want to spend any of my valuable time, telling people that I’d just eaten a great dinner, or that I was worried about global warming, or that I was gutted because some wanna be pop star had just been kicked off Celebrity X-Factor Millionaire?

More importantly, why would anyone else be in the slightest bit interested?

Twitter was for the birds as far as I was concerned.

But I have had an epiphany. I am an absolute Twitter fan today. I have started to understand it a little and learned enough to begin to harness its immense power. It has become a cornerstone of my work and without it, I think my professional goals would be infinitely harder to achieve.

But every day, I talk with mature professionals and it’s clear that many of them are stuck more or less where I was a year or so ago.

They mostly don’t have a Twitter account and even if they do, they are really unsure about what to do with it.

So today I thought I’d share a few basic points I have learned which I hope will be useful to anyone looking to use Twitter to help develop their career.

So here goes:

1. If you want Twitter to support your career, you should stick to just one or two fields that relate to your career.

We are all multi-dimensional in our lives. I happen to tweet about careers and jobs and the economic crisis. Because that is one of my main professional interests and what I want to talk about with people.

But it’s certainly not everything that I am. I have plenty of other things in my life that I never talk about on 40pluscareerguru. Like my day to day business activities, my community support work and my love of military history and heavy metal music.

If I were to include those subjects in my Tweets, it would be really confusing for everyone. Who is this guy…what’s he really about?

Twitter recognises this issue and that’s why it allows us to have up to ten accounts. I happen to have another Twitter account called @Marshalstackman which is all guitars and heavy metal. I keep all my loud music stuff there. And I'm sure you don’t want to see or hear that. Right?

So ensure your Twitter profile and Tweets are consistent with each other and deal with your professional interests or some of them. If you have multiple interests, use multiple Twitter accounts.

2. Twitter has no instructions

This is a problem for many. It’s also a great opportunity. Twitter is there for you to use however you choose. There’s no single ‘proper’ or best practice model. It’s a powerful communication platform if you can get to grips with its unique and somewhat quirky characteristics. But this requires creativity and a plan. And the absence of such a plan is why you’ll see plenty of people using it clumsily.

Some approach it as a version of the SMS texting they do with their friends. This is one end of the spectrum and it’s legitimate, if you just want a bit of fun and engagement with a few people. But it’s not really an effective way to build your personal career standing amongst the people you want to increase your influence with.

At the other end of the spectrum are people that view Twitter as a mighty spam engine. They just endlessly send out link after link after link. And if they are not focussed on a single topic, these links about seemingly random things are of no value or interest to 99.99% of the people that get them in their Twitter stream.

Links themselves are I think a good thing provided they connect people with something of value and relevance to them. But if that is all you do, it all gets a bit tedious and one-sided. Who really wants to be endlessly talked at? Most of us had enough of that when we in school.

So the key here I think is balance. Try to strike a happy medium between talking to all and talking with people individually.



3. This is social media, so be erm… social


I still see plenty of Twitter accounts which are nothing more than endless spammy links promoting things I don’t need, don’t want and am not interested in. I never follow these people or organisations. Why would I?

Likewise, I am not keen on people who only send out their own tweets. If you are on Twitter and you have a following, you should in my opinion, support your followers and show your appreciation by retweeting them when you think they have said something interesting, relevant, amusing or whatever.

If I see people who are clearly engaging in conversations with others and they are courteous and friendly, I’m happy to follow them back. It doesn’t matter if they have 100,000 followers or just 10.

And when someone is kind enough to engage with me I will always try and engage back and help them if I can…even if it’s just with an acknowledgement or bit of light-hearted banter.

Just a quick aside…today, even with only around 7,000 followers on Twitter, I just cannot individually thank people every time they retweet me or favourite me. I wish I could. But there are now just too many. But I will try and answer every tweet to me that has a question or a comment in it.

So tip three is engage, support and be nice to people on Twitter and almost always they will be nice to you. This is much more useful to you than just endlessly talking at people instead of talking with them.


4. You need thousands of followers to have any kudos or influence.

Wrong. If you are clear about what your Twitter account is all about, you’ll steadily build a great network of people who are interested in the same things that you are. And this shared ground is essential if you are to have any chance of developing Twitter relationships and engagement.

If you use Kred and/or Klout to track your social influence, you'll notice that the size of your following is a relatively small factor in how they calculate your score. The amount and quality of your online engagement with individual people has a much bigger influence.

Like attracts like on social media. If you follow people randomly, you’ll get random people following you back. And that’s just a waste. You’ll have no basis of a shared interest or viewpoint that allows you to build meaningful relationships.

What’s better - to have 10,000 random people following you, or 500 who are all passionate about the same things you are?

So rule four is focus on connecting with the people who share your professional interests, background or outlook.

So there you have four simple fundamentals on how I think we should all set up the basics of our Twitter presence if we want to use it to help our careers. I realise this has only scratched the surface of this huge topic, so if anyone finds this helpful, or has additions or questions do please let me know and I’ll use these as the basis for my next post on this subject.

There’s much more to talk about on this so please share your thoughts!

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