The Five “I’s” To Twitter Success

June 12, 2009 / 4:02 pm • By Dr. Melissa Clouthier

Some of you people still don’t think Twitter is useful. You’re wrong. I’ll write a post regarding the purpose of Twitter later. This post is for those using Twitter and wondering how to organically grow their influence. Here’s five ways to do it:

Interest: Boring is bad. I know that Twitter asks “What are you doing right now?”, but really, besides your mother, no one else cares. That is, no one cares unless you say what you’re doing in an interesting way. James Lileks [@Lileks] is a pro at this. Pithy and incisive, he shares familial travails and makes it interesting. Entertaining and funny is good. Here’s the thing, many people need their day brightened. They don’t need a Debbie Downer–they probably have someone in that role, thanks. People need more fun. Give it to them.

Inform: Share stuff that will help people have a better life. Share it within your interest and outside your interests. Sometimes I pass along things that are boring to me, but I know will be helpful to other people. Tell people clearly in your bio on Twitter what interests you. Make a point of giving information in those areas. I try to deliver on the promise of what I represent. That way, people can’t get mad either that I’m falsely advertising…’cuz I’m not. Mike Lane [@mlane] is one of my happy Twitter accidents. He happens to have a Twitter ID close to another friend of mine Moe Lane [@moelane]. Both men are fantastic Twitterers. Mike, though, brings it when it comes to informative. He is a Unix programmer. Do I care about Unix? No, I do not. But I care about the information Mike shares. He is ALWAYS first when it comes to sharing best design web practices, new fonts, everything web. He informs, informs, informs. Turns out he’s a great guy, too. Be informative.

Instruct: One of the biggest guys on Twitter, Robert Scoble [@scoble] is big for a big reason: He teaches web well. When I was a wee tadpole in the Twitter pond, and had questions, Robert answered them. When I complained more, he sent me links teaching me how to use a tool. There are many teachers like Robert out there. They go one step beyond sharing information, they help you integrate the information in your life. There are people like this who instruct on cooking, mechanics, technology, plumbing… You name it, there is someone on Twitter willing to teach you how to do something better. Be a teacher and you’ll get a following.

Inspire: Entertaining is one thing. Inspiring people to achieve more is another. The first is passive, the second is getting people to achieve simply because your words motivate them to do so. Yeah, yeah. There’s a bunch of coaches and life teachers and gurus and experts on Twitter and in new media generally and most of us ignore them. Still the best Twitterers integrate inspiration into the information, links, or ideas they share. It doesn’t have to be purposeful, even, they just do it. For example, Skye [@Skye820] shares her photography. She’s takes beautiful, often inspirational pictures. Other people share quotes that are meaningful to them. Some share music from Blip or some cool YouTube. People like to be inspired.

Interrelate: Relate, dude. Some people view Twitter as a one-way conversation. That is, they send out links, make bold declarations and then won’t talk to you. It’s rude. If you want to simply share information, it’s called an RSS feed. If you want to have a one-sided opinion fest, blog. Twitter is about give and take. Be generous with others’ ideas too. If someone says something thoughtful, provocative, interesting, informative and inspiring, share it, and give the person credit. Caleb Howe [@CalebHowe] is good at this. He passes along information, converses, interacts and all-in-all puts the social into the medium Twitter.

Bottom line, follow the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

Second unto that one: Be yourself. Pretending to be a bright, happy, shiny person when you’re not, won’t work. Pretending to be an expert, won’t work. Pretending at anything won’t work.

I find myself drawn to authenticity. That means some people swear like sailors, and some people are knobby-headed nerds. Whatever. I like the people who are real.

In my next Twitter installment, I’ll write about those who are resisting Twitter’s charms. Resistance is futile, friends. Resistance is futile.

  • hpb

    If you want to simply share information, it’s called an RSS feed.

    I resemble that comment. πŸ™‚

    Over 90% of my use of Twitter has been as an aggregated news feed (incoming and outgoing). In this capacity, I tend to prefer linked items from news feeds, opinion articles, and such like. Often I have a duplicate of the site’s RSS feed coming in via Twitter. Sometimes they race: RSS can be faster or slower than the Twitter “feed”.

    It can be interesting at times to see other items of interest in the tweets — pictures and conversations and what-not, but it depends on what I’m doing at the time. Sometimes the many conversations can be distracting, though.

    I realize that much of the common wisdom is to use Twitter in more of a social fashion. But being true to myself, that’s not really me. For me its place is somewhere between RSS feed, IRC chat, and something like Facebook. I try to play the strengths of each and there may be more or less overlap on the others.

    We know Twitter is great for breaking news, but that is kind of in blog/news/RSS territory. Twitter is fun for for “chat”, but sometimes an IRC chat room is more suited. For sharing pictures or “what I’m doing”, sometimes Facebook’s extra features make it a more suitable choice. I like FriendFeed’s “rooms” and “likes” and “comments”, but still don’t use it as widely even for these features.

    I find Twitter’s gadgetability (Firefox add-ons, external utilities, etc.) to make it more pliable than some of the above. So while the great convergence of whatever sort continues, and includes Twitter, I still use more than just the one.

    There are still other online things, Google Reader,, and lots of others. Some augment, some duplicate.

    I agree with these 5 I’s. At the moment I just go about things differently. (For now.) πŸ˜€

  • KimberlyHaney

    As a newbie to Twitter (3 whole weeks) I really appreciate your comments and your retweets. I have noticed that you are a bit “eclectic” in your retweeting, and this article explains why. I will continue to ask questions and learn the ropes of this fascinating new world of Twitter. I simply can’t believe I waited so long. I haven’t been on Facebook in days. Thanks for sharing, Melissa. Twitter rules.

  • Bobbi

    The @scoble link takes you to a Jeremy Scoble college student, not Robert Scoble.

    Also, really stupid question….what is the #tcot that everyone uses everywhere on Twitter?

  • I couldn’t agree more, Melissa. Those that don’t find Twitter useful simply haven’t had their “aha!” moment yet, but trust me. It will come. This is great advice!

    Thank you kindly for the mention!

    By the way, I’m a User Experience designer (UX), which is just a fancy way of saying a front-end web designer/developer, but I do know a thing or two about UNIX too πŸ˜‰

  • Thanks for the mention and great article! I agree with @mlane, those who can’t find the utility in twitter just haven’t had their gestalt moment yet.

  • #tcot = Top Conservatives on Twitter. It’s a group that use this tag to link their chats.

    I had to google to learn it myself.

    BTW, just in case, # is the start of a tag, so Twits can use the search box to follow all posts with the same name. this lets you string conversations together into a (semi-)readable thread.

  • I can’t resist fixing this.

    Bottom line, follow the Golden Rule: Treat Tweet others the way you’d like to be treated tweeted.

    Thank you, I’ll be here through Monday night.

  • Dr. Melissa,

    Excellent advice. I’m printing this to keep as a handy reminder & passing it on with your credit to my network! Thanks.


  • Bobbi

    Thank you SO much, Bill! Makes so much sense when you know what it means! LOL!

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