How to Crush it on Twitter When You Don't Want to Do That
I'm writing thirty posts in thirty days, again. This is number eight.
Perhaps you would like more followers on Twitter, because it would help you launch a business, or make more friends, or show your art to more people. Which is good: these are reasonable goals. But perhaps you find assembling a personal brand kind of distasteful.
Cool! Me too! And yet I’ve done fairly well on Twitter, which is to say, I attract enough foot traffic to maintain my business while not doing any of the usual marketing song and dance. Which is to say, I haven’t done the thing where you maintain a solid brand, post about 1-2 things all the time, and stick to anodyne content that will make you palatable to a wide audience. The thought of it just makes me uncomfortable, although I have immense respect for those who have the discipline to pull it off. Really I do. This is just me.
Instead of doing those things, I tweet a lot of stupid nonsense, whenever I feel like it. I don’t think about posting during peak hours. And I certainly don’t strategize in a real way.
I could tell you all about how my marketing strategy is actually better. Sometimes, I think it is, maybe: by being scatterbrained and playful, I'm attracting people, theoretically, who care about my scatterbrained and playful personality. Instead of building a shallow audience that cares about one thing I do, I’m attracting friends who are drawn to all of my disparate nonsense.
But this could be total bullshit! The truth is, the reason I don’t do the brand thing is because I want to be able to be myself in public. I regard Twitter as a creative writing medium as much as anything else. Also, I use it to make friends, and I'm weird, and if I frontload the weirdness, it’s easier to find the deep compadres.
However, there are still ways I’ve learned to be better at Twitter, which is to say, I’ve learned how to communicate with some level of genuineness, but do it in a way that resonates with more people. I don’t think these are contradictory desires: you can want to, say, take public speaking class because a few techniques that feel artificial in the short term will make it easier to say what you want to say in a certain context.
And now, I pass these pearls of dubious wisdom onto you.
Tweet Things That People Could Dislike
This is the best Twitter advice I’ve received. Full credit: it was from Jay Rosenkrantz. Jay noticed that, though I was tweeting often, I was rarely tweeting anything that anyone could disagree with. It was all pretty mild, which isn’t my real personality.
And I was like, ‘huh, that's true.’ I had a large area in my brain full of mildly controversial stuff, and I wasn’t putting any of it in public. I changed that. It's not like I became a total edgelord, I just started being less hesitant about things I actually think.
In the next 24 hours, I got 1000 followers. I tweeted this:
and they generated a lot of discussion. Some positive reactions, some negative reactions. Which is good! If people can’t react negatively to you, they also usually can’t react all that positively to you, because preference is based on selection.
Now, when I feel a little bit of inner resistance to posting something, because it might alienate people, I take that as a signal that I should hit the blue button, assuming that it’s a sentiment I truly agree with in the moment.
Obviously, it takes a little discernment not to get canceled or whatever, but often you can be less shy than people might think.
Tweet Dumber, Tweet Shorter
There is an urge shared by neurotic creative people of all times: the completist urge. This is where you insist that nothing you say be misinterpreted and that the whole of your opinions should be represented.
But that’s crazy! Twitter is just an ongoing conversation, and, in fact, it is the worst conversationalists who stipulate and hedge anything they say endlessly. That variety of behavior stems from the misconception that the point of casual communication is to transmit an immaculate image of yourself.
The real point is play. You’re giving people something they can respond to more easily. So just throw that ball vigorously.
This tweet did pretty well, and it’s a good example:
Sure, a lot of terms in this tweet are ambiguous. Trauma, tech sector, ‘smart people.’ But people pretty much got the general gist, partially because I didn’t split hairs. Some people interpreted this tweet uncharitably, and, well, I wish them all the best.
All of the tweets I do that perform really well have one thing in common. Which is that I didn’t think about them too hard. Again, I shall draw your attention to this tweet, which is unreasonably popular:
No thought was involved in this. But… I have a slightly woo opinion about creativity, which is that people can detect genuineness and spontaneity. Sure, if you’re making something longer than a tweet, you have to do some revision to make sure the genuine feeling is accompanied by a reasonable user experience. However, I hold it to be self-evident that Kanye’s music is excellent because he’s crazy and willing to go with his gut instinct, at the same time as being outrageously meticulous about his sound worlds.
At the time, this dumb walking tweet was the simplest and most genuine explanation of a real sentiment I was having. It wasn’t super high-minded, it was just the truth about something utterly mundane. People liked that.
Typically, the more I think about a tweet, the less genuine I get. Perhaps other people can retain that little jingle of passing inspiration while they manicure their stuff. But I can’t, so I don’t.
Be Friendly, Don’t Fight
Okay, being fighty on Twitter is sometimes a good way to attract attention. But is the stress really worth it?
When people try to fight with me on Twitter, I usually just try not to engage, or I do the Robot Method, which is to tell them I agree with them. This confuses people who are trying to be your opponent, and it’s also fun. Perhaps is good closing advice: remember that you should be having fun. It’s one of the world’s most important communication mediums, but it’s also just the bird site, and one day you will die.
The walking -> happy life tweet is basically perfect. There's nothing you could add or subtract to make it any better, "Is this some kind of joke" is a great way to communicate a sentiment without having to talk about your sentiment "I feel that...", and it even looks visually like a poem with the parallel "Is th..." at the start of each line. Its popularity is not unreasonable.
And I don't think that most people can write perfect tweets without thinking hard. If someone practices writing (like you) or tweeting (like Eigen who has 150k+ tweets) for a long time and pays attention to how successful tweets are phrased and how little changes in punctuation or word choice affect how it reads, eventually they will start writing great tweets without "thinking hard" because their implicit model of great tweet is too big to be comprehended consciously and they just "see" it. But beginners, especially your presumed audience for this post of people who hate tweeting, should probably put more thought into their tweets as opposed to less until they git gud.