Contrary to some early nay-sayers, Twitter has proved itself to be more than a flash-in-the-pan trend. As more and more people are realizing, Twitter can be enormously useful and enriching. And as it continues to mature, the strategies for using it to its maximum potential are becoming stronger and more defined. I can tell you from experience that it’s paid significant dividends both personally and professionally for me. But this didn’t come without effort on my part – I’ve spent countless hours researching, testing and finding the most successful ways to benefit from it. In order to save you some blood, sweat and tears (or a good chunk of your free time), I’ve compiled a list of what I’ve discovered are the some of the best ways to grow your following and influence on Twitter.

But first, a couple of disclaimers. You don’t have to have a large following to be successful on Twitter. You could actually have a quite a small following but still experience great benefit if you properly target your users and engage them in meaningful ways.


Another disclaimer: this isn’t about rigging the system or using underhand tricks to magically have 20,000 new followers in a week – or about constantly going on about how you need ‘x’ amount of followers to reach your next goal. Most normal people don’t do this kind of thing offline, so why do it online?

Twitter shouldn’t be about numbers – it’s about the people behind those numbers. So a word to the wise: don’t try to garner new followers unless you’re up for the challenge of treating them like the people they are. This means interacting with them, getting to know them and writing your tweets with them in mind.

It takes time to built up a solid following and use Twitter as the unparalleled networking tool it is. Believe me, it takes A LOT of time. But if you’re willing to put the effort into it, it won’t be long before you’re reaping the rewards. Here’s just a few to consider:

  • gain respect, credibility & recognition
  • share your talents and get discovered
  • strengthen your personal and professional brand
  • find jobs or solid hires
  • uncover great leads for new clients
  • develop strategic partnerships
  • gain support for your cause
  • make new friends with common interests

There are many reasons why you may want to grow your following. Now let’s talk about how…

1. Follow People

    @followmenow (Followmenow on Twitter)

    The Law of Reciprocity is one of those universal truths that make the world go around. Bluntly put: you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. If you want to be followed, start following. Most people will follow you back, especially if they’re trying to retain you, the follower. There are a number of ways to find people to follow:

    • From the public timeline (but you’ll have to sift through an inordinate amount of noise to find relevant content).
    • From someone else’s followers page .
    • From recommendations from friends through practices such as #FollowFriday or by adding people you come across in others’ retweets.
    • Using Twitter search to find people conversing on subjects of interest to you.
    • Using 3rd party applications such as PeopleBrowsr to find new people to follow and join interest groups.
    • Using an auto-follow program* such as Twollo. Apps like this search the Twitter timeline for you and follow individuals who tweet any of the specific keywords or phrases you choose.
    • Using Twitter lists can be quite useful especially because you don’t have to follow people right away. Instead, you can follow a list of interest and choose to only follow individuals you find a connection with. Listorious is a good place to visit to find a directory of the top lists on Twitter. If you find a Twitter list you like, you can use an app like TweepML to follow the entire list with a single click.

    To increase your chances of getting a followback, RT a person’s tweets or engage with him or her before clicking the “follow” button. This shows you’ve noticed the person and take interest in what he or she are tweeting about and aren’t just following people en masse.

    * NOTE: You need to know that if you start following large numbers of people at a single time or auto-follow programs that you’ll definitely be taking your chances. Aggressive followers can have their accounts suspended if they’re using any kind of auto-follow or unfollow tools (unless it’s auto-following someone who followed you first), so be sure to read up on Twitter’s TOS. Additionally auto-following is considered a black hat tactic in the Twitter community at large and is frowned upon. Many of those who employ such tactics are considered fake followers who have no interest in ever reading the tweets of the mass majority of those they follow.

    2. Present Yourself Well


      First impressions are everything. When we’re designing websites for our clients at ImageX Media, we let them know the average internet searcher spends 5-7 seconds on a website and the most clicked button is the back button on the browser. If a site isn’t giving you the right signals, is slow loading, visually unappealing or confusing, you’re out of there and on to the next link, right? The same concept applies to your Twitter profile. If someone is considering whether or not to follow you, they’re only going to give you – via your profile - a few seconds to prove that you’re someone legit and follow-worthy.

      Unfortunately, one of the things that increases the scrutiny of users is the huge amount of automated and spam accounts that are now on the Twittersphere.  As of August 2009,  24% of tweets sent on Twitter are from bots. So one of the most important things you have to prove is that you are a real person.

      Consider what kind of message your profile is sending to those deciding whether or not to follow you. Does your account look like it could be a spammer or bot? Or does it immediately give a genuine and positive impression? Let’s have a quick look at Exhibit A – what NOT to do – and go through your profile section by section, asking the same questions potential followers will be asking when they visit your profile.


      1. Background – Is it a standard Twitter template or a custom background? Though it may be fast and easy to use one of the Twitter templates, going the extra mile to add a custom Twitter background helps you to stand out, defines your niche and makes it less likely you’ll be mistaken for a bot.

      2. Avatar – Is your image professional looking (but NOT a stock photo)? Does the image enlarge when you click on it? If it stays an avatar size, that indicates it may have been grabbed from somewhere else on the internet which is a common tactic of fake accounts. If you’re serious about building your personal brand, consider having your avatar photo taken professionally.

      3. Follower ratio – Your follower ratio can raise a number of questions in the minds of those looking to follow you. Do you follow significantly more than follow you? If so, why are people not following you back? Do you follow everyone who follows you, or only a fraction of them? If it’s the latter, you could risk being perceived as being too good for everyone else. Is your follower ratio slightly more than your following? Maybe you are following large amounts of people and then mass unfollowing those who don’t reciprocate. There are a number of ways to read into the follower ratio, and none of them can lead to bulletproof conclusions – but they will definitely lead to strong impressions of how you view yourself and others on Twitter.

      4. Listing – The number of lists you’re on can give another impression. If you’re not listed then someone might get the impression that your tweets aren’t valued by others. Be sure to have some of your own lists too, as this will help others see your interests when deciding whether or not to follow you.

      5. Link - Linking to a credible outside website is one of the strongest ways to prove you’re not a bot and also give potential followers a chance to get to know you more in-depth. You can link to your personal or corporate blog, your website, your LinkedIn profile, or any other legitimate site that proves you are who you say you are. On my profile, I link to a Twitter landing page I created especially for new followers or those checking me out. From this page visitors can link to my blog and my company website. There’s not a whole lotta space  in your Twitter bio to give people an accurate picture of who you and and what you have to offer, so linking to another site can go a long way in proving your authenticity and building trust.

      6. Bio – The bio is one of the first places most people will look when visiting your profile, and you’ve got to make those 160 characters count. Your bio should sound professional and yet approachable and include your interests – and, equally important, the interests of those you are trying to attract. If your bio sounds desperate, arrogant, uninterested – or if there isn’t one at all – this flags you, at the very least, as someone they won’t want showing up in their timeline.

      7. Favourites – How many tweets have you favourited? What kinds of tweets? Most likely bot accounts won’t have any favourites, so if you want to give the impression that you’re a human, use this Twitter feature and make sure some favourites show up on your profile.

      8. Tweet Count - How many tweets have you put out? Are you an active Twitter user or just trying to get a follow back in order to push your wares? Some bots and spammers can put out a lot of tweets, but many of them just have enough to fill a page. If this is the case, it’s an immediate red flag that they’re not using Twitter to interact with others, but obviously have other intentions.

      9. Mini avatars – Visitors will also look at the mini avatars of the last 36 people you’ve followed to see if there are any patterns (ie. you just followed one of their lists, the avatars look like spam accounts, etc). Bots tend to follow bots, so just because they have some followers doesn’t necessarily mean they’re legit.

      10. Tweets – Do you tweet original stuff? All RTs? All Quotes? Are there any signs that you engage with others? Personally, if I don’t see any @replies in the timeline, I’m going to assume the account is just all about pushing out their message and most likely won’t follow the account. If you want to make a good first impression then make sure you’re tweeting quality stuff. Take a hard look at your own account. Review your last 25-30 tweets… Would you follow you?

      11. Location - Where are you tweeting from? If every tweet on a profile is coming from the API it looks suspiciously like bot activity. Real people tweet from various locations and using different apps (ie. from web, from Tweetdeck, from Tweetie, etc), and this should show up on your profile.

      Granted, very few people will ever take the time to scrutinize you at all of these levels and to this depth. However, if you’re serious about making Twitter work for you, you need to put serious thought and effort into making sure you have a good first impression – and that means considering every aspect of your profile to make sure it represents you as accurately and positively as possible.

      3. Tweet Quality Content


        This is huge. One of the main reasons people use Twitter is to learn. If you can provide content that others are interested in, you’ll definitely get followed. However, if you pump out loads of fluff or drivel, people will start ignoring your tweets and you’ll be marginalized to the back of their accounts or just unfollowed. The key thing you want to do is to train people’s eyes to see your stuff so that when they get something from you, they’re anticipating it will be good because of their past experience with you. To do this you need to find good content that is of interest to your target audience but isn’t already tweeted to death. Because of the vast sea of good content now available on Twitter, ‘Top 40 tweeting’ can get tired fast. When you find excellent content about which few are tweeting, then you’re on to something. To do this you need spend a lot of time reading online, keeping up with sites on your RSS feeder, and following people who write or share good content regularly. Some of the most popular sites on which to find decent content are Favstar.fmTweetmemeRetweetfeedListoriousPopurlsAlltop, and Posterous.

        4. Create Original Content


          Retweeting others’ content is important, but it doesn’t really show your opinion. Ever read one of those “Where’s Waldo?” books? No one wants to be a Waldo, lost in a mass of people who look just like you. You need to be tweeting relevant AND original content if you want to stand out. People who want to get to know you are interested in what you think. Good original content will gain respect much faster than just sourcing what others have done. This is even more true if you create original content elsewhere (ie. on your personal or corporate blog, on blogging platforms such as Posterous, Tumblr,  or video platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, etc). Sometimes this can seem a bit daunting when you stop and think about how much good content is already out there. What new innovative, creative or revolutionary ideas could you share that others haven’t already? But before you throw in the towel, you need to know that you don’t always have to come up with something brand new. There are a lot of  ways you can present content and add your own twist to it. The more you hone your writing skills and improve your content the more attention you’ll attract.

          5. Be Consistent


            If you’re inconsistent in your tweeting habits it will affect the amount of exposure you will get. Personally, I’ve noticed that when I take a break from my consistent tweeting schedule my new follower numbers drop significantly. When I start again it takes awhile before I see the same amount of retweets I was getting before I stopped. Retweets are key for getting more followers, and the number of retweets often depends on when you can get the most eyes on your tweets. If you tend to tweet at the same times each day you’ll provide consistency for your followers – they’ll be watching for you. Ideally you’ll want to try and tweet at optimal times, keeping in mind the timezones your target audience is located in.

            6. Engage and Respond


              Do your best to respond to all @replies and personal DMs. If someone reaches out to you and you don’t respond, it shows you’re not interested in that person. If you keep it up, you’ll most likely get unfollowed, negative vibes and a reputation. Interact with others in conversations and connect with your followers wherever you can. Not only will this strengthen your relationships with your existing followers, it will make them more likely to recommend you to others.

              7. Add Yourself to Directories


                There are many directories available that you can add yourself to as a way to get more exposure. Ideally, you’ll want to tag yourself under specific categories so you can be easily be found by those with similar interests. Some of the top ones are We FollowTwellowJust Tweet It, and Twibes. Other good places to join are specific LinkedIn groups related to Twitter, social media or niche areas of focus, niche communities (such as the League of Kickass Business People) and Tweetup sites (ie. VancouverTweetup.com). The important thing to remember with these communities is to not just add yourself to the groups, but to actually interact on those sites and get to know the people there.

                8. Recommend and Retweet


                  Recommending others using the #FollowFriday or #FF hashtags or through @MrTweet can also be helpful in gaining followers. It’s the Rule of Reciprocity again. A lot of people will follow people their friends recommend. But remember, recommendations are only helpful to people if they actually mean something - long lists of recommendations can easily be construed as insincere and self-serving. Additionally they can create A LOT of noise on Twitter which can work against you. A better way to recommend is to share just one or two people at a time and give reasons why people should consider following them.

                  9. Promote Your Twitter Account Elsewhere


                    Many people will discover you through your interactions on Twitter but many more will find you elsewhere. Here are a few of the ways you can promote your twitter account:

                    * On your email signature (share tools)

                    * On your website/blog

                    * On other social networking sites

                    * On your comments on other blogs

                    * On online bios

                    * On your business cards

                    * On your car (maybe not a good idea if you have a habit of cutting people off)

                    Obviously there are many more possibilities, and you’ll know you’re a true Twitter addict if you start wearing clothing, nametags or get a custom license plate to sport your Twitter handle.

                    10. Use #Hashtags


                      Using #hashtags can help attract new followers based on the subject matter of your tweets – they label your tweets and make them searchable, enabling non-followers to find you.  Not everyone is fond of #hashtags, as some people tend to overuse them. Others find them a bit confusing or overwhelming when first encountered. There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to determining the appropriate terms to use. On top of that, it can be a challenge to remember to consistently add them to your tweets. However, for those who make it a habit, #hashtags are definitely useful for connecting with people of like mind. Here’s a comprehensive guide of how to best use hashtags on Twitter.

                      11. Get listed


                        Twitter lists are a fairly new phenomenon and list strategies are still in infant phases of development. However, it’s quite clear thus far that being added to others’ Twitter lists is a great way to increase your exposure, because people who don’t follow you will see your tweets as they observe your followers’ lists. What’s also clear is that it’s not something you can directly control – it comes back to the issue of value. To get added to Twitter lists you really need to provide value, and what’s valuable to one person may not be valuable to another. That’s why you need to know your niche, be an expert in your field and try to relate to as many people as possible.

                        12. Take Your Online Offline


                          Twitter is an awesome tool for learning, observing and interacting, but it’s a painstakingly slow process if you’re hoping to develop some depth to your relationships through 140-character information blips. One way to speed up the timeline is to pick up the phone and call someone or arrange to get together for a lunch or coffee. As great as technology is, there’s nothing that compares to the level of interaction that can be experienced over over a burger or beer. Taking the initiative in this regard is huge for building trust and showing people that they matter to you. Attending meetups & tweetups and conferences are also great ways to get to know the people with whom you’re connecting. Using tools such as Foursquare in conjunction with Twitter to connect you with your friends offline can also help take your relationships to new levels. The deeper your relationships, the stronger the trust will be with your friends and your interactions and out coming recommendations will show it.

                          13. Be Humorous


                            Maybe you’re not George Carlin, but if you have a sense of humour, let it out! Being funny makes you more likeable, relatable and approachable, which makes it more likely that people will want to follow you. If it’s not your leading grace then retweet some humourous (but tasteful) tweets at times. Keep in mind the purposes of your account and ensure whatever you’re doing with humour is increasing your standing with your target audience and not detracting. Some forms of humor, such as sarcasm, aren’t for everyone and can lose you more followers than you gain if you’re not careful. Personally, I created a separate account dedicated to sarcastic amusement as I wanted a place to let loose without confusing my followers who aren’t accustomed or attracted to that form of humor.

                            14. Be Helpful


                              Helping others can go a long way in terms of gaining respect, building trust and earning your stripes. What do you have that others are looking for? What have you learned recently that you could share? What tools, apps, tricks or secrets have you discovered that you could give to others? What questions are people asking that you could answer? What challenges or problems are people facing that you could help with? As you see needs that you can meet, act on them. It takes time to be helpful, but people definitely remember it. One practical way you can help people is to use a 3rd party Twitter client like Tweetdeck to filter your timelines for tweets that contain a question mark so that way you’ll only see tweets of questions you can answer.

                              15. Be Kind and Appreciative


                                Being kind goes a long way. People take notice when you consistently do the little things to show others you appreciate them. Try to encourage others and look for opportunities to catch people doing something good and acknowledge them for it. Take the time to thank people when they do something that’s helpful to you. You may want to say a public thank you for a #FollowFriday recommendation or a retweet. Some prefer not to create additional noise and choose to send a private DM. At times it can be difficult to keep track of all the people you’d like to appreciate. One way you can remember these people and provide value at the same time is to create and add them to your own #FollowFriday or Top-Retweeters list so you can observe their tweets and return the favour.

                                16. Be Humble and Authentic


                                  Sometimes you might be wrong, sometimes you might screw up. Own up to it. Be transparent. If someone’s criticizing you, don’t get too defensive. Try and hear things from his or her perspective before reacting, even if it seems out of line. Maybe there’s some truth in what he or she is saying that you can glean and grow from. Being humble can disarm people who may be envious of you, were turned off by you, or just haven’t taken the time to get to know you. None of us are perfect, but most of us are fairly adverse to pretense. You may have everything together, but if you’re full of yourself people probably won’t be following you for long and certainly won’t be recommending you.


                                    If you put all – or even a few – of these suggestions into practice, you should have no problem in growing your following and getting closer to your goals on Twitter. It all comes down to being proactive and involved, and trying to make the Twittersphere the best place it can be by putting out quality content and positive vibes. If you do this consistently, you should see some great results. I’ve tried to put all of these tips into practice and it’s been worth all the effort for the amazing people I’ve had a chance to get to know and the many other benefits I’ve received. Now it’s your turn to share from your experience – what have you found successful in your efforts to make Twitter work for you?


                                    During college I had a guy on our hall who used to come visit me and my roommate on a semi regular basis in the evenings when we working on our papers. At first I welcomed his visits as he seemed like a great guy who was wanting to get to know us better, but I soon realized that his intentions actually weren’t so noble. Each time he came in he’d flop down on the chair and start chatting it up with us which was great, but without fail, within four to five minutes he’d pop out the question… “So do you guys happen to have any food?”. Funny he should ask this, because his visits always seem to come just after one of us had stocked up on some fresh baking or goodies that had been sent from home (and word would get around quite quickly whenever good food arrived). Being that we were nice guys we’d always share, and sure enough, once he’d finished off the home baked brownie or chocolate chip cookie he’d chat for another minute or two and then off he’d go. One day we decided we’d had enough, so the next time he came by, we both jumped out our seats to welcome him and before he could sit down, we whipped open the cupboard to grab a care package of goodies we’d prepared. We told him that we didn’t want him to waste his time with unnecessary chatter with us as we knew he was a busy guy who was just a bit malnourished. I’ll never forget the look on his face. He was stung to the core and slowly backed out of the room with his hands full of our food, while we continually reassured him that it was ok to skip the chitchat in the future and just come and pillage whenever he had the slightest pang of hunger. Well he never did, and actually never came back to visit either.

                                    Unfortunately the more I get involved in social media the more I encounter that same feeling that I’d get back in college. This person wants something and though they may not be as obvious as my hungry buddy, once they get what they want, they move on. Whether it’s getting a mention from you on a #FollowFriday, having you retweet their blog post, getting you to add them to one of your Twitter lists, using you to get in with someone you’re in conversation with, or many other similar things. In most cases you want to err on the side that people have good intentions and that their attempts to get to know you are genuine, but reality is that there are some that will use you. The key thing to remember is you can’t really change how people deal with you, but you can change how you deal with others. You can take the higher road. If you reach out to someone, be genuine and follow through, don’t just take what you can get and then drop them. It will leave a bad taste in their mouth about you and will eventually catch up with you.

                                    That being said, we all realize that we can’t personally get to know thousands of people. So how have you been able to balance authentically getting to know others, fulfilling you’re needs and still having a life?



                                    Hi, I’m Glenn. I’m a Mac-using, social media-loving, open source enthusiast who owns a web design, development and consulting company called ImageX Media. I’m all about the good things in life – you know, life-changing things like cracking open a tall can of Arizona iced tea or landing my preferred Facebook URL. In all honesty, I’m easy to please – I value authenticity, kindness, and a good sense of humour. Is that so much to ask? Oh, and I’m passionate about making our world a better place, so if you are too, chances are we’ll get along just fine.

                                    One of my reasons for being on Twitter is to help others navigate the dizzying world of social media by sharing information that has helped me survive – and thrive – in the Twittersphere and beyond. To me, Twitter is a new kind of community – a group of people doing life together, sharing stories and things they’ve learned at different steps of the journey. In the end, social media is no different than “real life” – it’s all about building relationships. And, like all relationships, some things work and some things don’t. Hopefully I can help you figure out which is which.

                                    twitter-birdIf you’re brand new to Twitter – welcome aboard! Here’s a post chalk full of the best resources I’ve come across on Twitter that should give you pretty much everything you need to get up and going. Additionally if you’re interested in growing your following, you’ll want to check out this one.

                                    twitter-bird-unfollowedTo find out more about my personal approach to Twitter and its eerie similarities to dating, including thoughts on who to stalk … er, follow, what to say, and when to break up, read this post.

                                    imagexmediaA lot of my tweets are about technology, which is, of course, my job and also the world in which I am blissfully immersed. If you’d like to know more about ImageX, see our award winning portfolio, or learn about Drupal, check out our site.

                                    And if you’ve made it this far, congratulations – you have a much better attention span than I do. Thanks for giving me two minutes of your life – and I look forward to getting to know you in the Twittersphere.


                                    Twitter is a hot topic these days – whether you’re into Wired Magazine, ET, CNN, or Oprah. Almost every day someone asks me what Twitter is or why I use it. After I give them my spiel, some choose to take a pass – but others decide to take the plunge. Unfortunately not all who do, make it. According to Pete Cashmore of Mashable, 60% of new Twitter users quit within the first month of joining. There are a lot of theories about why this is happening; here are three of mine:

                                    1. Ignorance – It seems that there are as many misconceptions about Twitter as there are new users each month. Most people I’ve talked to just don’t get it. Entering the Twitterverse can seem as daunting as moving to a strange new culture – it takes time to learn the language and figure out the lay of the land, and many just haven’t been able to connect the dots to see how diving into it all will actually benefit them.

                                    2. Fear – Who isn’t afraid of putting themselves out there for the world to see and judge? And who doesn’t at times wonder, “Why would anyone care about what I have to say?” You might think you don’t have much to offer, or aren’t a great writer, or don’t have a platform to make you “follow worthy.” To some, joining Twitter is akin to going back to high school – their fear is that they will be ignored and invisible while all the ‘cool kids’ dominate the social scene. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that?

                                    3. Time – Ask anyone how they are and chances are they will answer, “Busy.” Spare time is in short supply these days, and many people struggle to keep up with their “real life” friends and family – never mind the potentially hundreds, if not thousands more they could encounter via Twitter and other social networking sites. For Twitter to really work for you, it takes time – and that’s something most people just don’t have.

                                    I’m sure there are other reasons people don’t join Twitter or don’t have a successful experience with it. And for some people these concerns are completely legit. I can’t guarantee it will work for you as well as it has worked for me – but I do think with the right information and combination of factors, it can work, and can work very well.

                                    There’s a whack-load of information online on how to get started on Twitter and how to use it successfully. I’m not going to regurgitate what’s already been put out there, but I do know that the vast amount of info can be overwhelming – so here’s a short list of some of the most helpful content that I’ve come across regarding how to get started – and stay happy – with Twitter.

                                    Getting Started: The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter
                                    This is an awesome guide put out by Walter Apai from the Webdesigner Depot. It covers all the Twitter basics, including how to set up your account properly, how to get more followers, recommendations for followers, Twitter etiquette, a Twitter glossary, Twitter tools, Twitter resources sites, how to create a custom Twitter background, and how to set up Twitter on your mobile device, website or blog.

                                    Setting Your Strategy: Twitter and the Law of Reciprocity
                                    Kristi Colvin wrote this article for the Blog of Mr. Tweet, and it’s by far the best article I’ve read on Twitter. When I first got started on Twitter I had no clue how to do it, and I’m sure I grated some with my “what I’m doing now” tweets. When I read this article it really resonated with me and the light bulb came on. This approach may not be for everyone in all situations, but it’s sure been helpful for me.

                                    Practices to Avoid: 11 Ways to Lose Friends and Followers Online
                                    Brett Borders writes some great stuff in his blog, but this post is one of my favourites. It’s easy to type a tweet and hit send, but doing so without thought about what you’re putting out there can be counterproductive to your goals. This post contains some invaluable insight on what not to do. I’ve heard it said that humour can be boiled down to one of three things: truth, surprise, and exaggeration. If you’ve been on Twitter at all I’m sure you’ll find some humour in this article because it’s so true.

                                    Building Your Identity: How to Build Your Personal Brand on Twitter
                                    This is a helpful article from Mashable written by Dan Schawbel. This is particularly helpful for those who have business or organizational goals on Twitter. An important part of your brand is your username or handle – if you need to change yours to make it work better for you, check out this article to find out how.

                                    For me, Twitter is an amazing thing. I love that it’s given me the chance to learn from so many different people in many walks of life and to make some great new friends. It’s also allowed me to find some solid people to partner with in business and has helped our company land new contracts and find new team members. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t all happen in a day – for the first while it felt like I was listening to crickets while waiting to get some tweets coming my way (other than the occasional annoying auto-reply direct message). But if you’re willing to follow the basic common sense guidelines and tips outlined in the articles above, give it some time, be who you are and add value to the lives of others, I’m sure it will be as beneficial for you as it has been for me.

                                    Interact: What’s your story?
                                    It would be great to hear about other’s experiences on Twitter too… What resources or people have you found to be helpful? What challenges have you faced and how are you seeking to overcome them? Has it been worth the time investment thus far?


                                    Since joining Twitter I’ve found that few people approach it the same way. It’s a bit like dating: Some people spill their guts on the first date; others wait until things are more serious before showing all their cards. Some dates natter on incessantly and contact you every 10 minutes, and others you only hear from every 3 months (when they’re hoping you have Coldplay tickets). And this is all cool – you have to do what works for you. However, for things to go anywhere, it’s important that people communicate on the same wavelength and seek to understand each other to ensure there’s a good fit. If not, there can be some serious misunderstandings and potentially a lot of wasted time. One of the challenges of trying to communicate on social media tools like Twitter is that it’s tough to grasp the broader context of the person you’re coming into contact with when you only have the 160-character bio and a few tweets to go off of. So to keep things clear and to let people know where I’m coming from, I like to lay it all out at the beginning – just so you know what you can expect. If you’re new to Twitter and aren’t sure what to post or who to follow, or have gotten discouraged at all the noise, here are a few guidelines that I’ve found useful for making Twitter work for me.

                                    alkema11. Making Introductions: Follow - Presently there are over 10 million people on Twitter, and that number is growing everyday. How can you decide whose updates to follow? As a general rule, I follow everyone who follows me. I used to hate trying new foods as a kid, and my mom would always say “How will you know if you like it unless you try it?” While I definitely wouldn’t recommend applying this philosophy to all situations in life, I do think that in the Twitterverse the principle holds true. It is virtually impossible for me to tell if there will be a good connection with someone unless I take the time to get to know them – and that means following them. If I don’t even try, chances are I could miss out on some great interaction, a new friendship, or a good business opportunity. Of course, even my mom couldn’t talk me into trying liver and onions … so if an account looks spammy, fake or something I couldn’t show my mom, chances are I’ll take a pass.

                                    ev32. Breaking Up: Unfollowing - There’s no rule saying that you need to keep following someone once you’ve started – especially if you find their updates annoying, degrading or just plain uninteresting. I like to cut people some slack, but chances are if I start following you and you don’t follow me back, I’ll probably un-follow you. It’s nothing personal – I’m just not a big fan of one-sided relationships. Remember the kid in high school you wanted to shake and say “She’s just not that into you!”? I don’t want to be that kid. Besides, I don’t think you can really get to know someone unless you can communicate personally with them, and on Twitter that means being able to Direct Message (DM) – and Twitter only allows you to send direct messages to the people who are following you. So if it looks like it will be a one-sided relationship, it won’t last long on my end. Other things that turn me off? Tweeple who strongly push their agenda on others, create excessive noise (see point #4 below!) or are just plain mean.

                                    3. Moving to First Base: Interacting- So when do you become BFFs with your new followers or followees? Personally, I’m not one to jump into something – I like to wait until a natural connection point before I interact with a new contact. Sometimes it’s right away – when we start following each other. Other times, I like to sit back, sip a cold drink, and watch. If something comes up that I’m interested in, chances are I’ll reply or DM, and it could be the start of a beautiful friendship. Because of the nature of social media, it takes time to build relationships – to observe character and values and see how people treat others – but I think it’s time well-spent. Now obviously it’s not possible to get to know everyone that you’re following. Having close relations with 10,000 people is verging on ridiculous. Personally I can only manage about 500 best friends ¡ – By the way that was sarcastic… I tend to be that way periodically. To provide assistance in recognizing facetious or cheeky remarks, I often add the sarcasm mark “¡” or a wink.

                                    4. Too Much Information?: What to Tweet About – When I first joined Twitter, I have to admit I was overwhelmed with the vast amount of info coming at me, and I wondered, “What can I possibly contribute to this?” The tweet field on my Twitter homepage asked the question “What are you doing?”… and yet I knew that most of the time the honest answer to that question would bore people to tears! Amidst all the noise, what I quickly grew to appreciate were the people who were continually adding value by sharing great articles they were reading, technology they were using, tips and tricks, life lessons, humour, stories about helping people, and – most of all –  just being authentic and real. These are the things I like to tweet about. The temptation – or downfall – of Twitter is that it can become a platform for narcissism – the “all about me” syndrome. But Twitter can be about more than the sesame seed bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese that you had for breakfast – it can be about what you can offer to help others. There’s a lot of noise pollution out there, and I try to do my part to reduce it. For example, one thing that increases the noise on Twitter is replies that are only targeted for the recipient. This form of tweeting makes Twitter more like an IM tool or a Facebook wall. To reduce this type of noise, I personally tend to DM more so that I can keep my tweets focused on adding value to a broader audience.

                                    5. The Ultweerior Motives:  Why I Tweet -  Everyone has their own reasons for being on Twitter. Full disclosure alert! – the primary reason I take the time that I do to participate in social media is because it’s been very beneficial to my business. In my experience, people like to do business with those they have a connection with and who understand them – I know I certainly do. I’ve met some amazing people through social media – not only new clients, but also new employees who’ve come to join our team or individuals or companies with whom we’ve built strategic partnerships. Additionally, I enjoy meeting new people who I know I may never have any business connection with, but who may share similar interests in social networking, creativity, technology, values, humour, music, and making our world a better place. There’s so much we can learn and share with each other as we journey through life together, and tools like Twitter gives us opportunities to do so like never before.

                                    Like any worthwhile relationship, Twitter takes time. You need to be involved, contribute and listen on a regular basis. But my experiences with Twitter have shown me over and over again it’s well-worth the investment – and if the relationship is handled right, everyone can live happily ever after.


                                    Envisioning a Brighter Tomorrow

                                    I once heard a guest lecturer back in College who said something that’s never left me. He said people are only interested in you if you can do one of 3 things for them:

                                    1. Make them look better

                                    2. Make them feel better

                                    3. Give them some kind of advantage

                                    I think about that statement all the time, as I’ve found it to be true to what I’ve seen in my own base tendencies and in my experiences with others. However, even though I believe it is generally the way we humans interact with each other, I really wish it wasn’t the case. I’ve always wanted our world to be a better place, a place in which  people would truly care about each other. I wish we would take the time to see others not as commodities to consume, annoyances to be rid of, or not even worth acknowledging, but instead that we would truly see the value in each person around us. I’m not sure if this really comes naturally to us. When I think back to grade school days, I remember how downright nasty kids could be and – regretfully – how mean I was at times. And as I’ve had to raise my own kids, I’ve seen how much I need to continually remind them to think beyond themselves and be kind to others. I think as we grow older many of us learn to harness some of that raw selfishness – we realize it’s in our best interest to be friendly, courteous or nice because it often helps us in the end. Who wants to buy something from you if you don’t seem to care about what they really need or don’t deal with them in a friendly manner? The difficulty I find is consistently showing that same type of attention to people we don’t have a connection with or can’t help us. Ask yourself: do you really care about others who aren’t benefiting you back in some way? Sadly, I’m not sure if enough of us do – and I include myself here. Often I find I need reminders of how important it is to care about others with no strings attached, as it’s easy to get off track and start getting self-absorbed. Thankfully, though, life seems to have a way to jolt us back into the reality of what we should be doing.

                                    On Friday night I was heading back to my hotel from the #Drupalcon closing party in downtown DC, and my mind was full of thoughts about everyone I’d met and all the implications for my business. As I was walking, I happened to pass a doorway in which  a homeless person was covered up in a heap of blankets. The sight of him lying there all alone in that degrading spot made me pause for a moment. Should I see if he needed anything or maybe go and buy him a hot meal? I told myself that I probably shouldn’t disturb him and then quickly headed on my way, clutching my laptop briefcase. I reasoned that I was in a somewhat seedy area of town at almost midnight and that I should keep moving, but I have to admit that I later regretted not stopping to offer some help or encouragement. I know I can’t possibly help everyone, but for some reason I’d felt compelled to help that one person – and I didn’t. I thought about it again yesterday during my flight back home. I thought back to the time a few years ago when I would regularly go down to visit the homeless in our community just to try and bring them some encouragement. I’d go every Wednesday night (sometimes with friends and sometimes on my own) and bring 3 dozen donuts and 36 coffees & hot chocolates from Tim Hortons to give out. A lot of people would just grab them and high tail it out of there, as they probably figured I must have some sort of agenda. But I didn’t. I just wanted to get to know them and listen to them and hear their stories and try and be a bit of a bright spot in their week. I got to know quite a few people over that year and a half, and heard many interesting stories. Some of the people I met were quite sad, and it made me see how when life goes bad, it’s really easy to get off track and fall into some negative patterns of thinking – and lose hope. My friend Phil Cann used to say that it was like someone would shut off the light behind their eyes. For me, I wanted to go down and help bring it back. But eventually I stopped going. It was a big time commitment and buying all the drinks and donuts added up too. Most of all, I realized that what I was doing was just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost that would really be required of me to truly help them through their challenges – and I wasn’t sure I could give that at that time in my life. So I stopped going. But on Friday night, when I saw that homeless person in the doorway, I realized that I missed doing it. I also realized  that if I was honest, those people did as much for me as I was trying to do for them. They stripped away all my pretension and made me see that I’m no better than any one of them. My story is just different. I realize that had I experienced the same thing they had, maybe I’d be on the street too. Really, can any of us say that we’re impenetrable – that if we had to deal with everything these people have dealt with, we would never lose hope? In truth, our emotionally insecure and fragile lives are really only a couple of steps away from being in the same place.

                                    Though I do miss going down to spend time with the friends I made in the inner city, I’ve come to realize that you don’t have to go down and give out food to homeless people in order to do your part to make this world a better place. There are people all around us who have needs that we can meet – and not because we’ll get something for it, but because I believe that’s what life is all about. It’s about giving back. Some people may live their lives to take as much as they can, but I believe life’s real purpose is in giving back. We’re all a part of a community that’s way bigger than ourselves and it’s our duty and our privilege to share what we have with others, even if we will never gain from it. This can happen in the smallest of ways, by doing things for others that show they matter and that we expect nothing in return. Each day, when we drop our feet over the side of the bed, we need to reach out and put on those rose-coloured shades that will enable us to see what makes each person incredible, unique and beautiful. This week, as I walked through the streets of DC and through the halls of the convention center during Drupalcon, I got to spend time with lots of great people, each of whom are important and matter – not because of what they’ve done, who they know, or how popular, famous or skilled they are. These people are amazing because they are themselves, and NO one in all the world is like them. Take Abraham, for example, the taxi driver who drove me to the Dulles airport yesterday. Though I was feeling tired and considered asking for a “silent ride,”  I decided to chat anyway and was rewarded by the extra time he took to show me some of sites in the DC while sharing his passion about the city he loves and has lived in for the last 18 years. Another example is Ryan from North Carolina, who’s no Drupal rockstar, but rather a novice programmer covered in tattoos with a mop of a haircut and handful of friends on Twitter. But he says everything with a big smile that lights up the room, and I’m glad I had the chance to meet him. Ryan might never be a future hire but I hope in the time we got to spend together this week that he was encouraged and felt like he mattered just as much as anyone else I met at the conference.

                                    I probably could share an equal amount (if not more) of experiences where I have not been very caring or kind. Here’s a good example: leaving a conversation with someone you’re talking to in order to pursue a discussion with another person who might be more advantageous to dialogue with. This is fresh in my mind as this happens ALL the time at conventions like the one I was at this week. You’re talking to someone and you can tell that they actually don’t really want to talk to you as they’re eyeing the person behind you and, sure enough, as soon as they have the chance they’re gone. It definitely doesn’t leave you feeling very important. I actually did that myself this week and regret it- but so goes the daily internal battle. Obviously, there’s the reality that you can’t give equal time to everyone, as you’ll never make it in your business if you aren’t wise regarding where you invest your time. And you can’t meet the needs of all the people around you ,as you’d be perpetually overwhelmed. But if we all do our part to be kinder, more caring and help where we can, even if there’s no benefit to us, then I believe that we will begin to make our world a much better place for a brighter tomorrow.


                                    Yesterday I was at the Northern Voice blogging conference and sat in on a social media panel discussion entitled Who are you? Defining yourself in the online world. During the interaction, the question was asked if the panelists felt that choosing the handle you use on social networks (like Facebook and Twitter) is important or not. All of them agreed that it’s a very important decision and a couple of them (Jenn Lowther from 6S Marketing and Linda Bustos from ElasticPath) said that if they could do it over again, they wished they’d used their actual names as they felt that it would have been a wiser move in the long term for their personal branding. Unfortunately, they had come to the conclusion that making this change was not possible now on networks such as Twitter, as they both had too many followers and were concerned about losing connection with their followers should they change their username/handle (ie. @jennmae, @roxyyo).

                                    In Twitter if you change your handle, all links that relate to your old handle will be broken (and there could be thousands of them if you’d been on the network for awhile). If someone actually clicked on a link or tried to direct message or @reply to your old handle, they’d see a message like this:


                                    Also all your followers would need to be notified of the change, which could be a magnanimous task considering that you’d probably have to message each person individually. I resonated with this sentiment as when I look back now, I really feel like I made a branding mistake with my handle. Every time you post something hundreds of people’s eyes are scanning past your name and with that repeat attention, if you have something valuable to say and give, you will reap positive benefits and having those connected to your name can be very beneficial for you.

                                    When I joined Twitter 3 weeks ago I really didn’t understand that. I thought Twitter was pretty much a narcissistic bunch of people who had a bit too much time on their hands who were compelled to share all the intimate details of their lives with the world. I’d seen status updates on Facebook over the last couple of years and have to admit they definitely added noise to the dashboard… “hmm, should I go with the sundried tomato or red pepper cream cheese on my sesame seed bagel?” What the… ? Besides superstar celebs, does anyone really care what us ‘lowly’ people are doing right now?

                                    My thinking however started to change, when I received an email newsletter from my friend Mhairi Petrovic from Out-Smarts Marketing and she’d mentioned that her second largest stream of  business had come from Twitter, so I was a bit confused as how you could gain business from people doing glorified Facebook status updates, but hey there was a recession at hand so it definitely caught my attention. The next day I was reading a post by one of my favorite bloggers Eric Karjaluoto from ideas on ideas who’d expressed his opinion on why he thinks Twitter is going to die and somehow his insights on his experiences on Twitter got my curiosity up enough to make me decide to take the plunge and find out what all the buzz was about.

                                    I really didn’t put much thought into my handle when I started. My former Hotmail address was canucksfan82 so I figured that was an option. It had a lot of personal sentiment because of my love of the Canucks and because 1982 was the year when I became a diehard fan when they went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals so I went with it. However in a very short time I’ve come to regret that decision. I’ve come to realize that there’s a lot more to Twitter than just blurting out your whereabouts. It’s actually a tremendous tool for helping you expand both your personal and corporate brand. I will be writing more on this in future posts, however for now let’s stick to the handle and how I’ve made the switch.

                                    Steps to Changing Your Twitter Username:

                                    1. Pick a new handle that will work best for the brand that you want to create. Check out Hubspots’s Twitter Handles Dos and Don’ts and Strategy for Creating a Twitter Handle for input on this.

                                    2. Log into your Twitter account and click on “Settings”.

                                    3. Enter your new handle into the “username” field and then wait for Twitter to check for the availability of that username. If it’s not available then you may need to try your second or third choice.

                                    4. As soon as you find your choice available, then enter your “Password” (in the grey box that should have appeared below) and then click on “Save”.

                                    5. Immediately “Sign Out” of Twitter and then sign up for a new Twitter account by clicking on the “Get Started – Join” button.

                                    6. During the setup of your new account make sure to use the OLD handle that you were using in your main account.

                                    Once that’s done you’ll now have 2 accounts. Your main account will have your new handle (ie. @glennhilton) and will have retained all your followers. Your new account will have your old handle (ie @canuckfan82) and you can use that account if you want for a secondary purpose or to retain it to catch any direct messages or @replies that your followers or others may respond to. You can then get back to them from your main account and give a notification of the change. I also suggest making a clear statement in the bio of your new account, that your main account has moved. This is especially helpful for new people who may come across your account and want to follow you as it will send them on to your new account saving you both time in you not having to get back to them to notify them personally, and them having to later waste time in changing the account they want to follow. I actually added a note in all caps in the bio of my new account that says in “I’VE MOVED MY MAIN TWITTER ACCOUNT TO @glennhilton” to try and make things pretty clear for newbies.

                                    Does any of this sound confusing? It actually shouldn’t be as it’s a pretty simple change. And it’s fairly easy to manage after you make the switch too. There’s a number of apps you can use to track multiple accounts. I actually use Hootsuite (an online Twitter app) and  Tweetie (which is the best Twitter app I’ve found for the iPhone) to track personal and business accounts in one place.

                                    And as you’ve probably figured out, I decided to keep my @canuckfan82 as a place to talk hockey with my hockey loving friends. The benefits of this is that I don’t have to create hockey noise for your other followers who may not be interested in hearing about the latest trade rumor or predictions on tonight’s game. A week ago I actually had one follower do a public @reply to say “Oh shut up about Canucks!”. Now to be honest the individual was actually one of my old college buddies and he was probably hamming it up a bit for fun but it did get me thinking as really there are so many spheres of interest on Twitter that if you get talking on one channel too much you can definitely create clutter on other channels. So it might be something you’ll want to consider.

                                    UPDATE: New to Twitter? Need help getting started or tips on how to increase it’s effectiveness for you? Check out this post.