Why Twitter Doesn’t Work

twitterhardhat.. at least not for you.

Because it works great for me.  And has helped me learn as much about patient empowerment issues in the past few months than ever I could have learned in any other way.

Wonder why you can’t gather more followers?  Wonder why people unfollow you?  Wonder why no one reacts to what you’ve posted?

The answer is actually quite simple, and if you give it a try, you’ll decide Twitter works for you, too.

Here’s the problem:  Many people think Twitter is like a bulletin board.  They think they are supposed to post information and everyone else will flock to see what they have to say.

But that’s not it. Even though the question at the top of Twitter is, “What are you doing?”  you are better off ignoring that and going with this approach instead:

Think of Twitter as an ongoing conversation that you are welcome to drop into or out of at any time.  Instead of using it as a billboard, use Twitter to engage with others — THAT’s the real value.

The skills that make Twitter work aren’t about posting. They are about listening, posing questions, asking advice, congratulating, being sympathetic, cracking jokes, being clever …. In effect, the same skills that make you a good friend, are the same skills that make Twitter an incredible resource for you. Sure, you can talk about yourself on occasion.  And you should! But mostly you want to be tapping into others’ knowledge, learning and sharing.

Think of it this way:  suppose you went to a party or a networking event, and the only thing people ever did was brag.  They never asked you about who you are or what you do, or why you are there.  They never offered you anything to eat or drink.  All they did was talk about themselves. Boring! Self-centered! Pompous! How much time would you want to spend with them?

Not much, of course.  So if all you are ever doing on Twitter is telling people what you are doing, if you aren’t engaging in a conversation with them, then you come across as that same boring and pompous person.

So go back to Twitter (or sign up to use it — here is some good advice for getting started with Twitter).  Begin responding to people.  Even if they aren’t following you, they’ll find your questions.  (You can find anything that’s been said to you, even if you don’t follow people, by searching for just your name — no @ sign or even # sign. Just type your twitter ID into the search box and you can see if someone has asked you a question or responded.)

Personally, it drives me crazy when people post but never engage.  I have stopped following many who only ever tell me what they are doing, but never seem to be interested in what others have to say.

The conversations can be interesting, or funny, or stimulating… friendly, or abrasive, or professional, or even life saving.  I’ve made new friends, I’ve gotten to know others from around the world, and I’ve gathered potentially life saving information for a woman who needed help for her son.  An incredible resource.

The bonus is, that the more people who you engage with, the more followers you will have.  So when you do have something worthwhile sharing, more people will see it.

So join the conversation!  If you follow me, then please say hi — I’ll find you and will respond, I promise, even if I don’t follow you back.


I look forward to meeting you on Twitter.

PS – once you begin truly engaging… and you really love it… and you can’t get enough of it… don’t fall victim to the opposite problem – Twittiarhhea!  Just like the people who talk TOO much at a party, you may be unfollowed because you post too often.  Balance is the key.

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8 thoughts on “Why Twitter Doesn’t Work”

  1. This is a great post. You are so right, it only works if you allow it to, if you engage people and then really listen to what they are saying. Who knows, you might just learn something useful from someone else. I have.

  2. You are so right! People need to learn how to use Twitter the right way and not get on followers nerves 🙂

  3. OK, I admit I just don’t get it. If I “follow” people, I get bits and pieces of conversations they’re having with people I’m not following. And If I WERE following all those people, I’d get nothing but a pile of chaotic tweets that don’t relate to one another in any way! Plus, I’d have to be on Twitter 24/7 to follow anything with a hope of understanding the thread.

    Meanwhile, I have hundreds of people following me with whom I have nothing in common except a general interest in the topic of autism (or a personal connection).

    I tried following people, but wound up with conversations like…

    My sink is clogged.
    I think I’ve caught the swine flu.
    My kids are in a show today!
    I know the name of a plumber.
    How about those Celtics?

    I mean – what you’re describing works in a forum, a blog, or even a listserve. But on Twitter??


  4. Lisa,

    You may need to re-think who you follow. I would love to follow everyone who follows me, but I think I would feel overwhelmed as you do. Instead I follow people I consider to be thought-leaders in my patient empowerment sphere.

    Then, for example, when someone posts a link that is of interest, I might retweet it (RT). Or I might reply to that person and comment on it. The only conversation I need to follow closely is the one with the person I have just replied to.

    Also, once you have found those thought-leaders, then follow the people they are following so you can take part in broader conversations.

    Hate to say it, but I would unfollow those who are talking about stuff that doesn’t affect me. Nice for them, but I just don’t have time.


  5. Lisa, I’m not sure that it’s actually working but that is what I’ve been doing, so here’s hoping! Can you contact me privately, please? I have some advocacy questions I would like to ask you. Thanks,


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Trisha Torrey
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