I love Twitter. If I had to choose one platform and only one platform to use, both for personal and professional gains, it wouldn't even be a question which I'd pick.
A vast majority of my best professional relationships were cultivated on Twitter, and truth be told, it is a huge pet peeve of mine when I see people using the platform in a way in which it was not intended to be used. The reason it bothers me so much is not only because of my own preferences but because I know how much potential the platform has if only people knew how to leverage it.
With that being said, here are five ways people totally misunderstand Twitter and are using it wrong, as well as the best ways to use the platform:
1. Focus on the social and not only the media.
This is such an important point and one that applies to all social platforms. The medium is called "social media" for a reason. In fact, that phrase is somewhat of a paradox. Media is generally one direction-- a broadcast-- and social implies two directions.
Paradox or not, most folks and companies focus on the "media" part and forget that they are also supposed to be social. If your Twitter feed is a glorified RSS feed, or just a link after link after link, then you are missing the point.
Engage with people, ask questions, answer questions, be authentic. Where Twitter really shines is the ability to cultivate relationships with people to whom you'd otherwise never have access. So stop using the platform only to broadcast your media and start using it to be social as well.
2. Stop using it to talk and start using it to listen.
As you begin to engage on the platform, don't forget that the search button on Twitter has to be the most unutilized button on the entire platform.
When you publish a new website on the internet, Google indexes it in order to display it in search results. That indexing process takes some time. Twitter, on the other hand, is a real-time search engine. If you want to know what people are saying about you, your company, your competitors, or literally anything else, simply search Twitter.
So the quote "You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that ratio." applies perfectly to Twitter. Twitter is the most advanced listening platform the world has ever known.
3. Get personal instead of being spam.
Simply put, do not use Twitter to spam people into buying your product. Not a day goes by without me receiving a tweet from some company that just joined the platform and is just copying and pasting that tweet to tens, if not hundreds of people.
I often think about what must have transpired that led to this spamming. I imagine that some marketing manager was sold on the importance of Twitter and how people have gone viral on the platform so they decided to join Twitter and cut corners in order to go viral.
So let me state this loud and clear. I don't use the "block" button on Twitter very often. If someone is abusing me or others, whether it's antisemitism, racism, or any other type of bigotry, I will instantly block them. And if someone is spamming me on Twitter, they also get to join the exclusive blocked accounts club. Most users on the platform have the same mentality as me. Just don't do spam.
4. Organize your community with lists to minimize noise.
Most people do not use Twitter this way, but in my opinion, they're missing out. Twitter, like most platforms, has its own culture. Part of that culture is the unspoken rule that if you're engaging with someone for a while and they click that "Follow" button, you are sort of expected to follow them back. It is not by any means mandatory, but it's kind of expected.
If you do indeed follow everyone who follows you, or even if you don't, you might end up following thousands of people or even tens of thousands. That is a whole lot of noise.
To make some order, use lists. I have five lists that I've made over the years, two lists with my favorite accounts, a list for journalists, for analysts, and for developers.
I bet, based on my totally anecdotal research, that a small minority of Twitter users take advantage of lists. That is unfortunate because it's a really great feature. Try setting up lists and following those lists instead of just reading the timeline, which depending on how many people you follow, could get very noisy.
5. Keep people interested by categorizing your tweets into groups.
When someone new follows me, I go to their profile to see what they're all about in order to decide whether to follow back. If what I see in this person's account are just links, I am out of there.
In my opinion, your tweets should be one-third links, one-third engagement tweets like replies, retweets, or quotes of other people's tweets, and then one-third just general thoughts and quotes with no link.
Why is this so important? Because it shows that you're human and let's be honest, no one is interested in following a bot or an automated account. This categorization of your tweets also makes your account much more diversified, and ultimately, more interesting to follow.
All said I think all the above suggestions can be summarized in two words: "be human."