5 Twitter Tips for Leading

Today, for Leadership Tuesday: 5 Twitter Tips for Leading
In Two days: Management Thursday and 5 Twitter Tips for Managing

I first talked about Twitter on Say “Alaka‘i” this past March: The post was called, Talking Story, Meet Twitter. My email delivered a response I had expected. To paraphrase, grouping those of similar sentiment together,

“Rosa, you’re crazy. You know what a time intensive gig management is to begin with, and you want me to take up Twitter? Yeah, right.”

Well, I launched @sayalakai on Twitter as a pilot project anyway for I believe in the continuous learning about communication, and this week I will be sharing an update. If you still feel Twitter is a waste of time (and thus you don’t much care about the results of my pilot), take the week off and I’ll see you next week, okay? (I post on Say “Alaka‘i” each Tuesday and Thursday).

Beyond the Basics

My postings this week have tips for the already convinced and converted: You’ve taken the leap of faith and tried Twitter, and like me, you’re keeping it within your arsenal of tools — now that you’ve dabbled, you’re ready to optimize it. These posts are not about the basics of Twitter, but about how to be a Twitter leadership and management ninja because the basics have gotten to be passé for you, and you sense there’s more potential lurking in the app just waiting for you to discover it.

In the spirit of continual learning, I have 5 tips for you today from a leadership standpoint, and on Thursday I’ll add another 5 tips from a management standpoint, i.e. taken together, 10 tips for Twitter the Alaka‘i way.

Quick recommendation: For those looking for more Twitter from A to Z, both basics and evolution as it happens going forward, you might want to consider catching up with Darren Rowse on Twitip. He recently posted a 40-minute video with Twitter Tips for Beginners, and he starts it by sharing his own story with how he progressed “from skeptic to addict.”

A quick review of our Alaka‘i Premise

Leading is about creating new energies (around a cause, focused on vision), and Management is about channeling those energies (around production of a cause, focused on the mission necessary to achieve that vision). I write these Twitter tips with the assumption we are talking about managers who manage and lead — one person, two verbs.

This is about you as an individual Twitter user who studies both management and leadership, and who practices both. We are bringing your Twitter use in alignment with everything else you do as an Alaka‘i manager.

Here are the tips:

To make Twitter more useful to you as someone who leads:

1. Think of Twitter as a Learning Resource and Idea Generator

Alaka‘i learners (that’d be you!) concentrate on energy as the resource leadership creates and perpetually builds: As a great manager, you then convert that energy into mission production using your assets of time and people.

Energy comes from inspiration and inner motivation, and both of those things come from our curiosity and fascination. Ideas represent the tangible stuff which fascinates us, and this is where Twitter can prove to be a goldmine for you, for the app is a perpetual idea factory. The key is to separate what will fascinate, inspire and motivate you from all the other clutter that can stream by along with it as less-than-useful curiosities and distractions, and then identify it as an idea that is useful to your leadership efforts.

A common problem seems to be not knowing what to do on Twitter once you’re on there. Here’s what seems to happen: You sign up. You look around for a few interesting looking peeps to follow. You’re now privy to a confusing, never-ending stream of micro-conversations, rants, links and more. What to do now?
Maria Schneider, How to build your Twitter Cred

2. Get Specific. Learn to use Search and trend/channel with Hashtags

Setting the goal to “find new ideas on Twitter” is way, way too general. You need to approach it from the standpoint of Research & Development and with specific treasure hunting in mind. Get very specific about what you want or need your idea triggers to be. Then, approach Twitter with the attitude and expectation of one great idea-generating but focused project at a time.

Yep, one at a time.

Go short but deep. You don’t need a quickly flowing and full Twitter stream: You need the most fertile one. Learning to use search and #hashtags well is the way you achieve that fertility. I look at my Twitter stream when I realize I am there mostly for the fun of it, or am in random search. When I am working my leadership/management formula I ignore my Twitter stream in favor of search and #hashtags until I am confident it is my-purpose fertile.

Once a project ceases to interest you, shift gears and work on another one. @sayalakai is a good example of this. I was initially hoping it would be an alternative conversation stream to comments on the blog, but it didn’t work that way. So I then switched to using it for trend-watching Hawai‘i specific interests. I will add follows there based on a stream I want with researching my current article writing (for my blog at The Honolulu Advertiser), and then un-follow there constantly to “clean it up.” My tweeting @sayalakai is strictly done as a broadcasting feed now, and I say so in the bio on the profile page. If people talk to me there, I answer back on @rosasay where I do all my conversing (using the next point).

3. Don’t go with the flow: Lead. Be purposeful about Reading and Conversing

You’ve learned the Twitter basics, now stop watching others and commit to your self-leadership. Ignore how everyone else uses Twitter and be purposeful in the way you use it, for let’s face it: If you are truly leading, you shouldn’t be a follower who agreeably goes with the whim of the crowd. There are a lot of self-proclaimed Twitter experts out there, but none of them have your goals ”“ unless they are following you!

Purposely choose the times you engage with Reading versus Conversing. Read to learn and research, following links selectively, and asking good questions of article authors you are learning from: Use dms when you should be staying out of public conversations, and be open to giving your email address or phone number to those who can mentor you and are willing to extend the conversation. Get braver about reaching out to those you admire, but don’t personally know ”“ at least not yet.

Converse publicly on Twitter to collaborate in real-time as your contextual stream proves most fruitful ”“ take advantage of the peak times you identify. Ask good leading questions, with @replies designed to further the conversation in the way that will serve to inspire and motivate others to continue to engage with you. In other words, use Twitter for practice with your “language of leadership.”

From what I have learned, the most important thing bottom line is that people have to like what you stand for, what you’re about, and what you have to offer.
Stephanie Quilao, 10 Habits of a Savvy Twitterer

4. Only follow to learn and to filter for your reading and conversing goals

As you have likely experienced, the key to capitalizing on Twitter is in who you follow, and you must be very selective about it. This is the hard one, for it can be very difficult not to reciprocate, however if you follow for friendship and community, you are welcoming in a heap of distractions, for you will begin to follow other’s agendas and not your own; you will cease to lead.

You need not follow someone back to converse with them via @replies or simply within the time frame of your current interests after you’ve searched for them. When you really think about it, the connections you will truly value on Twitter will come from conversational engagement with someone, not from the short-term high of gaining another follower number stat.

This is where having a second, freshly clean Twitter account (for project management) or using apps which group your Tweeple can be a tremendous help. I use Hootsuite because I have also found it best for my multiple accounts ”“ I now have 6 of them. However if you use another app (e.g. Tweetdeck and Seesmic are others people seem to love) use it to complement the Twitter web client and not replace it totally: When you miss voices of thought leaders you have selected, go to their Profile Pages on Twitter instead of waiting for them to stream by again. This has become more important now that Twitter no longer shows you all their @replies to others you do not mutually follow.

5. Be aware of your visibility. Lead by example, and with your values

Never forget how public and pervasive a forum Twitter has become. I was recently reminded of this when I saw one of my tweets shared on the 5 o’clock edition of the KGMB9 television broadcast, even though I had not sent them a dm or @reply ”“ I had used the #Felicia hashtag and they were searching Twitter for more hurricane news.

People will tell me I am positive to a fault on Twitter, and I consider that a great compliment. I will write tweets like these as a matter of habit-building and self-coaching:

Half empty: Twitter web client still not cooperating. Half full: Great time to check out the new bells and whistles of HootSuite and Bit.ly”

Twitter Aloha to Ho‘ohana with: Every single tweet is someone’s first impression of you.”

About great RTs: “One of life’s greatest laws is that you cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own as well.”

If I tweet a grumpy complaint in a moment of weakness or impulsiveness, I will delete it once I catch myself if it doesn’t pass my values-based “this is constructive discourse” test.

Lead by demonstrating and rewarding the Twitter behavior you want to see repeated. For instance I will never RT (retweet) simply to return a favor (staying out of that reciprocation trap), and I only retweet links I have taken and read completely myself to verify they are indeed worthy of my added recommendation. I keep up with my blocking best I can (for immediacy) to do my part with elevating the dignity of the app as a whole.

Do support others and be friendly; just be purposeful and remain in alignment versus doing so strictly to reciprocate. If you want to show your gratitude say thank you — none of us hear those two little words often enough; use those 140 characters to explain why you are thankful and give others affirmation. By all means, let your personality shine through, and be personal versus ultra-professional so people feel you are interesting yet approachable. Flickr photos will help me share lighter moments, and much about my sense of place, for our Hawai‘i nei remains a significant influence on me and the values I bring to the Twitter party.

Mission accomplished! The ideas are flowing

Well done! You are now using Twitter as an idea generator and energy catalyst, and as an enabler of your self-leadership and forum for demonstrating it.

Now what?

If you have been successful, you are faced with what we’d call a “good problem.” Energy is being created on Twitter, both for you and by you. On Thursday we’ll talk about channeling that energy, with 5 more tips, now for managing (and hence, for self-management.)

Can’t wait until Thursday?

You should. Learn to replace gluttonous reading or long lists of tips with useful-for-you action. If you like this, apply it before you bite off more than you can chew. Return to Twitter and see if you can begin to shift your habits there.

I will give you just one more Bonus Tip that may prove helpful with number 2. above if you need more prompting with getting specific. Take another look at this post: Leading encourages Making. Embrace the Mess and it may help you evaluate the projects you want to be leading right now from the standpoint of how “making” might factor into it.

Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share? How can Twitter help fuel your leadership efforts?

For those who prefer them, here are the Talking Story copies of the links embedded in this posting:

Article originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” August 2009
5 Twitter Tips for Leading


  1. Rosa Say says

    With this posting fresh in mind for me this morning, I am watching my Twitter streams as I have my coffee with this single “Reading filter:” I am reading to compare how different tweeters I consider “thought leaders” will be quite strategic about what they say as public tweets to illustrate the kind of conversations they value – tweets which I would normally think of as something to stash within a private dm.

    Timely: Here too is another take on visibility connected to the value of Aloha:
    Wise transparency on Teaching with Aloha today by Dean Boyer

    Timing: Many will say that Twitter streams are most fertile Tuesday through Thursday in prime time hours, a challenge for those of us in Hawai‘i seeking to start our day in a more focused way – can a Twitter impulse to be where the action is be aligned with YOUR focus for the day somehow?

    • Rosa Say says

      Ah, you are very welcome Steve! While I love knowing that the post was effective in triggering immediate actions for you, I am very thankful you came back to share that with us :-)

      My breaking up of this – with 5 more tips for managing posted tomorrow – was intentional, for I was hoping people could go right back to Twitter, and apply this to then have another day of that channeling of energies into production that I define as managing-as-verb. Having done that on your own, you can then come back and read part two as a way to compare notes, i.e. on how you did with “Twitter for Managing” compared to what I will be sharing about what has worked for me.

      Thus I hope to see you back tomorrow! The post will also have a reframing of all 10 at the very end, intended for index-card pocket coaching.