I’m 23. I’ve used Twitter since September. Coincidentally, my mom started a Twitter account around the same time. Take a gander at the two accounts, if you will. My mom has 194 followers at the time of this writing. I have a measley 82.
My mom has more Twitter followers than me. Me! A tech-savvy millennial who works for an internet marketing company! How has this happened? Am I just not as interesting as she is? Do I have less to say? Or is there something more nefarious at work?
The Long, Tweet-Starved Road
Some time ago, I wrote an exhaustive report that broke down the way that people use Twitter. As a stalwart opponent of the service, I boarded up my Twitter accounts after just days of use. They were stunted start-ups, half-grown, mutant niches that no one in their right mind would follow. My experience with Twitter summoned three big, existential questions from the twisting nether of my mind:
1) Who is going to Follow me?
2) Why are they going to Follow me?
3) Do I care?
I found out that I didn’t know the answers to the first two questions, and had a very definitive “No.” to the last.
When it comes to Twitter, you need to find out what soundbites represent your personality. Followers don’t care for your complexity. Because you’re going to find a group of followers, and those followers need to be united by one passion.
If you position yourself as a resource for political news, but suddenly start tweeting about video games, people will unFollow you. Mercilessly. Shepherding loyal followers takes time, and if you stray from your Twitonality at any point, followers may start straying.
Before I decided to begin another Twitter account, this time “for real,” I had to look into the mirror. Then, I had to smash that mirror, get out a piece of paper, draw a stick figure of myself, and write one concept in my poorly-drawn head.
Here come the tweets…
Blaiselucey00 was born. At first, I tried to use BlaiseLucey, but I had already made that account, months ago. I tried deleting it, Twitter told me the account was deleted, yet I still can’t use BlaiseLucey. So, I settled with BlaiseLucey00, and, like some kind of common-name barbarian, I was forced to round out my handle with nonsensical numbers.
Wading out into the Twitterverse for the first time is a little intimidating. People are @ing each other all over the place, and when they’re not @ing, they’re RTing each other. And if they were RTed, they thank the RTer.
What, I wondered, am I supposed to do with all of this? None of my friends have Twitters. Who do I even follow?
Since I categorized myself as an internet marketing guy, those are the Tweets I started Tweeting, and Following. I don’t plan to stray into any other topics any time soon, for fear of alienating my precious followers. There’s no doubt that I could experiment with other ideas down the road, but right now, my hold on people’s attention is tenacious. One errant video game Tweet could result in a 10% loss of followers.
Meanwhile, in Mom Land…
My mom is self-publishing a book in December. She has decided to get involved in Facebook and Twitter to get her name out there. She’s already a published author, and pretty well-respected essayist, and she noticed that, as soon as she started using Twitter, her book sales went up.
I Followed her out of morbid curiosity, a feeling that bloomed to bemused spectation and flowered into a kind of passive interest.
My mom had a big problem, at first – someone, a fellow author I believe, said that she should put the URL to her web page after every Tweet. That made every Tweet seem like a billboard.
After I told her that this wasn’t really a common habit among Tweeters, her tweeting efforts blew past mine. While I struggle to hover above 80 followers, she is now closing in on 200. Scraps of the Twitterverse, relatively, but, for both of us, it’s an uphill battle.
It still doesn’t occur to me to leap onto Twitter to post anything after 5pm or on the weekends. My mom, on the other hand, has trouble posting once a day.
Once you start a Twitter, you need to think about why you’re using it. If, like me, you idly browse tweets and generally just tweet about the content you find on your internet journeys, then you fall comfortably into an internet surfer crowd, endlessly contributing links to the Twitter ocean, with no distinguishable anchor of personality.
If, on the other hand, you’re a small business or a lone professional, like my mom, you have to think a little harder about what you really want to convey. How do you represent a store or an agency or an organization in 140 characters or less?
You don’t. You have to think about how to focus your energy on one particular topic. Twitter flattens nuances, smoothes out bumps, and blurs edges, so it’s up to the Tweeter to sit down and think about what it takes to be both a follower and a leader.
That can be easy if you’re a restaurant that hosts events on a daily basis, or a politican who is constantly failing to reach deals on budget measures, but it’s harder to cram a person into that little Twitter box if they don’t have friends or enemies or acquaintances that use the program.
My mom uses Twitter to channel her articles. As soon as she started her Twitter, she started blogging at a rapid-fire pace. That means that, at least once a week, she writes new post. So, in this case, her Twitter is more a ginger bread trail. The followers show that it’s worked wonders. People are interested in her voice. Even if it’s not conveyed sharply on Twitter, they get the idea and are interested enough to check out the blog.
But, really, if I’m communicating to more tech-savvy crowds, shouldn’t I luck out by default and have more followers? But why do I feel like I’m bad at Tweeting? Aren’t I supposed to be a hip, young person with a hip, omniscient & omnipotent take on Tweeting?
Then again, maybe it’s Twitter’s fault. Yeah, that’s it. After all, it’s a sore fact that half of all Tweeters don’t listen to anyone else’s Tweets.
The Truth Behind Twitter
People assume that, since Twitter is some kind of “social media thing” (social media has really become a term that’s a bit like mashed potatoes… you know that they’re potatoes, but that’s about it), the Young Adults will flock to it.
This, my friends, is false.
Here’s what I take away from this chart: Last year, just 17% of Twitter users were aged 13-25… 27% of users were 35-45 and 30% were 26-34.
Meanwhile, the dual component of this Digital Surgeons chart showed thatpeople age 13-25 make up 40% of Facebook users.
I don’t know why this is the case, but I get the impression that most people don’t know that it is the case. These stats didn’t surprise me in the least, because, like I said, I don’t know any people my age who have a Twitter account, other than myself.
There are always those snippy articles about how the young kids these days are Tweeting everything from their latest meal to their poorly spelled opinions of celebrities, but, apparently, it may be more likely to find adults Tweeting about their kids than kids Tweeting about how much they love/hate Justin Bieber.
This may partially explain my own fumblings at Twitter — or at least make it statistically likely for me to be inept — but… the fact remains: my mom has more Twitter followers than me. A lot more.
I might be jealous, if I was experienced enough with Twitter to know what followers actually meant for me. But I suspect it’s not something you know until you have them.