Here's someone with an interesting take on the right way to use Twitter: Britney Spears. Spears has a social media director to update social media accounts, with input from Britney herself, her assistant, her publicist, and the rest of her entourage.
When I first heard about that, I thought it was crazy. The essence of Twitter is that you update it yourself, even if you're a celebrity. Hiring someone to use Twitter for you seems deeply wrong, like hiring someone to go bowling for you.
And yet Spears's approach seems to work for her. The fans on Twitter like it.
If you just keep Twittering, and participating in the conversation, you'll find a voice that works for you.
One of the reasons I have a large following on Twitter is because I invested the time in it. I got in early: Spring of 2007, and I've been on it every day since. I try to talk to people one-on-one, not just broadcast. And I always, always try to be either entertaining, or informative, or both, even when I'm just twittering about dinner. I spend time on it every day. Even on weekends. Even on vacation. Even in the evening when I'm sitting and watching TV with my wife.
And, while I'm proud of my 1,600 followers, that doesn't put me in the top ranks of Twitterers: People like tech blogger Robert Scoble and Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis have more than 50,000 followers.
Recently, Digg co-founder Kevin Rose posted a list of 10 ways to increase your Twitter following. Rose is the second-most popular person on Twitter, with 89,780 followers (the only person on Twitter more popular than Rose is a guy whose street address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C.). I think it's a great list -- but I have an objection.
The objection is that I don't think increasing your follower count just for the sake of accumulating big numbers is a worthwhile pursuit. Sure, I'm proud of my follower count -- but that's really just foolish vanity, something to be enjoyed but not really taken too seriously. The real value that you get from Twitter -- or any social media service -- comes from the personal and professional connections you make. And you make those connections one at a time.
The same thing is true of face-to-face networking, by the way. The best connections I've made at conferences often aren't at the big networking events with hundreds of people in attendance; it's going out to a bar with a few people I met in a hallway conversation. So I disagree with some of Rose's advice. For example, asking your followers to repeat your tweets (a/ka/ "retweeting") seems a bit needy and desperate. Likewise for starting a contest to encourage people to follow you.
I take a different approach to building traffic on Twitter -- I look for ways to help other people. I rarely ask people to retweet my posts, but I often retweet other people's when I find them useful or entertaining. (For example, this just cracked me up). And, while I often post links to InformationWeek on Twitter, I post links to other people's works, when I find them interesting, even more often.
I've taken to using this philosophy in all my efforts at promotion and marketing. Look for ways to help other people, and you'll succeed for yourself.