Saturday, April 11, 2009

8 Ways to Guarantee a Follow on Twitter

There are plenty of posts, lately, on what will get you "unfollowed" on Twitter. It's kind of like wearing the wrong style of denim in middle school. Don't look at the stats, and whatever you do, don't sign up with, if you don't have a thick skin.

Then there are services that say they can guarantee you hundreds, even thousands, of followers. If they're not engaged in a dialog with you, or even reading what you say, what good is that? It's like having a million viewers during ratings week; if all of them go to the bathroom during commercials, what good does it do you?

And somewhere in between, there's me. I'm not going to second-guess your reasons for Twittering, and I won't pretend that doing everything on this list will guarantee that everyone will follow you on Twitter. But if you do all 8 (or maybe even 5) of the following things, I'll follow you.

  1. Be genuine and human. Fill out your bio before inviting people to follow you. Don't be coy and make me guess, "Is this my long-lost third cousin twice removed on my stepmother's side? Or is it just some random spammer?" You have 160 characters to tell me who you are, what you do, and what topics pique your interest. Use them!
  2. Add a real photo of yourself. Or, if you're in the Witness Protection Program, a photo of something that symbolically and uniquely represents the real you. Avoid free clip-art if you want to stand out and be noticed. If you don't want to be noticed, why are you on Twitter?
  3. Include a link to your Web site or blog - not one of those canned "get-rich-quick" pages (because I always read those as "run away as fast as you can"), but a real Web site or blog that answers the question, "Why might I want to get to know you better?" The answer to that involves a combination of things we have in common and things we don't - isn't that usually the basis for a lively conversation?
  4. Be humble. Please don't auto-DM me to say, "Thanks for the follow. Download my [whateverthehellyou'reselling] from [ittybittyurl] and TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE!" My life's fine, just the way it is. It would be arrogant to assume, on brief acquaintance, that you could improve it to such a degree that it would require the exclamation marks, let alone my hard-earned cash.
  5. By all means, pitch your product or service. I do. Just remember: I like my Spam grilled, with pineapple and Mai Tais. Served any other way, I just ignore it. Or make fun of it on my blog.
  6. Use standard English. (Or broken French. Or kindergarten Spanish. I don't read anything else, really.) Don't make me break out the Buzzword Bingo cards. txt, l337, etc. give me hives; Marketing-speak and too many mentions of "SEO" and "social media" and "Web 2.0" will send me into anaphylactic shock. I use semicolons in cell phone text messages. I admire people who can express a complete thought in one grammatically correct, 140-character sentence.
  7. Following people shows you care; being followed shows you're interesting. Talk to yourself, if you must - but do post regular updates. On the other hand, following 2000 people, only 5 of whom follow you back, and having only one tweet to  your name...that's just weird.
  8. Start a conversation. Ask a question. Leave a comment on my blog (you can even link back to your own blog, provided you're not just serving up canned Spam - I reserve the right to delete or make fun of comments from Sploggers and Spammers). Make me think or make me smile, and I'll try to return the favor. Don't follow me if it's all a numbers game to you. I'm not a notch in your Twitter tree.

Pygmies at the Lake

I was bored. I made no secret of that fact to Mrs. Brown*, the woman whose unpleasant duty it was to watch over me that summer. “I wish I could go swimming,” I muttered.

“Why don’t you, then?” she asked.

I told her about the lake, and how an early thaw had left it overgrown with thick, slimy, bilious-green algae and duck droppings. “It’s like that at the start of every summer,” I explained. “It’ll be a few weeks, yet, till they clean the lake.”

“How do they clean the lake?” asked Mrs. Brown.

I had always assumed they did it with chemicals, harsh things like chlorine and copper and things with names I couldn’t pronounce. Or maybe Mother Nature took care of it in due time. In a few weeks, the water would be clear and clean and fit for swimming, a fact we village kids took for granted. But looking over at Mrs. Brown’s expression of sincere interest and willingness to listen, I couldn’t say that. It would be too boring. Too depressingly mundane.

“It’s the pygmies,” I said.

“Pygmies?” she exclaimed. “What pygmies?”

What pygmies, indeed. “The ones from the Allegheny Mountains. They’re in Pennsylvania, you know.”

“I see. And what do they have to do with cleaning the lake?”

“We hire them. They travel across the States, cleaning up the lakes after they thaw. It’s a long way, you know. Just outside Johnstown.”

“Pygmies, just outside Johnstown.”

“Yes,” I said, warming to my story. “They camp out on the side of the lake. They’re vegetarians, you see. They like the algae. It’s sort of a, a delicacy to them.” Eeewwww. Sometimes my imagination runs away with me. I pictured little brown-skinned men and women, about four-feet tall, munching clumps of algae dripping with duck droppings. Seasoning, you might say. “It’s actually quite nutritious. In fact, they don’t charge us a cent. We could probably charge them for the meal, but it works out to everyone’s benefit this way.”

“I see,” said Mrs. Brown, nodding earnestly.

Oh, give it up already. Aren’t you tired of playing ‘humor the twelve-year-old’? I thought. Adults can be such dorks. “There are plenty of lakes around here. By the end of spring, they’ve had their fill.”

“Where do they go then? What do they do the rest of the year?”

Oh, so glad you asked. “Why, they go back to the Alleghenies and, um,” I thought hard. “They hibernate.” Oh, right. She’d call me on that for sure. Pygmies are people. People don’t hibernate.

“Really? All winter long?”

“Yeah, all winter. You know, they travel by foot. Won’t have anything to do with cars or planes or trucks or anything. After gorging themselves on algae and marching back to the mountains, they’re exhausted. It’s all they can do to digest all that food. Did you know that it takes seven months to digest a pound of algae?” I improvised.

“No! I had no idea. That’s fascinating. Thank you for telling me all this. It’s amazing, the things I learn every day…” Mrs. Brown shooed me out of the house. If I couldn’t swim, I could at least ride my bike or play in the sunshine. It wasn’t healthy for a growing child to be cooped up indoors all day, with nothing but a thick book for company. I slipped a book under my sweater, anyway, before slipping out the back door. I read under the apple tree until dinnertime.

A few nights later, we went out to dinner, my parents and I, with Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Mr. Brown was a business associate of Dad’s. I’d forgotten all about the ridiculous pygmy story, until Mrs. Brown began eagerly telling it to her husband. Mr. Brown looked at her as if she’d sprouted a second head and a third eye. My mother looked at me, and I began to slide under the table in the vain hope of disappearing. “You didn’t--“ my mother began.

“You didn’t!” my father said, trying to look stern as he politely stifled a giggle for the Browns’ benefit.

I nodded silently, trying to look contrite.

Secrecy is the one thing the villagers had always promised the pygmies, and I had violated the contract. You see, they are a very private people, those pygmies…

*Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect the gullible and the not-so-innocent. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is...well, not meant to be insulting or embarrassing. Truly. Hi there. ;)

Author's Note: Honesty is very important to me. Both of my kids know that just about the only thing that makes me really angry - see red and snort like a bull enraged - is dishonesty. Lying, cheating, stealing, sneaking - all manifestations of the same basic character flaw. But honest to G-d, if someone's going to be this gullible... No, really, mea culpa. I'm sorry. No I'm not. There are three times in life when it's acceptable to lie:

  • When writing fiction that is clearly labeled "fiction."

  • When answering questions like "Does this dress make me look fat?" but only when changing clothes or otherwise fixing the problem is not an option.

  • When talking to college-educated adults that could not reasonably be expected to believe such a hare-brained tale as this one... I mean, really!

Friday, April 10, 2009

17 Things to Do on Twitter

by Shelley Silverstein

Nothing to do?
Nothing to do?
Put some mustard in your shoe,
Fill your pockets full of soot,
Drive a nail into your foot,
Put some sugar in your hair,
Place your toys upon the stair,
Smear some jelly on the latch,
Eat some mud and strike a match,
Draw a picture on the wall,
Roll some marble down the hall,
Pour some ink in daddy's cap--
Now go upstairs and take a nap.

Or log on to Twitter, where you can:

1. Challenge yourself to form a truthful, yet interesting, answer to the question, "What are you doing?" If YOU’RE bored, do something else.

2. Tighten your writing. Learn to express a complete thought in 140 characters or less.

3. Promote a blog post: yours, or someone else’s. Go sparingly with your own; be generous with others’.

4. Ask a question. Provoke a thought. Start a conversation.

5. Promote good products; critique the bad. 140 characters is about all the critique most companies really want on their products, anyway.

6. Meet new friends. Just don’t mistake “followers” for “friends” and invite them home for dinner.

7. Follow the Twitterati. Don’t know who the Twitterati are? They’ll be happy to tell you.

8. Obsessively check your Twitter popularity on

9. Expand your professional network. Don’t kill it by behaving like a self-centered twit or a mindless bird brain.

10. Exchange tips with the pros. Avoid the cons.

11. Follow people who tweet about things that interest you. Don’t go all middle school and unfollow someone just because they unfollow you.

12. Talk to yourself. (Who’s going to know?)

13. Write a serialized novel, 140 characters at a time. Try to make each tweet a cliffhanger. If people unfollow, don’t quit your day job.

14. Explain, in 140 characters or less, what “microblogging” is and why companies, or individuals, should care.

15. Write poetry. (Twitter is the perfect medium for Haiku.) If you write a sonnet, post it in the comments here!

15. Share what you’re listening to, right now, on

16. Report breaking news. Try not to BE the news.

17. Learn about fun things like Problogger's 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge. Find more information on what it entails here.