What I do on Twitter and what you can do too

the summer of 2009 I was in my full Facebook glory. I had gotten on the bandwagon early and it was now the hottest story in the world. The last thing I wanted to hear about was a competing social network. I was beginning to hear about Twitter, mainly through LinkedIn. Like LinkedIn and Facebook Twitter was something that people were beginning to join. Then I saw a couple of cable TV news hosts, who probably vote the same way I do in elections but don’t strike me as friendly people, tell me that Facebook was lame, Twitter was the wave of the future and their viewers should follow them there. When I joined Facebook I knew I wanted to stay there forever. But I did not get Twitter. You used to hear a lot of people say they did not get Twitter and nobody got it less than I did. For the next year and a half, while the network was taking off and early adapters were joining, I joined and quit countless time. There was nothing I could tweet on Twitter that I couldn’t post on Facebook. In June 2010 I started a corporate account for my company at the time, Peter Bell & Associates, LLC. (my current company is @bapsearchllc) It was mostly work-related posts with some occasional “fun” tweets thrown in. In the spring of 2011, Weird Al Yankovic was having trouble with the people around Lady Gaga to get the rights to use her song “Born This Way” for his music parody “Perform this Way.” It was probably a publicity stunt because Lady Gaga came to the rescue and gave Weird Al permission and everyone lived happily ever after. As I was tweeting about the story, on an Executive Search Firm’s twitter account, I realized it was nature’s way of telling me that I should have my own personal Twitter account and on April 23, 2011, @BarryPiatoff was launched.

Twitter was different than LinkedIn and Facebook. On those two social networks you asked people to connect with you. From about 2007–2010, nobody wanted to have low double digit numbers of connections so people were prone to say yes. If not, you assumed that person had their reasons. Twitter was different; you had to follow someone with no guarantee they would follow you. You could understand that well-known people would not follow you but what about your peer group? I wasn’t offended if some colleague did not follow me. Maybe they did not want to encourage me to learn every detail of their life so I would usually unfollow them. As someone married and on the wrong side of 35, I was not offended. So who would I follow?

I’m very interested in politics so I started to follow people who I see on my favorite cable TV news programs and my favorite political and news reporters. For the best ones, their comments are very creative, perceptive and you get to read their columns as they write them during the day. I put together a Twitter list for “Journalists” and you can catch up on the news anytime you want to. In 2011, I read an early tweet that Moody’s was going to downgrade the USA’s credit rating about three hours before the news broke everywhere else. For my favorite baseball team I follow several sports reporters and, when their daily line-up has been posted, a player is injured, reactions to the way the team is playing during and after the game, they have the news before anyone else. If you follow several reporters, you’ll see breaking news throughout your Twitter line. For reasons that have launched several blog posts, I’m a fan of The Eurovision Song Contest, a subject that is never mention in the U.S. press. I follow accounts for up-to-the minute news. As Eurovision artists establish their careers after the event, I follow favorites. You can see what they’re up to and interact with their passionate fan bases. Even if you follow a couple of entertainment publications such as Entertainment Weekly or The Hollywood Reporter, you’ll get the latest entertainment news, whether it’s must-have information when you’re hanging out by the water cooler (or coffee pot) or news that will make you roll your eyes. If you’ve been following your favorite recording artists forever, you probably already know everything from following their home page. However Billboard and Rolling Stone often gives you up-to-date information on their concerts or breaking news. When I decided to monitor the 2015 debt crisis in Greece, I was able to relatively easily find some people to follow on Twitter. I continue to follow their European perspective. You can really know all the news you want to know. Though you can annoy your friends or spouse when they start a sentence with some exciting news they want to share with you and you mention you read it yesterday on Twitter.

Joining Twitter later than Facebook, I haven’t interacted with quite as many people that have become social media friends as I did there. Early on, as fate would have it, I connected with two people, both living in Paris, who mainly tweet in French. We would interact, in English, and each time their tweets were filled with wit and warmth. When I told them that my wife and I would be in Paris for a weekend in August 2013, they both said they wanted to meet us. And they did and we had a delightful time which I have told them so many times they have to be tired of it. Like with Facebook, you never know who you will find something in common with, from their interests to their personality, so they’ll become a special part of your online experience. Sometimes I will interact with a (semi)famous person and that’s a pleasant surprise or they’ll favor a tweet. There are more surprises on Twitter these days than other social network. You will find fans of your favorite baseball team and have a lot of fun when they win and when they lose. The only time there is a letdown is when their game is rained out. Sometimes a super-busy and super-successful media insider like CNN’s  Brian Stelter will sometimes respond to your questions. One of my all-time music heroes, Howard Kaylan of The Turtles, followed me before I followed him. Some famous people never respond or will only retweet or respond if you criticize what they wore during a guest segment on Cable TV news (which I don’t do).

If you’re not a well-known person, there’s no definite method on how to get Twitter followers. At the end of last decade people were looking to build up their own follower count and were open to following more people to be followed. I noticed certain well-know, travel-related accounts were happy to follow people in the hope you would follow them. Sometimes when you find interesting people and follow them, they’ll follow you, but not always, especially in 2017. I mainly find that people just follow me. A lot of them have an angle like they want to help me grow my social media plan even though I mainly tweet about amusing things and personal interests. If you follow them, they’ll likely continue to follow you. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes once you follow them, they’ll stop following you. There are Twitter-related programs that will let you know who you are following that don’t return the favor. If you ask, I can point you to one. If you start following someone and they tweet every 3 minutes but you don’t want to lose them as a follower, you can mute them.

If you follow the right people, the tone on Twitter is friendly. I would advise you to be positive. Root for your favorite sports team or show disappointment when they lose but don’t tell the world you hate your favorite team’s rival. People are becoming more and more vocal about their political points of views that I really can’t advise someone to never say anything. Be aware people can easily search your Twitter account and you don’t want to lose a potential job offer because a hiring manager roots for a sports team you openly hate or supports a politician you are very critical of. In this political climate I have gotten more relaxed about showing my political leanings, though I do it more with humorous retweets, tweeting about media coverage or tweeting directly to the person who made the comment which makes it less visible to people following you. But that’s me.

These days I love Twitter. It’s an amazing source for news and a great place to interact with people and puts a smile on my face. Not everyone supports your political point of view or sports team or likes your favorite music artists and you have to be open to opposing views, respectfully delivered or know how not to let it make it angry. It’s a public service to know that (if you’re not crazy) you’re not alone and others share your views and passions.


BAP EXECUTIVE SEARCH LLC specializes in placing public relations, communications, investor relations, marketing and social media professionals in mid- to senior level professionals at corporations, public relations firms and non-profits across all industries in full-time positions.

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