"What I’ve Learned" or "A Chump at Twitter"
I’ve been on this blasted Twitter for three years now and though you’d think I’d know it all, that’s not anything like the case. But I have learned a few things. If you’d like to know what they are, read on. If you wouldn’t, well MOVE ALONG MISTER JUICYFRUIT! WE ALL KNOW YOU’VE GOT A LOT ON YOUR PLATE! OoooooOOOOOOOooooooooooOOOOOOooooooooohhhhHHHHhhhhh!
But I digress.
The first thing is: It doesn’t cost anything to be nice. Yes, there are a lot of narcissists here, but there are a lot of nice narcissists. Weed out the jerks. And don’t be one. People remember when you’re nice and you remember when they’re nice. Do someone a niceness, not to get one back but to show that you’ve got a shed full of nicenesses from which to give. That’ll drive them crazy with envy.
I used to respond to every single response or query, but then it got to be too much, so I’m selective. But if the person reaching out to me me isn’t trolling and isn’t the type to respond to every one of my tweets and gives some thought to his response, I’ll favorite it to let him know I appreciate it. I’m not 100% successful, but I try.
If you’re not having much luck communicating your humor, you CAN get better at tweeting jokes. I’ve gone back and deleted my first year’s worth of efforts because they weren’t the right speed or proper tangent of what works here. There’s nothing to be proud of there, but they were a kind of working out or training for what was to come. So, if your jokes don’t seem to resonate, study Twitter a bit more and figure out how the place appreciates humor bent to fit the 140-character limitation.
I’m grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read a single tweet of mine, to think about it, to wonder about it, to research its meaning, to ask me about it, to favorite it, to retweet it, to smile or laugh or sigh. I’m grateful to every follower who ever took a chance on following me, even if only for a short time, and I’m most grateful to followers who forgive, whether it be overtweeting, questionable subject matter, envelope pushing, you name it. I realize how taxing I can be. Your forbearance has brought tears to my eyes.
While Twitter is fast becoming a breaking news site, it’s an even better reaction site, and by reaction I mean humorous reaction, whether it be a congressional hearing or a live Oscars broadcast. The best of the best now know enough to take out their phones and whale away at events live and it’s sometimes breathtaking to be part of.
The niceness part of me wants to follow everyone back, but I know if I did I’d just make a list of who I want to read and only read the list. That’s not doing anyone a favor. I follow based on merit and, now that I follow over 700, I’m not inclined to go digging too deep to test people’s quality any more. I think following any more than 500 shortchanges everyone on your following list. There are people I follow whose tweets I literally never see anymore because I don’t have the time to go back to their while-I was-sleeping time zone.
I do make an effort to evaluate new followers, however, and I’ll let you in on my methods. First I check the following/follower ratio. If you, my new follower, follow more people than follow you, I tend not to look any further. It’s not a guarantee, but it is a leading indicator that you’re a reader & not a writer. If the notification email tells me that people I trust follow you, that works in your favor. But if you follow me and have any hope of getting followed back, I want your page to look good and be funny enough for me to want to read more.
That’s an instantaneous judgement. Few make the cut. Some probably should have made the cut but because of one thing or another (time, mood, style of jokes, page housekeeping, etc.) didn’t. I don’t follow every funny person on Twitter and I never will get around to it. And I prefer to follow a certain esoteric kind of funny.
Unfortunately, too many followers expect to be followed back and unfollow 48 hours later. They’re somehow insulted. In many cases, I’ve gone back to look at their pages and…they’re not good. How can they expect it? How are they “owed” it?
The heart sinks when someone who follows 45,000 people and is followed by 45,000 people follows. That’s Team Followback and that’s not happening. They’ll be gone before the cock crows. Or when they follow 45,000 and are followed by 65,000. That’s just depressing. I’m not following that one back either. She would never see a single one of my tweets. That’s called follower-accumulation. I’ve made a follower goal in the past, mainly to have something to shoot for, but it’s a dead end and I’m not making another one. What’s the ideal number to shoot for? The accumulating heart always says “More” but your head should be telling you that ten excellent followers (who write, who read, who respond, who engage) are worth more than ten thousand do-nothing followers. And most really do nothing but sign on every two months, say something about killing someone over something to do with coffee and then sink back beneath the digital ooze. They are a meaningless aggregate. All fine people, I’m sure, but for your purposes useless.
To recap: be good, be tidy, follow fewer than follow you and I’m likely to give you a look-over. And that’s just to get a shot at getting me, a terrible follower, and a nobody into the bargain to look at your stuff.
When people star your tweets, it feels good. It’s like saying something funny in your shower, only there are people. I have zero-star jokes I’d put up against any other joke in the world. The fact that they didn’t get love on Twitter has no bearing on their worth to me. Sometimes someone whose sense of humor I respect will star a tweet of mine and it’ll stop dead at six stars. That’s far better than a 500-star tweet. I’ll put my hand on a Bible and say that again for you, if you like.
Favstar, the star-accumulation site, takes its knocks but at bottom it’s a reflection of its users and a mirror into their psyches. A lot of people who think themselves funny but are only marginally so learned long ago how to game the system. They give out 100,000 stars a year, they put a pair of tits in the avi, they make all their tweets about blow-jobs and they eventually rule the site. Lowest common denominator. It exists in stand-up, it exists everywhere, and it ain’t for me.
I use Favstar, but I don’t let it use me. That should be every psychologically healthy person’s mantra on Twitter.
I touched on followers before, but there’s a bit more to say on the subject. I have far more followers than I ever dreamed of having three years ago. When I first followed Kelly Oxford, she had something like 1900 followers and even that was too many to dream of. There are a lot of variables to attracting followers. The things I notice that bring them are quality/effort, celebrity, connections, fizz and luck. Luck plays a huge part, so does fizz. We want to hoist Rob Delaney & Kelly Oxford on our shoulders and run them to the top of a mountain. But others, quality-producing others even, not so much. Why? No fizz, no luck, no connections.
Something else I’ve noticed: Follow Friday can be the slowest day of the week. I might get some excellent people recommending me and nothing happens. Why? I’ve given it some thought and here are the working theories: 1. Follow Friday as a concept is burned out. 2. There are so many recommendations that people just retreat into their shells until it’s over. 3. Many recommendations are 140-character blocks full of names. It’s a lot to take in and your followers retreat.
Josh Hara (@yoyoha) opened my eyes a year or so ago. He pounced on a tweet of mine he particularly liked, retweeted it and then said why he liked following me and recommended me to his followers on a Monday, when nothing ever happens. I think 100 people followed me immediately. I’d gotten 20 great recommendations the previous Friday but only 20 new followers, so you can imagine how this caught my attention. Yes, off-Friday recommending works. But also waiting until someone you want to recommend drops a great tweet so you can showcase it and praise the person to your followers seems to be a far more effective way to do good for a deserving person. I’ve been purposefully recommending people early in the week and I’ve tracked the results and they’re mostly excellent provided the intended beneficiary is a joke-writer.
I recently hit my second of the two goals I set for myself here and now I suddenly find myself rudderless on Twitter. I still enjoy it. But as a thing it’s not turning out to be anything other than what it is. So I think I’ll take some of my Twitter-assisted confidence and turn it back to my writing.
I hope this was useful!
Your affectionate uncle,
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- barefootfussy said: What are followers?
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- caffeinedelusion said: I owe something like 85% (if not more) of my entire twitter presence to you. I’ve not been able to see much of anybody’s tweets lately (animating 12 hours a day…it takes away one’s tweet drive) but I wanted to say a huuuge thank you.
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- girl-detective said: Excellent read. I’ve been thinking a lot of about all of these factors lately (as they apply to me, obviously. Not you. That would just weird…OK FINE IT WAS YOU).
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