I've been on Twitter since 2010.
Actually that's not true — I first joined Twitter in 2008, became confused, and deleted my account. I rejoined in 2010. And in the seven-plus years since then, my feed has been mostly a ghost town comprising of frustrated tweets at customer-service reps and bad jokes.
I'm bad at Twitter. This is especially lame because I work at a media company. And the thing is, I want to be good at Twitter. But despite repeated attempts to get into Twitter, I remain confused and usually abandon my account for months at a time.
But then I realized that I have a great advantage over the average Twitter user in that I'm literally surrounded by people who are good at Twitter. The employee list at my work is basically a who's who of Twitter champions.
I decided that in order to understand Twitter I would need to enlist my Twitt-erate coworkers to coach me.
(Just pausing here so everyone can appreciate "Twitt-erate." You're welcome.)
Ben's Approach to Twitter: "Carefully careless. I try to post stuff that makes me laugh, which is easy to do. But if it doesn't get the response I hoped for, I delete it out of shame. Unless I KNOW it's good, in which case it's your fault for not getting the joke."
Ari's Approach To Twitter: "It's changed since the election TBH. It used to be all about one-line jokes, and now it's half that and half a social justice/activism/RT clearinghouse. Since the election, my feed has gotten a lot more important but a lot less fun."
Kirk's Approach To Twitter: "I always check it in the morning for news — both real, important stuff and mundane things that have been happening on the East Coast — since we're three hours behind on the West Coast."
To kick things off, I asked them a bunch of questions.
Pretend you’re talking to a total (made up, figurative) moron. What is the point of Twitter?
Ben: "Hello moron! Twitter's a place where you can find out the absolute latest in whatever interests you — news, sports, tech, comedy, movies, music, finance. Seriously. When things happen, they happen first on Twitter."
Ari: "At its best, Twitter is the return of the French Salon: like experiencing entertainment/news/culture/history as if in a room of brilliant and funny acquaintances, therefore turning an event into a group event."
Kirk: "It's the equivalent of shouting into the void, only with Twitter you have the potential of actually being heard. Also, you can @ people."
My takeaway was that I was being way too precious about Twitter. I had always felt like I had to wait for the absolute perfect thing to say before tweeting it — and therefore I never tweeted. I tried to relax my approach and just tweet as stuff came to me.
That wasn't so hard.
I went back to my coaches.
What's the most annoying thing a Twitter newb can do?
Ben: "They don't change their default photo. Do that first. Second, they don't take the time to curate a good list of people to follow."
Kirk: "Tweeting too much — god, so many people tweet too much. Or reply to every famous person that they like all the time. That leads to an unfollow or a mute."
Ari: "Talking politics with a stranger and thinking something good will come of it. Feeding the trolls."
I realized that I'd definitely committed a couple of these offenses. Over the course of my Twitter lifetime, I'd changed my profile photo maybe twice. I decided to update my profile and header picture.
I was also getting into the swing of things and ended up tweeting a lot. I was tweeting so much that a friend actually replied to one of my tweets asking me if I was okay.
I also decided to change my Twitter handle. I'd set it as @GodDamnitEileen years ago for no reason other than I thought it was funny. I asked my coaches if they liked it, and their response was lukewarm.
Ben: "It's long! Also I hate 'dammit' being spelled 'damnit.' Better that than like, @AssMaster420 or @CovfefeMan69 though."
Ari: "It's fine. A great handle is memorable, involves your name, and is easy to pronounce/spell."
Kirk: "It's too long! I'd recommend shortening it to DamnItEileen, DammitEileen, or EileenDanger, since I think it's good to be consistent across social media."
Okay, I get it — it's too long. I ended up going back to my handle that I use on all my other social media accounts, EileenDanger. Except I couldn't get my actual handle because someone was already using it.
"Who else would use that dumb handle?" I thought searching for the user.
It was me! That old account I "deleted"? Well I hadn't deleted it. It had been sitting there abandoned for almost 10 years. And since I'd used an old email address, I couldn't log in. So I did the next best thing and added "The" to the beginning.
I still felt like I didn't know how to approach Twitter. Should I have a shtick? Or a through-line? I went back to my coaches.
What’s a recipe for a good Twitter account?
Ben: "Hot takes + eggs + irony = yummo! But seriously folks, the recipe is just...being on top of things. Being on top of news. Being relevant and punchy. Try to imagine you're writing one-liners for a late-night TV show."
Ari: "Be funny. Don't steal."
Kirk: "Seriously, don't overtweet. If someone has like 50k tweets, I won't follow them. It's just too much."
I was starting to understand that there is no one way to approach Twitter. Some people use it to follow their idols, others use it for news, and others still use it to connect with people who have their same interests. Twitter is intimidating for the same reason that it's really really cool: There are a million ways to approach it. I just had to figure out my own.
Toward the end of this experience, I discovered that I was actually really getting into Twitter. I was tweeting with regularity and using it for most of my news. I found myself mentally composing tweets on the treadmill at my gym. My fingers naturally gravitated to the little white-and-blue icon on my phone's homescreen. I WAS DOING IT!
I asked my coaches for some final advice going forward.
What's the best advice you can give someone trying to get into Twitter?
Ben: "1. Follow me on Twitter 2. RT me 3. Don't be bad. That includes bullying, bad takes, racism, sexism — everything you basically wouldn't say IRL, don't say it on Twitter, and you'll do just fine."
Ari: "Look through the recent likes of your favorite people to find fun new users to follow. Also, the internet is a sea of cowards. Have fun and don't take anything personally."
Kirk: "Have a goal for your Twitter. If it's just personal and talking to friends, then have fun. But have a distinct voice. Stick to two or three topics that are important to you. Or, if you wanna be seen as a writer/humorist/comedian...be funny."
I can at this point confidently say that I am still not good at Twitter. But I am definitely better at Twitter, and the key to getting better at Twitter is just forcing yourself to use Twitter.
Now, I'll quickly write a draft and save it so I can fine-tune it later. I'll navigate to "Moments" to see what's happening in the world. My work Slack even has a #GreatTweets channel where I can find new and fun users to follow.
My advice? Make your Twitter experience your own. The key is to just start tweeting. I'll probably never be a Twitter celebrity, and that's fine, but if I can keep consistently tweeting my stupid jokes and staying up to date on current events, I'll be good enough.
Design by Kirby Darland / BuzzFeed.