The Five People You Meet on Twitter (#3)

Other people in my li’l Twitter taxonomy began with The Celebrity

The Crusader 

They spring up from the political spectrum’s left, right and middle, chomping at the bit to promote their respective messages.* Go green! Shut down the McDonalds! Stop Sascha Baron Cohen’s bizarre brand of humor!  

When Crusaders are good at what they do, they can advance their case with dignity. When they’re ham-fisted and rant-cid or get spammy or pugilistic with their tweets, they fall… flat.  And by that I mean they only really ever succeed at reaching the proverbial choir and supplying, to the rest of Twitterville, nothing but a steady stream of stridency.

The best of the lot know that to pitch their platform, they have to mind their manners just like the rest of us and share something more than a 140-character plea or rant with regularity. I’ll show you two examples in a sec.

Subcategories: charities, supporters of specific parties/candidates

Word to the Wise: In my experience, Crusaders have the easiest time keeping a favorable image if they are willing to dialogue with the converted and non-believers alike. That can be tricky on Twitter, but creating a hashtag and dedicating a specific time weekly to chat up the cause is a good place to start.

The best individual Crusaders are those who blur the line with another group in my Twitter taxonomy, the Real Deals. Take, for instance, Rob Smart (@jambutter).  He’s created the new sustainability-themed #profood hashtag (explanation on his blog). He’s thoughtful, respectable in his tweets and is willing to “agree to disagree” gracefully. But don’t try to bully him, either–he will push back. In short, he’s an honest broker and he advances his cause because of it.

If you’ve got some money to spend on your message, then groovy graphics, contests and giveaways can be useful to raise awareness. Just like with traditional fundraising letters, connecting your cause to the lives of real people can lend a compelling human touch on Twitter. Along these lines is another good role model from the charity subcategory: the Livestrong Foundation (@Livestrong) which has been known to tweet messages of goodwill and support to individual cancer survivors. Earlier this week they introduce a great little yellow Livestrong bracelet that you can superimpose over your Twitter avatar.** 

Those are some do’s.

Now for the don’ts.

Don’t call people that believe differently than you stupid or any synonym thereof. D’oh!  You can, of course, question the rationality of your opposition’s argument. And you can point out when someone’s arguing for argument’s sake (a quick glance at their feed will offer a good clue if your hunch is right) and then politely disengage.

Don’t forget that your potential supporters may be on Twitter after work and at weekends. If you’re tweeting on the clock, then this is an instance when something like Tweetlater might be worthwhile.

• Don’t try to route your followers daily to your other online resources (blog, website, Facebook) unless you’re freshening the content regularly. Your profile should be enough bait.

Know a great Crusader on Twitter? Do tell!

Next in the series: The Bore


*Disclosure:  Yours truly started out on Twitter.com to promote my bipartisan, pro-victory garden themed blog, hence the patriotic moniker (@redwhiteandgrew). I’ve evolved with how I use my account a bit, but I still choose to follow a diverse array of opinionated people because I find it interesting and, yes, inspiring. 

**The avatar gimmick is effective now. I do wonder that if everyone jumps on the bandwagon with this kind of freebie that it might become overdone.

The Five People You Meet on Twitter (No. 2)

This series began with The Celebrity.

The Real Deal

With follower counts ranging from 10 to 10,000 or more,* these are the workhorses of Twitter–the folks who make it worthwhile to log on and catch up.  Whether they’re sharing random facts:

I just now found out that Donkeys can withstand more radiation than humans!–@emilyoftexas

or pointing out the obvious: 

Nothing says “wake the $@! up!” like finding a scorpion crawling on the hem of your shorts.–@dasparky

… it’s these authentic, articulate tweeters who make many of us rant and rave at those who brand Twitter as “narcissistic.”

At their best, Real Deal feeds read like diaries, offering glimpses into everyday life on our planet as the authors know it. Sometimes Real Deals wax philosophical, and at other times they’re simply telling the world they’ll see the 6 pm showing of Transformers with their cousin Leo. On occasion, they get political but seldom in an annoying or off-putting way. Some of them can be snarky and provocative, but you’ll never worry about what dirty pictures might pop up without warning in their shared links (unless you’re into that, and then… okay!). 

The best of the lot share the progress and process of their work–be it canning veggies, stretching a canvas, working the crime reporting beat, staging uprisings and protests, or prepping for their next presentation. 

Real Deals are helpful, too. They can point you to a good restaurant, plumber, doctor, vacation destination. They’re quick to post a link to a worthwhile news story that you really do want to read. They retweet regularly and thank others for doing the same with their own tweets. They’re good about chatting with followers and know when to take a conversation over to DMs. They never, ever use auto-DMs to thank followers for signing on to their feeds. And they can make a great, off-the-cuff joke in 140 characters or less.

Whether you’ve known ’em since grade school or have never actually met them face-to-face, these are the people that put the “ville” in Twitterville. God bless ’em every one.

Subcategories: artists, reporters, physicians, bloggers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.

Word to the Wise: They do pretty much everything right, with an occasional forgivable error. As for the rest of us, we need to find and follow more of them.

Know a Real Deal on Twitter? Do tell!

Next in the series: The Crusader 

*Most well-established, successful Real Deals have a few hundred to a thousand followers, maximum. An exception: Laura Fitton (@pistachio), with over 30,000 followers.

The Five People You Meet on Twitter (No. 1)


The Celebrity

Whether they’re promoting a flick/show, a cause, a campaign, a product/career or just trying to save face, these  tend to be the tweeple that provide fodder for the tired theory that Twitter’s an exercise in narcissism. Politicians, talk show hosts, novelists, sports figures, celebrity chefs and garden gurus, moviestars*… with a few noteworthy exceptions**  their tweeting is driven more by a desire “to control the message” than to actually share connect.

Never mind the fact that in the age of micro-sharing/blogging or whatever we’re saying Twitter is this week, being authentic matters more than being a spinmeister. So if good spin is your sole motivation, you’re in trouble from the get-go. And, oh lordy, if it’s a staffer writing your tweets and you’re not upfront about it, start praying now that it never gets out. Because you will be mocked and, gasp,  unfollowed. 

Subcategories: Famous bloggers and minor local celebrities, including preachers, newspaper columnists, metro-area lifestyle show hosts. 

Word to the Wise: Remember: everyone is “famous” to their own Twitter flock o’ followers. So if you want us mere mortals to pay attention to your feed (and “your message”) with regularity and respect, consider employing the occasional retweet or response to a direct question. For the time-strapped, you can set aside a specific day or time to correspond with followers in real time. Alyssa Milano  (@Alyssa_Milano) did this just last night, as one of my followers (@starbreiz) notified me this morning. Whoa… did you catch that? People will keep talking about your tweets for a day or two if you play right. Do that kind of thing once or twice a month and you can legitimately claim that you “use Twitter”–as opposed to just employing it to send out teeny-tiny press releases. Yay, you!

Got a fave celebrity worth following? Tell us why.

Next in the Five People series: The Real Deal


*No, I’m not naming names of ne’er do-wells. Besides if you use Twitter, then you already know of whom I speak. And if you don’t, then you likely don’t care.

**Example: Lance Armstrong ( @lancearmstrong) blends his personal and professional tweets exceptionally well. I don’t follow him daily, but I do pop in to read his feed regularly.

My Twitter Wish List (Then Again, Maybe It’s More of A Rant)

Ever heard of “Christmas in July?” Well, if Santa’s listening on this last day of June, how about:

• An End to Spam Followers. Seriously, I will PAY for Twitter if it means I can review new followers without fearing my kid will see full-frontal naked people. I mean, c’mon. (A conspiracy theorist might even suggest that this is all a cunning plan on behalf of the Twitter masterminds to get us to surrender our credit card information, but I won’t go there.)

Rational RTs. Is there anything worse than someone retweeting misinformation? Yes, people who do it repeatedly. Sure, we all make a mistake now and then (guilty!), but just because information is zipping past or pops up as a link in Trending Topics does not mean it’s accurate.

And as for the dreadful Jeff Goldblum/George Clooney/Natalie Portman death rumors, one didn’t even need to check Snopes.com first to see that the site where two of the the stories originated were fake. The tip-off? The big ol’ disclaimer at the bottom of the “breaking news story” page that it was… a fake news site. (More)

Look at it this way: if we want Twitter to be a credible source on par with traditional news organizations (and I still think that’s a bit of a stretch), then we need to try to tweet as responsibly as we can. Sure, the potential is there as the Iran Election story has shown, but it’s like my 8th grade computer literacy teacher taught us in the ’80s: Garbage In/Garbage Out. For the youngsters, that means that the end-product of technology (including social media) is only as good as what we regurgitate, er, contribute

• Secret Twitter Police. Am usually not a fan of tattle-telling, but the above situations merit some sort of underground network capable of putting out fires left to build while the folks at Twitter HQ plot the next round of upgrades. I’m not saying we need to censor people’s freedom of speech, but a measure of decorum can keep Twitter from becoming passe, as more of us seem to be burrowing behind Facebook’s privacy screen. 

Got a wish? Feel free to share. Unless, of course, you’re a spammer. Then kindly go away.

Think Before You Tweet

Brava to Australian journalist Julie Posetti (@julie_posetti) for her excellent blog post (Rules of Engagement for Journalists on Twitter ) on PBS.org.

Frankly, her “Top 20 Takeaway Tips” are suitable as much for non-journalists as reporters.

Isn’t it frustrating to follow the bread crumbs from someone’s seemingly insightful and useful remark to their profile, only to encounter ridiculous, inflammatory or prejudicial statements? As I tweeted moments ago:

If you want Twitter to be regarded as reliable, then we must tweet responsibly, ethically and avoid hysteria-generated misinfo. *daily.*

Personally, I’m someone who enjoys reading comments from a diverse array of people with differing–even conflicting–perspectives. Just because I follow someone doesn’t imply that I endorse their POV. It does mean that I’m curious about what they might say. Yet I am increasingly unfollowing people who show far too little depth of thought, resort to vague over-generalizations, or obviously tweet while angry, drunk, or… whatever. I simply can’t trust people like that for much of anything, except maybe entertainment. Why follow them, you know?

Remember: Everyone’s time is valuable. Provide your followers (or, your readers) something worth contemplating in your tweets–be it a good link, a bit of advice or an engaging glimpse into your corner of the world. If you do this consistently and conscientiously, you’ll build your credibility over time and gradually expand your own circle of influence on the topic(s) of your choice. Then you’ll come to understand more fully the fun of Twitterville.

Go on now, give Possetti’s post a read, please. And then have a think before you tweet.

UPDATE: Posetti, in response to interest generated on this site, Twitter and PBS.org, has teased out her tips and highlighted them on her personal blog. Please link to, post and tweet about them to help engage others in this important conversation.

Explore More:
• The good folks at
MySanAntonio.com (@MySA.com) have created a new online database of SA-area tweeters.