What’s in it for Your Followers? How to be Useful on Twitter

Have you ever stopped to ponder what value you are creating for your followers on Twitter?

I’ve written numerous times about the benefits of Twitter to me – what I get out of it – but perhaps a more pertinent question for Twitter users to be asking is not what THEY get OUT of Twitter – but what THEY put INTO Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong – Twitter is a medium which can significantly benefit YOU and enhance your life in many ways – however when you talk to most successful Twitter users you find that they’ve discovered one thing:

Twitter becomes more beneficial to you when you give value to others.

I’ve seen this to be true many times in my own 1 year journey with Twitter. The more you put in, the more helpful you are, the more value you bring, the more effort you put in to enhancing the lives of others – the more comes back to you.

On the flip side – the more you ‘use’ your followers, the more you take, the more selfish your tweets are and the more pointless your tweets become – the less comes back to you.

So lets come back to my original question above:

What value are you creating for your followers on Twitter? What’s in it for them?

  • How are you enhancing your followers lives?
  • What are you ‘giving’ them?
  • What do they value you for?

Get a handle on some of these questions and deliver on them and I suspect your use of Twitter will become more and more successful.

How to be a Useful Twitter User

OK – so we have to be useful, helpful and add value for those that follow us. What does that look like?

The reality is that useful Twittering will look quite different for each of us depending upon our own situation – but here are a couple of simple questions that will help you to get to the heart of it.

What need are you fulfilling for your Followers?

Another similar question.

What problem are you solving for your Followers?

If you are solving a problem or fulfilling a need that someone has – you’re being useful.

That’s probably one of the most obvious statements I’ve ever made – yet so many people fail to apply it to their lives – and so many are failing to apply it to their use of Twitter. Most Power users of Twitter (and all forms of social media) ‘get’ this and are successful because of it.

Addressing Needs and Problems need not look the same for all of us – in fact it can look incredibly diverse once you begin to think about and tap into the the lives of those that follow us.

What do people need? What problems do they have?

The answers to these questions are diverse.

  • Some people have a need for information.
  • Others have a need for entertainment.
  • Some have the problem of loneliness.
  • Others have problems with getting their heads around certain technologies.
  • Others have a desire to connect with a community learning about an interest that they have.
  • Some want to find the latest news in a niche
  • Others want advice on buying or doing certain things
  • Some just want to laugh
  • Some want to have a vigorous discussion or debate on a deep issue

The list could go on and on and become very specific from topic to topic that we might cover.

Once you’ve ascertained a need or problem that you’re addressing with your use of Twitter (or more than one) you’ll then find other questions begin to answer themselves. Question like ‘what should I tweet?’ and ‘who should I connect with?’

But it all comes down to knowing why you’re using Twitter and committing yourself to keep your use of the medium relatively on topic. This doesn’t mean every Tweet you do has to be fulfilling a need (Twitter is a playful and forgiving medium) but you should keep coming back to fulfilling those needs and problems and adding value over time.

If you do this your become and more and more important part of your followers lives and ultimately will benefit more and more from the medium yourself.

Comments

  • December 10, 2008

    This post is absolutely spot on. For me, twitter is not about tweeting what I am doing but hopefully providing something useful for any followers I might have, either information, advice or support.

  • December 10, 2008

    Great post once again. I suppose offering some value to your followers is a good thing. Haven’t really stopped to thing about it. Suppose I’ll have to give it some thought.

  • December 10, 2008

    The more I use it, the more I realize the relationships that I am building on Twitter are no different than the relationships I have cultivated off-line. Each follower has his or her own agenda for using the service — one you recognize their particular need, you can design your approach accordingly. While some of my followers are casual and playful and our tweets reflect that, others may be more of a networking resource for learning and the tweets back and forth tend to be more direct and informational. That’s not to say a follower can’t be multi-faceted, but the key is figuring out what the relationship is at the onset and gear your initial tweets in that manner. Then you can adjust as the relationship broadens, if applicable.

  • December 10, 2008
    TatiGui
    @tatigui

    I love your posts! It is helping me to understand how things work on Twitter daily. Thanks for it!

  • December 10, 2008

    Ok so according to me , this list you have created which i am about to copy and paste from the above post cannot be dont by a single user , thats why having multiple friends help , some people tweet about technology , others tweet about entertainment , so basically if your tweets are good and genuine and of course genre specific , then you obviously will get readers demanding that genre .

    Great list of questions :

    * Some people have a need for information.
    * Others have a need for entertainment.
    * Some have the problem of loneliness.
    * Others have problems with getting their heads around certain technologies.
    * Others have a desire to connect with a community learning about an interest that they have.
    * Some want to find the latest news in a niche
    * Others want advice on buying or doing certain things
    * Some just want to laugh
    * Some want to have a vigorous discussion or debate on a deep issue

  • December 10, 2008

    For awhile I was feeling sort of glum because I couldn’t figure out how I could add value but then I realized that I do offer support and encouragement. I can give feedback, I can cheer lead, I can pass on a link and in general be as friendly and helpful to people in Twitter as I am to anyone else I run into. It was a relief to realize I did not have to be a well known expert in any field to be a valuable contributor.

    When I was waiting tables I quickly learned that being the best possible server I could be with the best possible attitude made all the difference in how much I enjoyed the evening. Putting your all into your work is primarily intrinsically rewarding but eventually external rewards come, too.

  • December 10, 2008

    Awesome post Darren. I now understood the importance of twitter. I think this may help me a lot.

  • December 10, 2008

    Darren–good perspective in this post. I caught myself laughing yesterday at reading Shannon Whitley’s Top 10 people to Unfollow (http://www.voiceoftech.com/swhitley/?p=611), but reading your article closes the circle and makes Shannon’s list an easy list of people in your network to whom you may be useful…

  • December 10, 2008

    Thanks this is so helpful. I didn’ t really understand the power of Twitter so this really put everything togeather. Thanks http://www.guardyourselfnow.com

  • December 10, 2008

    I’ve noticed the same thing. When I first got on twitter, I didn’t like it because it was all noise. Now I’m following more interesting people, and I’ve come to appreciate twitter differently. Now the task is, as you put it, to provide that same value back. At first it was primarily a personal tool for scattering my thoughts to the world. But like blogs, eventually we need to come back to providing value and not simply throwing words around.

  • December 10, 2008

    This post reminds me of when I used to be a corporate trainer and we used the principle of WIFM – What’s in it for me. However that was the trainer thinking about what was in it for Them–that’s how we connect but too often we really are thinking of the Me sitting here. Great post. Someone once told me “possibility is for others and includes you”. When we focus on others “needs and problems” we are definitely included and all the richer for it. I am new to Twitter and this gets me off on the right foot/finger. Yesterday someone just wanted to know if a link work – tried it and replied–great little conversation :-)

  • December 10, 2008

    Darren,

    I’ve created an RSS search of Tweets using a keyword related to my niche (non-profits), plus “how do” and “how to”. I find people with similar interests asking “How do I…” and “Does anyone know how to….”.

  • December 10, 2008

    I have been getting this question a lot since I wrote Tweeting Green – Why And How Eco Businesses Should Be On Twitter, http://tinyurl.com/6jhbcm. (inspired by this blog!)

    How a business interacts with Twitter is somewhat different…but not completely than how an individual acts. My advice for corporate users of Twitter is to balance general information about your product or service with information on sales and promotions AND importantly other useful information that your followers can use. If you look at some of the best corporate twitter users, you can see how they manage this trick!

  • December 10, 2008

    What a great post! Thank you.

    Here is what I’ve found re: providing value and I would VALUE and APPRECIATE other people’s thought about this:

    I am new to twitter-7 weeks or so:

    Here is what I don’t know. Is it ok to “mix” your voices on Twitter?

    I have(from public and DM’s I’ve received)provided value by making people laugh. I love to write and have fun and be playful.

    However, I am also trying to save jobs in my industry-furniture and, of course, if someone is interested(not 2 many people from furniture or interior design industry on Twitter yet,though) in hiring me to help them understand how to drive sales using SM tools that is in this vertical-furniture or interior design-that is Ok, too.

    So, question is, should I migrate people following me to different Twitter account for purely business things or should I continue to mix playful,funny “voice” with more “serious,business” voice.

    Both can give value, but one gives value to all audiences(laughter) and one gives value to specific audience only -retailers, manufacturers of furniture and interior designers.

    So, two accounts or ok to mix since signal to noise ratio may be high for some followers if I maintain just one account?

    Thanks everyone!

    Great post, AS ALWAYS.

  • December 10, 2008

    Valuable information. Thank you for the informative post. Will implement when Twittering.

  • December 10, 2008

    Great post, and if you follow me on Twitter, you likely already know that this is a topic about which I am very passionate — and about which I ‘rant’ quite often. In order for the Twitter ecosystem to be healthy and thriving for all involved, people need to be focused on providing value for all instead of using it as a one-way megaphone for self-promotion.

    As you astutely pointed out, by serving the community overall, it ultimately benefits each individual by creating a vehicle for knowledge sharing and idea exchange, and becomes one that is built on the [sustainable] foundation of authenticity and respect. But those who continue to use it as a vehicle to forward their own agenda, deteroriating that foundation with shameless self-promotion and disingenuous tactics all aimed at their advancement vs. the advancement of the individuals who comprise their community, diminsh and devalue the medium. And in the process, do themselves a disservice of more heavily weighting a quick hit or one-off sale over the mutually beneficial power of relationships.

    You may get 10 people to click on your junk or hear your sales pitch once, but if harnessed effectively, you could have 1,000 who are personally invested in your success and can spread your message to 10,000. If you want people to make an investment in you, you need to make a genuine investment in them first. I guarantee the rewards will be far greater in the long-term, and you’ll be building quality connections that transform targets into friends — and that enrich your life and your business in the process.

    The old saying most definitely holds true of, ‘You get out of it what you put into it.’ Spam begets spam. But help someone once and they’ll go out of their way to help you — and so will the 300+ friends to whom they tweeted about how helpful you were plus the hundreds of others in your network who see the value that you [selflessly] provide every day plus the thousands more users who will want to follow you as a result.

  • December 10, 2008

    Great tips, Twitter becomes most useful when you actually engage and lend a helping hand :-)

  • December 10, 2008

    Hi Darren,

    I took note of the fact that nowhere in your list does it mention anything about slapping followers with adverts such as Magpie and others.

    Twitter is about community and building personal relationships with other Twitter users.

    Strike up conversations with people; get to know others more personally; link to their interesting posts on Twitter so followers can enjoy it or learn from it.

    But DON’T sit back wondering or whining about why no one is replying or talking to you. That only makes you appear as a whiner and complainer. Drama….eeeeuuuwwww.

  • December 10, 2008

    I think it’s also important not to lose sight of the context in which choose to announce your presence on Twitter.

    For example, if you run a blog about surfing, have created a Twitter account that specifically ties in with that blog and primarily advertise that Twitter account on your blog, people will be following you with the expectation that you’ll generally be twittering about surfing too.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t stray off-topic with your tweets — people expect a slightly more biographical slant in the twitterverse — but if only a very small percentage of your tweets relate to surfers in any way, then you should probably consider setting up a different Twitter account or reconsider the content of your tweets.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ll find a blog I enjoy, follow the associated Twitter ID mentioned on the blog (which invariably has the same name as the blog you’re following), only to find that they rarely tweet about the blog’s subject.

    Like I said, off-topic tweeting is fine, but it’s probably only go to be attractive to your veteran readers, where they’re essentially following YOU. But new readers who encounter your blog, enjoy it and decide to follow the blog’s associated Twitter ID will probably be expecting more on-topic tweets.

    Just something to consider before you start intertwining your Twitter ID with your blog.

  • December 10, 2008

    Well you are right, if you don’t really give something good in a friendship of day to day life, well of course you will never have what to give to others, and that its the result of have nothing to give louse friends and juts the same will happed in twitter, so in a way you have to give all you effort to be useful but not a stumble for others.

    good post to think on.

  • December 10, 2008

    I try to provide value to my followers every day by posting helpful links (usually to free software & services).

    I’ve received amazing help from the Twitterverse when I’ve posted questions about technical issues. And I’ve met some wonderful new friends and colleagues.

    It’s definitely been worth the time I spend there!

  • December 10, 2008
    yureg
    @yureg

    What about tweet for tweet? Without any reason? It’s not all about money..

  • December 10, 2008

    Thanks for the great tips. A plan is what has allowed me to get moving, I was just flopping around aimlessly there for a while.

  • December 10, 2008

    Great post :)

    I Tweeted via my iPhone yesterday when I was standing in a line to see Santa for 2 hours. It was nearly our turn and my 2 year old daughter pooped her pants just before we had to enter the magic cave. Not sure if that Tweet added value to others but Tweeting as a form of ‘release’ seemed like the right option at the time. I guess this is a great way to illustrate a ‘useless’ Tweet because it didn’t fulfill a need, it sure didn’t add value to the lives of others and it failed to solve any problems. My Tweet quality needs to be trained from now on ;)

  • December 10, 2008

    Nice post! I think that different people add value in different ways, but I can definitely identify with the different ways that I get what I need in different forms from different people that I follow.

  • December 10, 2008

    Twitter might the best illustration of social media tool: build a relevant community and give more than you take!

  • December 10, 2008

    It is great to add value to your tweets, to make them beneficial for others and to be mindful of those tweeting around you and developing relationships and retweeting between these different people. It’s great to feel like you’re tweet actually means something to someone.

    Sometimes, though, I have to tweet a random nothing. an “absolute rambling” if you will (Those who know me may see the link in that…;)

    I will think more about how I can add value to my tweeting from now on.

    Thanks Darren, good post..

    Sime

  • December 10, 2008

    Hey Darren, thanks for the reminder. I make it a practice to check my “profile” link once a day or so, and read my Tweets as if I were a stranger. It helps me to judge whether I’ve been able to entertain, educate or communicate well enough for anyone to want to follow me. Because you’re so right, you have to “give” in order to “get.”

  • December 10, 2008

    I read all the posted comments and the article, and I guess I’m different. I listen on Twitter more than I speak. I don’t follow friends. I follow people who know more than me. They for some reason are eager to share knowledge and I take it all in. I have nothing to offer my followers until they ask me for something that relates to the people I follow. I think knowing I have nothing to give avoids me posting useless crap.

  • December 10, 2008

    nice comment Mark – like that attitude.

  • December 10, 2008

    useful stuff. thanks.

  • December 10, 2008

    Shaun, you are doing it right now. You are interacting with the community and you’re giving us some awesome tips about buying piña colada cocktail fruit juice and all and all ;)

    That’s better than what most other SA ‘power users’ are doing.

  • December 10, 2008

    Most of this Twitter advice could probably be applied to anyone trying to market something. Solid advice…exactly what I’d expect from the ProBlogger author!

  • December 10, 2008

    IMO, Twitter is all about being

    Transparant, Informative, Interactive & Benignant.

    I sincerely unfollow tweeps posting their beerlogs/breakfast menus on twitter. I value time (mine & my followers) and expect my friends to value it too. I may be odd.

  • December 10, 2008

    Thanks for this Darren, it certainly helps those of us who are new to Twitter. I’ve taken a while to ‘get it’ but thanks for help from yourself and others, I’m getting there!

    Cheers and keep it going.

  • December 10, 2008

    I think that the discussion on twitter covers very much (as a newbie blogger) the same issues that I have discovered about blogging. Giving value to others and setting in motion a cycle of reciprocity and mutual relationships.

    Twitter is the new blogging!?

  • December 10, 2008

    Great post and site… I will come back for more

    Michael Bristol

  • December 10, 2008
    Karen Moorhead
    @a2karen

    I like the laugh part. Gotta smile, I say.

  • December 10, 2008

    All absolutely true. Twitter has two directions. Nice to see I am already getting some of that right.
    There are also people on twitter that only shout (give) and rarely listen (take). They usually have lots of followers but are not following many themselves. What about that? I sometimes think that these people really understand twitter.

  • December 11, 2008

    Shawn, you are doing things right: you are interacting with the community. You respond to DMs, you Retweet and you post awesome information about piña colada cocktail fruit juice ;)

  • December 11, 2008

    @joy-mari yeah I just knew that was going to come back and bite me ;-)

  • December 11, 2008

    So true. I want to add useful info to both twitter and my blog. Twitter inspires in me ideas that I already know, but may have forgotten, and then am able to share on Twitter. It also tosses me ideas for my blog, which I hope then can also help people that I am connected to or will be connected to in the future.

    BTW, Darren, don’t know if you answer these, but I like the way this blog is formatted. Is there software to be more creative in formatting and fonts?
    Thanks

  • December 11, 2008

    Sorry, I had wrong email last time.

  • December 11, 2008

    Mike,

    The Theme that Darren is using is Thesis by Chris Pearson. Darren wrote a post about this on Problogger. Read more about Thesis here.

    John

  • December 11, 2008

    Providing value on twitter isn’t rocket science…

    The most valuable thing you can do to a twitter relationship is make it real! Meet the person offline if they’re in your area and get them on the phone or skype if not. The biggest misconception is that social networking is actual networking, when in reality its social connecting. To networking you need to actually have something in common and know that you can call on that person when you need something…and they you.

  • December 13, 2008

    Here is one of my friend on twitter said which I quoted and retweeted and I agree with her :
    ” twitter,a place to come together lift up the struggling,the sick,the lonely in other words, all of us at some point.” http://twitter.com/DanTanner/status/1052982426

  • December 13, 2008

    Twitter has become a refuge for the lonely, sick and disenchanted. Some Egoistic personalities have also cashed in in a ruthless manner. Just look at the GURUS and those who do not follow others…. However this includes all of us at one point in life…

  • December 13, 2008

    Excellent points. In the short time I’ve been on twitter, I have found that the tweets I pay attention to most are those that are 1) useful – article links that I might find useful, intereting tidbits, etc. and 2) real, human interaction. I ended up creating two different twitter ids to keep my work stuff separate from my at-home lifesytle and have found that most useful be cause I’m connecting with the two groups differently and finding interesting people and information in a very targeted fashion. It’s been interesting and I’m looking forward to apply some of your insight. Thanks for sharing!

  • December 20, 2008

    That’s obvious…

    Gopal,
    ProductiveDreams.com

  • December 29, 2008

    I like your post, you really sound like a true evangelist!

  • February 9, 2009

    Hello, where I can find free photos for design?
    Give me a urls!

  • February 14, 2009

    Hi, thanks for the great info. I’m new to twitter and am still getting a handle on things. You’ve helped me a great deal.

    Thanks.

  • March 11, 2009
    DaveCahonne

    Never underestimate the power of the internet. An increasing number of people use the internet
    to search for a business or service so having a web presence is an important media for promoting
    your company. Web design is a real skill and if your website is to not only look good but work well,
    it should be constructed by a professional web designer.

    If you are interested, you can contact me: hqwebdesign (AT) gmail (DOT) com

  • March 18, 2009

    As my day job includes a lot of internet marketing , I enjoy Twitter as a place I can go and leave a little of myself ( with the added bonus of making good connections.Thanks for the article -good prospective for a newbie like me .

  • April 18, 2009

    An interesting line flowing through much of what is being said deals with being of service to others. Without hoping for, expecting, wanting, thinking about anything in return. To offer real service means to simply offer. I’m not so interested in people following me or following others simply to collect followers. I follow people who have something interesting to say that rises above the chatter and the clutter. One challenge of social media networking is the ability to be mindless about what goes up.
    Thanks for zeroing so specifically on the needs of the folks on Twitter. Great post.

  • April 18, 2009
    The_Real_AlexW
    @The_Real_AlexW

    I think this is a great post. If you think about life most people are concerned with their own needs. I’m not sure if many people’s first thought is how can they be a benifit to others. It’s hard cause your first thought is let people know what is going on in your life. You have to be open to other people’s needs and ideas. I would love to have people be entertained and educated by what I have to say on my twitter. First I have to dwell on this and hopefully I will be a benefit to someone.

  • May 26, 2009

    I hope there’s good info here.
    Is there just a lot of spam here or is there some useful info shared?
    Leave me a post and introduce yourself.

    Later, .

  • June 6, 2009

    I’ve been watching for a while but now i’m making my first post.
    I’m interested in getting some useful info, I hope this is the right place.
    Looking to meet new people to exchange info with,so leave me your name
    Peace,

    daily virgo horoscope
    web hosting

  • June 29, 2009

    Very helpful and positive forum, I have already learned a lot from just reading?

    Peggybird

  • August 22, 2009

    This is the general rule of business. (has nothing specific to do with twitter at all).

  • September 4, 2009
    Cassius M.
    @conanden

    @shannon

    It seems to me that you have it right; the best way to do Twitter is to be Janus-faced and have two accounts: one for promoting your business, website, point-of-view, whatever (pick ONE), and for nothing else; and a second one for silly fun social personal stuff that isn’t too serious.

    Because I have nothing directly to promote right now, I just have the silly one. I have, combined, less than 10 ppl followed and following.

  • September 24, 2009

    Great post

    I like to give everyone little snip its of how my life goes give some interesting stories etc. I hope more people will see this and find me interesting enough to follow!

  • November 11, 2009

    Good post. Useful information.

  • November 15, 2009

    Excellent article. What worries me is taht if you do not have people to follow you nobody will see your posts. Thats pretty depressing.

  • December 22, 2009

    thanks a bunch this helped so much. you rock!

  • December 29, 2009

    Nice post Darren! Just started using Twitter myself in the last few months and just know that your blog is going to be a regular watering hole for me. Your dead right though. If you don’t offer anything of value or something unique then there’s not much hope of achieving any real status online. You really do have to “Give in order to get”, but hey, you know that already. Good luck.

  • February 1, 2010
    kevin nguyen
    @thisit9877

    Now I know why i lose my followers. Thanks for the post! I really needed help on keeping my followers.

  • May 22, 2010

    I dig your philosophy. There’s so much pure b.s. on twitter, but I don’t think that will last.

  • May 25, 2010

    Be yourself. You are unique, you don’t have to copy others just to gain followers. You will attract people in your own way.

    http://twitter.com/lauraswan

  • May 26, 2010

    Adding value is crucial, t’s just a matter of finding the balance between adding value for audience AND for yourself.

  • May 30, 2010

    It’s like anything else in this world. The more you put in, the more you will get out. Being a leech never pays off. Hard work and contributing is what builds a brand. Tweeting useful things is what gets you recognition, and that’s what builds your reputation.

  • November 1, 2010

    I have been a terrible failure with twitter. Does it bring traffic ? Even worse – does it bring targeted traffic ? I mean, do people look for answers to their needs on twitter instead of google these days ?

    But given the twittermania, I am only afraid i might be missing the real and the big picture.

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