Dec 14 2009

How to Use Twitter Effectively – What Twitter Type are You?

Back in December, I wrote this post about Twitter. A lot has happened to this Internet microblogging company in the ten months since then, including its recent reception of 100 million dollars in funding and its valuation at one billion dollars. This past June, 44.5 million worldwide visitors checked out Twitter, which was up 15 fold from the previous year (comScore).

I thought it would make sense to share some of my observations, including thoughts on “types” of users, takeaways for eCommerce companies, and some cool tools that will help you get the most out of Twitter.

Feeling Overwhelmed By Tweets? Then Follow the Path of the Most Popular Users

I suffered from Twitter burnout over the summer, a common occurrence that involves becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of tweets and the lightning speed at which they bombard you. “How,” I wondered out loud to the cat, “do the most popular Twitter users keep up with and respond to all the tweets?” Then I stopped and wondered how many people these top users were actually following.

According to, some of the top 10 users are Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres, Kim Kardashian, Ryan Seacrest, and John Mayer. At the writing of this post, here’s the breakdown in followers and following:

  • Ashton has over 3.7 million followers, but he’s following only 236.
  • Ellen has 3.5 million followers, but she’s following only 27.
  • Ryan has over 2.4 million followers, but he’s following only 123.
  • Kim Kardashian has over 2.5 million followers, but she’s following only 67.
  • John Mayer has 2.4 million followers, and he’s following only 68.

So what can we learn from this, if anything? Here’s my take: how you use Twitter depends on who you are, what your goals are, and what you’re looking to achieve.

My Take: Types of Twitter Users:

Fan Base Nurturers: These Twitter users are looking to connect with and engage with their fan base, yet it’s mostly a one-way conversation. In other words, Ashton Kutcher’s followers hear about all the ins and outs of his day, but he doesn’t hear everything going on with the 3.7 million people who are following him.

Fan Base Nurturers include celebrities, big-name politicians (think John McCain – his senator account has 1.4 followers and only 64 that he’s following), and the select guru.

This doesn’t mean all celebs, politicians, gurus etc. use Twitter this way. President Obama’s account shows 2.3 millions followers and over 755,000 that he’s following. Ditto with Britney Spears. Both approaches seem to work/be effective.

Big Brands: What’s the difference between a “big brand” and a big celebrity, which many could argue is a brand as well? Big Brands have people doing their social media work. I’m not saying all big celebs are doing their own tweets. But we know Ashton is. Ditto John Mayer.

This brings me back to the whole “Twitter burnout overwhelm” disease. If you’re one person, you’d likely go nutty if you were following over a million people (think of all the tweets!). If you’re a Big Brand, it’s no sweat because there’s likely a dedicated person, like a social media director, or team in charge of following the conversation, responding, and engaging.

This is why @Starbucks, @Zappos, and @SouthwestAir have a ton of followers…and why they’re following a ton of people back (I remember how I felt when Dunkin Donuts followed me–me!). Big Brands can carry on two-way conversations with customers in real-time. Obviously, there’s huge incentive to do this, and to do it well.

But where does that leave the rest of us? Somewhere in the middle.

The Resource: This person or company simply offers useful information to followers. They don’t follow a ton of tweeple but they’re followed by a healthy amount. Think news outfits, like @BreakingNEWS.

The take-away for eCommerce companies
This model could be a good approach for smaller entities, even e-retailers, that don’t have the luxury of the Big Brand budget. For example, maybe you sell jewelry online. Make all your tweets informative, useful resources on all types of jewelry, including history, care, cleaning, etc. Or maybe you sell sporting apparel online. Make your tweets about sport trivia, history of certain games, etc. Of course, including the occasional promotion is perfectly acceptable, too.

While this approach does require legwork on your end (doing research etc.), the people who follow you will come to understand that your brand is all about providing great, fun info (as opposed to being a brand that they can have a two-way conversation with).

While some might argue that this defeats the purpose of “social” media, I’d say this: one major key to social media is consistency, whether it’s blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. (The other keys being transparency and and relevance.) I’d rather have a brand that provides regular tweets–even if the tweets aren’t directly responding to followers. My hunch is this: when people follow a brand, they don’t necessarily expect to receive a follow back. (It’s a pleasant surprise when they do.) They follow because they like the brand.

Take advantage of this approach, especially if you’ve been suffering from Twitter Burnout.

The Geek: This person or company is all about social media. They sleep with their iPhones and possibly tweet in their sleep. They have a healthy number of followers and they follow a bunch of people–and engage with them. For them, Twitter is all about having a two-way conversation. @mvolpe , @emailcopywriter and @jessicagotlieb are some examples off the top of my head.

Take away for eCommerce companies:
If you’re selling something to an audience that lives and breathes social media, like Twitter, or if you’re selling something that’s extremely techie and innovative, this approach might be the way to go. How do you know for sure? Well, although we can all fall victim to Twitter Burnout, you probably aren’t overwhelmed by a high volume of tweets and you love–simply LOVE–the interaction.

The Replayer: This person or entity is already a fantastic blogger– @copyblogger–or is just really good at simply pointing people back to the company website: @guykawasaki. The person/entity might be following a ton of people…or not. It’s more about a one-way conversation, but the fact that he/she/it has regular tweets coming through helps engage an audience.

Takeaway for eCommerce companies:
If you’ve been running a well-trafficked blog and you’re dedicated to doing that, use Twitter as a place to rebroadcast your blog posts. This will give you a Twitter presence until (or if) you decide to become more active.

Some Cool Twitter Tools/Apps

Here are some cool tools that I’ve found helpful:

  • TwitterFeed: allows you to automatically broadcast your blog posts to Twitter
  • Twuffer: Allows you to schedule your tweets (perfect for The Resource type)
  • Qwitter: For the OCD among us, this tells you who has unfollowed you
  • PingFM: do your status updates in one place and have them feed all your social networks

I’d love to learn about some of your favorite Twitter tools/apps. Leave me your top two or three in the comments thread.

Blue Acorn


Jason Dutka
Jan 31 2010

Thanks for the post! People are crazy for not using more Twitter.


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