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How to Be a Better Leader – and Person to Follow – on Twitter

I know what you’re thinking. This woman has tweeted almost 90,000 times and has over 15,000 followers, she must not have a life. Or, she must be a “machine” pre-scheduling all of those tweets, or seriously driven to increase her following.

If you were thinking any of those things, you would be wrong.

As someone who works with a lot of nonprofits, I actually see it as my MISSION to show people how to do Twitter differently. I am here to help you approach the entire endeavor with fresh eyes. My goal is to show you how to develop an authentic leadership platform that will result in your being the established, go-to-follow expert in your field. And, all of this, without forcing you to keep your eye on your phone 24/7.

Forget Everything You Think You Know About Twitter

“Ugh. I hate Twitter, and I’m not on LinkedIn.”

For over 15 years, I’ve worked with many prominent business leaders, nonprofits, and non-governmental organization (NGO) clients (and plenty of leaders somewhere in between) on their communication strategies and leadership platform development. And it was just a little over 10 years ago when Twitter became part of my own personal strategy. I was admittedly a little reluctant myself. But here’s what I’ve learned: Twitter is the most powerful peer-to-peer platform for building a B2B (as opposed to consumer-facing) leadership presence. And, by that I mean it is a fantastic place to share expertise, contribute links, add value, and forge connections. 

Being regarded as a “leader” on Twitter in no way translates to instant success for your business, but it can truly (when used well) provide the audience and the channel to become an influential authority on a particular subject or in a particular industry. 

Here’s what most people do wrong:

  • They automate their posts in the hopes to ‘set and forget it’ and become ‘Twitter famous’ overnight
  • They wait too long to join, thinking they have to be established in order to share their voice and their opinion
  • They share generic, inauthentic tweets assuming it’s what people want to hear from them
  • They turn their Twitter handle over to someone else to manage
  • They broadcast their own posts but they don’t share and tag the wisdom of others
“Learned Twitter”: What to Do Instead

Find Your Sweet Spot, Ignore the Fluff

The first thing to do after joining Twitter is to follow lists and hashtags. Don’t feel obliged to continuously monitor your home stream (very unlike Facebook, I know). Even if you simply take this first step – of following Twitter content deliberately – the insight you gain will be well worth your few minutes on Twitter each day. 

Schedule Your Time, Not Your Tweets

People assume that the number of my tweets must mean that I’m always on Twitter, and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I lead a fairly minimalistic life when it comes to how much technology I allow into my day. After business hours, I put my phone down. And I encourage you to do the same. Take control of your own approach, and identify the wisest, most productive times to tweet. (For you, that might be 10 minutes a day on the train on the way to work – and that is FINE.)

Listen and Learn – and Then Share the Love

Figure out who the influential voices are in your space – and follow them. Listen to what they’re tweeting about and dial into their conversations. Contribute your own expertise and opinions in tandem with these fellow leaders (yes, you are a leader too!). Don’t be a “me, me, me” tweeter. Instead, strive for a “rising tide that lifts all boats”-mentality. This involves curating relevant content and sharing your perspective on it. Always be thinking about how your point of view can add value to the conversation – and then tweet it.

Here’s one of my biggest tips: when you share an article, be sure to give a shout out to the writer. I see a lot of Twitter users share an article from, let’s say, the New York Times and then (maybe) tag the New York Times handle (@nytimes) in their tweet, for example. But here’s the thing, the New York Times doesn’t care and doesn’t gain anything by building a relationship of give and take with you. But guess who is more likely to appreciate the tag? The writer. Include their handle instead, but do so expecting NOTHING in return.

Be Human

When people follow @AndreaLearned, that’s exactly who they get. I’m definitely quirky, I’m oh-so opinionated on a few topics – I am an activist after all – and I’ve heard (from some) that I can be funny, but the bottom line is that I’m a person. I’m not an automated tool pushing out content or tweets I think my audience wants to hear. I share what’s relevant and what matters in my world, and that’s it. The people who get something out of my curation of tweets tend to stick around, and they regularly engage with me (the ins and outs of driving deeper levels of engagement is a separate topic). 

As someone who works with a lot of nonprofits, I actually see it as my MISSION to show people how to do Twitter differently.
-Andrea Learned

Clinton Senkow

A lot of people new to Twitter make the same big mistake: they read Twitter advice that’s intended for corporate accounts. It tends to be steeped in consumer-facing tactics – and it’s not well-designed for positioning yourself as a key, long-term industry resource. 

Instead, when you tune into what matters to you and start contributing value – links, research, and commentary – an amazing thing happens: a community of warm connections develop and you organically become a sought-after voice in your space. 

If you’d like coaching on how to become an expert on Twitter, let’s schedule a meeting. 

I’ve seen my philosophy shed a whole new light on Twitter, and jumpstart engagement for my clients almost immediately. Let’s talk!

Andrea Learned is a global climate action influencer with a 25-year career in marketing, communications and thought leadership platform building. In her early career, Andrea was recognized as a marketing to women leader, during which time she co-authored the book, Don’t Think Pink, and spoke internationally on the topic. Since the early 2000s, Andrea has written for publications that include Greenbiz, The Guardian and The Huffington Post, as well as her own blog at LearnedOn.com

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