Use Twitter

“We must help children on the autism spectrum to get in touch with their emotions,” Kamini Lakhani said one day. “Because it’s difficult for them to understand emotions, they do and say things that people find ‘abnormal’ “, she explained. “Addressing this will make it easier for them to build genuine relationships and lead more fulfilling lives.”

Kamini is a brilliant woman. Each time she speaks, I listen in awe. Just like a million other interactions with her, this one was a revelation for me. It gave me deeper insights into autism. I shared these thoughts on Reddit to get opinions of others who know about the condition. One of them (on the autism spectrum herself) knocked the wind out of my lungs with her response.

“One of my largest barriers to forming relationships is that I am expected to learn and accommodate (sic) others’ emotions, but their social instincts keep them from accomodating (sic) mine. The one-sided work involved defeats the purpose of having relationships in the first place. Until non-autistic people become able to put themselves in my shoes and see things from my perspective, all relationships with non-autistic people will be one-sided for me.”

WOW!

It’s unfair of us to expect individuals with autism to understand our feelings while we refuse to accommodate theirs, right? Now let’s apply this logic to a platform I understand slightly better – Twitter.

With just around 23 million users in India and 320 million global active users, Twitter sits a lowly ninth on the social network charts ranked by active users. Most people say just one thing about it, “I don’t get Twitter. How does it work? How am I supposed to say all that I want to in 140 characters?”

And that, my friend, is the problem. Not Twitter’s, but ours.

how to use twitter

For most of us, social media is a platform for distribution, not interaction. It’s about what we want to say, about our opinions and perspectives, however petty they may be. We believe that everything is about us. True to our belief, we make Twitter about ourselves. The result? Our tweets don’t evoke responses. Our follower count doesn’t increase. And we say, “Twitter doesn’t work. It’s useless.”

Honestly though. Can the platform where Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Taylor Swift, Sachin Tendulkar, Smriti Irani, Narendra Modi and other celebrities are their authentic selves, not work? Can the platform that galvanized a nation to overthrow a dictator not work? Can the platform which media journos use to find breaking news, not work?

We must understand how Twitter functions. Facebook is where we talk about what we did, and rant in essays. Facebook is where we hang out with people whom we went to school with. Twitter is where the people whom we wish we went to school with, hang out. And we can hang out with them. Experts, real experts, in every field are present on it, and are dispensing wisdom for free. They are not just talking, they are holding conversations. They are not just sharing their perspectives, but also those of people whom they admire.

Now, here’s a question. Sleep on it if you have to. When you hang out with wise people, will you talk about yourself? Or would you rather listen and absorb pearls of wisdom?

Yes, I hear you. People are talking on Twitter too, you say. What’s the fun in engaging on a platform where we only listen? Heck, Vishal, you keep talking on Twitter too!

And you’re one hundred percent right. But conversations on Twitter are of a different kind.

Gary Vaynerchuk sums it up brilliantly. He asks us to imagine two friends: one who keeps talking about himself, and the other who is there for us when needed. Whom would you rather hang out with? The non-experts who have figured Twitter out are like the latter.

The 140-character restriction doesn’t just help us keep our writing concise. It also helps us streamline our thoughts. On Twitter, it’s about one idea. Not ten, not one hundred. One.

Chris Anderson is talking about public speaking. But this concept can easily be applied to Twitter. It’s about how crisply can you lay the idea out in 140 characters (or less). If you share a blog post, can you intrigue people about the idea in about 120 characters or less?

To get a hang of Twitter, start following thirty accounts. In the Search field, type the topic that interests you, click on people, and browse through their tweets. Do they make you think? Do you enjoy reading them? Follow the accounts whose tweets interest you. They don’t have to belong to a single category. 2-3 categories are fine. When you start following more people, start creating lists. These lists let you focus on – yup – one topic.

how to use twitter lists

Some of my Twitter Lists

Twitter is an experience. And in an experience, the intangibles hold more value. But on Twitter, like everywhere else, we place more emphasis on the tangible versus the intangible, the visible versus the invisible. We give more importance to the follower count rather than the value a person adds. I’ve seen profiles which follow just 700 accounts and have 14,000 followers. But their last twenty one tweets have received no engagement. (I’m sure the number is higher. I just stopped scrolling.) Followers can be bought. That doesn’t mean that such people make sense.

So follow accounts which add value to you. Value doesn’t only mean making your life better. Anything that can make you laugh, or move you, push you to feel something or act on it adds value. The more you follow these accounts, the more addictive Twitter becomes. And you develop the trait of creating and sharing value in whatever you do. This trait will change your life.

Twitter is the equalizer. It provides a platform for people to expose the truth, the other side to stories published by the lie-peddling media. It gives you access to information and perspectives that you wouldn’t otherwise know, even if you were a Google ninja. It lets you consume content in seconds. If something stokes your interest, you can dive deeper into it. Otherwise, you can move on to the next thing. If you truly want to experience this stellar platform, to find sense in the chaos, spend time on it. Start with ten minutes each day. Soon the number will shoot to thirty, and then go into hours.

I am a Twitter addict, like millions. It has taught me more than my MBA has. I have made more amazing connections through Twitter than through Facebook, LinkedIn, and the offline world put together. It has helped me write better, think better, and evolve as a person. To conduct research, I turn to Google. But to develop a perspective, I turn to Twitter. It’s hard to believe that a social media platform can do this to someone. But I am not the only one who believes that this experience has changed his life. Do you want to feel the same way? Then stay tuned. This month, I’ll post insights on how you can crack the Twitter code.

And if you enjoy Twitter, do share why you like it in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

header image: credit

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vishal Kataria

    COMMENTS (20)

  1. Shailaja Vishwanath

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    I agree completely. Each social network is different and what we do to leverage it and work with it lies in our hands. My Twitter tips post last week touches upon these points mentioned in the article too :)

    This also links back to your other article on marketing vs telling a story, one which resonated with me the most. Every platform has its pluses. It’s up to us to find out what they are and work on them accordingly.

    Reply

    • Vishal Kataria

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      Yes Shailaja. Your post on Twitter tips was really insightful, and this article complements it well, I think. Along with the plusses, understanding the context of each platform is important… why people are present there, and how we can be part of the conversation with them.

      Reply

  2. rajlakshmi

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    I am yet to use twitter correctly … I am just plain lazy sometimes. But Twitter has so much potential, for business, popularity, social causes… it’s amazing how much power 140 characters can have.

    Reply

  3. My Era

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    I use Twitter extensively and I completely agree with the points you’ve made, especially that it is important to ponder over “Why should someone follow you?”.
    I think it takes time to understand how Twitter works (like any other platform) but the one thing I love about it is the massive exposure it provides. While it is totally up to us to choose whom we follow, searching effectively can help us discover amazing set of people every single time.
    Looking forward to your insights on cracking the Twitter code :)

    Reply

    • Vishal Kataria

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      Absolutely ME. I rarely use the Search button to follow people anymore. I keep looking for people being mentioned or quoted by those whom I hold in high regards, and follow them.

      Discovering amazing people is key to using Twitter effectively.

      Reply

  4. purvesh gada

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    I am a Twitter addict too. Totally agree to the points you have made. This blog will surely give a different perspective to many people.

    Also one more point. Twitter is highly instrumental in polarizing opinions/ viewpoints by way of using influenzers. It also helps in validating our views/opinions about things, by subconsciously reading only selective tweets and discarding/ignoring contradictory tweets.

    Finally, i think opinions/perspective should not be formed only by what twitter says, but by other sources of information like newspapers, whitepapers, reports, friends, news, other media and our own judgement.

    Overall, a very informative blog….

    Reply

    • Vishal Kataria

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      That’s true Purvesh. Twitter is essentially used by people, and it’s difficult for most of us to try and get to the bottom of the truth. Polarized opinions are rampant on Twitter, but facts are also available on it. If we are people who like going to the bottom of things, we will find those.

      Thanks for adding the insightful point.

      Reply

  5. Rachna

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    I actually don’t spend too much time on it. But l enjoy Twitter. It is my daily dose of humor. It is a neat way to engage with absolute strangers. It is also a good way to keep up with news and post updates. It is interesting to observe and absorb. But spending hours on any social media network is just not my thing. Max l login 2-3 times a day and l’ve gone days without logging in as well. Let’s just say l am happy with how and why l use Twitter. Those were interesting tips.

    Reply

  6. Tushar Gangoly

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    This is by far one of your best blogs – you weaved spirituality, technology and emotions into it beautifully.
    Let me just say – I am starting my twitter account today and following you!

    Reply

  7. Nabanita Dhar

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    Those were some interesting tips…I enjoy Twitter but sometimes Twitter causes a lot of stress for me too…These days I’m feeling very averse to Twitter..don’t know, maybe the negativity I see on it sometimes gets too much…But having said that , it’s fun too

    Reply

  8. Jaibala Rao

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    I have begun to realise that I am in love with Twitter as a Social Media Platform, for all the reason you mentioned and so many more. It is my go to space for when I want perspectives, (though I may not necessarily agree with what I read, it does give me better understanding of why certain things are being said) and sometimes even information. It is easier to connect with people on Twitter and easier to be you on there, is what I think. Twitter is the media for interaction.

    Reply

    • Vishal Kataria

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      Yes haibala. Twitter is about interactions. Any open social media platform is. And it is the deepest, and most untapped, source of knowledge, information and perspective. It can make anyone who uses it well, smarter…

      Reply

  9. Mithila Menezes

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    Twitter is my number one favourite social media. Facebook is just a way to keep everyone updated about your achievements, and hide all the other details. Twitter is more about connecting with people you might never end up meeting. It gives you an opportunity to read into the minds of people, and develop your own perspectives and thinking style.
    Really, Twitter is the best way of expressing oneself and learning, if one knows how to tap this potential optimally! :)

    Reply

  10. Sid

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    I have to be honest – it took me a while to get Twitter. I started my account in 2009, but it wasn’t until last year that I started to use it actively. I quite like Twitter; yes, trolls are there – but then again they are there everywhere.
    Of course, I like the concise nature of it too.

    Reply

    • Vishal Kataria

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      Glad to hear that Sid. Yes, trolls are present, but like everywhere in life, it’s best to ignore them, because they don’t have anything better to do.

      Yes, I notice that the concise nature lets you put out tiny tales about your son and you in humorous form. Keep up the awesome work.

      Reply

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