The secret to Twitter

I’ve been talking to lots of people about Twitter. Why is it so addictive? Why do new tools, shipped for it, like Quotably was tonight, get passed around so fast and talked about so much?

I’ve gone through stages with Twitter. At some point I thought it was important to get lots of followers. But lately I’ve been telling people that the secret to Twitter isn’t how many followers you have, but how many people you are following. Tonight Sheryl asked me to explain more: “why is the secret how many people you follow? Why is it important to follow so many people?”

Here’s why:

1. Getting followed just means you’re popular. Yes, that’s cool, but it hardly will make you interesting. Paris Hilton will have more Twitter members than I will, when she joins.
2. Getting followed a lot might mean you’re using it for a publishing system. If all you have is followers what makes that different from owning a newspaper, a radio station, a TV station, or, even, a Web site? Hint: nothing.
3. If you’re just trying to get followed you’re probably just needing attention or you might be Jason Calacanis.

But what does following a lot of people say?

1. You’re trying to learn more.
2. You’re trying to meet more people.
3. You’re trying to be a better listener.
4. You’re communicating to the world that you’d like to be listened to (golden rule: treat people how you’d like to be treated).
5. You’re trying to find out about more stuff. More events. More stories.

Now, who would you rather hang out with? A person who only talks and doesn’t listen? Or a person who listens to as many people as he can?

I know I’d rather hang out with someone who listens to more people.

Oh, yeah, and many of us on Twitter have been getting messages like what Mike Arrington got tonight. Now, I really don’t care about people who unfollow me anymore. Go ahead. Doesn’t make me feel bad. But the more people I follow, the smarter I get, the more connected I get, the better the experiences I have in life (see previous post).

So, that’s my new story. The secret to Twitter is how many people are you listening to, not how many people are listening to you.

Agree or disagree?

408 thoughts on “The secret to Twitter

  1. I agree and disagree.

    I follow a fair amount of people (475 currently) and have a fair amount of followers as well (661 right now.)

    Following a lot of people makes sure there is always something new to read, not just the same posts you saw 5x today already because there aren't enough posts to roll it off your page. Since I follow a variety of people in a variety of interest groups, I have a variety of different info presented to me all day.

    On the flipside, having a lot of followers, is important too. Now I probably don't need 100,000, but it is nice to have quite a few. Why? What if I need an opinion or recommendation? More people = more input. What if I am trying to find info on a subject I am unfamiliar with? Again, more people = more input. And more input = more conversations = more knowledge. Plus, when you have something to say it is nice to know that at least someone heard you.

    Sometimes to be able to listen, you have to be able to engage a convo. So I think both your followers and your followees are important numbers as they both enable you to be more interactive and to learn more :)

  2. i try and follow roughly in equal amounts as i find if i am following too many people i just cant keep up and maintain relationships with them, i do dseem to get a few followers coming from my website http://www.chewingbrokenglass.com which is always good, but most of my followers are people i have followed

    @tri5tan

  3. Spread the word…twitter allows to give away knowledge…and start listening to knowledge of other people. What a great way to learn about life, people, your work, your interests.

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