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10 - Twitter
If the following information sounds a little familiar, as though you might have read it before in Crush It!, that’s because you did. The strategy for building a brand on Twitter has changed little in nine years, but most people still haven’t learned how to do it correctly and effectively.
Twitter is the water cooler of society, that place where everyone goes to get the latest update on whatever news or pop-culture event is occurring. The only difference is that, while office workers used to have to wait until the day after an event to gather around and share their knowledge and opinions, now that conversation is happening in real time, 24/7.
At the time of this writing, Twitter, in this one man’s opinion, is in a really tricky spot. It continues to remain the only pure social network, a place where people interact with content, with each other, and with events in a way that doesn’t happen anywhere else. Other platforms started out as social networks, to be sure, but eventually became content management systems. There is engagement, but on a far smaller scale than on Twitter. On Twitter, in an instant you can dive into any conversation about any topic—cooking, outer space, wine, sneakers, politics, skateboards, seltzer. Done wisely, this engagement will compel people to seek out your content elsewhere. Unfortunately, this ease of interaction led Twitter to develop more into a conversation platform than a consumption platform. People talk a lot on Twitter, and the sheer volume is problematic. You’re going to consume a lot more of what I say if you hear me speak at a keynote than if we’re having a conversation, because when we talk, especially in a group, we’ll probably interrupt each other, talk over each other, and get distracted by what else is going on in the room. It’s difficult for consumers to absorb everything you want them to when you’re talking to them on Twitter. The constant chatter and massive volume has been great for the spread of ideas, which is good for influencers and media outlets, but the chat glut has also made it harder for people to break out as Twitter personalities.
Twitter is disproportionately the place to listen, react, and hijack. Problem is, most people aren’t very good listeners, and it’s often an especially big challenge for the types of people who want to build personal brands so the world will listen to them. But listening well is the key to engaging well on Twitter. It’s by listening that you can find the conversation threads that can lead you to the people passionate about the subject around which you’re going to grow your influence. If you’re a lawyer who wants to be the next influential sportscaster, it’s likely you’re going to put out amazing sports-related commentary on YouTube and create a sports podcast. Getting anyone to give you even a passing glance on those platforms, however, will depend almost exclusively on the quality of your content, and even then a huge number of people just won’t see you. But on Twitter, a rising sportscaster could make it her mission to find all the people—every single one—talking about Kolten Wong, Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals, or the Cardinals’ archrivals, the Cubs, Chicago, or Wrigley Field, and reply in some unthreatening, interesting way that creates a connection between her and each sports fan. The next day, she could do the very same thing for people talking about the Jets and all Jets-related topics. If she does it well and frequently enough, eventually she can virtually grab these people by the shoulders and point them straight toward her website, YouTube channel, or podcast.
The thing is, it will take a shitload of discipline and patience. Let me define discipline: it’s backing up your ambitions with your actions. This rookie will need to spend four, five, even six hours a day on this kind of engagement, often in the predawn hours, if she wants to become the next Linda Cohn. If she just wants a little name recognition from her town’s bar regulars when they talk about their local team, then twenty or forty minutes per day will be perfectly adequate. Maybe.
Now, keeping people’s attention and nabbing a subscription or a loyal fan will still rely entirely on the quality of what those consumers find on our rookie sportscaster’s website, but the point is that Twitter gives you a chance to both lure and lasso—or jab and right hook—people into your orbit in a way that no other platform does. It’s a slow, slow, slow process and an immense amount of work, but if you’re willing to do it and your content is special, you should see a payoff.
Biz-dev. Everyone knows that Twitter is still the number-one place to get my attention because, to this day, I’m still consuming what people are saying about me there more than on all other platforms combined. That’s true for many other people in different fields. Because it was built to be a conversation platform, Twitter is an interesting place to jump-start biz-dev opportunities or collaborations as you grow your brand—maybe even the best place. For example, some influencers have hundreds of thousands, even millions, of followers on Instagram, but only a few thousand on Twitter. Where do you think they get the most requests for favors or collabs? Instagram. So even though they probably spend more time on Instagram, you’re more likely to have a better chance of getting a response if you DM them on Twitter, where there is less competition for their attention.
There are several other advantages to using Twitter as your pillar content:
It’s a complete and trustworthy directory. The platform has been around long enough to have perfected its verification system, which gives it a better search function. You can still spend a lot of time guessing whether the Instagram account you’re targeting is real or not.
Its retweet feature offers a remarkable opportunity to create instant awareness. Let’s say you make a YouTube mash-up of the rapper Logic’s music videos. It’s unlikely he’s going to see it, even if he’s tagged. Share the mash-up on Twitter, however, and the retweets can propel your video to dramatic virality, the kind that even the biggest influencers notice. This kind of word of mouth does not exist on Instagram or Snapchat and is enormously beneficial to content creators.
Not only that, you can try to spark that word of mouth many, many more times on Twitter than on other platforms. I post three, maybe four times per day on Instagram, but there are days when I could post forty-seven times on Twitter. The fact that it’s as welcoming to the written word as to pictures gives content creators the flexibility and leeway to increase the volume of their storytelling.
On Twitter, you are always just one comment away from getting noticed and making a name for yourself, so the more times you get a chance to talk, the better. Remember, though, that the best dinner guests are not just great storytellers, but also great listeners. So bring all your smarts, your wit, and your cleverness to the party, keep the conversation going by engaging everyone around you, and watch your influence grow and your opportunities multiply. There’s no other platform that gives you this opening to introduce yourself to so many people so often. Don’t ignore it.
Let’s say you’re a twenty-two-year-old college student named Anna, and your dream is to be a sports commentator. I know there are a lot of you out there because you e-mail me pretty much every month asking me to help you get an internship at ESPN or Bleacher Report or Barstool Sports. You know what that means? That means that even the kids who have spent most of their lives steeped in social media and can hardly remember a time before Twitter are still looking at the world through a narrow lens and completely missing the big career and personal brand–building opportunities right in front of them.
The wonderful thing about sports is that they’re a great equalizer. Any basketball fan can walk up to a group of twenty people they don’t know debating LeBron versus Jordan and within minutes be part of the mix. For many people, they’re the easiest icebreaker. Sports also help people ease into new relationships, offering a way to connect with strangers without having to rely on other social identifiers, like your job, neighborhood, or school. Twitter was built for those kinds of conversations. In fact, there’s no better place than Twitter for sports personalities and enthusiasts, because there is literally no limit to the number and kind of sports conversations in which you could engage.
Now think about this: who do you think has a better chance of getting an internship with ESPN: (a) the unknown kid who sends her résumé in along with four thousand other people applying for the same job and has nothing but a prayer that the director of the internship program will bother to look at her portfolio, or (b) the kid who becomes a regular, active presence in the Twitter feeds of all the ESPN personalities and staff who actually rely on intern help?
The thing that differentiates sportscasters from one another is their greater or lesser ability to synthesize data, of course, but also the particular ways they add their two or three or nine cents to the event at hand, whether it’s the McGregor versus Mayweather fight, or the Cavaliers versus the Warriors, or the Wimbledon tennis finals. Twitter is unmatched in its ability to help you amplify your voice and your brand. If you’re looking for a job or hoping to make your mark in an industry, consider your activity there as the longest interview of your life. And that’s a good thing. There are few feelings more frustrating than leaving an interview wishing you could have said one more thing to show off what you know or to emphasize your value to an organization. You never have to feel that way on Twitter; the forum gives you endless opportunities to prove why you’re special and deserve to be respected.
So use Twitter to show the world—and in particular, all the important people at various sports outlets who might need interns—your unique perspective and personality.
Start by looking at the trending topics (in the mobile app, you’ll see them listed when you click on the Search symbol). There is bound to be something sports related there. Click on it, and then start expressing your thoughts. You can do this in two ways. You could just start writing. With a 280-character limit, it could take you eleven tweets to say everything you want to, but that’s OK. Or you could try recording a video of yourself talking about the topic (the current video time limit on Twitter is 140 seconds), then posting that. Include the relevant hashtag so that everyone else searching for information on that topic will see your tweets. Once you’ve exhausted yourself with the trends, start searching other sports topics and inserting yourself into the conversations happening around them by replying to people’s tweets. You show you’re well rounded by sharing your thoughts all day, every day, via text or video, on everything from the NHL to MMA, the PGA, and World Taekwondo (which was known as the WTF until June 2017, when it rebranded and dropped the word Federation from its name). You reply to famous people, you create content in response to well-known sportswriters, personalities, coaches, and athletes. You give yourself every possible opportunity to be discovered as people hit those hashtags and watch those conversations.
Done right, this should take you four to six hours.
That’s day one.
On day two, you do it again—for four to six hours, or as many as you can spare when you’re not at work or school. Remember, eleven minutes is eleven more than zero, but also remember, twelve minutes gives you more at bats to win than eleven.
Day three is a Saturday. Awesome! It’s your day off! That means you can spend ten to seventeen hours seeking out sports-related topics and engaging with others interested in them, too.
Day four, Sunday, the day of rest. You “sleep in”—an extra hour—so you only get ten to sixteen hours to work, but you make them count.
Day five. Monday. Go to work, go to school. Tweet during any downtime, such as lunch or walking between classes. Meet your parents for dinner (put the phone away). Go home. Study for your upcoming test if you must,* and tweet until two a.m.
Do this repeatedly, consistently, constantly, until your thumbs are callused and your eyes are bleeding, or at least until you feel they should be.
One of those tweets, maybe within those five days but probably more like a year down the line, will be the piece of content that catches the eye of someone at a sports station in Kansas City or Montreal or Chicago, who will reach out to you to find out where you’re working and whether you’d be interested in joining their team. Or maybe a news station will contact you and ask you to comment for an article (news stations monitor Twitter closely for material). One piece of content in a Twitter environment can be worth a hundred on any other platform. It’s that disproportionately impactful.
I want to make something very clear. This book, like 99 percent of my content, is for people who aren’t 100 percent happy, for those who complain or wish or hope or wonder “What if?” I talk about working twelve-, fourteen-, or seventeen-hour days because that’s what it took most of today’s success stories and entrepreneurial role models to get to where they are. I don’t actually recommend unhealthy lifestyles, like getting too little sleep or isolating yourself from your family, but to all the critics who say entrepreneurs like you and me don’t have work-life balance or are shortchanging our health, I ask you this: has it ever occurred to you that the people you’re insisting should get eight hours of sleep are so unhappy with the sixteen hours they’re awake that they’re willing to invest this many hours to change their lives for the better? Which would you rather have, a long night’s sleep and sixteen hours of misery every day or a little less sleep but twenty hours of wide-awake joy? I’ll pick joy every time, and so will most people who are crushing it.
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