Lessons Learned after 20,000 Tweets

At some point in the past week, I crossed the 20,000 tweets threshold on Twitter.


  • That’s five figures of 140 character messages.
  • That’s 20 grand’s worth of thoughts, replies, and nonsensical statements.
  • That’s a lot of time reacting, and a little time creating.

What have I learned in the past four years of tweeting over 20,000 times?

A few things…

Less is more

I used to tweet twenty or thirty times a day.

Any time a thought came to mind, I’d share it. Anytime I came across an article or quote I liked, it went onto twitter.

Now, I try to do more through less. I try to share only a handful of helpful resources, tips, and insights. And it’s working. What I mean by that is that people are listening and paying attention.

The response has been staggering; apparently, people like hearing from you when you really have something to say (and not when you don’t).

This has forced me to be more thoughtful with my tweets and try to say as much as I possible can in as little words as possible.

Others first

Twitter isn’t really about me. It’s about you. After all, I’m showing up in your feed.

So that’s what I’ve tried to do — find ways to serve other people, make the conversation about them, or make them better.

Every time I talk a bunch about me, people usually disconnect. But when I ask questions, give advice, share resources, others are excited to come along for the journey.

When I interviewed Michael Hyatt on Twitter, hundreds of people joined in the conversation each night for a week.

Moreover, whenever I’ve made Twitter more about me, it’s been less than fulfilling. Life is more fun when it’s not just about you (yep, even on social media).

Conversation is king

The best type of content shared on Twitter is a conversation.

One of the reasons I have 20,000 tweets is because more than half of those are replies or mentions of other people.

While Twitter has a direct message function, the best way to get onto someone’s radar (even someone famous) is to tweet at them publicly. It’s also the best way to acknowledge someone or thank them.

Of course, only someone who is following both you and that person will see this in their feed. But the point is that this thing is messy. It’s about community and friendship and connection.

When Twitter merely becomes a broadcast medium or a celebrity platform, it loses its potential to bring two very different people from different parts of the world together.

And that’s what’s fun and powerful about social media — the fact that it’s social.

The next 20,000 tweets

I’ve made a lot mistakes on Twitter.

I’ve said some dumb things and every once in awhile done something kinda smart. But I want to be a lot more intentional with the next 20,000 tweets (which, I hope, will take me a lot longer to get to than the first 20K).

I am going to try to say less with more, seek to serve others first, and above all, be relational.

Let’s see how it goes.

Are you on Twitter? What lessons have you learned from tweeting, Facebooking, etc.?

By the way, you can follow me on Twitter here.

*Photo credit: hongkiat

50 thoughts on “Lessons Learned after 20,000 Tweets

  1. These are great tips, Jeff. My favorite part of Twitter is the community and relationship building. I interract with quite a few writers on a daily basis. The one thing that I’ve noticed that can turn others off from a certain Twitter feed is constant promotion of one’s own book or cause, with little or no conversation about anything else. Twitter is first and foremost social. I think authors sometimes forget that they’re not out to sell their one book or promote their one blog, they’re out there in social media world to sell themselves and promote who they are. The best way to do this is to socialize – get to know others through conversation. Build relationships. That’s how we promote our work. We get them interested in the person first.

  2. I’m on twitter @jonstolpe:twitter !  I don’t have nearly that many tweets – not even close.  But I have learned to be wise in my tweeting and facebooking (I’m not sure these are words, but they should be).  Once you write something down and hit the send button, it’s out there.  Even if you can delete it later, what you write and publish on-line can be read by just about anyone.  I don’t think I’ve offended too many people, but I try to be wise in what I write.

    Congrats on 20,000 tweets!  And thanks for sharing what you’ve learned along the way.

  3. What you observed about yourself, I am also seeing in my experience: how I use Twitter has changed over time. Some of the people I initially followed have led me to others who are more prominent now. Sharing information and engaging in conversations is fun when you recognize someone from past exchanges but I still like ‘meeting’ someone new. All this takes time so it is better when I can sit and dedicate myself to it. What I invest in it is returned in a better experience–as you put it, being more intentional. Thanks for articulating it so well.

  4. I’ve been re-working my Twitter strategy as well, but still haven’t found a happy medium.  Been trying to make it more about others and getting rid of the nonsensical details about my life.  No one really needs to know I at lunch at McDonald’s.

  5. I’ve been using Twitter since May and I love it (I also have way more than 20,000 tweets…hmm). From your description, I seemed to have followed your trend.  At first I tweeted all the time, but now I’ve backed off a little and tend to tweet out more links and useful/interesting things I find as well as a few conversations here and there. I’ve found that I like this new balance much more and my followers certainly don’t mind the change. 

    Twitter is a fantastic resource and great for building relationships. Truly, a valuable asset. 

  6. I think using Timely (and having focused tweets) is the way to go on Twitter.  Otherwise Twitter can be as addictive as chocolate chip cookies. (My true addiction-you really can’t have just one.)

  7. Great thoughts, Jeff. Although I’m no where near your numbers on Twitter, I noticed my followers jump when I offered tips of the day in my niche topic. Giving out, serving others, that is exactly right.

  8. Throughout the day, I often logoff Twiter to focus on tasks like writing, reading, studying. So my problem is that I often get “silent”.
    So I only check my timeline and post tweets a few times a day, and I still feel that I wasn’t able to find a good balance for my tweeting yet.
    About the content of the tweets, I totally agree with you, it has to be about others.

  9. Love these insights Jeff. I’m right there with you. I spent the first 5000 tweets sayings a bunch of stuff, and the last 3000 being intentional and more sparing with words. It’s the connections I’ve made in the most recent 1/3 of my followers that have been most meaningful because of it!

  10. Congrats on that Jeff.

    You got some great points here. Social media equals sharing not shoving. At least that is how I think about it. I would rather share others, resources, and thoughts then shove myself on others.

    I just crossed 25,000 last night and it seems like I still have so much more to learn and grow. But twitter and social media have drastically changed the way I think about things. 

  11. Thanks for offering your lessons learned; it’s a great little list that I’ll keep in mind. I started on twitter just this past spring and, at one point, realized I was spending too much time looking for great stuff to tweet and not enough time writing for my blog or creating art. I tweet from two accounts – @Grief_Friend and @LearnExploreShr – and am still seeking the right balance.

  12. Thanks a big bunches of roses for your tweets, Jeff! I have learned so much from you and I look forward to learning more! That’s what I like about Twitter…the knowledge I gain from reading the blogs attached to the tweets! And you, kind sir, have added a lot to my knowledge base so keep it up! Rah rah rah!!! 🙂

  13. I’ve been thinking similar thoughts this week: Mainly, how can I lean in the direction of tweet content that will add some sort of value to the readers’ lives, whether it be value in knowing I’m in love with my husband (yay marriage) or a snippet of my day as a creative (camaraderie) or a motivating thought that is speaking to me? 
    The rest is conversational. And the ratio is approx 1:4. I could do a better job of sharing content. I could. I’m going to take your list and work on that. :)As an aside, I’ve really come to enjoy the sense of community on twitter. (I’m also often overwhelmed at the barrage of less-than-useful info, but don’t tell anyone I said that.)

  14. Twitter, facebook and commenting get to be tiresome when we do it for the purpose of getting more its on our blogsites.  But when we do it out of a genuine need to share with others, then it feels great to tweet, share on facebook and comment on blogs like this one. So many are after traffic, I do wish someday the desire to share and truly make a difference will be the motivating factor behind the social networks and blogging.  

    1. to correct the typo….
      Twitter, facebook and commenting get to be tiresome when we do it for the purpose of getting more hits on our blogsites.  But when we do it out of a genuine need to share with others, then it feels great to tweet, share on facebook and comment on blogs like this one. So many are after traffic, I do wish someday the desire to share and truly make a difference will be the motivating factor behind the social networks and blogging.

  15. Jeff, can’t agree with you more about this. I do get more of a charge out of sharing the work or the tweets of others, rather than my own self promotion, which is what I started out with. If I follow someone, and all they do is self promote, I quickly disconnect…

    I really don’t tweet that frequently, but love to follow other conversations. Twitter has a lot of value to establish new relationships, as well as keeping up on world events.

    Thanks for all the very useful content on your blog. One of the few sites where I read each post….

  16. I’m new to twitter. It is a fast paced stroll along a stream of collective consciousness, where some sections are pure and pretty, and others are stagnant but still moving. I’ve quickly come to despise and unfollow the every half hour posters of crap. Life is way to short for word pollution. I really enjoy your writing, Jeff. 

  17. Okay, I just crossed the 5k threshold and am just approaching my first year on twitter.  Twitter is much more (social, than professional) for me but I must take a hard look at what I’m sharing, thanks for your insights!  Best, John

  18. I have seen the same thing with Twitter. Less is definitely more. I’ve gotten a lot more positive response from saying important things, instead of just saying random things anytime I felt like it.  

  19. Tweet more to enjoy tweeting! I only have less than 100 tweets so far, but stumbling into this site has somehow inspired me to log in to my tweeter account daily and take advantage of the social media.

  20. Jeff, thank you for the great ideas/thoughts.

    I am a huge fan of building community and friendship both on the personal and business side. Twitter has opened up some new and interesting engagement for me over the past 6 months or so. In the limited time that I have been using this channel I wholeheartedly agree that value is critical. Wondering if there is a right formula when promoting your work and engaging with your community. One of the most important traits to me is integrity. I recently wrote a piece tied to the subject of building Twitter followers as it related to integrity. I hope you get a chance to read it. https://theviewfromhere.ca/2011/11/01/what-one-hit-wonders-can-teach-us-about-integrity/ Comments/insights are apppreciated – good or bad.

    Tahnks again for writing this and thanks for listening.

  21. Wonderful post! I’m new on twitter, but my goal was connections and learning & I.have found that.

  22. “Keep the social in social media” has become my new mantra! I wish others would GET IT like you have. 

    We blogged about Twitter pet peeves today, sharing a few lessons we’ve learned along the way too. Interesting how everybody approaches social media with their own style and standards…

  23. Hey Jeff,

    Interesting insights. It gives me a good perspective. Have you found that time invested in Twitter (and not creating) worth your while?


  24. I think Twitter has taught me to be humble. More often than not, the times when I have used Twitter to rant about something that bugs me, I get caught in the act of doing the very thing that upset me in the first place. Example : tweeting about someone else’s grammar and spelling errors, and then finding one in my tweet later when my 900 followers have already seen it. Maybe it’s something we all learn as we get older, but I think especially in the digital/social media age, we’re learning lessons of humility more publicly than ever. I’m thankful for it.

  25. I have learned that people are people, in that you when you follow someone you must be prepared for anything, including stuff you disagree with.  Also that you should only follow those you really plan on engaging. 

  26. Jeff, The thing I hear from you over and over–which I so respect–is your commitment to servant leadership and acknowledging the value in being other-focused. Thank you for being a voice of humility in a hamster wheel full of paw-scratching and squeaks. 

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