Social media and your career (part 3): How to talk to people on Twitter

birdsIt’s all about people. You’ve set up your Twitter account, decided how you want to come across professionally and started developing your profile. But probably the most important step when using social media to build your professional ‘brand’ is your networking activity.

I’ve even heard someone mention the famous 80/20 rule in relation to Twitter, meaning that 80% of your tweets should be talking to other people but only 20% should be one-way posts.

It is, after all, called social media. So be social, and try striking up a conversation.

There is a great deal of enjoyment – even, from a business perspective, value – to be had from chatting to like-minded people who you’ve never met (as well as those you have). I’ve found out from Twitter about networking events, job opportunities – and a party.

So how do you go about it? You could look for people who might be ‘useful’ to you professionally and work on getting to know them. But that’s not how networking works in real life either. The best approach is to be open to everyone, then build relationships based on common ground. You never know who will turn out to be helpful, interesting or just fun to be around.

I like the idea of Twitter as a sea of conversations that you can dip in and out of during spare moments. That is, of course, a risky business unless you are consciously procrastinating. Other people take a more efficient approach: scheduling posts on a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck and giving themselves a set time to reply to comments from other users.

There is, of course, no ‘wrong way’ to do Twitter: everyone approaches it slightly differently because everyone has different reasons to be there. The only rule is good manners: to show people the same respect you would in real life.

So what do you talk about? Again, it’s the same as in real life. Small talk is fine, which is why people who say you shouldn’t talk about breakfast on Twitter are missing the point.

And if you want to talk about work – or your professional interests – it’s fine to comment on something someone has posted. They may reply, they may (if they have a lot of followers, or are busy) not : don’t take it personally.

Talking about someone (an @ mention) also opens doors: the person you namecheck will still see your tweet. Praise, thanks, or a quick ‘hat tip’ (if you’re not smarmy about it) are nice things to do. The people in my local independent bookshop now recognise me because I tweeted about their good customer service. Or you could let someone know if they’ve given a talk you enjoyed.

You can, of course, also talk to people you’ve already met. It’s a great way to keep up with friends and former colleagues, and to get to know acquaintances better.

It’s also a good method of following up new business contacts: a quick ‘nice to meet you’ on Twitter to someone you saw at a networking event is a is a low-key way to remind them of your existence.

These are all suggestions, not rules. In the same spirit, here are my quick tips for networking on Twitter.


  • Be friendly and open.
  • Make time to chat.
  • Always be polite and considerate.


  • Just talk about yourself.
  • Only talk to ‘important’ people.
  • Get so used to chatting on Twitter that you end up staring at your phone when in a room with real live people.

More posts on social media and your career

Part 1: Branding or boring?

Part 2: Do you look like a professional?

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