Twitter is constantly changing. Most of these transitions are relatively minor, but over a period of weeks and months the way the service is perceived (and used) can be vastly different. (Consider the few uses the world saw for Twitter just six months ago, compared to today.)
Each of us undertakes our own Twitter journey, too, and likely many of them. Here’s how I believe Twitter lays out for a lot of people (certainly professionals and thought leaders).
- Your cycle begins, and you’re actively looking to follow new people. This will be those that interest you and have caught your eye for various reasons, as well as friends, recommendations from friends, celebrities, members of the suggested user list, news feeds, and so on.
- At this stage, because you’re following less people you pay more attention to the whole, the engagement level is high, and many of these early followers can become ‘followers for life’, simply because you’ve had more time to invest in the relationship (and it’s paid off).
- As your network grows in size (and hopefully stature), you’re more likely to follow somebody back if they make the effort to engage and communicate with you before you follow them (or come with a very strong recommendation). Moreover, you’ll realise that a lot of the people you are following aren’t relevant or of interest, so you’ll begin to actively prune your network to cut down on unnecessary noise.
- As a consequence of this, the quality of your engagement with the core (new and remaining) members of your network will increase.
- This will identify your purpose on Twitter. You’ll see the opportunity, and the cycle will repeat, albeit with a tighter (renewed) focus.
What’s important to remember is that your cycle doesn’t just begin with the first time you open an account and finish when you quit (or die). Instead, it will reboot and start over any time you make a major change to the way you use (or perceive) Twitter.
Most people start off not really understanding how the service works, and likely just chat with friends and a few new people they’ve met. Weeks or months will pass and then suddenly they will see the opportunity, and Twitter becomes something entirely different. At that point, their cycle starts over, and the network that they have then – which might have been developed over many months – is suddenly seen through new eyes. Even though many of the people are the same, and a lot of the relationships won’t change (notably the early ones), the way you use and interact with the platform will be different.
(Of course, if you use Twitter simply as a soapbox, rarely engage, auto-follow everybody or simply hate change, this is less likely to apply.)
If you’re a seasoned blogger, a valid comparison here is to consider the standard and feel of your first blog (likely from many years ago) against the work you are doing now. Twitter is constant, and most (reasonable) people don’t close accounts and open new ones, so any rollover you make has to be done ‘live’. It can be a gradual process, and probably should be, but it’s extremely likely that you will change.
And so you should. It’s a totally natural progression. You change in the ‘real world’, too. After all, how can you possibly know the right way to use something the first day you pick it up?