How to fail with Twitter

Twitter Logo FailI’ve been using Twitter since 2007, and though I’m not in the same league as celebrities (or z-listers)  who count their followers in hundreds of thousands, I’m comfortable knowing that my following has been grown organically, I’ve never ever paid for new followers, and I do know and recognise most of them in the virtual world we populate.

There’s much been written about how to use social media – most of it crap, and most aimed at marketing, brand promotion or people with massive egos.

Since I don’t fall into any of these categories, and use Twitter mainly for engaging with people who have something useful to say, picking up on news and ideas, and sharing stuff I’ve learnt (even the useful stuff!), then feel free to ignore the following tips, all of which are aimed at those who use their Twitter statistics to massage their overblown egos:

  • Make sure you auto-reply to new follows with a link to your free (but crap) ebook.
  • Provide an obscure description of who you are and what you do, or…
  • Have a completely blank bio.
  • Have a nice pose showing that six-pack or gawky grin.
  • Have a profile photo or an image that only makes sense to you and your imaginary friends.
  • Attract like-minded followers by posing with a gun, a knife or a swastika flag in the background.
  • Always refer to yourself as an “expert”, “ninja” or “blackbelt”.  You’re in a much better position to judge this than anyone else.
  • Never add a link to a great resource you’ve cited.
  • Have big gaps (e.g. days) between posts.
  • Try and follow thousands of random people. They’re bound to follow you back.
  • Write about the cat/hamster/holiday over and over again, and don’t forget to include the photos.
  • Fill your tweet with obscure abbreviations and hashtags.
  • Send an-auto DM to every new follow suggesting you connect on Facebook or LinkedIn.
  • Retweet EVERYTHING!
  • Follow everyone and everything – even those with zero tweets.
  • Say whatever comes into your head – no need to think (this one is a bit of a challenge for politicians, elected councillors and footballers!)
  • Use Twitter as your primary marketing plan.
  • Try and find an idiot to have an argument with. See who wins.
  • Take credit for tweets that did not originate from you.
  • Tweet on every piece of news you can get your hands on.
  • Tweet about your need for coffee or what you had for breakfast.
  • Be emotional and let off steam.
  • Always remember that your follower count is far more important than the content of your tweets.
  • Pay for followers (most of them will be bots anyway) – quantity trumps quality.
  • Make up new hashtags and try avoid using ones that are already in use to categorise information.
  • Look out for anyone that has only tweeted several times but has many thousands of followers. This is a mark of ‘awesome’ – the followers can’t all be wrong, can they?

I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list. If you have any more tips for growing your ego twitter following, let me know at @stephendale and I’ll post an updated list.

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Communities of Practice – What I’ve Learnt

Ants collaborating

I  was recently asked  by a colleague to share some “words of wisdom” about what I’d learnt from 9 years of consultancy projects that involved setting up Communities of Practice. I could have written an essay on this topic (and maybe one day I will) but I thought I’d distill it down to the key points as follows:

The Basics:

  • We don’t know what we don’t know.
  • People don’t learn from content, they learn from other people.
  • You can’t force people to collaborate.
  • We don’t know the value of knowledge…until it is shared.
  • Find where the conversations are happening….and join in!
  • A successful CoP must be cultivated; it needs feeding, weeding and nurturing (just like a well-tended garden!).

What makes for a successful CoP:

  •  A clear purpose – what will it be used to do?
  • A safe and trusted environment.
  • A core group of active participants.
  • Understanding the needs of its members/users.
  • An action plan to meet those needs.
  • A blend of face to face and online activities (where possible).


  • Command and control will kill a community.
  • Don’t assume everyone knows how to contribute.
  • Let users drive their own experimentation and use of tools.
  • Ensure CoP facilitators/moderators are given sufficient time for their role.
  • Without active facilitation, CoPs will revert to ‘tribal’ working.
  • Don’t worry about the ‘lurkers’ – be happy that they have chosen to be there.
  • Don’t set unrealistic targets.
  • Condition your managers for failure; not every CoP is going to be successful.
  • Know when to let go!

Finally, one of my favourite quotes:

Go to the people, live with them, learn from them. Start with what they know, build with what they have.

But with the best leaders, when the work is done and the task is accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves'”.  Lao Tsu, circa 500BC

If you want to know more, check my various slide packs on this topic on Slideshare. Happy CoP’ing!


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