5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Twitter

I forget sometimes that some people don’t use Twitter. It’s so embedded into the way I interact with the world, I am usually a little shocked when someone says, “I don’t have a clue about Twitter and don’t want to learn.”

Twitter is not for everyone, and has changed over the years. It’s a meaner, more commercialized, more divisive place than it used to be.

So many of my acquaintances feel the same as Sandi from Midlife Roadtrip:

Make the most out of Twitter

With 100,000+ tweets behind me, here are my thoughts on Twitter 2018:

Learning the Basics Matters

The most frequent thing people say to me is “I don’t get it” or “I don’t understand Twitter.” It is like learning a foreign language. I swore I would never speak in hashtags but here I am. #NeverSayNever

It’s difficult to find a Twitter 101-type resource that is updated enough to reflect current changes. This one from Wired is decent. Just replace “140 characters” with “280 characters” and note that timelines now are not necessarily chronological (unless you change your settings, as I did, because non-chronological Twitter frustrated me intensely).

Sometimes it is best to read, not tweet

If you read nothing else written in this post, take note of this piece of advice: you don’t always have to respond on Twitter. In fact, you can mute terms that make you anxious. You can block people who creep you out. You can construct lists of people that share interest in common with you, or people who simply make you happy. Twitter will be much more pleasant this way.

One thing Twitter does for me is provide insight on some people who I find interesting, but for various reasons have chosen not to follow. It may be professional (it helps to know that a reporter you plan to pitch is a vegetarian before you pitch your awesome article about novel recipes for meat eaters, for example). It may be personal (you just want to know more about Jane Doe but it’s not a close enough relationship to follow her — kind of the 2018 equivalent of the people-watching we used to do IRL (in real life) at the mall).

Follow People with Whom You Disagree

Although this is not how some people choose to use Twitter, I appreciate the way it gives me perspective into what people think that believe differently than I do. It’s a relatively safe way to get a sense of what the other side is saying and thinking, in 280-character bites. Somehow it feels less “attack-y” than Facebook. Just remember #2 above – you don’t have to always engage on Twitter.

Don’t Hesitate to Tweet with Well-known People

Celebrities (many of them, anyway) love Twitter. Katy Perry is #1 on Twitter with a following approaching 1.9 million (more than Barack Obama). At a ranking of 865,089, I’m definitely far down the Twitter pecking order. BUT, thanks to Twitter, I can support celebrities I care about and interact with the ones who choose to respond (or have a staff person do it — I guess you never really know).

A few fave celebrities on Twitter:

Rubem Robierb – I love his art and his consistently positive, thought-provoking take on things. Follow him at @rubemrobierbart.

Cate Elephante – Okay, she’s 6 years old, and her parent(s) have acknowledged managing her account. But it wouldn’t be logical for a 6-year-old to be managing their own Twitter and social media, right? I saw her as Lulu in Waitress in December 2016, and have followed her since then. I foresee big things out of her, onstage or off, whatever she chooses (because …. she’s 6!). Follow her at @cateelefante.

On the flip side, keep your expectations in check. I’ve gotten better about this over the  years, but sometimes you feel you’ve developed a rapport with someone you’ve met over social media, but the two of you share different outlooks. I wrote about this here, when I said, “Balancing the sentiment of “we could be friends!” with “we are strangers to one another who have not established a trust or intimacy level” is a delicate thing.”

Participate in Twitter Chats and Parties

I have participated in Twitter chats for years. In a Twitter chat, participants have an allotted amount of time to interact with each other, brought together by a shared interest and common hashtag. (I was a #RunChat featured blogger for years and kept participating in the Sunday evening weekly chats for a long time.) Twitter chats are a great way to grow your network, meet people with whom you share an interest, and have some social media fun. Some Twitter parties feature prizes for selected participants.

Pro-tip: If it’s a goal of yours, you may work up to having the opportunity to be a paid Twitter party panelist. I have done this a few times and enjoyed it (as well as the cash).

Bonus: Get off of Twitter

Seem diametrically opposed to the title of this post? It is. But it needs to be said.

Twitter is one slice of life. It’s one fragment of social media life, and it’s one 280-character-at-a-time way of looking at the world.

I’ve said it once and will say it again — never have I pursued an IRL meeting with someone I met over Twitter and found myself thinking “gosh they aren’t at all what I thought they would be like” when I did meet them. Maybe I’m lucky. But I do believe people show you who they are on Twitter, for the most part. There are about 10 friendships I can attribute directly to Twitter. Maybe some people l would say 10 close friendships out of around 13,000 follower/following arrangements and 132,000 tweets isn’t a great return on investment.

But I found when I sat down with those ten people face-to-face, that the Tweeting that brought me into their orbits was worth it, as was putting down the phone and lifting a glass with them.

My 100,000th Tweet

This post was inspired by the Sway Group March writing prompt “name 5 ways to get the most out of Twitter.” (I cheated and added a 6th!).

Taking A Shot At Indifference

Measles Crying Child

Health worker Ronnie Tut prepares to administer a measles vaccine to 1-year-old Jessica María Pop, an indigenous Mayan girl sitting on her mother’s lap, at a health centre in the community of Sacanillá, in Cobán Municipality in Alta Verapaz Department, Guatemala.

I never seriously want a child to be as distraught as Jessica María, pictured. But the momentary discomfort of an immunization is worth it to keep a child from suffering a vaccine-preventable death. Through my role as a Shot at Life Champion, I am joining with other Champions in an initiative called “Advocate to Vaccinate – a Coast to Coast Challenge for Global Vaccination.” During Advocate to Vaccinate, which leads up to World Immunization Week (April 24-30), Shot@Life supporters in communities across the country are raising their voices to advocate for sustaining U.S. government support for global vaccine programs.

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you have seen the basic facts of global immunization issues among my posts before. The most basic fact is this: Every 20 seconds, a child dies of a vaccine-preventable disease. (For more details about the global health threats of vaccine-preventable diseases, visit this link….) As I have said before, I know we face serious issues here in the United States, and those are not lost on me as I advocate for children across oceans. Children here on our shores, however, are affected by global immunization deficits. For example, there have been  106 confirmed cases of measles here in the United States since January 1, 2014.

I was struck by this passage from an article by Andre Picard that I read recently about measles in Canada. The article was an interview with Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance:

(interviewer) You visit parts of the world where mothers walk for days to get their children immunized and in Canada, where it’s easy, it seems [some people] can’t be bothered.

(Dr. Berkley) The difference is that in the places where they walk for days they’ve seen their children die. They know all too well how deadly these diseases are. Parents all over the world want to help their children. If Canadian women were living in a community where, God forbid, they would see the graves of small children who died of measles every morning, they too would be clamouring, they would be doing everything in their power to get vaccines. Here the problem is invisible.


To treat a heavy subject slightly lightly for a moment, I am also a southerner, and those of us participating in Advocate to Vaccinate are engaged in a healthy competition to be the region that does the most (including in-district meetings with our congresspeople, letters to the editor at our newspapers, community events, digital events, and blog posts, to name a few). Honestly, I want the south to win, so I am giving it all I’ve got!

Andre Picard’s article was entitled, “Indifference Leads to Outbreaks.”  I would love your help in eradicating indifference and, ultimately, eradicating vaccine-preventable diseases. Here are some ways you can help:

Visit www.advocate2vaccinate.org for more information.

Join my Twitter party which is being cohosted by @PamLovesBooks (please!) Wednesday night, April 9, from 8-9 p.m. Use the hashtag #adv2vax: Amended Adv2Vax Twitter Party Logo

Become a champion yourself! Email champions@shotatlife.org for more info.

Advocate with your elected officials to continue support for global vaccine programs (they are a fraction of our national budget and they make such a difference). Shot at Life does most of the work for you! Click here to get started.

Make a donation. A $5 donation can protect a child from polio and measles for his or her lifetime. Donate via this link.

Yes, indifference leads to outbreaks. It makes me feel like this little girl at the top of this post. Join me in eradicating indifference in order to have a healthier world. Let’s give kids a shot at life.

three women

With my fellow champions (and Florida moms) Nicolette Springer and Sili Recio in Washington, DC, advocating for Shot at Life. March 2014. We want YOUR company!