First published in November, 2009 in the OPEN Forum of American Express.

Way back in July of 2009, I explained how I used Twitter. Lots has changed since then, so this is an update to explain how I tweet

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NOVEMBER 02, 2009Way back in July of 2009, I explained how I used Twitter. Lots has changed since then, so this is an update to explain how I tweet. As a small business owner, you can adopt my techniques to use Twitter as a marketing tool.


Question: How can you follow more than 180,000 people?

Answer: I don’t read the timelines of all the people that I follow. Instead, I only deal with @s, direct messages, and tweets that contain “guykawasaki,” “alltop,” or “guysreplies.” I answer almost every @ and direct.

Question: Then why do you follow everyone who follows you?

Answer: I follow everyone for two reasons: first, common courtesy; second, so that people can send direct messages to me. I like direct messages because they are more efficient than email.

Question: Why do you use both @guykawasaki and @guysreplies?

Answer: Originally, I created @guysreplies to reply to @s that all my followers do not need to see. Subsequently, Twitter changed the way @s work so that only people who follow both parties will see them. However, there are ways that people can still see all the tweets from @guykawasaki, and I don’t want to waste their time.

Also, I like a high signal/noise ratio from @guykawasaki, so I don’t want a bunch of “Thanks for reading my book” in it. The downside of what I do is that people might think that @guykawasaki is not responsive and “engaged,” but I’m willing to take this risk.

Work Flow

Question: What Twitter applications do you use?

Answer: For reading, I use TweetDeck on my Macintosh and Tweetie on my iPhone.? For posting, I use Objective Marketer and Posterous.

Objective enables me to create marketing campaigns and then schedule, frame, repeat, and track tweets. (Disclosure: I am an advisor to Objective.) It is the foundation of my Twitter efforts.

Posterous powers a part of Alltop called Holy Kaw; this sub-domain is a collection of summaries of the third-party sites that I am tweeting about. (Disclosure: I am an investor in Posterous.)

Finally, I use SocialToo to automatically follow people who follow me and to kill spam direct messages. (Disclosure: I am an investor in Posterous.)

Question: How do you find so many links to tweet?

Answer: I use three principal sources: Alltop, StumbleUpon, and SmartBrief. These sites curate and aggregate information to make the hunt for quality links much, much easier.

Question: What is your workflow?

Answer: I find interesting links and write-up a short summary using BBEdit that I post to Holy Kaw, and then Objective checks the Holy Kaw RSS feed once per hour and tweets new articles.

Question: Isn’t that a long, complex process just to tweet something?

Answer: Twitter is a marketing tool for me. It’s not a “social” activity or a game. This process is what it takes to make Alltop successful.

Question: How long do you spend on Twitter every day?

Answer: Asking me this is like asking Tiger Woods how much he plays golf. “It’s what I do.” If I’m on the computer, I’m on Twitter, and I’m on a computer eight hours per day.

Question: If a company wants an active, aggressive presence on Twitter, how many people does it take?

Answer: One person working really hard, unencumbered by a clueless boss and a Luddite legal department, can do it. Certainly one person can get things going enough to prove that Twitter makes sense for a company to add more people to do it even better.

Repeat Tweets

Question: Why do you repeat your tweets from @guykawasaki?

Answer: I repeat my tweets because no one’s followers are on Twitter 24 x 7 x 365 nor do they scroll back to see what was tweeted already. This is the same reason that ESPN and CNN repeat news stories throughout the day—can you imagine a news network assuming that everyone has seen a report after running it once or that everyone has recorded the news and will look back?

I have tracked repeated tweets, and the amount of click throughs on the second and third instances of a tweet is almost as high as the first one.

Question: Do you recommmend that companies repeat their tweets?

Answer: Yes, if they want to ensure that as many followers see their tweets as possible. There will be tiny number of people who will complain, but you cannot make all your followers happy.

In fact, if you’re not pissing someone off on Twitter, you’re not using it to its fullest potential. Companies should not let a few angry people dictate their marketing practices.

Question: What if I don’t want to see the repeats?

Answer: The easiest thing to do is unfollow @guykawasaki and follow @alltop because it contains only one instance of my tweets. You can think of @alltop as @guykawasaki on Tivo.


Question: Do you use ghostwriters?

Answer: Yes, four people contribute to my tweets: Annie Colbert, Gina Ruiz, Noelle Chun, and Catherine Faas. ?I use ghostwriters because I want to provide as many interesting links as possible, and five intelligent people (assuming you think I’m intelligent) looking for interesting stuff will find more than one intelligent person. At the end of every Holy Kaw post, you can see who created it if you’re curious.

Question: Do your ghosts respond to @s and direct messages for you?

Answer: Never. They only tweet outgoing links to interesting sites and blogs. They never respond for me or as me.

Question: Why did you hide your use of ghostwriters?

Answer: I didn’t hide this fact. As soon as I started it, I disclosed it. My attitude is: “As long as the tweets are good, why does it matter who wrote them?” Do you think Ralph Lauren himself designed every article in his store?

Question: Why do some people attack you for using ghostwriters?

Answer: Because they are angry, little people who cannot generate content, so they try to generate controversy to get attention. They also assume that I have to cheat and use ghostwriters to respond to people because they are incapable of dealing with the volume of @s and direct messages that I get.

Question: Do you recommend that companies use ghostwriters?

Answer: Most companies are “brands,” so this isn’t an issue unless people are so dumb as to think that Richard Branson is @VirginAmerica. Issues arise when the Twitter account is a person’s name.

For example, should @Lancearmstrong use a ghost? For some tweets, I’d say it’s perfectly okay—tweets about cycling news and information, for example. However, if @Lancearmstrong says his bike was stolen, he pulled a hamstring, or he can’t stand the color yellow, it has to be him.

Let’s say the Twitter account is for the CEO of a company. I’d rather read the interesting tweets of a good ghost than a clueless CEO. It’s the same reason politicians have speechwriters. As my mother used to say, “Behind every successful politician is an amazed speechwriter.”

Alltop Promotion

Question: Why do you constantly promote Alltop?

Answer: Twitter is a means to an end: Alltop’s success. This is why I put so much time, energy, and money (my ghosts don’t work for free) into it. The Alltop promotion justifies and pays for the efforts all five of us. You can think of my tweets as PBS content and the accompanying Alltop promotion as the fundraising telethon.

Question: OK, but what if I don’t want to see Alltop promotions?

Answer: You can UFM (unfollow me) just like you can change the channel from PBS.

Question: How much promotion can a company get away with?

Answer: It depends on several factors: How much do your followers love the company? How good are the deals that you offer? How much “real” content and “interaction” do the company’s tweets contain? For sure, the answer is not “None.”

Twitter is far beyond Trixie telling Biff and Carly that her cat rolled over. It’s now a “platform.” As such, there is no wrong or right just as there is no wrong or right way to maintain a website or blog—Is Zappos “wrong” for using the Internet to sell shoes? Forty years ago, some Arpanet scientists might have said so.

The bottom line is that there’s only what works and what doesn’t, and you won’t know which is which until you try.

Additional Resources

If you have questions about how I tweet, you can reach me at @guykawasaki