Using Twitter more effectively as a software developer

FYI: I’m not a technical recruiter. I’m just a software developer.

Have a clear goal Is this to network with every last person in the world who knows about, say, Windows Identify Foundation? Or to make sure you have some professional contacts when your contract ends? Don’t follow people that can’t help you with that goal. If you have mixed goals, open a different account.

Important Career Moments Relevant to Twitter. Arriving town, leaving town and changing jobs, conferences, starting a new company– if you have a curated twitter list, it might help at those time points, or it might not, who knows.

At the moment, there are so many jobs for developers and so few jobs, that the real issue is not finding a job, but finding a job that you like. Another issue is taking control of the job hunting process. The head hunters most eager to hire you, have characteristics like, they make lots of calls per day and they have a smooth hiring pipeline. But there is no particular correlation with what sort of project manager is at the other end of that pipeline.

Goals: Helping Good Jobs Find Developers I’m talking about that day when your boss says, hey, do you know any software developers? And I say, no, I work in a cubicle where I talk to same 3 people 20 minutes a week. So that was a big part of my goal for creating a twitter following, so that in 3 years, bam, I can say, “Anyone want a job?” and it wouldn’t be just a message in the bottle dropped in the Atlantic. If you don’t care about the job don’t post it. If a colleague desperately needs to fill a spot for the worlds worst place to work, don’t post it, you’re not a recruiter, you got standards.

Twitter is a lousy place for identifying who is a developer and who is in a geographic region. After exhaustive search, I found less than 2000 people in DC who do something related to software development and of those, maybe 50% are active accounts. There must be more developers and related professions then that in DC– I guess 10,000 or 20,000.

Making Content: Questions. It works for newbie questions. Anything that might require an answer in depth is better on StackOverflow. And StackOverflow doesn’t want your easy questions anyhow.

Making Content: Discussion. It works for mini-discussions, of maybe 3-4 exchanges, tops. Consider doing a thoughtful question a day. Hash tag it, but don’t pick stupid hash tags, or hash tag spam. #dctech is better than #guesswhat Consider searching a hash tag before using it. Re-use good hash tags as much as possible to increase discussion around a hashtag.

Making Content: Jokes. It works really well for jokes. Now if you actually engage in jokes, that is a personal decision. They are somewhat risky. On the otherhand, if you never tells a joke, you’re a boring person who gets unfollowed and moved to a list.

Making Content: Calls to Action. I don’t practice this well myself because it’s hard to do in twitter. Most effective calls to action are some sort of “click this link”, hopefully because after I read the target page, I don’t just chuckle or say, “hmm”, but I do something different in the real world.

Making Content: Don’t do click bait. Not because it isn’t effective, it is effective in making people click. But everyone is doing it and it is junking up news feeds.

Building a Community: Who to Follow? Follow people you wish worked at your office. They may or may not post the content you like, but you can generally fix that by turning off retweets. If they still tweet primarily about stamp collecting, or tweet too much, put them on a list, especially if they don’t follow you back anyhow.

Building a Community: Finding people to Follow Twitter’s own search works best– search for keyword, limit to “people near me” and click “all” content.

Real people follow real accounts, usually. Real people are followed by 50/50 spambots and real people. Unfortunately, people follow stamp collecting and cat photo accounts, but are followed by friends, family and coworkers. If you are looking for industry networking opportunities, you care about the coworkers, not the stamp collecting and cat photo accounts.

Bio’s on twitter suck. People fill them with poorly thought out junk. I don’t care who you speak for, I don’t care if your retweets are endorsements. Put the funny joke in an ephemeral tweet, not the bio, followers end up re-reading your bio over and over. Include where you live, your job title and key works for what technologies you care about. Well, that’s what I wish people would do, but if you really want to put paranoid legal mumbo jumbo there, at least make sure that it aligns with your goals.

Building a Community: Getting Follow Backs. People follow back on initial follow, and sometimes on favorite and retweet.

Building a Community: Follow “dead” accounts anyhow. They might come back to life because you followed them. Who knows? It’s a numbers game.

Interaction: Retweet or Favorite? Favorite, means, “I hear you”, “I read that”, “I am paying attention to you”. Retweet means, “I think everyone of my followers really cares about this as much as they care about me.” People get this wrong so much I generally turn of retweet on every account I follow. I can still see those retweets should an account be on a list I curate.

Retweet what everyone can agree on, Favorite religion and politics. If someone says something you like, it’s a good time for engagement. But not if it means reminding everyone that follows you that after work hours, you are a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian. Favorites are comparatively discreet, the audience has to seek them out to find our what petition you favorited.

In practice, people Retweet when they should Favorite, junking up their followers news feeds with stamp collecting, radical politics, and personal conversations.

Interaction: Do start tweets targeted at one person with the @handle. It prevents that message from showing up in your followers feeds. Don’t automatically put the period in front, most people are gauging wrong when to thwart the build in filter system.

Know Your Audience. I have two audience, my intended audience of software developers in greater DC, and my unintended audience people who follow me because they agree with my politics, or are interested in the same technologies as me. I have a clear goal, so I know that the audience I’m going to cater to is the one that aligns with my goals. I can’t please everyone and if I wanted to, I would open a 2nd account.

Lists: Lists are for you. Don’t curate a list with the assumption that anyone cares. They don’t. Consider making lists private if you don’t think the account cares if they’ve been put on a list.

Lists: Create an Audience List The people I follow are great, but the people that follow me back are better. I put them on a private audience list because they don’t need a notification hearing that I’ve put them on an audience list.

People on my general list that don’t follow me back, I hope they will follow me back someday. The people on the audience list, I care about their retweets and tweets more because it’s just much more likely that I’ll get an interaction someday.

Lists: Create a High Volume Tweeter/”Celebrity” list. People who tweet nonstop junk up your feed, move them to a list unless they are following you back. “Celebrities” have 10,000s of followers but only a few people they follow. They probably won’t ever interact with you, but if they do, it will be via you mentioning them, not through a reciprocal follow relationship.

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