The interview summary below was prepared for Compound Writing, a paid invite-only community of online writers. Apply here
1. Set aside time to write.
If you want to build a bigger presence on Twitter, Michell’s first piece of advice is to make time to do it instead of expecting it to happen organically.
“Whether you want to spark discussion, tell stories, or offer some really timely insights, I would just set aside time to start to build out those short little 240 character bursts of insight or thought or humor.
Every Saturday when I finally get out of bed, I have a goal of planning five tweets per day for seven days a week. I'll write some daily affirmations and things to inspire people. I'll ask some questions that relate to self care. And I'll just give my own life updates and throw in like some really terribly, unfunny jokes to make me a bit more personable in the process.
Twitter requires a different type of writing. As short as they might be for a newsletter, attention spans are even shorter on Twitter. It’s too easy to just keep scrolling. You almost want to figure out how to catch somebody's attention as soon as you open up a tweet. If you offer the same type of information, but you have the right hook, you might find you go exponentially further.”
2. Get comfy with analytics.
Michell believes consistently keeping track of your engagement is critical to succeeding on Twitter.
“One thing I like to do is make some tweet lists. I can look back and see which type of prompt did really well, or which topics do really well. I take note when I get a lot of engagement at a certain time of day. Just continue to look back every week and chalk up your victories. See what's not resonating and keep experimenting.
Twitter is one never-ending experiment. I think that over time, you start to build more of an understanding, almost an instinct, for how to speak and resonate on Twitter.”
3. Follow people you actually like.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how much dead weight you may be carrying around that’s distracting you from the people and ideas you want to connect with. Michell recommends curating the accounts you follow accordingly.
“Don't follow people that you don't actually want to engage with. If somebody starts to get really boring to you, unfollow them. You should also actively seek out people who you think are hilarious, insightful, brilliant; people you want to talk to. At least once a month, I love to dig through and check out the Twitter influences of the people I admire the most to see if I can find somebody interesting. Through that random research, I connect with people I might never otherwise find.
Everything that I absorb is going to influence what I want to talk about and what I want to write.”
4. Study the winners.
Success is transparent on Twitter. Michell takes full advantage of this fact to improve his own Twitter presence.
“Unless you're funneling a billion dollars per day into Twitter ads, there's no real behind-the-scenes thing that is making tweets work authentically outside of what you’re actually seeing on timelines. So we can literally do a case study with anybody and break down what worked for them over the past week, the past day, or the past month. I would encourage you again, as often as you have time and depending on how fast you want to learn, to just look through and see which people are doing well on Twitter, or maybe people who are building a following. What are they talking about? How are they discussing their topics? And then ask yourself how you can add that to your own little strategy toolkit.”
5. Be your own image consultant.
Michell reminds writers that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t styling your Twitter profile to make the best first impression possible.
"Consider whether your profile picture will grab someone's attention, if your biography is engaging, if it's speaking to the right people. Your header, your pin tweet -- all these things play a role in somebody’s first impression of your profile, Think of it as the digital version of talking to somebody at a networking meeting. right? Are you gonna catch somebody's attention? Is it interesting?
If you get your image right once and you make some occasional tweaks, it pays off exponentially as it pertains to just how you're able to resonate with people."
6. Read more!
It’s a cliche, but it’s true: good readers make good writers. Michell knows that reading consistently about topics that pique his interest, regardless of whether it directly relates to his day-to-day work, improves his writing significantly.
"I've read about everything from the science of meditation, to a memoir by a porn star, to a book about basketball history, and everything in between. Even if I never discuss these things on Twitter, I'm probably going to learn some different things as a writer and as a human. It gives me more inspiration to draw from."
7. Remember the “social” in social media.
While it’s important to approach Twitter with objectives, Michell reminds writers to really understand the virtual community around them before setting ambitious growth or sales goals.
"You can't just jump onto a platform and think that you can get what you want. You have to understand the ground that you’re on, understand the community, and figure out what's already happening. How can you join what conversations are already occurring? How can you understand the landscape and serve people?
By serving people in whatever way you do, whether it’s by encouraging them, informing them, making them think, making them laugh, then you're able to figure out what you want to sell to them in the first place. What would actually make sense for you to offer to certain groups of people who are gravitating towards you?
To put it simply, when you walk into a room, shake hands first."
8. Make Twitter a lifestyle, not a chore.
Michell believes one of the most important things you can do to improve your Twitter presence is to incorporate the process into your life.
“If you're just starting out on Twitter and if you're not consistent yet, you're not going to immediately get a bunch of engagement or a huge surge of subscribers or sales. It's a long process. I've been on here for 10 years.
I think I had 2,000 followers about six years in, and I'm somehow here now at 55K a decade in. I think the real takeaway is, even if I got to year five, and never really saw much growth and didn't get many career opportunities, I still learned a lot. I made real friends and I found new influences. I was fed new ideas. I got to watch some great boxing fights on bootleg and not pay for them. I made it part of my lifestyle, so I was able to enjoy it and not turn it into an annoying chore.
You have people who are successful in business who also have over 100,000 tweets. They're not just throwing things at the wall. They’ve been consistent for years. Finding a way to enjoy it and finding a way to make Twitter benefit your life is also really important.”
9. Keep revising your rough drafts.
It’s normal to struggle to produce new, attention-grabbing tweets every week, especially if you’ve been tweeting for a while. If you’re feeling uninspired, Michell suggests upcycling drafts from years past.
“What actually helped me when I was trying to jump-start this whole five tweets a day planning process, was actually going back and downloading all of my terrible tweets from 2015 and 2016 in the archives. What was I talking about five years ago on the same day? Do I like this? If I don't like it, can I improve it and make it something that I like? I guarantee nobody remembers what I was talking about five months ago, much less five years ago. We are all the same person but we've grown in certain ways over time right? You have a new perspective. You're a better writer, you have a stronger voice, and you're more sure of yourself and what you stand for. A similar starting point can help you to create some much better content and save you some time because you don't have to brainstorm from scratch.”