Twitter is a non-linear, hyper-speed form of communication that makes no sense to the analytical mind. The secret to using Twitter is to recognize that what you’re experiencing is a direct pipeline into other peoples’ internal dialogue. Twitter is a digital tool that lets you read their minds.
Tweets are ideas without explanation
Tweets are thought fragments. When we talk to ourselves, we don’t use a lot of set up; we don’t explain to ourselves where thoughts and ideas come from. They just sort of pop into our heads. At 140 characters, tweets are the thoughts that have popped into other peoples’ heads, without the explanation we tend to wrap around ideas when communicating them to others.
The analytical mind doesn’t like this. The analytical mind wants thoughts communicated to it linearly, in a “tell me what you’re going to tell me, tell me, then tell me what you told me” sort of way.
That way takes too long and is unnecessary. Try to keep up here.
The value of tweets is often more in their context than their content
The value of a tweet like, “Earthquake’s over; I’m safe.” is clearly in the content. But what about a tweet like the one below?
Do I care that Mark’s sitting on the tarmac? That he hasn’t slept? That he’s talking with someone named “bostonwriter”? From a content standpoint, probably not, but that’s just the analytical side of our brains poo-poohing a communication it doesn’t understand. From a context standpoint, this tweet is gold: it’s a doorway to a friendship. Think about how you make and maintain friendships: by taking an interest in someone’s life and reacting. By picking sides and letting someone know, “Hey, I’m on your side.” Now quiet your analytical mind and consider this tweet the same way you’d consider a comment by a buddy over a beer. When I do that, a number potential responses become possible:
- “Hey, Mark, how was Boston?”
- “Glad to be back at SFO?”
- “Hey, my home airport is ORD—tell me about it!”
- “Successful trip?”
- “Was the trip business or pleasure?”
- “I’ll be in SFO in two weeks; grab a drink?”
- “I can’t do those all nighters anymore; my body crashes.”
- “I remember when all nighters were a badge of honor. Now they’re just a pain in the ass!”
With all of these, the content of the conversation is no more important than the content of the conversation you have with friends over dinner or while watching a game. It’s the context of the conversation that matters instead. But try telling that to your analytical mind!
Tweets are frenetic
If you try to sit down and read all the tweets from everyone you follow starting from the last time you logged in until now, you’ll fry. Twitter is a direct pipeline into peoples’ minds, and minds move too fast for that. There’s also a lot of noise you don’t care about. (If I could read all my readers’ minds right now, I bet a good percentage of them would be thinking about either their last or their next meal!) When I talk with someone, I don’t back them up to our last conversation and ask them to share every thought they’ve had since then. I just glean what I can from our conversation in the moment, and then move on. Twitter needs to be approached the same way: when you engage, you’re getting a snapshot of what people are thinking in that moment. Look at the photo, decide to engage or not, and move on. Will you miss good stuff? Yep. But you’ll find good stuff, too, and you won’t go crazy in the process.
Turn off your analytical mind!
That’s the secret to Twitter. Of course, learning to communicate less analytically takes time. From my experience and from the data I’ve seen, it can take about a year to figure this out. After that, you’ll know how to read minds (digitally).
And here’s the really interesting part: when I ask people if they think Twitter is worth a year learning curve, a lot of people shrug. They don’t know. But if I ask if they’d invest a year to learn how to read minds, they say, “Of course!” Well, there you go. Twitter is digital telepathy. Start using it now, and you’re a year away from reading minds.
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.