4 Twitter tips no one will give you

I think it's time for me to address the fact that I have 56,000 followers on Twitter but I have tweeted only 500 times. If I were an aging rock star or philandering basketball player, this might not be remarkable. But I'm basically a normal person.

So I'm going to give you four twitter tips that no one else will tell you.

1. Focus on quality over quantity
First, let's talk about purpose. Why are you on twitter anyway? There are tons of really valid goals for twitter, but most of them require influence. I mean, you need twitter influence in order to reach almost any goal on twitter. Because twitter is about sharing information with people who matter to you.

If you want to publicize stuff on twitter you definitely need influence. But at the other end of the spectrum (where I am) if you just want to write well, you also need influence because if you are writing and no one is listening then you are not really communicating.

The biggest reason for you to focus on influence, though, is that money doesn't make us happy, but influence does. I spent two hours trying to find this article in the New York Times. I can't find it because as soon as you put influence and happiness in a search string you get stuff that influences happiness but you can't search influence influence happiness. Anyway, trust me that if you have influence, you feel happier.

Which maybe means that the smartest thing you can do is obsessively watch Twitter rankings. But it probably means that you should think about if you have the type of followers you want. For example, if your goal is to sell timeshares in Nairobi, you only need 24 followers as long as they each book two weeks out of the year.

Or, here's another way to think about it. The founder of LinkedIn, Konstantin Guericke, once told me that you only need 30 contacts to have a quality network as long as the contacts are well connected. I think this probably means that you only need 30 twitter followers who really care about what you say if you are using twitter to build a network that will support you in your career.

2. Get a writing partner
Twitter is basically a writing platform. So why is the writing so bad? Why are people so uninteresting? I think the best way to get influence on twitter is to be interesting. More tweets that are not interesting is not as effective as a fewer tweets that are interesting. The larger a twitter following you want, the more you have to concentrate on writing what a larger audience would want—and not just what your immediate friends want.

So, when it comes to writing for a large audience, maybe you should have a helper. I have a twitter editor. For me, it's very normal because I've been a writer for so long, with various editors, that it was natural for me to have a blog editor, and once you have a blog editor, a twitter editor is not a far leap.

Anyway, very few people have been creative geniuses on their own. Joshua Wolf Shenk has a whole column on Slate devoted to this topic or partnering to release creative genius. He says there's tons of research to show that you need a cohort:

To illustrate the consistently hidden partner with an obvious example: Book editors don’t put their names on covers. Their reputation largely depends on authors”?who can be notoriously ungrateful and committed to the idea of their solitary genius. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road sat on slush piles all around Manhattan until Malcolm Cowley, then an editor at Viking, undertook the laborious effort (literary, political, emotional) of shaping it for publication. But afterward, Kerouac and the Beats portrayed Cowley as a villain who muddied the famous unbroken typescript, which they claimed was powered by Benzedrine and holy light.

Some of you, probably those of you who think you're such a genius that you can't work with anyone else, doubt this premise. So here's another good example from Shenk of us thinking that we see people do things on their own, but we don't:

Tiger’s distance control was a problem,” Williams explained to Golf magazine. “So I would adjust yardages and not tell him.” Woods ended up hitting the ball inside two feet from the cup and went on to win. Williams has said that he gave Woods incorrect yardages for the better part of five years.

So if you want to focus on doing good writing, which will guarantee that you build a community of people who appreciate good writing (which, we all know, eliminates 90% of the population) then you need a writing partner, or at least a good muse.

3. Focus on happiness.
I am over the happiness thing, to be honest. I am done trying to be happy. When Tyler Cowen first told me that interesting lives are nicer than happy lives, I thought he was an Asperger's apologist. But I am really feeling that as long as I have a few friends who are all trying to live interesting lives as well, I am fine. I don't need to strive for happiness. (Do you want to know if you strive for happiness or interestingness? Take this test.)

This is, of course, after I followed every piece of happiness advice out there and moved to one of the places in America that has the highest density of happiness: Rural Wisconsin.

But, anyway, if you want to be the center of influential social networks, you need to appear happy, according to research from Nicholas Christakis, professor of sociology at Harvard University. Maybe I am the exception to this rule. Because I am able to find the yucky messiness in any happy situation but I still have a lot of followers.

But I do appreciate the fact that the happy people do no research about happiness because they are happy (and mostly don't read because reading creates new experiences and people who search for interesting rather than happy are the ones are more open to new experiences). And unhappy people love the happiness research. So I am a maven of unhappiness and the research to alleviate it.

And I can tell you that you should put a happy smile photo of yourself on twitter because Christakis says that you will be more influential on networks.

And, if you are trying to figure out what to spend your time on twitter doing, think about this, from Christakis:

We found that each additional happy friend increases a person’s probability of being happy by about 9%. For comparison, having an extra $5,000 in income (in 1984 dollars) increased the probability of being happy by about 2%.

This means that all those people on twitter who are trying to sell stuff to create an alternative revenue source in their lives (which I estimate to be an unfortunate 95% of all people on twitter) should think about using twitter to make happy friends, instead.

4. Be black on twitter
For the last year, I have been bombarding Brazen Careerist's community manager, Ryan Paugh with my observations about the trending topics. They are always full of black people. But if I looked at my list of followers, I'd think there are almost no black people on twitter. And if I only read trending topics, I'd think twitter was mostly a black person thing.

Whenever I'm bored at night, (and I've worn out my weekly limit on impulsive eBay shopping), I click the trending topics on twitter. I am not alone in this. Other white people write about their fascination with late-night trending topics from black people.

For those of you who don't know what trending topics is, here's an explanation from Farhad Manjoo who wrote a great piece about being black on twitter for Slate:

On Twitter, people append hashtags to categorize their messages”?the tags make it easier to search for posts on a certain topic, and they can sometimes lead to worldwide call-and-response conversations in which people compete to outdo one another with ever more hilarious, bizarre, or profane posts.

So, anyway, last weekend, I clicked on the trending topic #ghettocompanies

I click on stuff like this because I can tell it's going to be a conversation that is one that I would never find myself at in real life, but online, I can lurk. Here are some good one's:

Yes, these examples reinforce stereotypes. I know; it reminds me of how my family sits around telling Jewish jokes that reinforce stereotypes, but we don't care because we are Jewish.

But back to the how to be great at twitter part of this post. The reasons these trending topics do so well on twitter is that the groups of people who are using them are tightly knit. This information comes from Brendan Meeder, who appears to be getting a PhD from Carnegie Mellon by publishing information about how black people use Twitter.

Tightly knit groups of people retweet each other and they participate in each other's games. This is true of lots of groups on twitter—it's a very cliquey environment. But what's interesting is that black people are more tightly aligned than white people. That's why they dominate on the trending topics, according to Meeder and Manjoo.

This actually makes sense. And now, I am wondering if it's okay to tread on racist territory too make the following analogy: There is also evidence that black people are more tightly knit than white people in prison.

I was doing research on prison violence (these are my two pet topics for late-night research: prison violence and plane crashes. I hope there's a special Jeopardy for these topics. I will be a millionaire.)

Anyway, prison violence is skyrocketing, and prisoners in the U.S. receive unwanted sexual advances 80,000 times per day. But the population most likely to be raped are white men under the age of 25. Of course, all men under the age of 25 are prime targets because young men are hotter than old men. But white men are more vulnerable because if a black man rapes a black man, the black prisoners will attack him. The same is true with Latino men. And if a black man rapes a Latino man or a Latino rapes a black, the men who are the same race as the victim will seek revenge. But the white people are not used to thinking of themselves in terms of race. So white men do not protect other white men.

Now I'm really on a tangent, but I can't resist telling you. This usually starts happening in a low-security prison where guards are trying to figure out what a prisoner will be like and where to send him. The non-violent white criminals get pounced on right away. The trauma of rape makes a person start looking crazy, and then they get put in a high security prison because they are acting crazy. And in a high security prison a young, non-violent prisoner is dead meat.

Okay. So I'm a little worried about this last piece of advice, which is, in case we've lost focus, to act like you're black on twitter so that people participate in your stuff and you participate in other peoples' stuff and you have a tight-knit group.

I think people will say this is racist. But what I really want is a conversation about it. So I'm taking a risk. And maybe this is the real piece of advice. Take a risk with twitter. Try doing something with it that maybe pushes you a little outside your comfort zone. That is the way to make life the most interesting from twitter, and maybe that's all we can ask from any technology.

Posted in Diversity, Fulfillment, Networking
63 comments on “4 Twitter tips no one will give you
  1. e-mag says:

    I won’t take the risk to comment your “last piece of advice” ;) but the first three makes sense to me. I just started a twitter for the mag I’m editing a couple of weeks ago and I was actually looking for these kinds of tips!!! Those are the best that I’ve found on the Net! So thanks!

  2. Mykel says:

    The link embedded in the following text, “The trauma of rape makes a person start looking crazy”, has nothing to do with how rape makes a person look crazy. Odd.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      I really liked the link. It was a first-person story about how the prison rape made the boy suicidal – the ultimate sign of craziness, I think.

      Sometimes stories, rather than statistics, are the best way to tell the truth.

      Penelope

  3. pfj42 says:

    Penelope, you keep bringing up the “interesting” vs. “happy” life comparison. And you have chosen interesting, I guess.

    That’s OK but don’t forget the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

    That’s a curse.

    War is interesting. Plague is interesting. Floods and earthquakes and huge wildfires are interesting.

    Is it not possible to have some “interesting” and also some “happy”? Why does it have to be only one or the other . . .

  4. Sonia W says:

    No comment on the last section of this post. I am a black female and I didn’t get on Twitter until I realized what it could do for my business. I think there are allot of people on Twitter, other then just blacks, but that’s besides the point. Your advice on how to use what is being said was excellent and extremely useful.

    Twitter is just a sliver of Social Media that I use to promote my blog and coupon business. Although it has been very helpful and somewhat lucrative, my blog is where I want most of my focus. People can get coupons anywhere, but what I have to say to my blog readers is where I want my niche to be.

  5. Gayle says:

    Personally I think the idea that you cannot be both happy and live an interesting life is a bunch of crap. Most of my friends will tell you that I am happy (or appear thus. I was a very unhappy person most of my adolescence and young adulthood…and believe you me was I ecstatic when I finally got it that happiness is a choice…and mostly an inside job.

    Though I will give you that I may the only one who feels my life is interesting…someone else may flee screaming and running at a high rate of speed is some Freaky Friday type of event were to happen between them and I. So instead, I will offer up the Dalai Lama as an example of someone whom most people will agree leads an incredibly interesting and happy life.

    btw…I am black…and I don’t twitter. maybe I will change that [[the tweeting…not being black ;)]]

  6. Tiffany says:

    You have a lot of followers on Twitter, but you’re also following close to 20,000 people. Do you think the high volume of followers has to do with the fact that you followed them back, or followed them first? Do you go through and add random people?

    Also, you’re not a “normal” person, really. You are somewhat in the public sphere. I agree with many of the points you make in your blog, but I also think you say controversial things knowing the public will be outraged and respond. This has really helped your business, your brand, your blog. Those are smart business tactics. This has probably encouraged people to follow you on Twitter, also.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Interesting point about me following 22,000 people. I don’t follow anyone intentionally. Somehow, at the beginning of twitter, I accidentally made something that automatically follows some people when then do some trigger, though I’m not sure what. So my 22,000 people means that my feed is sort of useless to me. I wish I knew how to fix this. I feel bad unfollowing 22,000 people though. I feel this is a big mess, and someone who is writing advice on how to use Twitter should probably know how to fix this :)

      Penelope

      • Ari Herzog says:

        If you are auto-following twitter users, there are no more than four or five tools that cause this. If it’s been going on for a while, I’ll guess one or two. And I can probably guess which one. It’s probably SocialOomph.

        The easiest fix is to log into your account on twitter.com and within your profile settings there is a link that says “connections.” Click that, and you’ll see the tools you authorized to do twitter things on your behalf. Look at it from the bottom of the screen on up, as the oldest are at the bottom.

        Else, you need to try to log into the third-party websites, like socialoomph.com and click the “forget my password” links to see if you’re in that system.

      • Avatar Koo says:

        To manage my Twitter account, I use http://manageflitter.com (I found the link via @swissmiss, which is a favorite blog o’mine).

        It will tell you which of the 22K people you follow have unfollowed you or are inactive <– you can unfollow them without feeling any guilt.

      • Mark W. says:

        @Ari – you had to declare Twitter bankruptcy and therefore unfollow everyone due to the reinstallation of your OS and Tweetdeck and the policies of Twitter. I think you handled it well from what I read on the TwiTip blog ( http://www.twitip.com/how-to-unfollow-on-twitter-with-class/ ) and your blog ( http://ariwriter.com/can-you-help-my-twitter-growing-pains/ ). I’m sure it was a lot of work but necessary.
        @Penelope – I think reading the two blog posts above would be insightful and helpful. The “fix” is up to you. :)

  7. Eduard - People Skills Decoded says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I’m pleasantly surprised to read your attitudes regarding Twitter. I think quantity is more important then quality. People don’t follow on Twitter other people who bombard them with a lot of useless tweets.

    On the other hand, many people follow a lot of other people and for this reason, it’s hard to get your tweets noticed by them. So, in my view, quantity is not the priority, but it does help a lot.

  8. Jake says:

    You might find this blog post interesting, I think it ties several of your points together–quality posts to individuals who care will increase thoughtful conversations and therefore make you happier. This has always been true in an offline sense with me, nice to see it applied to an online scenario. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/talk-deeply-be-happy/

  9. Wendy says:

    Tiffany’s comment made me wonder: how do you follow 20,000 people on twitter? What do you decide to read? You can’t read every one. Do you organize them into lists?

    Helpful post.

    • Ari Herzog says:

      Whether someone’s following 20,000 or 20 people on twitter, the answer would be the same. Everything is not read, but pieces are read whenever you log in and look.

  10. Tina Portis says:

    I had over 3000 “followers” on Twitter in comparison to the 1000 I was “following” and woke up one day and decided to delete my account. Beyond my Corporate America day job that funds my non-profit for Single Parents and jump started my all natural health & beauty product company “Organic Life Products” Twitter just was another nuance in my life.

    The tips you list are excellent. For someone to use Twitter, they must know why they’re using it and engage with others. I used it mainly for exhaling my true thoughts (which my husband didn’t like) and I found the community to be quite supportive.

  11. AlliG says:

    Penelope, you moving to a farm in rural Wisconsin had nothing to do with you chasing the happy and everything to do with you chasing the interesting.

  12. Green says:

    Penelope, this was really interesting to read, thank you. And not because I’m black, because I’m not – I’m a jewish girl from New York. However, now I know that if I ever go to prison, it will be in my best interest to be very violent and to follow that up with acting crazy and trying to look as old as possible. So thank you for sharing what you’ve learned.

    Also, I do not care about being happy. I think it’s too hard, and like a four-leaf clover, if you constantly search it out, you’ll be frustrated. Instead, I would like to be content. Being content will make me satisfied, and it sounds like a more achievable goal.

  13. Jess says:

    This post is loooong…can you write a Twitter version?
    THAT would be cool.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      You’re right. And I worry a lot about having this long a post. So, here’s my effort:

      Twitter advice: be interesting, be happy, be black. And ask someone to do it with you.

      Penelope

  14. pfj says:

    Can’t figure out how to not follow 22,000 people on Twitter?

    GET HELP.

    Pay someone. You can afford it. You already have help for other things, why not that?

    Can’t figure out how to navigate the DMV?

    GET HELP.

    Pay someone. You can afford it. Why is it so hard to find an assistant to help with things like that? Or maybe you just don’t think of it?

    Can’t figure out how to prioritize your staggering bills?

    GET HELP.

    Perhaps every one of those ‘helpers’ would be a different person. Doesn’t matter, maybe it’s better to have someone who is at least moderately expert. With taxes, obviously. With legal stuff, obviously.

    You talk about making a lot of money; does any of it stay with you?

    I’m exasperated today because I’ve been trying to help someone who won’t accept the help, and in fact won’t even listen. Sometimes you listen. So I figured this would e a place to make a point.

  15. Black Person on Twitter says:

    Be Black on Twitter! Wow! Really? OK
    Not really sure to take this. Maybe what they say is true…”black people are just too sensitive.”

  16. barbi says:

    56.000? Twitter envy anyone?

  17. Travel with Kids says:

    The real test of someone’s influence on twitter – and I suspect you have a lot – would be to post a series of links (over a couple of days) and see how many users click on them.

    56,000 followers is a lot if 30% click on your links. Not much if 0.0001% click through.

    And that’s where the quality – or perceived quality – of your tweets will reveal itself. There are many twitterers out there who have huge followings but certainly don’t practice quality over quantity. Quite the opposite. But a user on twitter who only posts quality tweets will have a much larger click through audience.

  18. Margaret Goerig says:

    I’m with you on points 1 and 2, and even the bit in No. 4 about taking a risk and going outside your comfort zone is good, but acting like you're black “so that people participate in your stuff and you participate in other peoples' stuff and you have a tight-knit group” is a bit much. If you’re faking something then there’s nothing tight-knit about it.

    • OneJillian says:

      Margaret, that is incredibly true. Authenticity is preached far and wide on twitter. You can’t a Black Person costume and find social community success.

    • OneJillian says:

      oops. I mean “you can’t PUT ON a Black Person costume.”

  19. Jeffrey Sumber says:

    That was just awfully satisfying and somewhat brilliant. Thanks, I needed that.

  20. Robin says:

    I absolutely loved the 1st three points you had about Twitter…but on the 4th one…especially this part:

    “in case we've lost focus, to act like you're black on twitter so that people participate in your stuff and you participate in other peoples' stuff and you have a tight-knit group.”

    I don’t get it, especially since I am black and I am on twitter….I only have 167 followers and I rarely am a trending topic….I must be doing something wrong. My followers are a pretty tight knit group because, like you, I believe in quality and not quantity. How “black” do I need to act to get me some more followers? What “black” things do I have to do to get people to pay attention to me?

    I need to know this.

    • Sonia W says:

      Robin that was classic well said!

    • Gib says:

      The articles she linked to basically profiled not what hypothetical thing every black person on Twitter has in common, but what might be behind explaining the phenomenon of trending topics launched, retweeted, riffed on by presumably black people on Twitter.

      One of the parts of “call and response” from Slate is that these particularly profiled black Twitterers create their own, catchy hash tags and then their Twitter friends pick them up and then an echo chamber takes place until it’s a trending topic.

  21. Jason Arican says:

    I don’t know you Penelope, so for that reason I apologize in advance for being so critical.

    This post is lazy and misguided at best. In it’s worst it is patronizing, dismissive and a perpetuator of ignorant stereotypes.

    First, I don’t even see how you accomplish what you set out to do. Wait, what *were* you setting out to do here? Who is the audience for this advice? Who is going to capitalize from gaining followers in the manner you lay out above? Who needs a writing partner to craft 140 character messages and how is that at all authentic?

    But on to the part of your post that you intentionally wrote as needlessly provocative.

    I get what you’re saying- you should be supportive of your network in order to truly make a connection. At least I think that is what you’re saying. You spent so much time on tangents that you never fully explored that point and then went somewhere completely off base and ended by telling people to “take a risk with Twitter”, even though the forum you’re using is a blog. Huh?

    But why not just say either or those things in the first place? Why try to make this flimsy analogy about “how black people use twitter”?

    It’s as simple as this: whenever you say a certain group of people does X, Y, or Z you are automatically stereotyping and have no basis for whatever follows. This is why Manjoo’s piece was total crap in the first place.

    I’m black, Penelope. But I do not use Twitter like that. Maybe it’s because I’m also 27. Maybe it’s because I’m not on Twitter at 1am. Maybe it is any one of a host of reasons of why I don’t do participate in those dumb trending topics.

    What I’m trying to say is that yes- on the whole there is a culture involved with people who contribute to those trending topics. And maybe it is a lot of black people, but it’s also whites, latinos or ANYONE ELSE who identifies with that culture. But it’s certainly not how “black people” use Twitter. It’s not about race, Penelope.

    These are the sort of sweeping, ignorant statements that have no place in what is supposed to be intelligent discussion.

    And those examples that you used aren’t even funny.

  22. Can't post name says:

    I think Twitter is one of the uninteresting scenes I’ve ever encountered, even when I’ve been at a cocktail party with a bunch of Republicans. I have to post on Twitter for my job; yes, it is actually in my yearly goals. (Not to get XX number of followers but to post XX times/week) When I post something, I am literally boring myself. So, if I’m bored with it why would anybody else find it interesting? I might find it interesting if I could post freely about politics or current affairs or my opinion about people who watch “Jersey Shore,” but I can’t do that b/c it is part my J-O-B. Yuck. Really, though, I found Twitter boring before I had to post as part of my job. I like to tell stories and make a point, even if it is a snarky one, about certain things. Can’t do that in 140 characters. Boring.

  23. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says:

    I love Twitter advice. I’ve been taking a lot of it recently and it works. I naturally picked a happy smiley picture for my twitter image (@getinthehotspot) because I’d prefer to be surrounded by happy people rather than miserable-looking people or posey types and I think most of us would.

    Penelope, it was a source of great relief when you updated your thinking picture to a smiling one. I love the smiling photo. You’re an influencer and a leader and as such you have a responsibility to try to cheer people up even when you feel glum. There is enough misery in the world, we have to try to spread a little happiness if we can. So thank you for that.

    The Twitter advice I’ve been following is to stick to my topic and this comes in the be interesting category. Irrelevant = unfollow. Relevant = more happy followers.

    I am not black but I have some lovely Twitter friends who are so that’s about all I can do on that one.

    Sadly I don’t have an editor but I do my best to be brief. Except when leaving comments on other people’s blogs in which case I give myself permission to drivel on shamelessly:)

    Sorry but I tend to get a bit carried away when I read something I like!

  24. Brittany says:

    For some reason, when Penelope refers to how black people seem more popular on Twitter, she was being almost… sarcastic? Ironic? I can’t find the word. (AH! Satirical!) I don’t think she necessarily means “be black or you won’t be popular.” It’s a rather *satirical* observation based upon her own personal use of Twitter (an observation I have had myself), meant mostly to start discussion. This is a blog after all.

  25. Clara says:

    “White men don’t think about race” REALLY?

  26. Chris M. says:

    Penelope, since you keep talking about happy vs. interesting, I thought I’d join the readers saying they disagree with your view.

    My husband and I are expatriates that left my country, family and friends to move to the U.S. because of interesting work in technology fields. We read a lot too (fiction and non-fiction).

    We are both extremely happy BECAUSE we lead an interesting life. If I won the lottery and decided to go back to my country to be near family, leaving behind my interesting work, I’d probably become suicidal.

    So, perhaps your idea that you are not happy because you want to lead an interesting life is just a rationalization, and the reason you are not happy has something to do with DNA instead (http://www.economist.com/node/17090697 ).

  27. Lisa says:

    a) Read Montaigne.
    b) I have no idea what you are talking about.
    c) I want to be happy AND have an interesting life. So far, not doing too badly. Better percentage than baseball.

  28. Kristen says:

    For comment four, I think the whole “black on twitter” meme should be known as the “hood on twitter” meme. A lot of stuff said late at night by people who appear to be black on Twitter is sometimes funny, but many times inappropriate for anyone who wants a chance at using their Twitter for networking. Also, agree strongly with the idea of tweeting quality and not tweeting junk

  29. Ashley says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I agree with your #4 pt but there could of been toooooons of other ways to get your point accross…..

  30. Lynn says:

    Making a comment that includes race does not equal a racist comment. It is true that many black people contribute to the trending topics on twitter. Saying that is not racist–it’s just an observation.

    However.

    Penelope in her past writing on this very blog has talked about how class is the new race–and yet she groups all blacks of all socioeconomic classes into this one monolithic “tight knit group.”

    Oh, and who says you can’t participate in those conversations on twitter? If you’re truly pursuing an “interesting” life you’d step out your comfort zone and start a conversation with the trending topic tweeters–that would be a tweet I’d love to see on your blog sidebar!

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for this comment, Lynn.

      For so long, I have used this blog as a way to learn to rules for social engagement at work. There are so many unwritten, nuanced rules that are really difficult to learn.

      I am starting to think it’s the same about race. I’m fascinated by the rules, the underlying reasoning, and logic, whatever. And this comment goes a good way to explain it. I think I mostly get nervous about racism because I don’t understand it, but I can’t learn to understand it unless I write about it. I mean, for me, that’s how I learn about stuff. So, now I know why this post isn’t racist. And why I need to concentrate on socioeconomic and not race. (Not like I haven’t said this before, but maybe it’s like therapy – you have to say it 50 times before it sinks in.)

      Interesting tidbit: I have heard this a lot from people who have emailed me privately, but people do not seem to want to make this comment with their name attributed. I’m not sure why. I think people do not want to end up being officially spokespeople about racism. Or something like that.

      So, anyway, thanks, Lynn.

      -Penelope

      • Robin says:

        However misguided your attempt on this post was, I love the fact that you actually want to LEARN things about race and class. However, a lot of issues with race and socioeconomic issues coexist, so in my opinion you can’t really learn about one without experiencing or learning about the other….to stay well-rounded, of course.

  31. melanie gao says:

    I cringed when you said young guys get raped in prison more than older guys because the young ones are hot. That seems to imply that the rapists are looking for sex when in fact rape is all about power and control for the rapist. They don’t care how attractive their targets are.

  32. Penelope Trunk says:

    Okay. Admittedly, I drew my own conclusion here. But this IS the age group most likely to be raped. That evidence is clear. So why do you think people want power over this age group in particular?

    Penelope

    • melanie gao says:

      Because they’re the most vulnerable?

      You’d think rapists might go for the most powerful inmates, because if they can conquer them then they’ve really proven themselves. But I don’t think rapists are that brave. Conquering lots of weak ones is probably easier.

  33. Domenick says:

    Uh, yeah, normal huh. The ish started out normal then it got kind of bizarre/bipolar. I don’t even know what kind of point you were trying to make with the”be black on twitter” “trending topics” “jail” off topic tip. Stirring up some ish whether intentional or subliminal has been done by many,so there in perhaps you are normal.

  34. Elita says:

    Wow, my first time hating a Penelope post. Yes, there are a lot of black people on Twitter (25% of Twitter users are black, yet we only make up 12% of the population of the US). However, what is “acting” black? And why would a white woman be telling other white people to try and “act” black? It’s like that old Paul Mooney joke: Everybody wants to be black until the cops show up.

    Anyway….the problem with this post is that you believe that conversations amongst a tiny minority of people who happen to be black is representative of all black people. We are not a monolith. And using the term “hood” isn’t any better. It’s code for “ghetto” which is code for “niggerish.” Do better.

  35. Caitlin says:

    Penelope, the reason you have a lot of followers on Twitter is because you have a big blog. If you had built up to 56,000 followers without the blog then I would take your Twitter advice far more seriously.

    And no, I’m not going to “act black” on Twitter, nor debate why this advice is foolish and offensive. I will point out, however, that it goes against your oft-repeated advice to be authentic.

  36. ADoodle says:

    Every time I click on one of those trending topic games and read the tweets, I am sorely tempted to quit Twitter altogether.

  37. Laya says:

    FYI – the Slate article from Farhad Manjoo was roundly dismissed and ridiculed in my corner of the black twitterverse, and mostly for the reasons that others have pointed out. Most of us (and by “us”, I mean mostly black, middle class, college educated or currently in school (or not), business owners, artists, musicians, social activists, and generally the sort of black people that not everyone realizes exist online…or in real life for that matter) felt like it missed the point, was too quick to equate class with race and made all of the usual assumptions. That sort of “analysis” gets old very, very quickly. The only good thing that came out of it was the #blacktwitterbird trending topic, which gave me great joy and pleasure.

  38. Ron says:

    Penelope, this happiness/interesting thing keeps coming up and people object to it being considered a dichotomy. I think of happy as how you feel when you’ve overcome some obstacles and achieved some goal or purpose you really wanted to achieve. You don’t have to finds ways to be happy. You just go after your purposes and goals and as you achieve them you win some happiness. So forget about happiness, just concentrate on your goals and purposes.

    The dichotomy that matters is interested vs interesting. Trying to be interesting all the time could get exhausting and if you’re trying to be interesting, but you really aren’t, you are going to be very boring and shunned at a party. Try being interested instead. That will never tire you out and at a party you will not be shunned, you will be popular, as a really good listener. And if you’re being interested, rather than being interesting, you might find yourself learning all kinds of interesting stuff.

  39. Lori says:

    Your statement about unhappy people loving happiness research hits close to home for me. In one way or another, I have been doing “happiness research” for most of my life. I grew up in poverty and angst in the WV hollows … I was mesmerized by happiness and I wanted to know All about it! My life has been interesting (and often heartbreaking) and people love to hear about it. But it seemed the more I talked about it the more I got stuck in it. I think I got exhausted. I am learning a difference between interesting and unnecessary pain or drama. I am also learning the difference between happiness and a spiritual joy that allows me the room to be unhappy.
    Moving AND thought-provoking post. Much enjoyed!
    p.s. I’m not used to this commenting thing.Its kind of an awkward interaction, but you really communicate to your readers intimately and it puts in us the urge to communicate back. Well done.

  40. TwistedByKnaves says:

    Can’t you “act black” by finding and joining a strong, supportive community?

  41. B says:

    You want to learn about race, that’s fine, but the problem with your last point has nothing to do with race, it doesn’t even have to do with socioeconomic, it has to do with the broad generalization you’re making. The reason that you don’t feel that “white people” have a tightly knit-group on twitter, or any of these other inane social networking sites is because you don’t consciously view “white people” as an actual group, but as a conglomerate of many different groups. I’m not singling you out either, but this is a problem that the “black” community, and really people of color constantly face. I am black, but I don’t identify myself as a “black” man because I understand the intricate diversities that exist within that community be it ethnicity, socioeconomic group, city, state, country, etc. I mean really, do you think about who is actually going on and using twitter and using these trending topics? And why would you assume that people who use these trending tags actually consider themselves to be part of some tight-knit community, and not just participating in a one time thing? I know that I can go on twitter and go through those hashtags and draw my own broad generalizations about white people, or just about any group, but I don’t because I know that twitter is representative of absolutely nothing BUT twitter.

    The other question I have is, what exactly does “act black” mean? I just love how people say that as if there is some general behavior genetically coded into black people. While we’re at it can you also tell me how to act white, yellow, brown, red, green and purple?

    • Tamar Cloyd says:

      Totally agree. I know I should be shocked at this post, but we’re still in America and racism reigns supreme. Actually heard of Brazen Careerist from someone who I thought supported her site. Me? Not a fan at all. Try again, Penelope. Promoting racism under the guise of a “tip” is beyond tacky…

  42. Kandeezie says:

    I always thought those trending topics were generated by a certain age group. Age group. *emphasis* Age group and of a certain demographic (like young black kids with disposable income making fun of the culture they see around them because they can and they’re easily bored and that’s what kids do at that age). Black people above 25, now that would be near impossible for me to imagine.

  43. Joel Crowe says:

    Taking a risk. Now that’s a message I would agree to. There’s nothing to loose.

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  44. Slotoletta says:

    I update my Twitter through my blog. Usually I spend an hour that to schedule all posts for an entire week. And every day I have my blog and Twitter updated.

    Thanks for the article. Very interesting.

  45. Oliver says:

    Thanks for the Post!

    Im new to twitter and just wanted to google “Twitter tips” before I saw your post.

    -Oliver

  46. Mashawnda Dowell says:

    Hi, I’m @culturatist via twitter. I took away some great pointers from this post. I like the writing partner one(I write), however, I prob need to get a better goal there. I believe in your case though–like other pro bloggers, your blog followers simply followed you on twitter. It would be cool to get a guest post from someone that did not start out like you did. I could learn a lot from a post like that.

    I have like 1100+ followers and I believe that I collected them based on Retweets and things like that. Or maybe they thought I had a cute profile or so. Who knows??? Either way I went from 75 to 1000+ in like a few months (just started really using twitter this year—acct opened in 09′). The figure is not a lot, but I am finding my way w/ my online voice.

    In regard to your race question/advice/tip, I think its good and healthy to state how you feel and what you don’t understand about race. The black people comment was odd though. I feel that those trending topics are from popular culture and not just race. The thing is just because a person or a group of people cling together via a hashtag does not bring one more followers. So for this part of your post, it would of been cool to mention some people that have a large number of followers on twitter. I am not an expert, but I doubt many are black. In my opinion, its more valuable to have more followers on twitter, than to be involved in a treading topic.

    Also, it may be beneficial for you to have a good blogging community around you of diverse people that will not “go off” on you when you have race questions:) Most people ignore race questions and etc. I’m not sure why? It is what it is, I’m here if you have questions. The thing I must point out to you though about racism or race, is that the world is not just black people vs. whites or just blacks and whites. There are many that are non white and non black that make up a large part of twitter/social media. Namely South America.

    So thanks for your tips, ask me for any race questions or etc via @culturatist, and know that many of us are trying to learn more about social media and that’s why we read this article. Racism is and will always be a mindset (in my opinion). You will never deeply know how blacks feel about it, and blacks will never know how you feel. But you both can be open for dialog about the matter.

    Great post.

  47. Shelly says:

    The best program for Twitter – Twidium http://twidium.com/en

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