How to be a Twitter renegade

Famous Steve McQueen on the Swiss border in "The Great Escape", starring Steve McQueen

When Twitter first came out, we all scrambled like hell in the marketing world to see how we could make it work for us. Over time, a series of rules for good practice established themselves.

But today, I’m here to tell you how to break the rules on Twitter so you can be a social media success. Some of it may induce gasps of horror or cries of fury. Other parts might just make you slap yourself on the thigh (Easy there!) and say to yourself ‘Why on Earth didn’t I think of that before?’

Either way, you won’t be indifferent.

Ready to start doing your own thing on Twitter? Then let’s start kicking those conventions into touch. Let the revolution begin.

On being the (thought) leader of the pack

Image of board game pieces all in formation behind the leading pieceAt some point, it became conventional wisdom among the Twitterati that to be a thought leader, you had to have a larger number of followers than the number of people you were following.

Since lots of people follow you, it looks like you’re leading the way. Yeah, I can see how the point in all this. 

But do I agree?


Being a thought leader is about knowing your subject or industry inside out, and then bringing fresh insight and ideas to the masses on the back of all that knowledge you’ve squirrelled away in that nifty marketing noodle of yours.

Follow all the people you need to on Twitter so you can soak up all the information, ideas and comment you can and build a comprehensive knowledge of your subject. The more you learn, the easier it is to form your own opinions and ideas and try new things.

Don’t worry about your following vs followers ratio. Just keep learning. Keep sharing your thoughts and ideas. The followers (and the respect) will come.

On being part of Team Followback

For a long time it’s been considered good ‘netiquette’ to follow someone back if they follow you.

It’s the social media equivalent of ‘You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours’, except you don’t need long nails to do it. A Twitter account and a smartphone, or a Twitter account and a computer, will do the trick.

However, this was back when we were all still trying to figure out how we could use Twitter for marketing and when, in Search, SEOs were ramming keywords into copy with as much subtlety as a punch in the gob.

Think of being on Team Followback as something the Victorians might have done if they had Twitter accounts!

So who do you follow, and who don’t you follow?

Well, the simple answer is, don’t follow someone just for the sake of it. Review their tweets and bio:

  • Do they tweet or blog regularly, and if so, do they have anything to say?
  • Are they just endlessly retweeting, and is it anything of any value?
  • Are the tweets relevant to your industry or to your interests?
  • Do the tweets suggest know-how, or are they tweeting yesteryear’s news?
  • How many people is the person following? If the number is in the thousands, they might not even be able to track all your Twitter activity anyway.

If the account isn’t delivering anything of substance for you, don’t follow back. You’ll pick up new followers by posting engaging or useful (re)tweets and by tweeting the high quality content you’ve posted on your blog.

On hashtags

One way to get all the skinny in your industry is to search the different hashtags in Twitter, of course.

The trick is not to just copy these hashtags when you take part in the conversation. Invent one of your own and then add it to the ones already being used when you tweet. You never know when it might make take off.

A good hashtag can work wonders for your social media visibility, especially if you have a campaign of some description. Just ask Carter Wilkerson and his quest for a year’s supply of free chicken nuggests from Wendys, using the #NuggsForCarter hashtag.

Keep going, Carter! You’ll soon be enjoying that chicken-y goodness!

Oh, and don’t be frightened to use three hashtags in your tweets instead of two. Just make sure they’re relevant.

Be authentic

Keyboard with the command "Tweet It" displayed above it

Staying true to yourself is something you should do in many walks of life, so my apologies if this final tip seems a tad on the generic side. But it’s soooo true!

Being a renegade (as all good renegades would tell you!) is about going against the status quo, not running alongside the pack. So be yourself on Twitter (as long as you’re not some kind of deviant!).

That means not following the masses. Perhaps your views on marketing don’t tie in with popular marketing wisdom? Fantastic! Write a blog post about it, and then tweet this sage wisdom to your followers. Whether they agree or disagree, they’ll lap up the insight. You’ll also give them the itch to curate the tweet and illustrate their own views, or at the very least retweet it to their own followers.

By being yourself on Twitter and posting meaningful content, whether articles or tweets, you’ll become a respected voice in your field. Earning the respect of the Twitterati is a fair exchange for a display of integrity.

Now get onto Twitter and start shaking things up

If you really want to rock Twitter or other social media, you could try the no-nonsense guide The Art of Social Media, by Guy Kawasaki.

But my take on following the renegade path is, show an open mind and follow plenty of others. Be selective and fearless as to who you follow (no guts, no glory, right?). Make your hashtags unique. Be yourself. 

How would you challenge the norm on Twitter? While you think about that, I’m off to follow Carter and bring him a retweet closer to those chicken nuggets. Hope he’s sharing!

Images by dullhunk, used under CC licence 2.0; inspiredimages and geralt, under CC licence 1.0


Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *