Following people whose work or career paths you respect can be a form of mentorship. Often they’ll share insights into their process, mistakes they’ve made along the way, how they’ve gone from early career to industry leader. Follow these individuals and pay close attention.
Following industry leaders—whether or not they are your favorites—is also a good way to stay informed about what’s happening in your field by following some of the figures who are often at the center of industry news. Here are a few examples of people considered community leaders:
If you’re a product designer. Charli Marie (@charliprangley), Marketing Design Lead at Convert Kit, has a YouTube Channel about design and belongs to “Design Twitter”
If you’re a community builder. David Spinks (@DavidSpinks), Founder of CMX is part of “Community Management Twitter”
If you’re interested in cryptocurrency. Jill Carson (@jillruthcarlson), the co-host of the What Grinds My Gears podcast, co-founder of the Open Money Initiative, and a Principal at Slow Ventures, is part of “Crypto Twitter”
By continually honing your own professional skills and taking part in sharing your ideas with the wider community, you’ll reach a point where you’re viewed as a leader both in your wider professional community and its subsection on Twitter. There may come a point where you become someone whose work and expertise is appreciated, and your heroes become your peers.
Now I’m at a more mature stage of my career, and I have a pretty strong community of people around me, including some of the brilliant, well-known people I admired from afar when I was younger. It’s pretty surreal, in a lot of ways.Jackie Luo (@jackiehluo), software engineer, Square*
caution While following industry leaders can give you great perspective and insights into the industry, being a “leader” sometimes means “having a lot of followers.” It’s important to remember that a high follower count can lead to an individual developing a persona and posting what they believe people want to hear. Absorb what you find valuable but take everything with a level of skepticism. Here are a few things that should create doubt:
Complex language. The best people to follow have a way of simplifying complex concepts in the style of the Feynman Technique. If you’re following people whose tweets use overly complex language, don’t automatically assume you’re ignorant. Instead, entertain the idea they may not know the subject matter well enough to communicate clearly.
Black and white thinking. People who speak in extremes are generally oversimplifying something complex. You would be wise to assume that what they’re discussing actually has many shades of gray. Twitter’s algorithm amplifies extreme rhetoric and these tweets will often have high engagement. Don’t be persuaded by lots of retweets and likes. Exploring nuance on Twitter is less likely to gain the tweeter as much attention as a bunch of hot takes. However, people who speak in a measured manner are often the ones you’ll learn the most from.
Fawning praise. Everyone praising and sharing the same article, tweet, or product doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good and you should do the same. Be suspicious if you read superlatives like, “This is the best thing I’ve ever read on X,” or, “I’ve never seen X this well articulated.” Often this is simply people signaling they belong to a particular community and keep up with the latest developments. In the same vein, it’s important to be cognizant of relationships: close friends of an author will provide high praise of their friend’s book and a venture capitalist will hype up (or defend) a company in their portfolio. Take care to read and investigate things before you share them. Often sharing something, while also highlighting the tensions you see, is more impactful than jumping on a praise bandwagon.
The first step is following people you find interesting and starting to engage by commenting and replying to tweets—that way you start to find your voice. Pay attention to what kind of tweets you (and others) enjoy reading, and what kind of formats work well.Arianna Simpson (@AriannaSimpson), founder and Managing Partner, Autonomous Partners*
When you first start using Twitter, you’ll often follow people you’re familiar with. Spend enough time on the platform and you’ll find more and more people you’ve never heard of that are worthwhile to follow. Finding interesting people can be done a number of ways:
Look up who the people you follow follow. If there’s a Twitter user whose insights you find valuable, navigate to their profile and click on “X following,” with X being the number of people they follow. If you take the time to investigate this list, you’ll find who they find interesting and can increase the amount of astute people you follow too.