It’s rare that you can stand in a room with strangers and get them to honestly answer questions about themselves or discuss a nuanced topic together. On Twitter, despite the character limit, people are often there precisely for the purpose of engaging in interesting conversation and revealing personal feelings and experiences; it can be easier for a lot of people to engage in this way online than IRL. For your professional growth, Twitter provides a lot of opportunity to get into people’s minds at scale. There are endless ways to spark conversations on Twitter. These are popular methods with twists and variations you can explore.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Use Twitter to ask open-ended questions that allow people to be thoughtful. This can lead to interesting discussions in your mentions, often connecting other people (which gives you leverage as a connector), and serves to form an eclectic community around your tweets. People often feel more comfortable answering solicited questions than posting their own thoughts unprompted, giving you and your community a chance to hear from people who might have stayed off the radar otherwise. Kevin Simler often poses questions on a number of topics ranging from high preferences on particular product categories to unconventional lifestyle choices.
The goal for most of my question threads is to pose a question where people will want to read each other’s answers. I measure the success of a thread by how many “likes” the answers get. I often get the idea for a question thread when I personally have a thought that I don’t want to share apropos of nothing, but would happily share if someone asked the right question. Then I simply ask that question.Kevin Simler (@KevinSimler), software, data, and automation, Hexagon Bio, author*
Where the goal of open-ended questions is to start a conversation that could go anywhere, Twitter polls narrow responses into a few categories. This gives you and your followers a sense of general sentiment on a particular topic and can help with identifying trends, settling debates (or at least getting your community’s take on something), and it’s an easy way to get lots of engagement—all people have to do is click an answer, and they will click just to see the results. (You can always add a “Just see results” option to your poll, so your findings aren’t skewed by the votes of people who just want to see what others think.) People will often discuss their choices in the comments to expand on the reasoning behind their selection. If you want your poll to start a conversation in the comments, request that people share their reasoning, or the answer they would have chosen that wasn’t an option in the poll.
280 characters can convey a surprising amount of information when used carefully. But nuanced and more detailed thoughts often require more space. Linking together a series of tweets through a thread is a powerful way to bypass Twitter’s limitations and use the medium for longer discussions and storytelling. Before Twitter introduced tweet threads as an official feature, they were referred to as “tweet storms.”
Types of threads include:
Static threads generally form out of a single idea and have a definitive start and end. Can be pre-written within the span of minutes or free-written over the span of a few hours.
Additive threads often start as describing a phenomenon and are added to overtime as evidence mounts to support it. Can span days, months, or years.
Threads of posts can be used to collect a series of posts, whether your own or others, that are connected in some way or feed into a larger narrative.
Threads of threads collect other threads/tweetstorms, whether your own or others. Often this is simply done to keep a record. (for example, Douglas Craig (@Douglas9162) crafted a “Book Summaries Thread” which featured his own threads on books he had read and reviewed.)
A few examples of wildly popular tweet threads include the following: