Hey Twitter Friends

(Last Updated: 10/4/22. Version 1.3. Cleaned up the first two parts and continued working on the Profile section.)

Hi! I’m B.J. Mendelson, and I am the author of Social Media Is Bullshit (St. Martin’s Press) and Privacy: And How We Get It Back (Curious Reads). I’ve also ghostwritten two books for corporate executives and I host WAYWO.TV.

2023 is right around the corner.

And in January of 2023, that month will mark fifteen years that I’ve been using Twitter.

Crazy, right?

So, to celebrate, here is a free guide on how to grow your Twitter Audience successfully. It’ll work this year, next year, and every year until Elon Musk takes over the service and ruins it.

Isn’t it too late to build an audience on Twitter in 2022?

It’s not too late.

And to be honest, let’s say 80% of Twitter accounts are fake or shady in some way. That’s my own belief based on research and anecdotal comments made by academics and fellow researchers who have analyzed an extensive amount of data sets provided by Twitter. (You can apply for Twitter API access for Academic Research here and see for yourself.)

Regardless of that 80%, you still have to use Twitter.

Why?

Twitter became the Internet’s Meet the Press.

You know, the show on NBC that hasn’t critically questioned the members of Congress who voted against certification right after the capitol was overrun by assholes?

That show.

Meet The Press is a year older than my Dad. It continues to exist because, while a lot of people don’t watch it, the people who do have influence. Actual influence. Twitter is the same deal. The real people who use it have influence. Therefore, you will want to be there.

So …

A Cheap Plug Before We Get Started

If you like the tips provided below, I encourage you to sign-up for my newsletter.

It’s called “One Small Step”, and each week I share with you … Well. You probably already guessed it from the title: One Small Step you can act on, right now, to help grow your audience. You can sign-up right here to get the newsletter. the newsletter comes out every Wednesday morning at 7 am EST.

I do what I do to help empower Creators to make more art. That’s because art builds empathy, and we have a serious empathy gap we need to overcome if we’re to face some of the greatest challenges of this century.

If you want to support my work, you can buy me a coffee here for $5 or hire me for a limited amount of consulting hours each month.

-B.J.

P.S. Some of the links below are affiliate links. That’s how I pay the bills around here. You don’t have to use them, but I hope you will.

I will never place an affiliate link to something unless I actively use the service myself and would have recommended it regardless of the affiliation.

Ok. That said. Let’s get to it.

Say Less: The Ultimate Guide to Growing an Audience (and Business) on Twitter

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1. Start Here With These Tools

  1. Block Party – This service will help protect you from the overwhelming amount of trolls and (in most cases) bots and fake accounts. The service is not perfect. You may accidentally miss @ replies from legitimate people with something interesting to say, but I found that to be rare. You can also always check the Lock Out Folder to see what you missed. But honestly? Using Block Party is worth the trade-off, and it’s why I listed them here first. (We’ll talk more about dealing with trolls, fascists, and weirdos throughout this guide.)
  2. Signal – Once a DM conversation has started, and you’ve agreed to talk about whatever it is you want to talk about, move out of Twitter DMs immediately. Use Signal instead. It’s encrypted. You can set messages to vanish after a few days, and your conversation isn’t sitting on some public server where it can be exposed through any number of means. Protect your conversation and the privacy of the people you want to talk with by using Signal.
  3. Turn on 2FA w/Authenticator App: Some of you might have already done this, which is great, but a lot of people don’t. So take a moment to activate Two-factor authentication (2FA) on your Twitter App. Go to Settings, tap or click on Security, tap or click on Two-factor authentication, and select Authentication App. If you have text message selected, make sure to turn that off. You want to use Authly or Google’s Authenticator App instead since that’s more secure than text messages. For maximum security, you can use a Yubikey. Follow the directions on how to use the Yubikey to secure your Twitter account here.
  4. Use 1Password: Any password manager will do, but this is the one I use and prefer. Make sure that any password you generate is the maximum amount of characters Twitter (or any service) allows. You want a good, long password, and 1Password will generate one for you that you’ll never have to remember. All you need to do is take the Master Password 1Password will generate for you and KEEP IT OFFLINE. Print it out. Write it down in a bunch of different places, but NEVER store your Master Password ANYWHERE online.
  5. Get a ProtonMail account and VPN. Always use the VPN when connecting to the Internet, ESPECIALLY if you’re connecting on a public internet access point. Never use your personal email for a work account. You should set up a work-specific account at ProtonMail that you’re going to use, and then …
  6. Get a @Duck.com Email. Don’t use your main email account to handle your Twitter log-ins. Get a @Duck.com email address here, which offers you enhanced privacy and security AND forwards any emails sent to that address to your real one. Have the Duck email forwarded to your ProtonMail account.
  7. Get a Work Phone whenever possible. Use Google Fi. My recommendation is to go get yourself an inexpensive Google Pixel A series (older models, preferably) and a Google Fi account. Google Fi is pretty inexpensive, and with a couple of exceptions, I get great cell coverage with my phone on Fi. Use this phone SPECIFICALLY for any of your online work activities. Use your personal phone for your personal activities. Do not mix the two. (If you have secure or sensitive information on your work phone, remember that when you travel, you may be asked to surrender your phone so that it can be accessed and inspected at border crossings. If you are planning on International Travel, get a burner phone and use that instead of your work phone temporarily. You can still bring your work phone, but you’ll want to make sure it’s off, disconnected from Bluetooth, and disconnected from the Internet. In fact, just as a good rule to follow, make sure none of your devices are connected to your Wifi unless you are actively using it.
  8. Use TweetDelete for account clean-up. There is also a service called Tweet Deleter which you can pay for. I use Tweet Deleter to automatically delete all of my Tweets after a week. Whether or not you want to have old tweets hanging around will depend on how you want to use Twitter. If you use it for fun and personal purposes, it’s good to use services like TweetDelete and Tweet Deleter. If you are using Twitter professionally and writing threads or doing other heavy brand-building activities, I don’t recommend deleting tweets unless they are older than three months. After three months, if you were to re-share an old thread (for example, which you should totally do), then people will act like it’s brand new. So, every 90 days, delete your tweets. But preferably less if you’re not going to take advantage of Twitter Threads.
  9. Use Twemex For Intelligence Gathering. Twemex is a great Chrome Extension that adds a sidebar to your desktop Twitter experience. The sidebar will allow you to pop in anyone’s Twitter username and quickly see what their top-performing Tweets and Threads are. This is great when you’re looking for ideas to inspire tweets and threads of your own. This is also really important for market research. A lot of people try to reinvent the wheel, and it’s not necessary at all. Pick a micro-niche (we’ll talk about how later in the guide), look at what other people in your micro-niche are doing, take notes, and put your spin on what they’re doing. You’re not copying anything. You’re not an asshole. But you’re definitely going to take note of the colors, wording, style of tweets, and how their profile is set up in order to mirror it as you create your own presence on the platform.
  10. ilo. ilo is a solid platform for getting information on how your Twitter account is doing. Who’s following you? Who unfollowed? How did each Tweet perform this week? That last one is super important because if you delete your tweets, as I do, you’ll still want to keep track of which ones performed the best so that you can save them and recycle them. (Elsewhere being Hypefury, which we’ll get to in a second.) One of the most important metrics to track is what tweet led to a profile view and then a profile click on whatever link it is that you have in your bio. If you’re on this page, the odds are good that’s how you got here: You saw a tweet that I or someone else sent. Or you saw an advertisement that I was running on Twitter, thought it was interesting, came to my profile, and then clicked on the link to get this free guide. This is an example of a Profile Funnel, which we’ll get into in the next section.
  11. HypeFury. There are a lot of services like this popping up. TweetHunter.io is another one that’s also really good. I like and personally use HypeFury because I can program tweets in bulk and just let them rip so I can work on other things. HypeFury does so much more than that, including giving you content ideas to choose from for your tweets, and automatically re-posting your top-performing tweets (Which is why you want to use ilo to see what performs the best and recycle those that do.) You can also cross-promote your best-performing Tweets over on Instagram using some really slick templates that Hypefury provides. I don’t know how necessary that is. You should pick ONE platform and focus on building an audience on there, and then transferring that audience from the platform (something you don’t own) to an email newsletter (something you do own.)
  12. Canva. You will need to make yourself a nice-looking Twitter Header Image. If you click or tap here, you’ll see all of the options Canva makes available for you for Twitter Headers. If, for some reason, that link doesn’t work, log into Canva. Then in the search bar enter “Twitter Header” and you’ll see all the different options pop up. We’ll talk more about the Twitter Header in the next section. If you just want to hire someone to make the Twitter Header for you, either because you don’t have the time or just don’t feel like it, you can hire someone on Fiverr to make one for you. I recommend this guy.
  13. DeleteMe. This is an excellent service that monitors your personal information and scrubs it from the Internet. It’s a huge time saver. At the moment, it’s only available to customers in the US, but if you’re worried about being on the receiving end of a doxxing (which, we all should be if you’re creating content for the Internet) then you’ll want to get an account with this service and have them police what sensitive information is available about you online.
  14. Notion.so. Last, and probably most important for the rest of this guide is Notion. Notion is a fancy crap collector. We’re going to use Notion and refer to it extensively as I continue to update this page. For example, I use Notion to store all of my Tweets, my templates for future tweets, and any additional information. You can use Google Docs for a lot of that, sure, but if you get to the point where you are collaborating with other people, or hiring a virtual assistant, then Notion becomes extremely valuable, as I’ll show you.

How To Protect Yourself From Fascists & Weirdos: Twitter Edition

I’m writing a book called “How To Protect Yourself From Fascists & Weirdos”. You can pre-order the limited edition bundle, including a few awesome exclusive bonuses, here.

If you follow the news, there’s a major court battle (and probably, a congressional and/or FTC investigation) looming into Twitter.

At the heart of the issue is how many accounts on Twitter belong to spammers, Russian agents, PR and Marketing firms, and some of the more unsavory participants in the Creator Economy.

Think: People selling quack science and nutritional supplements who actively harass real scientists and researchers whose research demonstrates the fraud these hucksters are perpetuating. (This isn’t an extreme example, by the way. This is a REAL EXAMPLE that came out of my research for the new book.)

Information Privacy 101

There are a lot of different types of privacy, but the kind I focus on is Information Privacy. And it’s exactly what it sounds like: Information Privacy deals with the footprint you create by your actions and what’s done with those footprints as you create them by governments, corporations, and … well, assholes.

It’s the assholes that we’re here to talk about and manage in this section.

But first thing first: You need to take all critical comments sent your way seriously.

The reason is twofold:

1. First, as you build and grow your audience, there’s going to be an obligation for you to interact with every member of your audience.

2. Second, and more importantly, we tend to dismiss trolls and “haters” (God, I hate that term so much. So. So much.) I’m going to encourage you to NOT dismiss the negative comments you receive. There are dangerous and crazy people on the Internet, and a lot of them have become quite good at gaming these platforms in order to harass and chase away the voices of people they dislike.

This is ESPECIALLY true for women and people of color on the Internet.

So, when someone is being an asshole on the Internet, you should always always always document it. Take screenshots. Note time stamps and any other data you can glean, and keep track. Sometimes an asshole is just an asshole (and you should just NEVER respond to them. Just block’em and move on with your life.

Got it? Use that block button without a moment’s hesitation and do not engage with them. Blocking assholes has an added benefit of sending a signal to Twitter’s Trust and Safety Team, as well as the algorithm, that the person being blocked is doing something they’re not supposed to.

Will the Trust and Safety Team investigate and help you out? Only if you have documented the EXACT part of Twitter’s Terms of Service that’s being violated. Don’t worry. You can find that information right here.

I already listed a lot of great tools in the first section that you can and should be use to protect yourself. To restate them briefly:

-Get a password manager (here’s a link to 1Password, which is what I use to manage my passwords.) Make sure you have a separate email account that you use to manage your Twitter account. I recommend using ProtonMail for this. Then, go and get a @Duck email address and have that forwarded to your new ProtonMail account. You will want to turn on 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) and set your 2FA to using an app like Google Authenticator, NOT your phone number. Finally, you’ll want to get a YubiKey to use as your secure Twitter login method.

Pro-Tip: Take Twitter and other social media apps off your phone. This adds an extra layer of friction to using them, which is good. Because you don’t want to just tweet random stuff. You want what you share to be as polished and interesting to your target audience as possible. That’s why I tell clients to pre-program their Tweets into HypeFury.

What I tell Creators to help maintain their sanity is to pre-program their best tweets into Hypefury, and then set aside a timer for fifteen minutes each day for your targeted daily engagement efforts with your audience.

I also recommend, whenever possible, not looking at your @ Mentions. Instead, have someone do that for you. This will help create a psychological buffer between you and the weirdos.

-If you want to stay with Google’s Gmail instead of switching to ProtonMail, I recommend looking into Google’ Advanced Protection Program to make sure your account is as secure as possible. Google will also suggest you purchase the Titan Security Key when you activate Advanced Protection. This Key will run about $40.

-Make sure you are using Signal for DM conversations if they are going to be more than a short exchange. (Two or more messages back and forth to each other, for me, is a short exchange.)

-And, of course, always use a VPN. The only time you should ever turn your VPN off is if: 1. The Website or App you’re going to use won’t work with the VPN running. 2. You are using Zoom or some other video conferencing / podcast recording tool. As an easy and more secure alternative to Zoom, you can try using Brave Talk through the Brave browser.

Finally, you need a DeleteMe account. We all do. Until there are serious changes and reforms concerning data brokers, none of us have a choice. Thankfully, I really like this service and found it to be useful. It also comes highly recommended by other privacy experts and journalists.

Avoid The Drip

One of the reasons why I like using TweetDeleter is that it helps protect me from “The Drip”. The Drip is where, over any length of time that you’re online, you “drip” just enough information to make it easy to figure out who you are, where you live, and your regular patterns of activity.

This is really bad because it allows Weirdos to stalk you.

A good rule of thumb is to set TweetDeleter to delete all your tweets after 90 days. Anything less than that may make it annoying for people to find the Twitter Threads you’re producing. You can safely re-use and recycle Threads after 90 days. I promise you no one will remember that you posted it three months ago. Most of us don’t even know what happened a week ago, let ago three months ago. If you do NOT plan to use Threads, you can safely delete your tweets after 30 days. Or less. I delete them after a week usually.

Pro-Tip: If you are exploring a career in the Creator Economy but still work a full-time job, I suggest setting TweetDeleter or whatever program you choose to delete your tweets after a few days to help keep you out of trouble.

So, while some of this is common sense, it’s worth stating here. These are some tactics you might want to employ when posting to social. (Assuming you’re not following my advice of pre-programming your Tweets). They are …

  1. Don’t post any photos of your home, inside or out, and anything around it. Take a few minutes and follow these steps to get your home removed from Google Maps.
  2. If you stream or produce regular video content, make sure the background of the room you film in is obscured. (Green Screens are great for this, but basically, you want to block out anything that would allow someone, from the outside of your house, to figure out which house is yours based on your background.)
  3. Always post photos AFTER you leave a location. Unless you’re doing a Meet Up or something that’s tied to growing your brand, which in the day and age of pandemic, seems a bit silly until 2024. But you do you.
  4. If you’re posting photos of your cats – and who doesn’t like a good cat photo? — You also want to make sure you don’t take any photos where their tags are visible. Ditto for dogs. Like anyone appearing in your photos, use a pseudonym for your Pets (and people). Don’t use real names.
  5. One thing people do on Twitter to increase visibility and engagement is to ask questions. Be careful of what questions you answer. You don’t want to tell anyone what kind of car you drive, where you live, where you went to high school. Any information really that you need to think twice about, Don’t share it. And, once again: NEVER SHARE YOUR REAL-TIME LOCATION WITH ANYONE FOR ANY REASON.
  6. Additional privacy changes you should make within the Twitter app can be found here in this handy guide from The Washington Post. (There’s also some additional information here about how to turn off contact sharing on Twitter and other apps on your phone. This is something you should take a moment to do right now if you have not done so already.

Fighting Disinformation

Let’s say you’re under attack by a bunch of fascists or weirdos.

What do you do when they are spreading false and defamatory things about you? First, as mentioned, you want to document everything. Take lots of screenshots. Second, you want to have a trusted friend look at your @ replies so you can save yourself some psychological trauma.

Third, and I know this breaks my “just block all trolls” policy, but … You, or preferably, people you know like, and trust, should find the top-performing tweet from these assholes, and then simply state the facts in reply to that top-performing tweet.

Then, you or they should immediately mute the thread.

The only way to fight disinformation is by repeating the truth as loudly and as consistently as possible. But it’s always better when that truth comes from people who have your back. Otherwise, it looks like you’re just being defensive, even when you’re the one that’s under attack.

Use Hunch.ly or Page Vault to document these attacks. Page Vault data is admissible in court. Hunch.ly is not. That’s why Page Vault is more expensive, but if you have a serious problem where you feel you are in imminent danger, use Page Vault.

This is important for everyone, but especially for women and people of color: Immediately report all threats of violence to law enforcement. Do not wait. Do not dismiss it as a joke. Do not dismiss it as trolls being trolls. Do not let the police dismiss it as a joke. Report the assholes. If you see someone sending someone else vile, nasty shit? You should do your part and report it too. Make sure you visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and file a complaint immediately.

The Creator Economy has brought us all a lot of good, but it’s also empowered shitty people to specialize in silencing and harassing women and people of color in order to grow their audience and sell shitty products. See Ben Shapiro as just one example.

It’s our responsibility as fellow creators to find, identify, and report these malign actors wherever and whenever they congregate on the Web.

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The sections under this line are still under construction. Please watch the date at the top of this page to check on their status. Just an FYI though that I’ve skipped a pretty major section here, which focuses on identifying your audience, verifying that your audience is who you think they are (sometimes they’re not!), and then creating an offer for that specific audience that would be almost impossible for them to turn down.

I’m constructing an e-book, which you can see the draft as I work on it, here. So if you need help figuring out your audience and your offer, and then testing and verifying that you have that right, click here and this link will take you over to the e-book where I go into how to do that in more detail.

The following sections on Optimizing your Profile and your Tweets is going to assume you know who you’re selling to …

Optimize Your Twitter Profile

Alright. Now we’re going to move into optimizing your Twitter profile, which will set you up for success. You’ll notice I structured this guide based on the things you want to do first. So don’t skip around. This section will be here waiting for you as soon as you’ve taken the steps you need to protect yourself and got all the tools together that you’re going to utilize.

The 5 Most Important Parts of Your Twitter Profile

  1. Your Header Image: Tell People Who You Are As Visually And With As Few Words as Possible
  2. Your Profile Photo: A professional headshot.
  3. Your Username: If you haven’t already grabbed one, keep it short, sweet, and easy to memorize.
  4. Your Bio: What you do phrased in a way that answers the question every potential follower is going to ask: “What’s in it for me if I follow this person?”
  5. Your One Link

Think of your Twitter profile page as a sales funnel. The first layer is the header, the second is your profile photo, the third is your bio, and the fourth (and bottom of the funnel) is getting them to click on your one link. The two metrics you want to track most are:

1. Which tweets of yours are generating the most profile clicks according to ilo

2. What tweets of yours are generating the most clicks on the one link in your profile according to ilo.

Let’s take a look at each step of the profile funnel

The first thing people see is your header image.

If they like what they see, the next thing they will move to is your profile photo.

If your profile photo is a professional quality headshot (and not a cartoon or some other image), this will help build and develop trust between you and your new friend.

I LOVE the cartoon avatars. I use them every so often, but you really want a high-quality photo of yourself here in order to help your new fans get to know you better.

Remember: 80% of Twitter accounts are garbage of some kind or another. That’s why a real photo is important here. Following the privacy tips above, you may also want to occasionally post some form of “proof of life” to show people what you’re working on. This also helps to lend credence that you’re someone to follow and are trustworthy.

If you want to grow an audience and use Twitter professionally, you MUST use a professional quality headshot in your bio. Need help taking a headshot with your iPhone? Watch the video below:

Now, this is super important, because these days people are using services like LinkTree or Beacons.Ai. Both of those platforms are super useful. Unless you’re trying to grow your audience. Because what those services do is give people too many choices on what to click on.

And when they are just getting to know you, nobody has the time or patience to go down a rabbit hole. So, you need your One Link. (As in, “one link to rule them all” because I am nothing if not a fucking nerd.) The one link is the only link you should include in your bio, and ideally, it takes your new audience member somewhere that’s going to be very much worth their time to explore.

That brings us to your bio. The easiest way to construct a high-performing bio is to answer the following question from the perspective of a potential follower: “What’s in it for me if I follow this person?”