8 Ways to Effectively Butt in on Twitter

My friend Bryan is always quoting Newton's third law of motion, "For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction." Only he's not talking physics, he's talking economics. His theory is that there is no bad economic news at the macro level because when something bad happens in one area, an opposite and equal reaction transfers into something good in a other area. One person loses his job (that's clearly bad for him), but the company saves some money and others get to keep their job (that's good for them).

Personally, I don't buy into Bryan's distorted physics perspective on the economy. I see that a rising tide can lift all boats, or vice versa. But a couple of weeks ago, I was swept up in a spontaneous event that a least caused me to consider Bryan's perspective a little more seriously. Friends of ours (couple A) were planning to go see the musical "Wicked" with other friends of ours (couple B), when a bad action occurred. Couple A's son got sick. So Couple B called us and asked if we wanted to go in their place. We took full advantage of the good opposite and equal reaction and went to the theater with Couple B.

This is the first time the four of us were ever sitting together in comfy seats with very little leg room waiting for a major Broadway production on national tour to start. So it only seems natural that the conversation would lead to "Who has actually been to Broadway and what did you see?" Two of us had, and two of us hadn't. As we were sharing our respective views on New York, New York, the woman in the row in front us turned around and shared her enthusiasm and excitement for the city that never sleeps.

At first impression, she seemed friendly and engaging. "How nice to see strangers reach out and connect with others," I was thinking, until she started talking about going to visit ground zero. Then she went on a rant about how un-American it is that we haven't rebuild those towers. Which was a pretty strong opinion to state barely 53 seconds into this new relationship. She just went on and on about how disgraceful it was. She really brought the conversation down. But we were sitting waiting for the show to start, so we couldn't walk away, and she was sitting in front of us, so Couple B, my wife, and I couldn't even "debrief the incident" until the car ride home.

It was a clear example of how not to join a conversation. I recently read in Shel Israel's (@ShelIsrael) book, "Twitterville," that Twitter is perfect forum to hold conversations with others all around the world. In fact, Israel asserts, "Chances are that right now, there's a conversation going on in Twitterville that can impact what you do for a living." That got me thinking.

Since, I had just witnessed how not to enter a conversation, I brainstormed some tips on how to effectively butt in specifically on Twitter. Here are 8 to consider:

It's as old as Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence Others," but it's still true. Do less talking and more listening. On Twitter, that means asking plenty of questions and affirming what others say.

This one comes from "Twitterville." Don't hide behind a logo or fake avatar. Use your real name and a picture of you. People prefer to talk to people.

People love to get retweeted. If someone says something you like or you agree with, copy it and add a RT @source in front of it. But don't over RT, you could start to lose your credibility.

When you send a direct message to someone, still include their real first name. If you don't know it, you can often look it up on their profile page. I learned that nice touch from Shelly (@ShellyKramer).

There are lots of programs that help follow conversations in Twitter. I like TweetDeck because of all the other features it has. All you have to do to see the full conversation in TweetDeck is click on "in reply to..." in the bottom right-hand section of the Tweet. When you find a good conversationalist, follow them (don't worry if they don't follow you back).

I love watching "The Amazing Race" (#TAR). It's our weekly family TV time. I'm such a geek I watch it with my laptop and have TweetGrid pulled up where I search for Amazing Race and each of the different teams. I read funny tweets to my family and reply to ones that jump out at me. Only about a fifth of them lead to conversations, but I enjoy seeing how others are responding to what I'm watching.

Joel Comm (@JoelComm) gives this perfect good, better, best example of how to tweet a conversation-starting question in "Twitter Power":

Tweeting "I can't stand violent video games" could get you a discussion started in response. Tweeting "What do you think of violent video games?" could have a similar effect. But getting the discussion rolling by tweeting, "My son plays violent video games. I can't stand them. What do you think?" increases the chances that your followers will hit the reply button and toss in their two cents.

8. GIVE A COMPLIMENT > Find something you appreciate that someone else said. If you read an article or see something online, look to see if you can find the writer on Twitter. Then give them a genuine compliment. These two students at Purdue do a great job giving compliments in person. It's a great way to make someone's day.

What other tips do you have? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Hey, I guess this was another example proving Bryan's crackpot theory. The bad action of being interrupted at "Wicked" caused an opposite and equal good reaction of studying and sharing how to butt in effectively. Examples or not, I still think Bryan's theory is full of crap.