You Are What You Tweet: Content & Company Define Us

January 22nd, 2011   •   11 comments   

As little as two or three years ago for most of us, we relied on information mainly from the mainstream media.  Today, the internet is content rich (and of course has been for longer than a few years) and with “everyday” folks like me joining Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, etc. the content available is incomprehensible.  I could go into all the stats available to support it, but since that’s not where I’m headed, I’ll skip that.  Where I am headed is this: you are defined, categorized, listed, judged and perceived by both the content you post AND the company you keep. Yes, I said that and—although I don’t have the metrics to prove it—I can tell you from my own personal experience online that it’s very true.  I have tweeted “You are what you Tweet” and what I mean by that is this: If you want to be recognized for a certain type of skill, industry, vocation, cause, etc, tweet 80% of content about or relevant to that subject(s). A new 80-20 rule:  I tell clients to post 80% about business related content and 20% other stuff.  What’s other stuff? I say reserve it for this: fun with other Twitter friends, hobbies, and family—but not too much.  I think this is a good formula in general for keeping your “stream” valuable and credible, yet interesting while simultaneously demonstrating that you are indeed a real person with a sense of humor and knack for attracting like-Tweeters.  Ah-ha!


Remember when you were in high school and your parents would cringe when you mentioned hanging out with someone who maybe fell into any of these categories: A. got into trouble with parents/authorities B. Used mean words, bullied people and generally was the class jerk; C. Got bad grades because they didn’t care; D. were always sneaking out and breaking rules to get ahead…you know the types. Well guess what? Those people are still out there on Twitter and in business and all over the world.  I tell my kids now that if the kids their ages (11 & 15) are brats and bullies, they will most likely manifest those characteristics in other ways as adults.  So, just like we learned to avoid those in high school, we should also avoid them online. Birds of a feather flock together!  Simply put, I believe we are judged and evaluated by the company we keep on Twitter as well as how we debate and treat other people.


I’ll give you an example without naming names.  In Memphis currently, we have a City School Charter up for grabs (we have 2 governments) and the issue is complex, involves legal issues, is highly political and emotional—we’re talking about education and kids. As this controversy unfolds, I have been amazed by what some high profile people—including some of our local media—have said on Twitter.  Healthy and constructive debate is good.  Bashing people on Twitter? Not so much.  Talking about drinking games while our city council holds its meeting?  Not smart in my opinion.  I have watched as people of influence who might have “joined this conversation” have done the opposite—left it or decided not to share the Twitter stage with people whom they wish NOT to be associated with.  I agree.  It’s like when a client is included in a story in the media. I always want to know—of course we don’t always know—who else will be included in the story.  Like it or not, I think we are judged by the company we keep. And it’s beginning to be clear to me on Twitter as well.


It’s been documented that being positive, helpful and generous on Twitter is THE way to earn followers and a good “Twitter Rapport.”  I understand and support that but that doesn’t mean there is not a time and a place stand up for an issue or point. Just be sure you do it with grace and dignity.  People are watching to see how we handle one another online.  I believe that history will continue to write this as Twitter grows.  Be sure your “chapters” are ones you will be proud of! 

 As I wrap this, I thought a few bullet points I use for my clients might be helpful to both individuals when developing their Twitter strategy:


  • Give people benefit of doubt; I have the 3-strike rule
  • Complain constructively, respectfully
  • Debate constructively and respectfully (be civil and polite)
  • Know when to take your debate off the public stream (use DMs)
  • Assumptions can be really dangerous on Twitter! Be open minded
  • If you are in the media ask yourself this: If my tweets were published in the newspaper would I care? If my boss is reading them, does it matter?
  • Your twitter stream tells a story of who you are & what you really  think  (you can’t fake it)
  • Your twitter stream documents your work, life, play
  • Who you talk to matters—if you hang out with jerks on Twitter who are always being negative, expect more of the same to follow you (birds of a feather)
  • If you tweet too much in the 20% category, you may not get many RTs
  • If you don’t like people, you may not like Twitter
  • Remember Tweeting is: global, permanent, discoverable (as in a court of law)
  • Smart people know how to tweet: follow, watch, learn, grow
  • When tragedy or controversy strikes, your public, digital footprint will be analyzed (I expect more of this in the future)


Can you add more to this list? Thanks for reading and happy tweeting!


  1. @debweinstein says:

    Wise words Amy, straight forward and well put..

  2. Christina Meek says:

    Great advice! Definitely food for thought.

  3. Amy Howell says:

    Deb: thanks as usual! You are one of content best on Twitter!
    Christina: thanks for commenting;))

  4. Amy, I love it! The list at the end is killer-good, and I plan to send new folks to it when I write on this topic. I'm still debating internally on your 80/20 concept…I'll let you know if I want to fight you on it (I'm kidding, of course!).

    Great work!

  5. Amy Howell says:

    Paula: thank you! Honored. I think 80-20 rule applies if you are using Twitter to promote a biz, brand or cause. Those using it without a strategy or just for fun, it's probably not as impt. Thank you for commenting and sharing;))

  6. Like anything else.. the company you keep makes or breaks you.

    Twitter and social media is no different.

    Very nice write up Amy 🙂

  7. Amy Howell says:

    John Paul: Thanks so much for flying by to comment:)

  8. We have been reading the articles on your website and are very impressed with the quality of your information.

  9. amy Howell says:

    Thank you for that compliment! I appreciate it:)

  10. Content mindfulness= totally agree. Who you hang out with (meaning "follow") Not so much. From a humanist/there goes the neighborhood perspective I agree convos are key, however from a media literacy one, I have to deconstruct this a bit.

    For example, I 'follow' a wide range of people on Twitter (many of whom I vehemently DISagree with) simply to hear 'all sides' of an issue, just as I follow global news vs just the USA. It helps to broaden my scope, keep my centrist thinking in check and tamp down the soapbox rhetoric of like-minded echo chambers…

    If someone were to analyze my 'social graph' they'd be summarily confused…and I kinda like it that way. Same goes for my buying habits (heh, take that Zuckerberg!) Hopefully people learn to look at the whole enchilada in terms of digital footprints instead of just the "sides." 😉

    Great list to get people thinkin' Amy, thanks! @ShapingYouth

  11. Amy Howell says:

    Great point Amy! Thanks for pointing out the differences and for stopping by to comment.

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