Greetings improvers, and welcome to the first ever Improvement Zone interview: a Q&A with Alex Knoll, creator of the cool life coaching website, ListeningOwl.com.
I learned about Listening Owl when I had the idea to create something similar, and I found them while searching for anything already available that filled this particular need related to life coaching. Alex and I have chatted back and forth a bit via email, and I’m jazzed that he’s agreed to answer some questions for us about his site.
Alex, welcome to The Improvement Zone, and thanks so much for sharing with us today. First of all, what is Listening Owl, and how did you come to create it?
Thank you Glenn for inviting me. Listening Owl is a virtual coaching platform which makes it easy, simple, and fast to bring coaches and clients together for online life coaching. I started Listening Owl because a) I was not satisfied with how difficult it was to find a life coach and b) there was no end-to-end market-based coaching platform which would make finding a coach, scheduling a coaching session, and meeting with a coach an easy and intuitive process.
What is it about Listening Owl that differentiates it from other coaching sites?
Listening Owl relies on the free-market to allow a coach to set their hourly rate and for the community to review a coach. In addition, Listening Owl provides many services for its coaches, including: 1) payment processing, 2) advertising, 3) an online profile, and 4) a video / audio / text / conference number multimedia platform to interact with their clients.
How many coaches do you currently have at Listening Owl, and what specialties do they cover?
Listening Owl is 35 coaches strong and growing. Our coaches’ specialties include Career, Parenting, Health and Wellness, Relationship, and Life Coaching. In addition to these categories of coaches, there are authors, professors, business leaders, health care professionals, and so much more.
What qualifications do you have to have to be a coach on Listening Owl?
Because Listening Owl is a market-based coaching platform and there are no legal qualifications to call yourself a coach, we do not have a strict requirements list. However, Listening Owl does require all coaches to agree to and abide by our Code of Beliefs and Ethics. In addition, most coaches choose to get training, schooling, and advanced certifications in order to perfect their craft.
What is the process that coaches and clients would use to have coaching sessions together?
First, a coach would have to join Listening Owl and fill out their online profile. When a client browses through our list of coaches and a profile catches their eye, the client can request a coaching session from the coach. Through an easy back-and-forth process, much like a Microsoft Outlook meeting request, the coach and client settle on a data and time.
On the agreed upon date and time both the client and coach log into Listening Owl and enter into the multimedia coaching session and get started. It’s that simple. The website does all the hard work like calculating the time both coach and client are in the coaching room and billing the client’s credit card once the session is complete.
How much does it cost to join Listening Owl, and how much does it cost to get coaching through Listening Owl?
Listening Owl is free to join and a coach can set their own hourly rate. Like I said before, it’s the free market and if a coach wants to offer free coaching, they can do that. Listening Owl will only make money when a coach makes money by paying the coach 80% of all coaching proceeds and Listening Owl keeps 20%. Since we are only getting paid if the coach gets paid, our interests are directly in line with our coaches’ interests.
Why might a coach want to use Listening Owl vs. other coaching websites or associations?
It is no secret that coaching is competitive. What Listening Owl offers is the ability to bring in new business with no upfront costs. All coaches on the site get the benefit of a listing on a search-engine-optimized website, advertising campaigns, and the ability to enter into the global coaching marketplace with our multimedia coaching platform.
Why might someone who wants to be coached choose Listening Owl over other coaching websites or services?
First, we create an easy and intuitive process for clients to walk through step-by-step to find a coach. Second, we don’t hide our coaches: they are right out front for everyone to see. Finally, clients have the opportunity to find and meet with a coach all within a safe and easy-to-use interface.
How can people get in touch with you if they want more information?
Alex, thanks so much for creating such a useful website, and for sharing more about it with us!
Thank you very much Glenn for having me as your first Improvement Zone interviewee. It has been my pleasure.
Gradual, incremental improvement is very important, and should be pursued and appreciated. However, sometimes opportunities arise that can lead to quick and dramatic improvement:
- An obese couch potato who, within a year’s time, becomes fit enough to complete a full 26.2-mile marathon
- An unemployed and broke guy who, within a few years, develops a thriving multi-million-dollar business
- A hardened criminal who, within a single year, becomes a soft-hearted, godly man
- A guy who almost dies and had both legs amputated who, within a few years, is able to run competitively
How do these kinds of dramatic improvements happen? What can you do to see relatively quick, dramatic improvement in some area of your life? Here are four keys:
Dramatic improvement starts with a big enough desire for positive change: you have to want it BADLY! Your desire for the improvement needs to be bigger than any fear of change, cost, or consequences. Napoleon Hill calls it a “burning desire”. It’s the kind of desire like the will to survive: the desire that says, “I’ll get the change that I’m after, or I’ll die trying.” It’s the kind of desire that won’t be denied: you HAVE TO get there, and there’s NOTHING more important in the world than getting the improvement you’re after!
If you don’t have that kind of desire, but want to get there, here are some tips for getting the fires burning:
- Deeply consider, write down, and review daily, WHY you want the improvement
- Visualize daily how you will feel when you have the improvement you’re after
- Commit to other people that you’re getting the improvement: write it on your blog, tell your family, tell someone you’ll pay them $___ if you don’t reach your goal, etc.
- Surround yourself with reminders and/or motivators: notes, posters, screen savers, etc.
- Move as much as possible toward the improvement every day
Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the world.
Once you want the improvement badly enough, you need the means (Tools) to create the improvement you want to see from whatever you currently have available (Capital). This concept of using tools to turn capital into a desired result is called Leverage.
You use leverage when you want to buy a house. You use a mortgage lender and other service providers (tool) to take your credit-worthiness, your down payment, and the value of the house itself (capital), and convert it (via leverage) into a loan of money (other capital) to acquire the house.
You also use leverage to run a marathon. Your capital is a) your time in training and learning; b) your money for additional food, drink, clothing, registration, and travel expenses; c) your physical and mental energies in training; d) your relationships, negotiating trade-offs with loved ones for more time flexibility and money while training. Tools you may use are training books, coaches, friends who run, places to run, and running shoes. You use these tools to apply leverage to convert your capital into a successful completion of a marathon.
It’s very important that you not just use any old tools and think that will be sufficient. For truly dramatic improvement fast, you should aim to have the best tool(s) available for the job. Take the time to research your options. Search the web for what’s available. Ask around to people you know and trust. Interview people who may be able to help. Go to the library, get books on the subject area, check them out, and READ THEM so you’re as knowledgeable as possible. Match the tool to the amount of leverage you need to bring to bear to get the improvement you need.
Have enough sense to know, ahead of time, when your skills will not extend to wallpapering.
-Marilyn vos Savant
In order to use the tools effectively to give you the leverage you need, you need to cultivate, or hire, the skill set that’s needed. Some tools are easier to learn than others. You must determine as quickly as possible if you have sufficient skills, and if not, whether you have the time to develop the skills needed, or if you should hire someone with the needed skills to work the tools for you. Also, remember that the greater the amount of leverage needed, the more potentially dangerous it can be to use a tool incorrectly. A saw provides a lot of leverage for dividing wood, but it can also easily divide human flesh!
Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.
-Alexander Graham Bell
You need to bring sufficient focus to bear to get the improvement you’re seeking. You must remove as many distractions and resource wasters as possible. Pour your attention into achieving the improvement you seek. Sacrifice areas of lesser importance to free up resources to speed improvement in the area of greatest importance.
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated failures.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Finally, you must persist until you get the improvement you’re after. You need to keep at it, and not give in to discouragement if, or when, the going gets tough. This is where your burning desire will help the most. Keep in mind that persistence doesn’t mean that you keep trying to chop down an oak tree with a screwdriver. Persistence must be applied with the leverage that the best available tool provides. Persistence looks doggedly for better and better tools, and better and better trades of capital, and greater skill levels to use the tools, until the tools and capital are skillfully and persistently crafted into the dramatic improvement that’s desired.
Dramatic improvement is possible, and it happens all the time. Stir up your desire, find the best tools, acquire the needed skills, focus in, and persist, and you, too, can experience the dramatic improvement you want!
Have you experienced dramatic improvement in some area, or know of someone who did? Do you have any tips or tools to recommend to help people experience dramatic improvement in some area? In what area would you like help to experience your own dramatic improvement?
I’ve recently recognized an amazing guiding principle that’s been key to improving my peace of mind. I’m going to share it with you in this article. This principle, if applied consistently in all areas of your life, will help you to live with an ever growing sense of peace, joy, and security. It’s amazing in its simplicity, as well as in how easy it can be applied in various situations. It’s also amazing how it’s not more widely promoted as a general principle in life. There are some specific areas of application that get a lot of attention, but not the principle as a whole, guiding concept for life.
The principle actually developed in my mind while driving in traffic. I’m an insatiable improver and a relatively aggressive driver: I’m always studying traffic flows, determining which lane is likely to go faster, calculating how fast I should approach a traffic light to maximize my chance of getting through the light and minimizing how much I’ll need to speed up or slow down. I’m always attentive to gaps in the traffic flow so I have options to change lanes when it would seem advantageous and relatively low-risk to do so.
I realized at some point that I had more opportunities to move over into the faster lane when I had some space in front of me to accelerate before merging into the faster lane. If I was already moving forward in my lane, I wouldn’t need that time in the faster lane to accelerate the same distance, and therefore, I could fit into a smaller break in the faster traffic without increasing my risk of being hit from behind.
I started to consistently leave more space between my car and the car in front of me when stopped or moving slowly in traffic. I would still be considerate and move forward if there were people behind me waiting to turn: I didn’t want to be “that guy” who, if he would only move up, would enable people to make that turn and get home five minutes sooner. So whenever it didn’t adversely affect others, I would leave some space in front and help keep my options open once traffic started moving again.
I very quickly noticed something else when I started leaving that space open ahead of me: I felt better. I felt less stressed, more happy, more calm and peaceful. It wasn’t even subtle: it was a very noticeable difference. There I was, still stopped in traffic, not making any forward progress, not being any more “productive” in my driving. And yet, with a couple of car lengths of space between me and the next car ahead, I was having a Zen moment of calm in the midst of a normally stressful situation for me.
I began to think about what was going on in me that would make such a dramatic difference in my emotional response to the situation. Why was such a little thing like having a little bit of space in front of me making me feel that, at that moment, all was right with the world? Here’s what I came up with:
- I had gained some control: I was no longer stuck, immobile, and utterly powerless
- I had created options: I could stay where I was; I could move forward a little, or a lot; I could pull off the road if necessary
- I had created an advantage: I could more easily change lanes if the other lane started moving faster
- I had reduced risk: if people walked up to my car with malicious intent, I could easily pull to the median and drive away; if the guy behind me plowed into me, I wouldn’t hit the guy in front of me
Once I realized some of the reasons for this peaceful feeling I was experiencing, I began to think about how this idea might be applicable in other areas of life. Here are some thoughts:
- Emergency fund: some amount of cash or “liquid assets” that can be sold quickly and easily in case of emergencies
- Savings: Money that enables you to handle emergencies or to take advantage of worthwhile opportunities that come along
- Insurance policies: protect you and your family from losing everything in the event of a catastrophe
- Cash in your wallet (but not too much): enough to cover if other means of payment don’t work, or if you get stuck somewhere and need transportation, or if you find an amazing deal, or just get hungry or thirsty
- Multiple streams of income: if one “dries up”, you’re not dead in the water; passive income sources, once they’re set up and start producing income, don’t require you to exchange your time for money
- Getting to work / appointments / church / your house: it feels amazingly good when you don’t feel like you’re running late, or might be late, to something that’s important to you and/or to others
- Deadlines: work or school assignments; getting gifts; paying bills; when you target to get something done before the actual deadline, having that little extra time if needed feels great!
- Leisure: not trying to fit in too many scheduled activities during your leisure time, allowing for happy surprises and some spontaneity
- Twitter: I schedule most posts to my Twitter accounts using BufferApp.com. I try to keep at least a day’s worth of posts scheduled at a time so that I can have at least three tweets going out each day for each Twitter feed. My followers get the benefits of good tweets that are spaced out over time, and I can skip a day or more as needed.
Health & Fitness
- Sleep: getting enough rest –- at night, and with naps as needed — so you feel good, able to focus, able to perform well, and able to go longer and keep performing well when needed
- Nourishment: eating and drinking plenty enough of the right things for your body to give you the nourishment you need for the day’s activities, both planned and unexpected
- Physical fitness: cultivating more fitness than you typically need for your activities so you have more strength and/or stamina in reserve for the occasions when you do need it
- Distance from neighbors: enough to not have to see and hear what’s going on in their lives, and vice versa; enough to not have to hear the music they like to blast
- Distance from extended family: a little distance can help keep family from prying into your business and reduce dependency; also, absence makes the heart grow fonder
- Distance between cohabitants: some people love to be physically close to each other all the time, but most need time apart – breathing room – to have a healthier and happier time when together
- Distance from criminals: the more secure you are in your house from malicious people breaking in, the more peacefully you can rest
- Prayer: being “prayed up”, or “bathing it in prayer” are common expressions used today for when we’ve adequately prayed before or for a situation
- Meditation: either eastern definition (clearing the mind) or western definition (reflecting on scriptures), having prepared adequately before the situation calls for the peacefulness and/or words needed
- Gratitude: starting the day with lots of gratitude — “counting your blessings” — helps set your mindset for the rest of the day
These are just a few areas of life in which having some buffer can make a big difference.
From now on, when you notice that you’re feeling stress or anxiety about something, stop and think about why. Could you create some buffer in the situation? Many times, it can be as simple as leaving a little space between you and the person in front of you.
What are some ways that you have — or could have — added some buffer in your own life? What difference did it –- or could it –- make in your life?
Today I made some stupid choices that led to some pretty dangerous situations, for myself and for others. I REALLY HATE when I do that! Allow me to explain.
The 20-Miler and the Marathon
I’m training to run in the inaugural Louisiana Marathon, which will be on January 15th, 2012, about 6 weeks for now. It will be my fourth marathon, and I’m really looking forward to running it.
I run my long runs on Saturdays with a group hosted by a business here in Baton Rouge called Varsity Sports. They map out one or more routes based on distance someone can / wants to run. They’re doing a special series of runs for those training to run the Louisiana Marathon, and today’s run was our first scheduled 20-miler.
I learned yesterday that the route for the 20-miler this morning was to run with the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon / Half Marathon. I love that race: it was my first marathon five years ago, and I’ve run the half marathon every year since, so I was glad that we were going to be running along with that race.
I decided to “run bandit”: run along with the registered racers, but just do my 20-mile training run and not get in anyone’s way and not consume any of the “goodies” associated with the race. This saved me the $75 entry fee for the day of the race, and made me feel good that I was getting huge value essentially for free without harming anyone in the process. I also try to “give back” by encouraging the racers along the way and thanking the volunteers for their service.
I brought my big water bottle to keep in the car, and brought a couple of bananas for energy, and had some energy beans (which I HIGHLY recommend!) to help me for the last six miles or so. There are water fountains along the course route, so I took advantage of every opportunity for water that didn’t involve grabbing a cup from someone.
I didn’t really anticipate any problems. The weather was perfect for a long run, and I already had run two successful 20-mile training runs in preparation for this marathon. I tried to keep a nice moderate pace throughout the run, and met and ran with some very nice people along the way, some of whom came in from far away and had run marathons in all 50 states twice!
The Turning Point
Everything seemed to be going well, until around my 18th mile. I had started doing a run / walk pattern with a couple of people with whom I had closely paced for most of the way. One of the two, a lady from Chicago, would run ahead of me, then she would walk and I would pass her, and on it went.
At around the 18-mile mark, I knew it was time to stop running and walk the rest of the way in. If I were actually running the marathon, and I was at mile 25, I would likely just push through and finish it out. Knowing that it was just a training run for me and that I had nothing to prove, I wisely chose to walk the remaining mile or so back to my car.
On the drive home, I decided I needed something to help me recover, so I stopped at McDonald’s and got a small wild berry smoothie.
About five minutes after leaving McDonalds, I had gotten off the interstate and had just turned onto a long, relatively straight road toward home, when I felt it. I knew what was coming, because I had experienced it before after some long runs: a white-out.
I don’t think that “white-out” is an official medical term, but it appears that others have experienced something similar and called it the same thing, so I’m going with it. In my case, things got progressively brighter fairly quickly, my extremities started tingling, and then, all I could see was white: I was essentially blind for a number of seconds. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I was completely unable to see.
When I felt it coming on, I prayed “Lord help me! Lord help me!” I looked for where I could pull off in case I lost consciousness, but didn’t see a good place to go. Fortunately, there were no cars ahead of me. There were some cars behind me, but I don’t recall how far away, so I didn’t want to slow down quickly and risk a wreck.
Gratefully, my vision started returning after about five seconds, and I made the needed correction in my trajectory. I missed the first turn I could make leading to my house, but I was able to make it to the parking lot of our friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart and get parked before it came over me again.
I waiting in the parking lot for 5-10 minutes until I was confident I could make it home safely. When I got home, I got in the tub for about 30-minutes, sipping water in very small quantities over a long period of time so I wouldn’t throw up, as I’d have to start all over with my water drinking if that happened.
Wonderfully, the nausea passed, I got in the bed, and got a much-needed nap. I’m now feeling MUCH better, sitting up in bed and writing this now.
When I’ve experienced these white-outs before, it’s been explained to me as symptoms of heat stroke and severe dehydration. At the end of one 20-mile run I did years back, I ended up needing to get two units of IV fluids to beat the dehydration because it would have taken a very long time to replenish the fluids by drinking. Like today, I had to drink slowly to prevent nausea, and it was just going to take too long.
I’m sorry for the really long back-story before getting to the real point of this article. All of this mess happened today – the dehydration, the white-outs, the risk to myself and others on the road, the possible expensive of time and money getting medical treatment – all because I “chose stupid”.
I could easily come up with a list of external factors to blame for my “misfortunes”. However, I’ve learned that it’s much healthier to realize that, ultimately, better choices on my part could have prevented these misfortunes in my life. I “chose stupid,” and despite the other factors involved, it was those choices that got me here sitting up in bed writing this now.
Now, wouldn’t it be an awful waste of misery if I didn’t take the time to examine the situation and figure out where I went wrong and what I can do better from now on? Let’s examine together, shall we? Hopefully, this will be helpful to you if / when you make stupid choices like I did.
First, what were the stupid choices that I made that led to the miserable results?
- I chose to not have a convenient water bottle that I could carry with me on the run
- I chose to not take water that was offered to me along the race course
- I chose to run the first 13 miles at a relatively fast pace
There may be other stupid choices involved, but I’ll focus on these three.
Next, why did I make each of these choices? This one requires more reflection:
- I chose to not have a convenient water bottle to carry along because
a) I didn’t want to spend the time and money to get another water bottle to bring along;
b) I thought I would be able to drink enough water between my water bottle in the car and the water fountains along the way;
c) I thought the weather would be favorable enough and I’d be taking the pace slowly enough for it not to be a problem;
d) I thought my biggest problem would be energy rather than hydration, and planned accordingly.
- I chose to not take water offered to me along the way because
a) I didn’t pay to be in the race;
b) I thought it would not be ethical and I would feel guilty if I consumed anything that was there for the registered race participants.
- I chose to run the first 13 miles at a relatively fast pace because
a) I like to compete and pass people;
b) I like to visit with people along the way and I had to run fast sometimes to keep up with them;
c) I wanted to feel good about how I finished the half-marathon part of my run.
Finally, how would I make better choices if I had a do-over, knowing what I know now? This requires a bit of creative thinking:
- I would do whatever I needed to do to have a convenient water bottle to carry with me on any particularly long run: I would buy one, or a pack of them, and I would make absolutely sure that I have one or two of them with me when I leave the house and when I leave the car. It’s just not worth leaving to chance whether I’ll become dehydrated. I’ll also still make sure I pack things that will keep my energy up along the way.
- I’ll remember what dehydration feels like before refusing to take water that’s offered to me. My mental calculation will be weighted more heavily toward preventing possible dehydration, even if I’m not particularly thirsty. I still don’t think I’ll pay $75 to feel better about taking that water, though.
- When I’m doing a long run, and I feel compelled to kick up the pace at any point, I’m going to remember what I felt like on that drive home this morning, and ask myself if it’s really worth the risk.
Life is full of misfortune, most of which has its origin in poor personal choices. If you had chosen to avoid this place or those people, if you had prepared appropriately, if you had taken the time to think it through, then the bad situation(s) would not have occurred. When things do go badly, take the time to consider what choices you made that helped you get into the situation, why you made those choices, and what you can do to make better choices to improve your outcomes and find greater success in the future.
Do you agree that most misfortunes result from stupid personal choices? If you’ve ever made stupid choices before, what have you done to help keep you from making those same choices again?
In my earlier post in the series, How I’m “Doing” Twitter Right Now, I shared what and when I tweet on Twitter.
In this post, I’ll share seven strategies I’m using to grow an interested (and interesting!) Twitter following.
Strategy #1: I strive to create something worth following
Since I’m interested in having followers who are interesting and interested in what I’m tweeting rather than mindless auto-followback accounts that only want bragging rights about how many followers they have, I try to have an interesting profile picture and bio, as well as interesting tweets. This is how people quickly determine whether to follow back when I follow them. If they don’t follow back as soon as they have the opportunity, chances are they won’t follow back any time soon. I try to be as attractive as possible to my target followers to make the most of the following I do.
Strategy #2: I follow others who tweet interesting things
The tweets of the people I follow show up in my Twitter stream, and I like to read my stream, so I want the tweets there to be as interesting as possible. I learn, grow, laugh, and think as a result of what I read from tweets in my stream, so I try to keep my stream as interesting as possible by following those who are interesting and tweet interesting things. Since I now follow a LOT of people in each of my Twitter accounts, I also keep one or two main lists in each with users whose tweet quality is high and whose tweets are relevant to the theme of my account.
Strategy #3: I follow the followers of others who tweet like me
I have one personal Twitter account and four improvement-themed Twitter accounts: @ImprovementZone, @MproveFinances, @MproveFitness, and @MproveFaith. For my themed accounts, I look for others who tweet great stuff in the same “genre”. For example, for my flagship @ImprovementZone account, I follow a lot of life coaches and inspirational quote accounts. When I find another Twitter account that tweets things that I like and would tend to re-tweet often, I’ll go through and follow that account’s followers. I find that I get particularly good response when I follow the followers of accounts that have about as many followers as people they follow. I use an app called Tweet Adder (affiliate link: I love it and highly recommend it!) that lets me search for and save people to follow, and I can specify that I want to search for all of the followers of a particular Twitter user. Then, I can automatically follow people from the saved list over time.
I find that the rate that people follow back varies quite a bit depending on whose followers I’m following. I have the highest follow-back rate when I follow followers of someone whose tweets are similar to mine and would have a similar appeal.
Strategy #4: I auto-follow steadily throughout the day
If you follow too many accounts too quickly, Twitter may suspend your account, thinking that you’re a spam-bot. If you follow more slowly, over the course of the whole day, or over the course of hours in an evening, you’re much less likely to be seen as a bot. It’s been very helpful to use an app like Tweet Adder to do this for me.
Strategy #5: I follow as many people as possible every day
Twitter allows you to follow up to 1000 people per day. I didn’t know this until I looked it up for this article: I’ve thought it was a max of 500 per day this whole time! I’ve been trying to follow at least 400 people per day, and as close to 500 as possible without hitting 500. Again, I don’t want to risk being seen as a bot, but I want to maximize the following that I can do each day in an effort to attract those who may be interested in what I’m tweeting about and vice versa. I also try to keep the number of people I’m following just a bit lower than the number who are following me. I’m usually able to start having more followers than those I’m following by the time I get to a little over 2200 followers. After that, it’s fairly easy to keep it balanced.
Strategy #6: I don’t automatically follow back everyone who follows me
There are several reasons I don’t automatically follow back everyone. One is that I actually like to read my twitter stream, so I don’t want my stream “polluted” with garbage tweets. Another is that, the more followers I have that I haven’t followed back, the more other people I’m able to follow. Twitter allows you to follow up to 2000 people, or up to 10% more people than are following you. Therefore, if you have 2000 followers, you may follow up to 2200 people, and if you have 10,000 followers, you can follow up to 11,000 people, and if you’re @JustinBieber, you can follow as many people as you want. Since I’ve been trying to follow close to 500 people each day, I’ve needed a lot of buffer between my number of followers and being followed. Also, people are more inclined to follow someone who has more followers than people they’re following: it’s a sign that they have interesting tweets if lots of people are following without getting followed back. I’m always amazed when I see people who have not tweeted at all who manage to get a few hundred followers. Why follow if the person isn’t even tweeting? :-p I do go through my list of followers and manually follow and unfollow people according to how they match what my Twitter account is about. I also unfollow people whose posts are all in a language I can’t read: as cool as automatic translation plug-ins are, there is a limit to how well they do their job.
Strategy #7: I unfollow people
Selective, systematic unfollowing is a useful strategy because you can be more selective about whose tweets will appear in your stream.
Tweet Adder has a very nice automated Follow and Unfollow capability. I can specify that I want to only unfollow nonreciprocal follows that I followed using Tweet Adder. I can also specify how many days to wait between when I followed the person and when it’s ok to unfollow them. That means that I can set it up to follow people automatically, wait a specified number of days, and unfollow anyone who I followed with Tweet Adder who didn’t follow back. I really like this because I didn’t expend much effort to find and follow these people, so I don’t mind unfollowing them. At the same time, the people I do find and manually follow are not affected by the automated unfollow: they stay until I manually unfollow, or until I change the setting in Tweet Adder to unfollow any non-reciprocal follows.
I manually and systematically unfollow those who tweet all or predominantly in a language I don’t understand: if I don’t understand what you’re tweeting, it doesn’t make sense for your tweets to appear in my stream, and the automatic translation plug-ins don’t work well for me.
I also unfollow those who habitually tweet in ways that I consider to be offensive.
Finally, I unfollow those who never or hardly ever tweet. I don’t understand why people will follow a Twitter account with no tweets, unless they’re just trying to increase their follower count by following and being followed back.
With tools like Tweet Adder, it’s tempting to get aggressive with following and unfollowing users. Before you decide to get aggressive, please read Twitter’s Following Guidelines and Best Practices. Twitter is intended to be a tool for social interaction, not for competitive follower acquisition. There are certainly wonderful advantages to having more followers on Twitter: you’re more likely to interact with others, get re-tweeted, and make a bigger impact. Just pace yourself, manage the growth of your follower base, and make sure that your following practices are beneficial to you AND to your followers.
So, what are you doing to gain followers on Twitter? Do you use any or all of the same strategies? Any that I’m using that you may start using yourself?
In this article, I’ll share some of my strategies for coming up with good stuff to post on Twitter, as well as how and when I schedule tweets.
What to Tweet
There are many ways that I’m looking for the best content to share in my Twitter feeds:
Reading my streams – I’m selective with my follow backs, so my stream will contain as many tweets as possible that are relevant to the theme of my Twitter account. I’ll read through recent tweets in my stream, buffer interesting tweets that don’t contain a link, and open interesting links in a new tab so I can read them all together later in one big batch. When I go through and read a linked page, if I think it’s good for posting, I’ll do a search in my stream for the tweet containing the link and buffer a re-tweet (RT) of the link. Getting tweets for re-tweeting from my stream can take a quite while: it’s like panning for gold in a mountain stream. I also keep a Twitter list of the consistently great content sharers for each of my accounts, and I’ll typically find great tweets faster reading tweets from those lists.
Twitter search – I’ll search for the words improve, improvement, improving, and improved to see what others are posting with those words in them. For my @MproveFinances account, I’ll search for money, finance, personal finance, and I’ve done a search for million. For the @MproveFitness account, I’ll search for the word fitness. Searches tend to yield good quality tweets more quickly than just reading my stream, so I’ll do that when I’m more pressed for time.
Web search – I’ll use Google to search for improvement quotes, money quotes, or fitness quotes to tweet. If a quote is particularly good, but won’t fit in 140 characters, I’ll use TwitLonger.com to get the whole thing in there. I like to include #quote in the tweet when possible since people search for quotes that way.
My own creations – Whenever I create a blog post, I have a link to it automatically published to Twitter. I’ll typically also buffer several tweets with links to one of my blog posts, trying to improve the headline each time to see what’s most engaging or attractive. I’ll also sometimes just have a thought that I’d like to put out there without a whole blog post behind it, so I’ll tweet or buffer that.
Re-tweet my tweets – About once a week I’ll go through my older tweets and re-tweet ones that I or others particularly liked and found useful. I’ll also go through my Favorites and re-tweet some of those.
When to Tweet
I use Buffer to schedule tweets to send. I subscribe to the $10/month plan which gives me a 50-tweet buffer for each of my three Twitter accounts, allows me to buffer to any or all of them at once, and provides some nice, simple analytics for each tweet, showing how many times a tweet was re-tweeted and how many clicks there were on a link.
I use Buffer’s Chrome plugin, which makes adding tweets to Buffer from Twitter very easy. I also keep a tab open to Buffer, because sometimes the tweet that I’m buffering is too long and I need to edit it and add it to the buffer manually.
I also tweet and re-tweet directly sometimes rather than buffering. I don’t buffer replies to other people’s tweets, and I don’t buffer time-sensitive tweets such as getting news out quickly.
So that’s how I’m currently finding and posting content to tweet. Next time, I’ll share my strategies for attracting followers to my Twitter accounts.
I’d love to know: how do you come up with the great stuff YOU tweet?
In my first post on how I’m doing Twitter, I talked about how I got started on Twitter, how I eventually saw the light on its value, and how The Improvement Zone came to be. In this post, I’ll talk briefly about the history of @ImprovementZone, @MproveFinances, and @MproveFitness on Twitter up to now, as well as some tools that I’ve used up to this point.
My idea for @ImprovementZone on Twitter was to provide links to great articles and resources, quotes, and thoughts, all related to improvement. Improvement is something I’m passionate about, and believe is absolutely critical to success, so I wanted to help others to improve and experience the benefits, too.
I came up with a bio line that I’m still using today: “CIO, improver, believer, future best-selling author. Let’s improve ourselves, our relationships, our work, and our world — together!” For a picture, I uploaded a snapshot I had taken of a sunrise one morning when I went out for a run:
To me, it represented the promise of a bright new day.
I started out following people who posted things related to improvement. I searched for the words improvement, improve, improving, and better, and would follow people who tweeted about improving. I would also re-tweet things that were motivational or otherwise improvement-related.
I also started tracking my numbers on Twitter right away. I created the account on Aug 4, 2011. Here are some milestones along the way:
There were a few tools that I started using along the way: Gmail, WordPress.com, ifttt.com (about which I wrote a blog article), Tweepi.com, BufferApp.com (link gets you and me one additional tweet in our buffer if you sign up, even for a free account), and Tweet Adder (Note: this one is an affiliate link. If you’d prefer a non-affiliate link, click here). I used Tweepi to follow a lot of people at once, but after a week, found it to be too cumbersome to be very useful. Also in September, I started using BufferApp to buffer tweets to be sent out automatically, and loved it, especially when I got the sister Twitter accounts and started buffering tweets for all three. Finally, on Sept. 28th, I purchased a five-account license for Tweet Adder, enabling me to follow and unfollow people automatically throughout the day. This tool was instrumental in getting me to over 2000 followers relatively quickly. Tweet Adder also has an automatic tweet sender, so I may go back to the free version of BufferApp and use Tweet Adder as an unlimited buffered tweeting app. However, there are advantages of the $10/mo Buffer app that may keep me using both: I can buffer for any of my three Twitter accounts, and the paid version gives you nice analytics for how many clicks on links and how many retweets.
On Sept. 10th, I was riding in the car on a two-hour trip while my wife drove, and I was thinking and writing notes about what products I might eventually be able to create to offer through the Improvement Zone brand. The thought occurred to me to write a book something like “2012 Ways To Improve Your ____ In 2012″. The first thing that I thought of to write was a book on finances: how to save and make more money. On Sept. 15th, I set up @MproveFinances and Improve-Finances.com as a starting point toward an eventual book on improving finances, a topic about which I’ve studied and thought a lot.
I’m also a runner, and running has been a tremendous catalyst for improvement in my life in so many ways. I thought that eventually I’d like to host a community and provide products related to health and fitness. On Sept. 30th, I decided I shouldn’t wait, and so @MproveFitness was born.
Next time, strategies I’m using on Twitter.