Leveraging Twitter to build your web development career

Why Twitter followers can be your biggest fans, and how to build a powerful audience

Ihad been on Twitter for nearly two years before I finally figured out how to use it. I could never quite understand why this platform is so great for networking and self-promotion. To my further surprise, by the time I finally figured it out, Twitter had already had an amazingly positive impact on my career.

I don’t want it to take you two years to figure out something simple that can bring such remarkable outcomes. So, today, we’re going to talk Twitter, and how you can leverage it to build an band of supportive fellow coders, superfans, and industry professionals who can boost to your greatest heights.

Finding my way around Twitter

I joined Twitter in July 2015, right after losing my job in Customer Service Management—then switching gears and learning to code. I knew that social media was a powerful means of reaching out to others in my industry, but had mostly come up dry with Facebook groups.

I sat looking at my first blank tweet box for what seemed like forever. I needed something to talk about. So, I started my first WordPress blog, which later became La Vie en Code. Now I had something to post on Twitter.

As it turns out, however, that the occasional tweet when I posted a new article wasn’t enough. I needed to learn how to curate other content.

I tried some retweeting. It felt weird. I felt like I didn’t technically know these people, so my social faux pas alarm kept going off.

But as it turns out, this is how Twitter is meant to work. If you tweet something cool, relative strangers are supposed to metaphorically walk up to you, high five you, pull out a bullhorn, and yell what you just said to their own group of people they probably don’t know too well either. (I’ll stop pontificating on the absurdity of social media now… really.)

We join so many social media platforms, and groups within those platforms, just so we can feel “present”. But, you may find that you don’t use those platforms as often as you could. Pinterest is like that for me. It’s the real-life social equivalent of attending a party, but hiding in the closet.

Despite the weirdness of social media in general, I managed to pull together a few users—mostly friends and alum, who would occasionally retweet my things. I was often surprised when things would get a lot of retweets, responses, or likes. There didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it. (But there really is!)

Fast forward to today: I am steadily approaching 2,000 followers on Twitter—nearly 185% growth from the start of this year—and I know many of them on a first-name basis. I’ve met several of them in real life, after we got to know each other on Twitter. I feel like I finally have an audience when I tweet, and responses have become a bit more predictable.

I just recently learned how to be an active Twitter participant, rather than a passive observer. There’s no good reason I had for not learning how to use Twitter properly to promote myself, besides that I was probably afraid of promoting myself in general.

But, I want to help you newbie coders understand why you need to be on Twitter to make an impact in this industry.

The importance of networking

If you’re looking for a job in the industry, I trust that you already know that networking is incredibly important for folks who are new to an industry—any industry, really.

Most career changers don’t know anybody in their new industry, let alone potential employers. With so many talented web developers out there with more experience than you have, you’re going to need to rely on conveying your personalitywillingness to learn, and valuable experience.

Your next employer may be on social media, and you have an opportunity to flash your peacock fan. Talk to them, share their content, get them to check out your content (like your portfolio site!), and you may just find yourself with a new position as a result.

The goal of building relationships with others at this point in your career should be to create an army of passionate supporters. These are the people who will cheer us on when things get difficult, help connect us with our next big opportunities, and bring us the latest information about our industries. These people are integral to our development in our new industry, because they provide great value to you for just a little relationship maintenance.

Take it a step further: what if there were a way to connect with people, without having to spend hours at Meetups? Enter social media—and in particular, Twitter.

But why Twitter?

Facebook is generally my preferred oversharing platform, but I’ve come to appreciate some of Twitter’s features that Facebook is missing/greatly limiting.

It’s easy to learn

Twitter offers just a few easy options when handling tweets.

Unlike Facebook, there aren’t tons of options on Twitter. You get 140 characters to make an impact (or you can spread it out over multiple messages).

Find users.
Engage with them using retweets, replies, likes, and mentions.
Get followers.

That’s pretty much the long and short of it. If you are consistent with your activity on Twitter, you’ll find your follower base quickly growing with relevant industry connections.

There’s virtually no barrier to access

See someone’s name on a conference site? Come across a particularly cool web development article? Find someone else that came from a welding background that’s now learning to code?

It’s easy to locate people on Twitter, because most professionals in the tech field have a Twitter account. You can see what they’re up to, read and watch what they share, and learn from their perspectives. I frequently follow conference speakers while they’re at the podium, and tell them what I love about their talk.

Twitter posts are all public, as opposed to “friends-only” post functionality on Facebook. Everyone can read your tweets, respond to them, and generally engage with you. Following is just a formality to ensure that they get your updates in their News Feed, and represents your “assets” in the Twitter-verse.

Hashtags ACTUALLY serve a purpose!

Work hashtags into existing text, and you won’t waste any of your 140 character limit!

Hashtags, the overused #topicsignals of the internet, originated on Twitter. For this reason, they actually serve a purpose here in Twitter land.

Twitter search allows you to search for hashtags, such as #webdev, #javascript, or the popular #100daysofcode. Guess what you’re going to find on the other end? Super-relevant people and tweets.

Of course, Twitter also allows you to search simply for the text of a tweet. So, why are hashtags necessary for building up an audience of superfans?

We can assume safely that if someone took the time to add a hashtag to a tweet, effectively using up some of their limited 140-character space, it’s going to be highly specific to that topic.

Make smart use of hashtags, though! Don’t add in unnecessary or irrelevant hashtags. And, rather than adding them in addition to your existing text, consider adding the pound/hash symbol (#) before words you’re already working into your text.

You’ll make friends for life

I met this incredible group of Code Newbies at Codeland 2017. We all knew each other by Twitter handle!

I suppose this is also true of Facebook, but due to the first factor above, Facebook simply doesn’t offer the same reach. Once you start engaging the people you’ve followed, chances are—if the accounts are run by the people they represent—pretty good that they’ll respond.

If you’re reaching out to quality people with common interests, and you continue to build that relationship, you’re going to form a powerful bond with them. It’s nearly impossible not to. I’m especially involved in the women, POC and LGBTQ+, and mental health communities, and finding other developers with these common interests has been a blessing.

What to do on Twitter, and how to do it

Share your thoughts

The best way to think of Twitter is as a giant, asynchronous message board/chat room. People come and go from the discussions, and posts are out there for the world to read for the foreseeable future.

So, what do you talk about on Twitter? Anything, really.

Talk about what you’re learning. Share your feelings on web development. Quote a book you’re reading. Mention some people, and how you feel about the work they’re doing. The possibilities are endless.

When you’re first starting out, it can feel like you’re launching words into the void — because you are. But then, you engage with others—and if they really like you, they’ll probably like your stuff retroactively.

Retweet other people

Did someone else you follow post a really awesome link? Or perhaps had an awesome perspective or quote that you’d like to share with your own audience.

You may be tempted to tweet it as your own original content (with attribution), but if you found it on Twitter, there’s much more value in retweeting it, because people will organically reciprocate. This probably took me the longest to begin practicing: you don’t always have to tweet original content.

In fact, one of the best ways to engage followers and people you follow is by retweeting their posts.

What exactly is a retweet? Effectively, it’s like a Facebook share. Twitter used to require you to copy/paste their content, and put a “RT” before it, but there’s a much more attractive option now that will retain the tweet’s original formatting, clearly adding “You Retweeted” before it.

To retweet someone else’s post to your own Twitter feed, simply click the Retweet button. You’ll have an option to add your own comment.

Participate in a Twitter chat

Saron Yitbarek of CodeNewbie hosts weekly Twitter chats, including a Sunday coding check-in and Wednesday podcast episode discussions.

I’ve only participated in one Twitter chat to date, but I tell you now—the good ones are truly lit.

What is a Twitter chat? It’s basically like a clunky, somewhat asynchronous chat room. Seeing as Twitter itself is pretty much a massive, international chat room with sub-rooms and direct messages (DMs)/mentions, it’s natural that Twitter chats would be a thing. It’s a topic-based discussion, led by hashtags.

One of my favorite Twitter chats, and the most inclusive/friendly one for new web developers is #CodeNewbie. On Wednesday nights, CodeNewbie creator and host Saron Yitbarek leads a discussion on topics related to that week’s podcast episode. On Sundays, there’s a coding check-in for students who want to celebrate their accomplishments, and get inspired for the week to come.

How does it work? Hosts often post guidelines and instructions for their chats, as Saron did. Basically:

  1. Make sure you’re at a computer. It’s entirely too complicated to try to engage in a Twitter chat on a mobile device. You’ll get turned off from the experience.
  2. Search for whatever hashtag the chat is using (ex., #CodeNewbie).
  3. Select the Latest tab to be notified when new posts are made using that hashtag.
  4. To participate, make a tweet or respond to the host’s question by clicking their Tweet.
  5. Be sure to include the hashtag at the end of your post (be sure to leave enough space).

That’s it! Anyone following the hashtag will be able to see your response, like or retweet your tweet, or reply to you. When they do, you’ll get a notification. I find it handy to keep a separate tab open for notifications so I can keep an eye on the conversation.

There are also tools out there for managing Twitter chats, like TweetChat. One drawback is that if you like to retweet others’ content, these third-party apps use the old “RT” retweet style. If you’re a snob like me, just brave the constant refreshing of the native Twitter app.

Share your blog posts

Twitter is an excellent platform for sharing content, as well as 140 characters of consciousness. I share content I post on Medium on Twitter, as well.

Simply include your URL in the tweet text, and Twitter will attach a link card, which helps draw attention to your post.

PRO TIP: Don’t be like me and assume that you can only share your blog post once, or it’s a social faux pas! People do this ALL THE TIME.

If you click on most article links on any social media platform, you will likely find that the posts themselves are weeks, months, or even years old. If you write “evergreen” content—or content that stays relevant over long periods of time, a totally separate topic—keep sharing that content!

Each time you share it, there will naturally be some people who have already read it. But if they enjoyed it, and it was valuable to them, you may be surprised when they retweet it again!

Launch an opinion-based soliloquy with tweet threading

This one is fun! If you’ve ever seen multi-message threads on Twitter, you know that they can quickly go viral even on sites like Facebook. People will be able to link the entire thread if you create it properly, which I’m going to teach you how to do!

Pick a topic you’re passionate about. Maybe it’s current news, or an issue you’ve experienced personally. Chances are, you have a lot more to say on the topic than 140 characters will allow. That’s where threading comes into play.

This part is important, to ensure it will appear as a complete linkable thread:

  1. After posting your first tweet, click that tweet to reply to it.
  2. Delete the “@yourhandle” at the start of your tweet, since you’re just replying to yourself, if it appears.
  3. Type and post the follow-up to the first tweet.
  4. Repeat for each extended tweet.

Once you’re done, simply click on the first tweet. You should be able to see all subsequent tweets under it. To link people to your tweet thread, you’ll need to use the URL of this first tweet.

Getting exposure on Twitter

When I started using Twitter, I was able to gather a small following of alum and friends to get myself over the 100 follower line. Even then, 100 people didn’t see my tweets every time I made one.

First off, people won’t see your tweets unless they:

  1. Follow you, or
  2. Go to your profile page to view the tweet there

So, even though your posts are public by the very nature of Twitter, you’ll stillbe fighting for Twitter feed visibility—based on a couple of factors. Only a fraction of your followers will even see your tweets, due to times they may not be in front of their computer or smartphone, and Twitter’s algorithms.

There are a couple of other factors you can control, though.

We’re all at least a little bit of a data nerd here, so you’ll be pleased to know that Twitter offers great analytics. Within Twitter Analytics, you can find out important information, like:

  • topics your followed by your followers
  • their origin countries
  • peak engagement time
  • which tweets are the most popular

You’ll also be able to track your follower growth, which is a good indicator of what’s working (and what isn’t). In general, using this data, you can make educated decisions about when to tweet. I use Buffer alongside individual tweeting to ensure tweets appear on my followers’ feeds during the times they’re most likely to be in front of it.

Follower data in Twitter Analytics.

Building your audience

If you do have a Twitter account, but don’t use it enough, think about why you don’t use it. It may be because you feel that your tweets weren’t being seen, or nobody cared.

This is likely compounded by the scarcity of exposure. In other words, the more you tweet, the more likely people are to see it. Being a prolific tweeter is highly favored by Twitter’s algorithms. If you tweet more often, you will gain followers naturally.

Even if you are posting pretty often, when you have no followers, it can feel like you’re throwing words out into the void.

The more you tweet, the more likely people are to see it. Being a prolific tweeter is highly favored by Twitter’s algorithms. If you tweet more often, you will gain followers naturally.

Being a relative newbie to Twitter, myself, I can tell you that this part just takes time. However, we can speed the process up a bit by following these steps:

Twitter has a powerful native search tool, which allows users to find tweets and accounts that include certain keywords. One way to go about this process is by leveraging this search:

  • identify accounts that are relevant to you by searching for
  • follow those accounts
  • engage the user via Direct Messages (DMs), retweeting, or mentions—congratulate them, share their content, or just tell them how much you like their content—provide value so they have incentive to follow back

This works particularly well because of human nature. The law of reciprocityis in your favor! If all else fails: just ask for a follow, and tell them about the kind of content you produce. If it’s not for them, it’s not for them, and now you can move on to finding your next future superfan!

Web developer accounts to follow

Every day, web development industry professionals are posting their thoughts on their work. I don’t have some proprietary list of folks to follow, but the kind denizens of the internet have created a few. Read Twitter bios, see if anyone matches your interests, and start building your audience.

On the web

Programmers You Should Follow on Twitter

41 JavaScript experts to follow on Twitter

35 Amazing Women in Tech to Follow on Twitter

Top 15 prototyping & UX influencers to follow on Twitter

10 people all developers should follow on Twitter

22 developers to follow on Twitter

On Medium

I’ll continue to add more resources to this post as I find folks that would make an excellent follow for newbie web developers.

What are you waiting for?

As you can see, Twitter provides a lot of value for being a free platform. Leveraging Twitter Analytics can give you powerful insight into the people who are interested in us and what we have to say. While it may seem like a lot of work to keep up a (or another) social media platform, looking at Twitter as an investment in your future helps justify the work—and the play!

While we’re at it, be sure to pick up one of your first fans—me—by commenting with your Twitter handle below, and what you’re looking to accomplish with your Twitter account. We’ll help you make it happen!

Do you have a Twitter success story of your own? I’d love to hear it! Hit me up on Twitter @lavie_encode, or contact me through my Contact page.

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