14 Simple Ways To Start Conversations On Twitter

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

OK, so reading this blog, you’ve heard me say time and again that success on the social web is all about starting the conversation. To engage. To dialog. Blah, blah, blah…

And yet many of my readers, and some of my clients, still don’t get it.

I was talking to a gentleman the other day about using twitter to initiate conversations – which could lead to new relationships – where they might end up as new prospects – or at least refer others to him – and I swear I heard crickets chirping on the other end of the phone.

So, I thought I would prepare a cheat sheet of no-brainer ideas to help you identify “tweets” that can be YOUR conversation-starting triggers.

Simple. Enjoy.

1. ORIGINAL TWEET: “Just had coffee with Julie Smith. What a smart and vibrant lady!”

YOU: Isn’t she great? She’s a wonderful person to have in your network. Do you read her blog?”

2. ORIGINAL TWEET: “Heading to Birmingham AL for business. Any good ideas for a dinner spot?”

YOU: “You are a fool NOT to check out Dreamland BBQ. I trust you like BBQ?”

3. ORIGINAL TWEET: “Heading out to buy a new video camera. Any ideas?”

YOU: “Lots of good products on the market, but I can’t live without my Flip Cam! What do you need a camera for exactly?”

4. ORIGINAL TWEET: “What is the best collaborative tool to use to work with someone in a different time zone? #smallbizchat”

YOU: “I’ve had a lot of success with Google Wave. It has been great for our team. How many people working on the project? #smallbizchat”

5. ORIGINAL TWEET: “Having a lousy day. Struggling with [insert business problem here]. Can’t wait til 5 o’clock!

YOU: “Sorry to hear that. I’ve had a lot of success with [insert potential solution here]. Have you tried that before?”

6. ORIGINAL TWEET: “RT @zen_habits: on mnmlist: empower people to create http://bit.ly/9jOetk.”

YOU: “Hey, I loved that post. Really spoke to me. Have you been reading Leo for a while?”

7. ORIGINAL TWEET: “Just sat down, and looking forward to hearing Chris Brogan speak!”

YOU: “Oh, I saw him at New Media Atlanta. You’ll learn a lot. Did you read Trust Agents?”

8. ORIGINAL TWEET: “Holy smokes, you cannot believe the line to get into this #SXSW panel…”

YOU: “Oh, let me know how that goes. What has been your favorite panel so far?”

9. ORIGINAL TWEET: “http://twitpic.com/10j5js – On a cold and rainy day, the crappiest job in marketing.”

YOU: “I hear that. But I dunno, doesn’t seeing those people make you notice the biz they’re promoting?”

10. ORIGINAL TWEET: “I’m at FuegoMundo (5590 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs) http://4sq.com.”

YOU: “Oh man, I love that place. Have you had their sangria?”

11. ORIGINAL TWEET: “You are a fool to not follow @StephanieALloyd + @Keppie_Careers if you want the best job search and job hunting advice! #followfriday”

YOU: “Wow, thanks. Got a friend looking for a job and I will put him in touch with these two! How did you get to know them?”

12. ORIGINAL TWEET: “Listening to my Metallica Pandora channel!”

YOU: “I dig those guys too. They free my mind after a long day. What’s your favorite album?”

13. ORIGINAL TWEET: “My Gosh, why do the Red Sox always give me such heartburn?”

YOU: “No kidding. These guys have haunted me for years. How long have you been a fan?”

14. ORIGINAL TWEET: “Just sitting down to watch Celebrity Apprentice!”

YOU: Oh come on, how can you stand to listen to that blowhard Trump for more than five minutes?”

1. You can do this with people you don’t know.
2. In fact, this is how you get to know people.
2.5. At least, I’ve read that somewhere…
3. How are you going to get to know people if you don’t ask them questions?
4. I mean seriously, do you go to face-to-face networking meetings – stand on a chair – and just broadcast details of your latest products?
5. And when these good folks respond to your questions? Answer them back. This is called a “conversation!”
6. It really works!
7. I promise!
8. It is actually easy. You just gotta decide to do it.

What do you think? Any other ideas?

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  • Shyam Kapur

    This is an excellent post, Todd. Please check out TipTop http://FeelTipTop.com as it provides a number of unique ways (I Like, Tip off, ….) to engage in conversations with strangers. I have met several hundred strangers through these mechanisms. Not once have I not succeeded in establishing a relationship with any individual after just a tweet or two. I know you’d love it.

  • Todd Schnick

    Thanks Shyam. And you’re right. It takes time to build a meaningful relationship…

  • http://ypsgroup.com/ Todd Youngblood

    OK, great stuff that I’ll use. But… this aging baby-boomer already pretty much gets the the “how to,” and has successfully established a few relationships with Twitter. Now that I’ve started down this path, though, I’m hitting a different issue.

    My target customer base consists of 50-60ish owners (often founders) of $10-100M businesses. Doesn’t seem like they tweet much. Most of my twitter relationships are with consultants – starving, struggling ones – whose ulterior motive for connecting with me is to use my reputation and contacts to land business. That’s fine, I don’t mind and am happy to lend a hand now and again. That said, if Twitter’s value to me is “giving back” to the consultant community, I doubt I’ll keep at it. I’d rather contribute to my community in other ways.

    Got another blog post in you to address this one??? I’m countin’ on ya’!!!


  • Todd Schnick

    Hey Todd – does Howdy Doody have a wooden pecker? I will draft some content to address this issue. Thanks for the question and the continued readership!

  • http://www.campleadership.org Dave

    Great post and I think you just gave people tips on how to make friends in general. I think people try to make twitter more difficult then it actually is. Listen to the conversations and jump in when and where you can. Just like going to an afternoon cookout and meeting new friends.


  • Todd Schnick

    Thanks Dave. It is exactly like an afternoon cookout and meeting new friends. And you hit on the key point on Twitter – you are welcome – in fact encouraged – to jump in on ongoing conversations – if you have value or questions to add. That is the whole point of the tool. And you can make friends – and/or identify potential business prospects while you are at it.

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  • Terri L Maurer

    Great article — even better examples that span a number of situations. And, all are non-threatening and some even helpful to the other Tweeters you have engaged.

  • Terri L Maurer

    Great article — even better examples that span a number of situations. And, all are non-threatening and some even helpful to the other Tweeters you have engaged.

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  • Kawairedleaf

    Great! It’s useful to communicate with some unknown people.
    But it seems not to be scaled easily. When you follow 500 people, you can’t continue such conversations with everyone. I want to know how to keep in touch with a lot of people(like 10,000 people?) in social media.

  • Todd Schnick

    you can’t keep in touch with 10,000 people. but…

    1. you can monitor people you want to do business with, and keep an eye on what they say on social media, so that you can look for an opportunity to connect. just set up a special column for these people in tweetdeck, for instance.

    2. you can set up a twitter search query (and have the results sent to your RSS reader) that informs you when someone utters a keyword or phrase. then, you can choose to engage. that’s how i scale!

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