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Twitter Tao ImageSoren Gordhamer works with individuals and groups on how to effectively use new technologies. He is the author of the book Wisdom 2.0 and the organizer of the Wisdom 2.0 Conference. He is @SorenG on Twitter.

It doesn’t take much skill to tweet — you simply type what you want to say in under 140 characters. But while the barrier to entry is extremely low, tweeting well is something else entirely. I’m sure we all follow people who consistently offer enriching and insightful posts, and about whom we think, “Wow. They really know how to tweet.” We have also likely come across people on Twitter (Twitter

) about whom we have felt the exact opposite.

If we consider tweeting to be something of an art form, then what are the characteristics that make for “good art” on Twitter? It is probably too early to identify them all, but a two-thousand-five-hundred year old text, the Tao te Ching, offers what I believe is some useful guidance. Below are the top four lessons that I think are most relevant.

1. Show Versus Tell

“The person of superior integrity does not insist upon his integrity; For this reason, he has integrity.” – Tao te Ching

Telling people how knowledgeable we are about a subject or bragging about our achievements via Twitter is generally a sign that we are out of alignment with the tao, which is often defined as “the flow” or “the natural way.” If a person is tweeting about how successful, smart, and knowledgeable he is about a subject, we can be pretty sure he’s not as wise as he claims.

Another, more tao-friendly approach, is to show more than tell. Rather than using Twitter to try to tell people who we are or what we know, focus instead on providing people good, quality information related to a subject matter. We can show knowledge through actions. People then feel a connection to us, and may even be impressed by us, not because we tell them that they should be, but because it shows through our tweets.

2. Have a Passion for the Process

Office Woman Image

“The Way alone is good at beginning and good at ending.” – Tao te Ching

One mistake I often see when people use Twitter is that they approach it without a real interest in or passion for the service. They may start an account because they think they “should” or because they seek to gain a million followers or increase sales, rather than to connect with people.

There is nothing wrong with those goals. But in order to create authenticity and value, you must maintain the same enthusiasm at 5 followers as you do at 50,000. One should approach both the beginning and end with equal attention.

What matters is not only how many followers we have, or how much our sales have increased, but the level of passion and curiosity with which we approach the process. The former will follow if the latter is there.

3. Find a Balance

“Hearing too much leads to exhaustion; Better to remain in the center.” – Tao te Ching

Even at just 140 characters per tweet, there are only so many tweets we can digest per day. Our capacities may vary, but we can all experience “tweet overload.” When that happens, you might not be able to fully digest the information you’re reading, and the quality of your own tweets may suffer.

The challenge is to find the balance – “the center,” as the tao encourages – so that we engage from a place of ease and focus. It’s the state that athletes refer to as “being in the zone.” Accessing this flow or zone is just as important while tweeting on our keyboard or phone as it is while playing on the basketball court. This means not only knowing when to tweet, but also when to take a break.

4. Focus on What You Can Add, Not on the Technology

Twitter Input Image

“Thirty spokes converge on a single hub, but it is in the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of a cart lies.” – Tao te Ching

I always find it curious when people get into arguments over how useful or silly Twitter is. Sure, Twitter is an online service with some interesting features built-in. But essentially, it is an empty box in which to share content. As the quote above alludes, it is “the space where there is nothing” that matters the most.

No matter what you think of Twitter, it is not the technology itself that will determine its usefulness, but what we add to the empty box that is key. One person can find Twitter useless and another essential, and they can both be right.


Of course tweeting, like any art, is partly subjective. What I like you may not, and vice versa. In this sense, what matters is not so much our knowledge or skill, or how long we have used Twitter, but how we approach the process with an open, creative mind. It is only then that we can say that we have accessed “the tao of tweeting.”

More Twitter resources from Mashable:

HOW TO: Use Twitter’s New Retweet Feature
10 Ways You Can Use Twitter Lists
5 Ways to Write Retweetable Tweets
TWEET IDEAS: 13 Things to Do on Twitter Besides Tweet
Twitter for Beginners: 5 Steps for Better Tweeting

Image courtesy of iStockphoto (iStockphoto

), kot2626


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