Twitter To-Do List to Make Twitter Useful Again

Posted in christian thought, social media by Nathan Creitz on May 26, 2009

failwhaleConfession: I am a church leader and I use Twitter.

Many pastors who use Twitter, for some reason want to also become a social media expert. I don’t. This will be my only post on the subject here at ChurchETHOS. I’m not writing this post to become recognized as a social media expert, I’m writing it so I can become a better leader in the church.

Why? Because I want Twitter to help and not hinder my ministry. Do I really believe Twitter has benefit to the kingdom of God? If it does, then how can I make the best use of the Twitter experience for God’s glory? If it doesn’t, then why am I wasting my time? Will my ministry get the “Fail Whale” thanks to Twitter?

I’m writing this post to develop my own theory for using Twitter. If it is helpful to you in your ministry then that’s bonus. At the end of this life I’ll be okay with a “Fail Whale” on Twitter as long as my Master has reason to say, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter your Master’s joy!” (Matthew 25:21 HCSB)

So here is my Twitter To-Do List to maximize Twitter’s usefulness for my ministry.


Picture 4 Determine the Value of Twitter

People use Twitter for a lot of reasons. Since I’m not trying to be an expert on social media I’m only going to list those qualities that bring value to me as one who is in ministry.


It’s not helpful to me to wade through everyone’s random status updates or pleas for recognition or shameless self-promotion. So what is valuable to me?

I’ve determined that the primary qualities I desire from Twitter are:

to network with like-minded people around the world.
to share ideas and links to relevant or helpful content.
to generate discussion about ChurchETHOS content.
to seek mutual encouragement and advice with other church leaders.

I’m trying to make entertainment and procrastination take up less and less of the time I spend Twittering. Which leads me to the next item on the Twitter To-Do List:

Picture 4 Determine How Much Time to Spend on Twitter

tweetdeckI use a Twitter client called TweetDeck to deliver my Twitter content and to organize my network into groups. I don’t know what a good balance of time might be to spend on Twitter, but I try not to have TweetDeck open all day long. If I can open it in the morning, again around lunchtime, and then later in the evening (and maybe one or two more times if I’m honest) then I won’t constantly be distracted by notifications every two minutes.

I may not read every tweet from my friends. Sorry. I will, however, answer all my @replies and DM’s. I also like to quickly scan through the past 100 or so tweets and see if anything jumps out. If you engage in a conversation with me, I will reciprocate.

The users on the other end of my TweetDeck are people not “tweeps” (I’m sorry, I just can’t use some of the lingo). Therefore, I want to benefit from our mutual relationship. All of that can be done during a few 5 minute tweet breaks, IF I make sure I’m disciplined enough to be focused on other work for the rest of the day. The minute Twitter is more a distraction than a tool is when I cease to use Twitter.

Picture 4 Follow People Who Add Value


So far, I’ve determined the value of Twitter (and tried to remove the extraneous), and set boundaries for myself as to how much time I will spend on Twitter. Now it’s time to actually look at who I’m following.

I want my network to be of value to my followers. I’m in the process of removing everyone that hasn’t followed me back (with a few exceptions). When I’m done with that I’ll go through and look at the profiles of my friends and fans to see if they add value to my Twitter experience.

So what am I looking for when I look at someone’s Twitter profile?

Common Interests
You can check out my bio to find out the top 4 or 5 things that are of interest to me. If you are following me just in the hopes that I’ll follow you back so that you can increase your popularity, don’t count on it.

An Expert Resource
Most of the people I follow are not experts, but there are a few people that I’ve hand-picked that provide expertise in an area that is of interest to me (and therefore, are probably of interest to my followers as well). I would rather have friends on Twitter and not fans or followers, but in some cases, I’m willing to follow someone who doesn’t follow me back simply because I respect him or her and recognize they are probably too busy to tweet me up.

Willingness to Dialogue
Other than a few “experts” who don’t follow me back I mostly want friends that are interested in dialogue. A profile that only has announcements and no @replies is a bad sign. Chances are you aren’t actually going to dialogue with me, you just want to type at me.

Opportunity for Mutual Benefit
An occasional retweet is expected among friends. I RT other’s content on maybe a 5:1 ratio before I hope someone will RT mine (I’d like that to be closer to 10:1). If we believe in what we are writing on our blogs then let’s do everything we can to help one another succeed. I assume that when a friend of mine on Twitter writes a post he believes what he’s writing. I want to give you a chance to get that message out to as large an audience as possible. I follow people who share this same value.

Thoughtful Questions
I love when someone is working on a blog post and they get the feedback or advice of their friends on Twitter before posting. Or maybe when you are working on a project or a sermon, how can we help you be the best church leader you can be? This adds valuable to my experience when I get to be a part of your research and hopefully it adds value to your experience because you get live feedback.

A Descriptive Bio and Picture
Okay, this is probably the easiest thing you can do to let people know who you are and what you are about. The 160 character limit helps clarify what you are passionate about. If we have anything in common, I’ll know it just by clicking on your name. Take the time or I won’t follow you.

If you aren’t willing to do a few of these things, then chances are I won’t follow you. Or, if I’m already following you, it might be grounds for unfollowing, which happens to be the next item on my Twitter To-Do List.

Picture 4 Unfollow People Who Don’t Add Value


I am in the process of unfollowing the following people (or not following them in the first place):

Incessant Self-Promoters
These are the people that are only on Twitter to drive traffic to their blog or website. There’s no rule against that, but I personally won’t be following you (unless it’s a really, really good blog).

Narcissistic Exhibitionists
You don’t want me standing outside your window watching everything you are doing. So why are you telling me about it? There are some people that just think we are all waiting to hear what you are eating for breakfast or how you lost your keys. It’s silly at best, and narcissistic at worst and a waste of ministry time.

There are even several people I follow who are big church leadership gurus and they often tweet about a conversation they are having in real-time with a real person. I’ve tweeted ONCE in the presence of a live human being. Whoever you are with, be with them and make the most of that interaction. If you have to tell me about the conversation, tell me about it later!

I also don’t want to know about things when you are driving. There have been too many accidents in the Boston area alone due to texting while driving. These are all grounds for an unfollow. The daily, trivial aspects of your life, just aren’t that interesting and if that’s the majority of your content, consider yourself unfollowed.

Bible Syndicators
I have a version of the Bible that I read each day. An occasional tweet about a verse that really struck you is one thing, but for those that tweet verse after verse all day long, stop it. I’m in agreement that the Bible is the Word of God, and I spend as much time as I can studying it and living it as possible but Twitter is not my source for God’s Word.

#hashtag Enthusiasts
A tweet that already is limited to 140 characters cannot be about 5 different things. Make your tweets relevant and focused. Two or more hashtags just make your tweet hard to read. If your tweet is about church planting give it the #churchplanting hashtag. There’s no need to also add #churchplants, #churchplanters, #churches, and #christians.

Ranting Provokers
There are some who just want to get on Twitter and do drive-by tweeting. They are angry at the church. They hate small groups, church buildings, Sunday School, etc. Whatever it is, they don’t like it so they type out an angry 140 character tweet and shoot a dozen of them out there. Then, if you try and respond with a differing opinion, they suck you into a 140 character per thought debate.

There are some discussions that don’t lend themselves to only 140 characters. Don’t get frustrated with me if I can’t understand you. Writing already is divorced from tone and gesture but add to that the brevity of these thoughts coming from near strangers and you can see why some conversations are better in person or on a blog where thought can be articulated more clearly.

Now that I’ve followed and unfollowed the people that add or subtract value from my personal network it’s time to tweet.

Picture 4 Prioritize Tweets

What will be the content of my tweets? I’ve tried to arrange them in the order of what I hope my tweets will be about:

@replies 40% // My goal is to engage in dialogue with other church leaders and not just overwhelm them with my own thoughts or content.

RT 20% // My network is always producing and discovering a lot of great content…more than I can produce myself. So, I promote their content by retweeting their stuff which is usually more valuable than mine.

Questions 20% // My goal is to use Twitter to get wisdom from others. The reason I follow people is to build a network of people I trust who are thinking and talking about the issues that I am passionate about. Asking my network questions helps me in my ministry.

Blog Posts 15% // NOW I can send you a link to my own content. After all the dialogue and questions and answers and useful links and retweets I can now add my own content to the mix. Hopefully that also adds value to my network but I don’t presume that my stuff is the only thing that’s valuable.

Random 5% // Okay, so every once in a while I do tweet the occasional irrelevant tweet that has nothing to do with ministry. I’m not trying to get people to weed out everything that’s frivolous, I’m just trying to come up with some of my own guidelines so that I can be disciplined when it comes to Twitter.

Well, there’s my Twitter To-Do List. Now I need to go and unfollow some people to make my network more meaningful for your sake and mine. Meanwhile, anything you would add to the list? Anything you disagree with?


12 Responses

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  1. Jeremy Hoover said, on May 26, 2009 at 2.41 pm

    Really good article, Nathan. Very thought-provoking about how both to limit my Twitter time and be more productive with what time I give to it.

    I like your “when to unfollow” ideas, as I struggle with wanting followers just to have them. But Twitter, for me, is more of a conversation, not a broadcast medium, and you generally converse with one person or a small group!

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Maria Kettleson Anderson said, on May 26, 2009 at 3.07 pm

    I love the simplicity and accuracy of this! I have learned to protect my time with times where I have solitude and TURN OFF electronics and with times focused on the person in front of me — and I hate the idea of dividing my attention to tweet about the conversation I’m having at lunch! But I also think twitter can be used well for the purposes you list, Nathan – and that your guidelines help get us there. Thanks!

  3. Diane Broos said, on May 26, 2009 at 4.03 pm

    Hi Nathan

    Thanks for putting together such a powerful process with regards to Twitter. I am fairly new at this, however when I woke up this morning and saw your tweet it was what I had also been thinking about. It struck me today that there seemed to be a lot of negative chatter, (which I hadn’t really seen prior to this). I wanted my experience to be about encouraging and giving hope to people who had lost their zest for life (perhaps the wrong venue.) I do feel that twitter used differently can produce better results and so I will digest what you have written, and determine which is the best way for me to go.Thanks for being so honest and for taking the time to write what you have (good thing you weren’t limited to 140 characters 🙂
    Thanks once again,

  4. David McGovern said, on May 26, 2009 at 6.28 pm

    Hey Nathan,

    I thought that was an intriguing article; so much so that I even ReTweeted it. 🙂

    However, I’m not sure I agree 100% with the strict parameters for which Twitter usage should be limited to.

    I guess it varies person to person. For me, Facebook is my “general audience”. I’m connected to roughly 1,000 people, and the ones I interact with the most are local church members, local student ministry members, old classmates, and my family.

    On Twitter, I intentionally keep my Twitter audience small (I protect my updates), and feel less filtered than on FB. For instance, I follow less than 100 people and have less than 200 followers, most of which are fellow student pastors, pastors, ministers & close friends involved in ministry & marketing.

    Because my audience is more intimate, I find myself being more random, and contrary to your assertions, I DO care what my friends are doing, where they’re eating (I’m a foodie), what they’re wearing, who they’re talking to, and what they’re thinking.

    Twitter in my context serves 3 key purposes:

    1. It’s a connection point for ministry friends that I normally wouldn’t have a daily conversation with. Friends who don’t live close to me, etc.

    2. It’s a creative communal where my network can instantly and consistently share ministry & marketing concepts in a relatively small, relatively safe environment.

    3. It’s transformed traditional blogging (which I was never effective at, or interested in) into a much more fluid, organic, and interactive conversation. I think this third point is key because it’s where most people who were reared on traditional “journaling” blogs miss the point and don’t understand the transformational value of Twitter. A traditional blog says “Here’s my story, read all 12 paragraphs and leave your comment at the end”. A micro-blog says “Here’s what I’m thinking, join the conversation, and let’s write the story together.” In my network, organic works better.

    Anyway! Just thought I’d share my thoughts with you. Leave a comment at the end. LOL.Because of my love for Twitter, I have plans to use it in several worship contexts in my local student ministry. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks Nathan!

    David McGovern

  5. Deidra Huff said, on May 26, 2009 at 9.44 pm

    Interesting article and food for thought as I’m entering this new world of Twitter.

  6. Nathan Creitz said, on May 27, 2009 at 8.55 am

    Thanks for all the comments so far. I will be replying to each of you individually as soon as I have a few spare minutes.

    Meanwhile, tell me what you think of this as new Twitter etiquette: Rather than sending a “Thanks for the RT’s @soandso, @retweeter, @etc.” I’ve decided to go to the profile of the person who Retweeted my post and find something on their profile that might be valuable to my network and RT’ing THEIR tweet. That says thanks much more forcefully AND it adds value to my own network because they get to benefit from it too.

    • Jeremy Hoover said, on May 27, 2009 at 8.59 am

      This is a great idea! I really like your concept of adding value.

      Every time I come to this blog or learn that a new comment has been added I learn more and more! Thanks for a great blog, Nathan.

    • Maria Kettleson Anderson said, on May 27, 2009 at 3.02 pm

      I also really like the idea of “adding value” – especially in this economy where wasted time and money directly hurt others! Building a persona on twitter just for the sake of ego really is not adding value, is it?! I’ve been conscious these last few weeks of ways to steward my time better, and your posts and thoughts have helped, Nathan.

  7. Jon Reid said, on May 27, 2009 at 7.34 pm

    These are really helpful tips, and I will probably put many of them into practice. One personal tweak is that I do find value in following a handful of people who do not follow me back, simply because their tweets are so informative/challenging. But the big thing is to restore focus: Why am I doing this? How can it make me *better* at paying attention to people face-to-face?

    And your RT idea is *great*!

  8. KattyBlackyard said, on June 14, 2009 at 7.39 pm

    The article is usefull for me. I’ll be coming back to your blog.

  9. Darren said, on August 3, 2009 at 4.20 pm

    Great thoughts Nathan,

    I’m in an ongoing search to find ways to best use Twitter (personally and professionally) as well as ways to explain this meme to my clients who aren’t sure if they want/need this or not.

    Very well written and thank you for sharing all of your thoughts with us!


  10. Everett Byrd said, on November 19, 2009 at 11.31 pm

    I’ve never seen a theme like this, is it custom?

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