Yesterday during TE Live, Jon and Patrick talked at length about a topic that’s been on my mind to post about here for the last couple of weeks – how best to use Twitter, and more importantly, what NOT to do with Twitter. They covered the issues beautifully and you should check it out in the latter half of the Spreecast here.

I was an extremely early adopter of Twitter, back when it was still basically in its infancy, and there weren’t really that many people using it at the time. I was part of a group of statewide and regional bloggers, news media, and other media folks who had a then-active online community, and all of us starting using it early on, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This was back when Facebook wasn’t popular worldwide and was still primarily only used by college students, and older folks like myself and my colleagues were all on Twitter instead. It was not huge like today, but it was fantastic.

Back then, Twitter was nearly 100% all conversation, with some news and maybe a few big brand companies sprinkled in. A lot of the media had adopted it early too, especially TV stations and newspapers (including many of my friends’ employers), so there was news around, but mostly it was just people talking with each other.

People communicating directly with each other. Or with a group of each others. Imagine that!

My friends and acquaintances and I loved Twitter then. We’d have these ongoing conversations, trade jokes and anecdotes, and share news with each other, or with big or small groups of each others. A lot of news that happened in my state and around the region, I often first found out about via Twitter.

But most of the time I was just reading stuff from friends and acquaintances not unlike most of what I read from them in Facebook statuses nowadays. It was conversation, discussion, commentary.

And it was personal. I don’t use that old Twitter account much anymore since most of those friends use Facebook more now, but I built a lot of personal relationships with those folks via Twitter, often wound up attending various functions in several cities in the South with many of them thanks to having gotten to know them all better via Twitter, and many of those I built personal relationships with via Twitter are still among those I count as good friends.

Anyway, that was how it was for a while, Twitter. Those were the Utopia days, Twitter-wise.

And then the hardcore Internet marketers discovered Twitter, and it’s never been quite the same. Twitter started filling up with rivers of the usual online marketing stuff, and then other and smaller affiliate marketers started following suit, and before you knew it, there were folks who had Twitter profiles full of nothing but their referral links to this and this and that and that.

There are several reasons why no one in TE Land and related areas should be doing this (especially those into personal branding), but one of the biggest reasons not to fill up your Twitter with nothing but referral links and program-based Tweets is this…

As an affiliate or a program owner, you want to be on people’s radar. The quickest way to get yourself dropped off people’s radar is to fill up your Twitter with nothing but your referral links.

People might not stop following you if that’s all you ever have to offer on Twitter, but some will. And others will just create a separate list of Tweets they want to be sure and see… and they probably won’t add you to that list if all you’re posting is your referral links and similar Tweets. Both happen and often – trust me on this.

You want followers who pay attention to what you have to say and share, not former followers who unfollow you or followers who ignore you. Sure, it’s okay to post a referral link here and there. But not every single time you post on Twitter, not constantly. People get turned off fast, and they’re liable to turn you off their radar as a result.

Use your Twitter wisely to build and maintain personal relationships, alongside promoting yourself. Sure, you should promote yourself and your stuff some of the time. But Twitter is also a wonderful, valuable tool for building and maintaining personal relationships with others too – and for anyone that’s into personal branding, that’s really a must.

Jon said himself during the Spreecast that he probably uses Twitter to converse with folks in this community more than any other similar medium. Same here, same with a lot of folks. A lot of us with blogs Tweet our new blog posts (which any blogger should) and reTweet others’ posts, but that’s still connecting with others in the community and building/maintaining relationships with others.

Peruse my Twitter profile, if you will. Sure, I promote a referral link now and again, and certainly I Tweet my new blog posts and others’ posts as well, occasional Spreecast alerts and videos. But interspersed with all of that is a whole lotta conversation with various and sundry folks in and around the community. There’s some folks I talk directly with via Twitter more than I do anywhere else or any other way.

I have frequent Twitter convos with people like Tom Wacker, Scott “The Sports Nerd” Wright, Stephen Whittle, Ellyn Weber-Bynum, Jon, bunches of others. Sure, I talk to many of them elsewhere too, but the great thing about Twitter is that you can have a conversation with one person, or with several, and anyone can jump in at any time – take a look at some of our Twitter profiles during football season and you’ll see that all of us are in the same convo (and usually smack talking and having good fun).

Twitter is great for promoting yourself and your stuff, but it’s also a really, really good way to connect with other people – and that, again, is how Twitter began, filled with conversations and discussions rather than being what some seem to think is now just another advertising platform.

Sometimes the convo may be insignificant, like when Jon complains about it being freezing cold up in the Great White North and I reply with something like “@theTEguy So move out of Canada, duh!”… but it’s still connecting with another person within the community.

Sometimes it may be something more important, and sometimes it may just be a thing where you find you have something in common with someone else. I don’t know Tim Rash all that well, but it turns out we now share a similar history with broken refrigerators and having to use the outdoor winter weather as a backup fridge, thanks to Twitter.

Scott Wright’s a really good friend nowadays, and we initially got to know each other pretty much solely via Twitter. And since misery always loves company, Tom Wacker and I shared our collective woe over being sick at the same time a while back via Twitter (look way far down for the “SARS” posts, lol).

If the whole community of TE Land made an effort to be more conversational rather than promotional on Twitter, than the entire community would be full of people connecting with each other, building relationships, and getting to know each other better – and that’s a good thing.

And hey – be yourself, and be real. The other day I was so taken aback by a gorgeous sunset that I posted about it on Twitter. If it were you, you might have posted something like that on Facebook, so why not Twitter? Exactly.

(And by the way, there are apps you can use to post on both at the same time, if you want.)

To bring this to a close, let me say that I didn’t write this with intentions of hurting anyone’s feelings over it all. I want to help, not hurt, and I’m hoping maybe with this post and with Jon and Patrick’s discussion about it at TE Live, maybe we’ll see less and less of this kinda thing, at least a little. Doing nothing but promoting referral links or one’s program over and over again, and nothing else, on Twitter is liable to only hurt those who do it far, far more than it ever helps.

I’d rather see everyone in this community succeed. By using Twitter as a communication resource first, and as a promotional tool as an afterthought… chances are much, much higher that you’ll succeed than the other way around.

Don’t do yourself the disservice of digging yourself a basic hole on Twitter where few will see or hear you. Twitter is an awesome, awesome place to connect with others, but if all you use it for is to promote referral link after referral link, you won’t likely be connecting with much of anyone.

And the unicorns will cry. Don’t make the unicorns cry! :-)

I would love nothing more than to be able to give you a link here to an e-book that Stephen Whittle, the community Twitter Master Extraordinaire, has written about Twitter, or a program he’s created about it. But he hasn’t done either of those things yet, so I can’t. (*ahem*)

However, if you’re confused about ClickTrackProfit (everybody is at first), then you should take a gander at Learn With Nick, ‘cos Nick Grimshawe knows EVERYTHING about how best to use CTP. Go and be unconfused!