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Using Twitter questions to build a parallel community

April 14, 2021
Rosie Sherry
Community Lead
 Using Twitter questions to build a parallel community
Welcome to The Observatory, the community newsletter from Orbit.

Each week we go down rabbit holes so you don't have to. We share tactics, trends and valuable resources we've observed in the world of community building.

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In my last role at Indie Hackers I was given the reins of Twitter. Of all the platforms that the community existed on, Twitter was where things were happening. I dove in trying to figure out how I could build value to the community through Twitter.

Indie Hackers had accumulated around 20k followers, but the account had not been used consistently or with any kind of specific strategy in mind. A foundation of followers and community love was great to give me some initial traction, but there was still plenty to learn.

As a community manager, there was so much Twitter information to process. On the platform, indie hackers were:

- sharing their learnings in real time

- building in public

- exploring the boundaries of how to use Twitter

- seeking openness and authenticity

- looking to connect and grow their own personal Twitter and community

Their goals were to build profitable business, but to get there I knew that indie hackers needed to learn and connect with each other.

Building parallel communities

The biggest initial challenges for me was learning who everyone was and really getting a grasp for what people cared to talk about. It took me months to get comfortable. I am also acutely aware that most community members don't have the luxury of time to ever get to this stage.

As a community builder there were three things at the top of my mind:

- how can Twitter help us improve our community?

- how can the Indie Hackers platform, our primary channel, help us improve the conversations on Twitter?

- how can I use Twitter to make it easier for indie hackers to connect with one another?

The Indie Hackers website was our central platform, I was convinced that it and Twitter could work in parallel. Twitter was not just a marketing channel for driving traffic to the website; it was another place to build community.

My mission became to figure out how to build community on Twitter with the long view intention to help members gravitate towards to Indie Hackers website and brand as a whole.

Whilst I cared and kept an eye on an upwards trend of impressions and followers, my focus was to:

- ask questions

- create conversations

- educate

- uplift our community

- reflect the indie hacker community on Twitter, and vice versa

- not drive traffic (people don't like being taken away from where they are)

This post is focused on one of my favorite tactics: asking questions.

Build community through Twitter questions

A tweet is not much different from a forum post, they both enable conversations in the format of [someone can start a conversation] + [someone can respond].

Questions on Twitter can be particularly pretty powerful at generating responses. The number of followers for this isn't so important, it's more about setting expectations.

A large following can generate hundreds of replies, but on average they probably generate around 50. A smaller following can generate responses too, just don't expect so many!

Here are some examples:

Tips for generating meaningful Twitter questions

It's easy to put out any old question, but the best ones are the ones that provide meaning. From the examples above:

- Indie Hackers: always want to know about tech stacks being used. This helped me learn about the community whilst also helping the community learn about community stacks.

- Rosie Sherry: I'm all about community building and I always love hearing what people are working on.

- Orbit: This is our first attempt at a question, I thought it would be interesting to gauge the community building experience of our community.

Generally speaking though, all my questions come inspired by the community and what they are talking about. A discussion asked on our forum would often be a question I would ask on Twitter. And vice versa.

For example:

- "I just used Zapier to automate my processes" results in a question "What no-code tools do you use to automate your work?"

- "I just fired my client!" results in a question "How have you fired your clients?"

Or here is an actual example of a forum post turned Twitter question:

Questions that encourage open answers, rather than yes/no type responses, work a treat and have the added benefit with the responses often being educational too.

Still so much room for improvement

Whist I've used this tactic for the past couple of years and paid attention as much as I can to the answers, I've often felt sad that much of that data got lost in the vastness of Twitter. In addition to this, how can one even keep up with hundreds of responses? 🤯

Below is my profile in Orbit with a reference to the Orbit Twitter question.

I got a little bit excited when I realized that with Orbit we can build upon this information to build up a better picture of our community. It's information I probably won't act on it straight away, but over time, with good questions and with the data well maintained I am excited to:

- be more intentional with what and how we communicate on Twitter

- save the answered Twitter questions on people's profiles

- tag people to help me find them easily in the future

- keep our community top of mind

- pull our people in over time and increase their love

- the more relevant information we gather, the more we can avoid small talk in the future and have better conversations

- move to smaller, targeted, and relevant communication methods over mass emailing

All of this will lead to building a better picture of our community, which only help us lead the way to building better communities.

Plus it sure beats doing surveys!

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