Kat Kinsman is one of those living-larger-than-life types I adore, dressing in Betty Page with red lipstick and tattoos, speaking often and passionately, and writing about whatever fascinates her, especially on Twitter.
Luckily for us, a lot of what interests her is food. Currently managing editor of CNN’s Eatocracy, she’s leaving soon to be editor-in-chief of Tasting Table. With 54,000+ followers on Twitter, she tweets at @kittenwithawhip.
I saw Kat in Memphis recently at a conference. Here’s a spontaneous interview about why to tweet and how to be good at it:
Q. Do you have a love-hate relationship with Twitter?
A. Mostly love. It’s broken down the barriers with so many people. Now people in the firmament are only 140 characters away.
Q. Who’s really good on Twitter?
A. Hugh Acheson gets political and people get a real insight into the person. Helen Rosner is very much herself, sometimes about food but not always, providing insight into that beautiful fantastic mind. Francis Lam is wonderful at it. You really get a sense of who he is and how thoughtful and kind.
Q. What is your definition of doing it well?
A. You’re part of the conversation, not just advertising. You’re there to have a dialog with people, something human and genuine. You trust that your audience and readers have something to say back. People can have surprisingly substantive conversations on Twitter.
If you‘re responding to someone, it has to stand on its own as a comment. You retweet in an interesting, smart and controversial way. You have to be able to express yourself in concise thoughts.
Q. How often do you tweet?
A. I only tweet when there’s something to say. I’ll go a few days without tweeting. I’m looking for a conversation I can start with people, sometimes a snarky comment, something bubbling out in my brain that I want to get out there, and yes, sometimes I want to promote something I’ve written that I’m proud of.
I also tweet about mental health (she’s working on a book called Hi, Anxiety). It’s really important to me that people are heard, that I tell them I’m here in the trenches with you, if you need a hand, here’s mine. As difficult and taxing as social media can be, telling people you’re not alone is potentially life-saving.
Q. So many people don’t know what to say on Twitter.
A. Are you cooking something? Would you give a person a slice of a pie? Give it to them on Twitter. If you don’t have anything to say, go through the people you follow and react to them. It’s a back and forth dialog.
It’s easy to put a false version or a best version of yourself on Twitter. The scariest thing you can do is to let yourself be seen.
Q. These same people wonder why anyone would care.
A.Why would your voice be any less valuable than anyone else’s? If you don’t think you’re worth talking to, go work on that. But why not weigh in on the thing you care about?
Some people overthink their tweets. There’s a tonal shift. It’s easy to fall into the realm of showing off, and it doesn’t let people in. The way to do it is “I want to share this with you.” You’re inviting people to the table.
Q. You seem relentlessly upbeat and enthusiastic.
A. Not always. I can be snarky. I am playful but when it comes to mental health, I’m raw and open. Anxiety and depression have been lifelong issues for me. It’s even more valuable when I let people see through the cracks. I would hate myself if I thought I was inauthentic.
Q. Do you show your whole life to people?
A. No, there’s plenty of private stuff. I need to save it for my husband, my friends, and me. I don’t want to put out the boring banal stuff. I also tweet about my dogs a lot.
Q. How do you stem the firehose of social media?
A. Tweetdeck really helps. You can filter people into columns. I sort them into particular interests, friends I know in person, people I work with, and my main stream. I can jump in at will.
If I tried to look at it constantly I would go crazy.
Q. Any last words?
A. Just do it when it feels authentic, when it feels genuine and real. Don’t stress about follower count. It’s more important to have people engaged with what you do. Approach it with a generosity of spirit.
I love hashtag games and puns. If people make me laugh I will follow them and retweet them. I love wordplay.
Twitter is not for everybody. But people would be surprised by how organic it feels.
Amanda (@lambsearshoney) says
Dianne – thanks for this closer look at someone I’ve followed on Twitter for a while now. Kat is sharp, witty and interesting – I love her Tweets.
Agreed, Amanda. She’s curious and excited about so many things it’s hard to keep up.
La Torontoise says
Dianne, much appreciated! So timely… I love Kat’s tweets.
All the best.
Hi there, yes, we are still all trying to figure out what to say on Twitter. Only a few have figured it out, eh?
Maureen C. Berry says
What a great interview Dianne. Congrats to Kat Kinsman on her new gig. I too follow her tweets and a few of the others she mentioned. Francis Lam is an original on Twitter and is the same in person. It’s so refreshing when that happens.
I like Twitter as my go-to social media source for so many reasons, of the moment information, camaraderie, trends, writing groups and clarity.Twitter’s informal tone (not always easy to pull off when you’re trying to fit in) is fresh and sharp, but also intimidating for the uninitiated. The thing I remember (when I have those awkward what do I say moments) is that my voice is important and I’ve learned if my tweet doesn’t come naturally, I don’t send it. Twitter is also a great place to listen, a key component for any writer, whether you are tweeting about apple pie or zucchini fritters. And like @kittenwithawhip mentioned, tweet about what’s near and dear to your heart, not just your latest blog post or recipe.
A hashtag worth mentioning: #PubLaw (about the book publishing industry) on Wed. at noon.
I found my niche market-sustainable seafood geeks on Twitter. (It’s not always easy to tweet green.) And of course, I also tweet about my dog, a neurotic wire fox terrier.
This is a great explanation of Twitter, Maureen. You seem to have figured it out, even our discomfort about tweeting! I am good at responding to people but not good at making declarations. Kat excels at that.
10 Legs in the Kitchen says
I wish I knew how to tweet. Not because I feel the need to sing (tweet, tweet) but because I am seriously not sure what it really is about (says the girl who told her boyfriend in 1986 that CD players would go nowhere over records players). I get that I should get it, I just don’t get how. I love that you (and Kat) seem to have it figured out.
Maybe Kat has figured it out, but I have not. I suppose you have to imagine your readers and start a conversation. She seems to excel at that.
Excellent piece. Thanks so much for writing this.
Thanks Susan. During the conference, I casually suggested to Kat that I interview her, and she said sure, so we went to my hotel room where we could have some quiet. This is most of what transpired. Funny how these things work out sometimes.
Susan Cooper says
I love Kat Kinsman’s humor and snarky personality. It takes a special talent to have any kind of meaningful, genuine conversation on Twitter. She’s got it down pat.
She really does have it down, Susan. Now the issue is whether we can get it down! I’m still figuring it out.