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 for the Association of Food Journalists 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. Mario Batali was funny and snarky. He’s incredibly genuine, and having a good time. (Edit 5/21/18: Because of recent allegations, his twitter account has been closed.) 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.