Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Being Awful at Twitter in 8 Easy Steps

Have you ever wondered how you could be worse at social media? I'm no master, by far, but even as a common user, time and time again I come across people who struggle with Twitter. Here are several things they do that could be hurting your Twitter following.

1. Never Tweet
If you don't ever tweet, why would anyone want to follow you? A quick glance at the Twitter users with the most followers (via TwitterCounter) shows a good several thousand tweets under the belts of the top 25. I've certainly found myself following celebrities or others whom I am interested in, only to find that they tweet so rarely that I never see anything from them in my feed. This is particularly important for individuals who follow large numbers of people (we'll call it 100 or more), because the feed is already so full of noise it can be hard to be heard if you aren't speaking frequently enough. I've heard varying recommendations on how frequently to tweet, but nobody recommends never.

2. Repeat Tweet. Repeat Tweet. Repeat Tweet.
So, while you need to make sure you are being heard out there, you don't want to sound like a scratched vinyl copy of Rick Astley (Rickrolling is still a thing, I swear). It is definitely OK to tweet the same thing twice, particularly if you have followers in substantially different time zones. But some people tweet the exact same tweet (or maybe they have a different spacing or extra "s" on a word to avoid Twitter rejecting the tweet as a duplicate) over and over and over again for days on end. That's engaging. I really want to have a meaningful dialogue with a parrot who keeps asking for the same cracker I gave her on the first day we met.

3. Be a Robot.
There are several bots on Twitter. They retweet anything that contains certain keywords. They follow or reply to people just based on the content of their messages. What the world does not need is for humans to start acting like Twitter bots. I followed a guy for a while that had zero tweets that were not retweets of things his company account was putting out. If I wanted to follow the company, I would have, instead of the individual. You expect a non-stop stream of marketing from following a company. But every single one of this guy's tweets started with "RT @company_name" which made the account virtually worthless. Sure, promotion is a good thing, but you are a human. Your bio says you are into this baseball team or that hobby. Sprinkle some tweets about that in between your corporate shill retweet marathon.

4. Spam Reply.
This goes hand-in-hand with #2 up there, but I see people who often start tweeting at various people, sending the same message to each. The tweet isn't verbatim the same (because the @someone from the beginning has changed), but otherwise it is identical. A feed filled with "@person1 I think you should try this great product" and "@person2 I think you should try this great product" isn't particularly interesting to anyone. Not even persons 1 and 2.

5. Don't Follow Anyone
Unless you are Conan O'Brien, you likely won't have a following of 17 million if you only follow one person. Aside from the fact that I don't understand how people get news and information without following some key accounts on Twitter, you need to follow people to understand trending topics, keep ahead of what is going on in your industry, and most importantly, engage in conversation. I've heard Twitter described as a cocktail party, and at times that is pretty accurate. But I don't know of many cocktail party successes from people who are not engaging the other party-goers but rather just listening to what the wall or the hors d'oeuvres have to say.

6. Tweet at yourself.
I'm pretty sure even if there were a real verified Twitter account for Bob Dole (lots of parody accounts), he would have a handler inform him not to tweet @BonaFideVerifiedBobDole (I'd think). Tweeting at yourself is like talking to yourself. You look a little crazy. I am sure that some social media guru will call me on this one, saying there is some magic mystery to tracking your retweets through a secret campaign code embedded in the Google Analytics tracking of the .@ mention so they have to add those to every comment they make, but now you see what I mean by a little crazy.

7. Tweet offensive stuff
If you have a political soapbox, I suppose more power to you. You believe in a cause so strongly that you need to shout it from the Twitter rooftops, then go right ahead. But if you are trying to maintain a professional Twitter account, I'd recommend you leave the politics and religion at home, just like you would at the office (unless you do discuss those topics frequently at the office). That said, if your cause is championing intolerance towards any group or making jokes at the expense of others or other groups, you'd be better off not making those comments either way. Granted, I'm sure someone is offended by my homebrewing or the fact that I tweet about Baylor football for most of the fall, but I'm not marginalizing any particular group of humans with those tweets. It's not the same thing.

8. Tweet pictures of your lunch. And only pictures of your lunch.
Unless you are Neil Patrick Harris and can manage a 78,000 person following for your lunch pictures (@NPHFoodPorn), nobody really wants to see your lunch. Or your dinner. Or your breakfast. The old joke was that Twitter was the place where people posted pictures of their meals. I find that ridiculous. That's what Facebook is for.

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Image credit: ClkerFreeVectorImages on Pixabay