Chris Alexander

On Engineering

Twitter: Doing it right?

30th October, 2009

Working in a Twitter-related company means I get to see an awful lot of Twitter (it’s part of the job, right?). As a result, I see a lot of people and companies doing great things with Social Media. But I also see some people (and companies) doing terrible, terrible things with Social Media.

So here are my personal do’s and don’ts of social media. They’re personally my opinions, not those of my employer, relatives, sentient appendages, etc. If you disagree then feel free to drop a comment and get the discussion started. After all, it’s all about the conversation.

(If you don’t read any of this, at least check out the last paragraph)

Are you a company or person? Decide.

Are you running a corporate Twitter account or one for yourself? Think about it, and stick with it.

The benefits of the corporate approach is that you won’t ever feel the need to tell everyone exactly what you personally are doing right at that moment (so no “Just having a breakfast muffin” for you), and there’s a pretty good chance that your content will be pushed down from the usual corporate channels. Your only challenge is to get the company message into 140 characters.

The disadvantage is, strangely, the same as the advantage - you can’t tell people exactly what you’re doing at that moment. No anti-boss rages or company-bureaucracy laments for you either.

Are you a company? Don’t act like one.

The worst thing you can do is just to act all corporate. The entire point of Social Media is to enable people to interact at a personal level and have great conversations.

I was talking to a friend of mine who works for a big pharmaceutical, and he had been tasked with coming up with how Social Media could help the company’s image. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather engage with someone on their “company-personal” Twitter account (by this, I mean a Twitter account they only use for work, but not a corporate account) than a big scary black box company.

Are you a real person? Well act like one then!

Even if its your personal account, I don’t expect to see you spewing every single item about your corporate goings-on. If I wanted that, I’d go to your blog, or follow your companies’ account. Sure I want to hear what you’re up to, but try and keep stuff you tweet on your personal account but related to your work just to your work, not the goings-on of the Taiwanese branch of your parent company.

Interact, but don’t take over my life

I love meeting new people, and I’d definitely prefer if you replied to me rather than tweeting links to your blog all day - but please don’t jump on every single little thing I do as an opportunity to retweet / reply / DM / interact again with me. I’m here for great conversations with fascinating people, and undoubtedly you’re a fascinating person and I will have great conversations with you - but things can get pretty cluttered if I’m dealing with responses from you for everything I say.

Post links to your blog, but don’t post only that

Sure I’m interested in what you have to say - chances are that if I grant you space on my tweet stream I care enough about what you have to say to go to your blog and maybe even subscribe. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I only ever want to see link after link to your blog. If you do post something, why not also post a comment about the article (instead of just its title and link) - it will help kick off thoughts in my mind before I read it, and will help get the conversation flowing.

Get Follow Friday right

This is a tricky one - Follow Friday seems to have been around forever, but most people still haven’t got it. This isn’t a chance to just send tweet after tweet composed solely of a hashtag and a list of usernames. If you’re going to do that then I will certainly unfollow you within seconds with no hesitation.

You’re recommend someone you follow - so please tell me why you like following them! Even if I clicked through to their timeline and had a look, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to understand why you would suggest following them.

This is a grouch almost certainly exclusive to me, but it would be great to get some kind of heads-up if the shortened link you just posted is to a non-HTTP resource, for example Spotify or iTunes. I don’t have iTunes on most of my computers, and the other day Firefox crashed trying to open goodness-knows how many Spotify windows when I clicked on one of the links.

Now, ignore everything I just said. Seriously.

So that rounds up the things that cheese me off a bit when I spend all day on Twitter for just about 7 days a week. What I’d now like you to do is completely disregard all of it and just carry on doing what you’re doing.

Social Media is a great platform to share their ideas, meet others, interact and converse in many ways, and generally make the whole internet a nicer place for everybody. If you start listening to people telling you how your “supposed” to use Social Media, then (as teh lolcats would say), “You’re Doing It Wrong”.