Twitteriocy

Twitter idiocy. Or Twitteriocy (I'm coining a term- run with it). It's what we are beginning to see on Twitter, and it is an easy thing to combat. Now, while Twitter right now is the hot thing for corporations, and we have begun seeing more and more and more companies getting accounts, well, it is becoming obvious that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

So, I am laying down my simple rules for not being a Twitter idiot. Because, well, no one likes an idiot.

Now, this all came about at Blogworld Expo. Once again, it was a great event and Rick Calvert did a great job. But, as the wonderfully charming Gwen Bell noted - with such the concentration on Twitter this year, next year should be Twitter World Expo.

Zappos had a party at Prive - the CEO of Zappos follows me on Twitter, and vice-versa - and I ended up at the bar with the CEO/CHO, Luke, of Fitfuel. I noticed the sticker of his Twitter name on his head (yes, he had it stuck on his head), so I asked him why he (and, well, most of his team at Fitfuel) was following me on Twitter. It's a simple question, right? I wonder why a lot of people follow me on Twitter as I tend to either talk about 80's music, rap lyrics, rap videos, my personal rules of PR and Twitter (okay, that might be why) and other random shit on my mind. Usually in threaded conversations, so they are discussions with others.

His response was that I must have followed first (not to sound cocky, but with 3000+ followers and following 1325, I rarely proactively add anyone). After that, it was just quiet.

Until he went back to his team and started talking about the stupid conversation he had at the bar about Twitter. I have dog ears, by the way, if you wonder.

See, isn't that nice? Nothing makes me feel better than being characterized as stupid. Now, the simple and easy answers could have been: we follow you because you're an influencer (ego feeding works with most people, just not me); we follow you because you are part of the Twit2Fit (thanks Jason Falls, Equinox and my Yoga person there, Maura Barclay, for keeping me healthy!) hashtag group (true, and, well, might be the reason, but who knows now and I don't care); we follow you because you have a lot of smart things to say about PR and Twitter (okay, more ego gratification, but hey, that would work because it means they know who I am). Shit, make up some reason why you are following a person.

So, with this in mind - and with me having set up a Twitter account for my day job - here are the rules that I have come up for Twitter.

1. Don't have your PR firm set up and be your Twitter account. That seems pretty simple, doesn't it? But, well, I heard a story at BlogWorld Expo of a PR firm charging $7000 for a week of Twittering, and have heard other stories of astronomical figures on setting up and monitoring the Twitterverse. How is aPR firm supposed to respond if they have to go back to the client and get the okay first? Um, social media and quick time conversations like Twitter do not work that way.

2. Don't follow everyone willy nilly. First, it makes no sense - if you follow someone, well, it does not matter unless they follow you back. Otherwise, you're a corporate shill that is just talking to nobody. You're talking to no one and it's obvious that you just are doing it to do it. And, well, if that's what you want, that's great. I have a lot of the Zappos people follow me ... but I so rarely wear shoes and they don't sell Havaianas yet (come on guys, get on the stick). But, I like the company, and don't follow all of them back. But, hey, they must like me enough to follow. My strategy? If someone follows the corporate account first, I follow back. If they Tweet about the company more than once, I follow. If they are a blog that I read that is in the corporate space (or a journalistic space), I follow to see what they are working on. Simple and easy.

3. Get Tweetdeck. At first, I was not a fan ... but if you are in-house and doing Twitter for work, there is no greater tool. Not only do you get the stream, the replies and direct messages, but it keeps your global searches right there to reply. And, well, if you are doing a corporate Twitter account, scan for your name and other terms that refer to what your company does, and what its products serve. Seriously, it rocks. And, those that know me know that I'm stingy with the likes.

4. Be engaged. Be personable. Be responsive. There's nothing worse than sending someone a direct message on Twitter ... and hearing nothing back. You followed ME first, and yet you are unable to respond to a question? And, well, that's just a direct message. If you are sent an @reply, and do not respond, do you REALLY want to be in the conversation, or you just glomming onto the next thing? If it's glomming, well, you are not ready.

5. Be a person. The other day, I noted that I do not like corporate Twitter accounts with no name, but said in my more usual way. Seriously, this is supposed to be a conversation, and you want me to talk to someone with no name? No reference? No bio? Um, no thank you. No, really, go away.

6. Twitter is not for everyone. For another, longer post ... social media is not for all corporations or entities. There are those that social media will NEVER be the right fit because of policies or legalities. Despite the mantra of the social media "experts", social media is not a right fit for all companies. It's a simple rule. In that, Twitter is not right for all groups - but that does not mean they should not be monitoring Twitter. You don't even need to download Tweetdeck ... you can use Filtrbox for Twitter searches (an added bonus to what is being said out there on blogs, and such).

I also spelled out rules for me following others yesterday. Just click on these links and you'll see.

If you are a corporation, though, what exactly are you trying to accomplish on Twitter? That should be the first question. For me, it was to monitor and participate and answer questions. It was cut and dry, and from engaging, I have been able to turn what were active detractors to active enthusiasts - by acknowledging, responding and helping. Simple as pecan pie.

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42 comments

  1. Jeremy,
    Great post.

    I have a keen interest on the social aspect communities myself. Our need for self-expression (or the need to share what happens to us personally) is in my opinion, the most impactful form of participating in the realm of these social networks. As business people, of course, we need access to information (for professional reasons) and also to contribute to fulfill our needs of self promotion. The outcome? We feel socially accepted.

    I find that people from all walks of community life, start to share glimpses into their life-- they share photos of their families, or those silly pictures of their vacations. This takes inhuman post and graduates the community member being more human, which fosters more linkage, both socially and personally, between members. This is one way how the community gets stronger.

    I read about someone seeing a tweet from the cute girl who decides to state how "sucky" it was to be out of drugs... but not to worry, she was looking forward to "Mr. X" coming by and dropping some off pot soon.

    He then says he caught the dealer's tweet which read. "I'm almost there." A sad, but true story.

    While posting pictures of drunken parties on you fav community site might increase the number on your buddy list, it might eventually cause concern with potential business who read those posts.

    What's the rule about always remembering your audience?

    G. Wayne Clayton
    SocialMarketingExpert.org

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  2. Good tips there.

    (how did tweetdeck passed below my radar???)

    In my opinion 8 out of 10 times when corporations get into social web it tends to be somewhere between hilarious an plain sad. I think the underlaying problem is that they don't get how it works, and worse of all they don't get what people expect from a given service.

    A few weeks back hurricane ike devastated texas, I have family in texas, I was worried and was following closely a local news channel web page, I believe that at pretty much the same time that channel created a twitter account, which I promptly followed. The result was a few hours of bliss, I was getting updates on my twitter client and keeping tabs on things in full blown web 2.0 glory.
    After a few hours they started reposting tweets, that required of me extra attention, I had to read much more carefully and identify it was "old news" or "new news", got annoying. Service became hassle.
    Days later they in a way stopped twittering per se, they just got a way to redirect the RSS feed from their web page onto twitter. result: unreadable twitts, you can't get what they are trying to say. a twit would be "last minute update: houston is in dea http://bla.com/cont..."
    After a muted scream I un-followed. and thanked a random divinity for web 1.0 and the firefox auto-refresh add-on.

    A clear example of how not to go about it.

    As a twitter user I have a simple rule as to following people: am I your 2001 follow? I'm blocking you. you clearly don't have time for me.
    This however does not apply to corporations. I believe we are still in the bliss period for corporations. if I stop by a web page of software or service I use and they say "follow us on twitter" I will give them the benefit of the doubt and follow. 8/10 I un-follow a few days later.

    One thing you mentioned and that I agree 110% is being personable, and that does not necessarily mean that you have to engage in Direct Messages like it's IM. little things work: a rather large corporation I follow on twitter the other day twitted something like "cyberduck is an awesome ftp client, fyi" I and I surprised. out of their core business, pushing an app that's free, communicating with their customers it what feels like a much more personal level than one expects. as a customer there's nothing that puts a smile on my face faster than being positively surprised even after I've given them my money and thus becoming a mere up-sale spam target.

    Cheers, and thanks for that post. :)

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  3. Yeah, yeah, yeah, a bunch of good points and tips to heed (as usual ;) ).

    For the first point, ideally, a good PR firm, consultant, expert, etc., should be able to respond on behalf of clients on most questions -- without checking with the client first.

    After all, in suggesting stories to reporters and answering questions, you can't always read off a script. True PR pros know their clients and can accurately speak on their behalf.

    Granted, there are times when you have to check on a question, but often enough, timeliness shouldn't be a problem.

    Of course, some clients still hold a leash on their firms. But then, those are the ones that likely have other issues to worry about than being active on Twitter or other social media.
    -Mike

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  4. Nicely put. I have been trying to get this message across to various souls but since I have not had a twitter account for that long I lack the perceived authority. Now I can point them in the direction of this blog post and get you to do the convincing.

    Alasdair Munn
    tcgagency.com

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  5. Great post Jeremy. I love Twitter, but I'm fearful that it's going to become the next hot corporate "thing to do." Then, they'll just muck it all up, won't get the ROI some beancounter insists on and then start badmouthing it because they fail to realize that it's THEIR fault in the first place.

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  6. Jeremy8:59 AM

    Solid post. I wanted to share but didn't see a 'share this' button or any once touch to social networks. Could be a nice add to help your fans spread the word...

    Love the name, btw

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  7. I do not understand most of this post at all, mainly because as a rural individual, the people places and events you reference in it have no connection to my life at all. There's a whole context I'm not in on. Us ruralites often get the feeling that we simply don't count.

    My rule for twitter is simple:
    Do unto others.....

    Colleen Dick Dorkage

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  8. tixrus, we're also "country folk" here in Santa Claus, Indiana, but I found the post to be spot on.

    Yes, the best advice is "do unto others"; the concern is that those who put the emphasis on the "gold" portion of the Golden Rule will bring Twitter down to a level only worth ignoring and abandoning.

    Great blog post!

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  9. Interesting, Jeremy. I follow you because I am interested in what you do - and because I know there are nuggets of good stuff now and then.

    I follow others for specific reasons, and don't follow a whole LOT of people, for other reasons.

    But, I can pretty much tell that a LOT of people following ME are doing so to get a bigger "following" number.

    I find Twitter very useful, if you use if responsibly. For business, that means with a clear strategy of why and how - just as you create a clear strategy of why and how for your blog.

    It's true - not all corps should blog or Twitter, but I think folks should always try it out and see... for themselves, what works and what doesn't. And, if they want to hire me to guide them, so be it. I don't charge $7000 a week. Not even close!

    Social media is about being social...for companies that can't do that openly, a working knowledge of these tools is still essential. Don't you think?

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  10. Thanks for the tip on TweetDeck. That is great!

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  11. I'm looking for some Geocities consultants with a PR slant. Know any? :D

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  12. Thank you, Jeremy! This will make its way on to PRNewser soon.

    Joe

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  13. I can't decide whether to laugh or cry about a PR firm charging a client $7k per week for a Twitter program.

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  14. Yes...Obviously (at least to the tweeps)...thanks for spelling it out. "Companies" just aren't, mostly, getting... it at all...and until you participate, I don't think you will. So Now I'm following you too...:)

    http://www.winedivergirl.blogspot.com/

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  15. Nice post. Very interesting observations. :) As a fellow PR person, I can understand a lot of what you are saying!

    -Meredith // @meredithk1981

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  16. Great rules. Personally, I enjoy connecting with the few people that I'm following and who follow back. I do a lot of blocking as I'm not really sure I want a nameless corporate dweeb reading my amazing insight into the world. I mean, they might steal one of my fantabulous ideas. I just can't have that.

    And he had his name tag on his head? Sounds like a college drinking game I remember... vaguely.

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  17. Hey, Jeremy. Funny story from the bar. Some good points, too.

    One issue, though.

    "if you follow someone, well, it does not matter unless they follow you back."

    A lot of students read you (because we send them here) and I want to remind them there is real value in following just to listen. It is that listening that is so often forgotten (see your previous post).

    Not every social media effort (or involvement) has to be a conversation. Listening is the key to so much success.

    So, listen and don't feel bad if someone won't follow you. Heck, I have well over 100 Twitter accounts I follow and know they'll never follow me. But, I'm getting the better end of the deal. I'm listening. I'll use what I'm learning one day.

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  18. I would hate to be called stupid by someone with their twittername (or anything else) stuck to their forehead. Seriously, that one factoid alone was enough to tell me he doesn't "get it."

    Great post.

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  19. the rule that resonates the most with me is #6. of course, not all methods will work for all clients. sometimes twitter, as cool and useful as it is, is just not the right sandbox to be playing in.

    i'm wondering if twitter is more useful for B2C or B2B companies? i can see pros and cons for both sides.

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  20. Excellent post with excellent points. But, with the exception of Tweetdeck, wouldn't the same points apply to any social media tool (don't have your PR agency blog for you, be a real person when participating in social networks, etc.)? There's really nothing unique to Twitter about this, but if Twitter's the reason people pay attention to your recommendations, that's great.

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  21. Jeremy - really insightful post.

    While I do agree with your point that company Twitter feeds are more effective if a real person is interacting with the Twittersphere, I do think a PR firm can add a certain level of value by monitoring the space. Often companies, and very often start-ups, do not have enough time or resources to actively monitor and respond within the Twittersphere or Blogosphere or whatever socialmediasphere is hot right now. This is very important though - we are seeing firestorms start on Twitter, acquisitions being discussed in the blogosphere - it is obvious that companies need to be paying attention to what is going on in these spaces. And monitoring is something that a good PR agency can do. Of course there need to be guidelines developed, metrics in place and trust between the client and the PR agency - but these are all things a good PR agency should be aiming for already.

    PR professionals are already seeing the profession change and as social media becomes more and more prevalent we will have to become even more involved in these outlets to help our clients communicate their messages and involve themselves in the conversations taking place.

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  22. Jeremy--
    Good stuff. Although I've had a Twitter profile several months, it wasn't til BlogWorld that it really clicked. I am now an evangelist (I can't even count the times this week someone has said, "Twitter? What's that?" and I go into explanation mode).

    Your rules are good. They're changing every day. Gotta keep up!

    PS Good meeting you at BW.

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  23. Excellent education for Corporations on twitter! It can be a powerful relationship building tool, but you need to engage in conversation to do that. I really liked your "rules" on who to follow. I paticularly like to avoid anyone who is negative, using profanity or bashing anyone. I like to add someting positive to those who follow me, even if I am not following them back yet. (sometimes I just fall behind on checking emails and looking at new followers profiles)
    Thanks for this post!

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  24. I'm very interested in the Twitter phenomenon as well. It has come a long way and I'm curious to see how it progresses. Check out this article I found

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/04/25/twitter.buck/

    It shows another useful aspect of Twitter.

    Insightful post. I am interested to hear your views on the article.

    Tegan Zimmerman

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  25. Amber7:38 PM

    This is really interesting to read this article, after coming home from a BarCamp meeting in Nashville with about 500 participants, most of the speakers spoke about using Twitter as a marketing tool, which made me of course want to go home and start my own account. Let's see how many of them follow me after I got all their accounts to follow ^_~

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  26. i just registered to twitter but i don't know how to use it..huhu

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  27. Myspace antics are invading Twitter? It was inevitable. You just have to have faith that the majority of people are not stupid.

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  28. I really like this. Would you be up for an interview?

    Jacob Summers
    jacob.summers@gmail.com

    platformmagazine.com

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  29. Thanks for the advice on being a positive Twitter. I am starting a new campaign and looking for ward to all the social Marketing opportunities. Hopefully I can be a good twitter

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  30. I think that social media tools in general have to potential to be a large time-suck! (I'm not saying it's not effective or constructive to participate in social networks. I'm only saying that it's unproductive to not have some sort of plan spelled out ahead of time).

    I think that if any company or individual is going to use social media tools, they need to spell out their objectives from the get-go! (It might sound silly, but you gotta do it). I mean it's as simple as what you said: "For me, it was to monitor and participate and answer questions."

    Why are you there? What outcome are you looking for? Etc.

    And with respect to twitter, I read this quote the other day that I think is a good guide for attractive followers: "If you want to be boring, talk about yourself. If you want to be interesting, talk about something other than yourself." -- Hugh Macleod

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  31. I stumbled across your blog this morning and loved the fact that the first post I read was about twitter. I'm a PR student and in one of our classes we have to set up a twitter account as part of an assignment.

    When we first created the accounts most of us thought twitter was unimportant and didn't mean anything to us as future PR professionals but since then we've realized how wrong we were.

    The one thing that bothers me though ( as pointed out in your post) that that some of my classmates insist on "following" everyone. Half of the people on their lists are strangers who either don't post frequently, or post about nothing in particular.

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  32. $7,000 is a lot to pay for a Twitter account, but I think if a PR (or marketing or advertising) company has genuine expertise on Twitter already, and can guide a company through the initial steps of setting up an account, what and how to use that account, who to follow, etc. then there's definitely value there, and a lot of companies would benefit greatly from that expertise.

    Obviously, the end goal should be to move the Twitter account over to the company and away from the PR firm, but I don't see anything wrong with getting an account up and running for a company and then handing it off once they're comfortable and able to use the account properly.

    Overall though, great tips, and I hope companies learn a few of the lessons here before jumping in head first and then jumping back out at the first little hiccup.

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  33. Hello,
    I love your blog. I am another PR student who has just learned/is learning the ways of Twitter through an in-class assignment.
    One of your rules that really struck me as interesting was "Be a person". Its true many people randomly "tweet" with complete disguise. However in the Public Relations field the goal is to create and maintain relationships. Therefore it is important to be a person and socialize to build that desired goal. If we are going to evolve our strategies to the online social media world it only makes sense that we must take our personal tools with us and converse as best we can not a as company but as actual people connecting and trusting.

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  34. Thanks for the tip on Tweetdeck and on having an well-considered blog of value.

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  35. After being inundated with inane tweets about nonsense from business 'leaders' (Drinking a bottle of Opus One and eating the finest foods in all the land... - Who Cares?!) I've devised two rules I tweet by:

    - A half-dozen a day. NO ONE has anything so compelling to say that they need more than that to say it. Posting en masse clogs my tweets and pushes others off page one - and it just plain pisses me off. And

    - Twitter's "What are you doing?" statement notwithstanding, I don't really care. Tell me what you're thinking, what you've discovered, what news-I-can-use that I've otherwise missed. I've entrusted you with a sliver of my valuable time to give me some valuable insights in return. Gimme some ROI here peeps.

    Do that, and I won't unFollow.

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  36. Anonymous5:52 AM

    $7,000 to set up a Twitter account? PR firms have got to be kidding.

    I was thinking of getting rid of ours and just going with one of those pay-per-article-placed firms to avoid all the BS (places like Publicity Guaranteed.

    It's stories like the one you wrote that make me convinced it's the right thing to do.

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  37. I follow others for specific reasons, and don't follow a whole LOT of people, for other reasons.

    But, I can pretty much tell that a LOT of people following ME are doing so to get a bigger "following" number.

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  38. I think that if any company or individual is going to use social media tools, they need to spell out their objectives from the get-go! (It might sound silly, but you gotta do it). I mean it's as simple as what you said: "For me, it was to monitor and participate and answer questions."

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  39. First, I cannot agree with you more on the "make up an excuse for adding me" part. He should have just said something - anything that would not make him look like an idiot. Or maybe he just shouldn't have said that you followed him first. lol

    Anyway, I thought it was a great post. Social networking is all about connecting - without it, it just doesn't make any sense at all to even be there.

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  40. Hello,
    I love your blog. I am another PR student who has just learned/is learning the ways of Twitter through an in-class assignment.
    One of your rules that really struck me as interesting was "Be a person". Its true many people randomly "tweet" with complete disguise. However in the Public Relations field the goal is to create and maintain relationships. Therefore it is important to be a person and socialize to build that desired goal. If we are going to evolve our strategies to the online social media world it only makes sense that we must take our personal tools with us and converse as best we can not a as company but as actual people connecting and trusting.....

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  41. Great rules. Personally, I enjoy connecting with the few people that I'm following and who follow back. I do a lot of blocking as I'm not really sure I want a nameless corporate dweeb reading my amazing insight into the world. I mean, they might steal one of my fantabulous ideas. I just can't have that.

    And he had his name tag on his head? Sounds like a college drinking game I remember... vaguely.

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