Twitter Is Simple Yet Deceptively Complex

I’m going to be completely honest right out of the gate and say that when I first heard about and started using Twitter, I thought it was pointless. Even in my web-based journalism class where using Twitter was a part of the grade I didn’t do much with my account. Then what I realized was that I was doing almost everything wrong and it only took a few simple steps to correct those problems.

I would like to assign the biggest tips on how to use Twitter properly as the Three R’s; relevance, response and retweet. According to Forbes, the reason Notebook of Love is the most engaged brand on Twitter is because they tweet what people want to hear. It is also why I believe Blake Shelton is one of the most popular and talked about country artists on Twitter; he tweets about real life. People also want to know they are being heard. The reason why I think Lay’s Potato Chips is sometimes effective on Twitter, as I talk about in my other blog, is because they seemingly respond to every tweet they receive. And retweeting is simple, it makes people feel good that you enjoy their content. I’ve been retweeted four times since joining this master’s program and it feels awesome!

Engagement on Twitter is key to success. Having followers is great, but if none of them engage with your content by replying or retweeting, it has no impact. Aaron Lee thinks starting early is an important factor in the process and I would have to agree. Followers will come eventually, as I’m seeing more come now, but giving them the content to follow is even more important. People that already follow you can spread word of mouth for others to join if you give them the incentive to by producing valuable content. Lee also gives some pointers on how to produce good content, such as using images and hashtags. I have very love/hate relationship with hashtags. They are convenient in grouping tweets together and good ones allow people easier access to your tweet. On the other hand, some hashtags are so random and people wouldn’t use them in a real conversation unless you’re Honda. Mashable says the best ways to engage are to be authentic and don’t act as a push marketer. I know I respond better to people that are using their own voice instead of what the company wants me to hear. And in a recent question that was posed to my Facebook friends, most are likely to rebel against push marketing and not buy from that brand.

Now we have to talk about what not to do on Twitter. I’ve already talked about marketing, not replying and not tweeting period. Kim Garst also suggests that you should be as transparent of a brand as possible, with imagery, content and the name of your brand openly visible to the public. On the other hand, the New York Times suggests that too much time engaging will leave you dependent on Twitter for basic needs, which I think is a bit far-fetched. The article felt to me like the author was above using Twitter with the vocabulary he was using, some of which I didn’t understand. There can be a middle ground between using your brain and becoming a machine and I resent the fact that he is telling me that’s where my life is headed if I continue to use social media.

One final point I want to touch on was something I mentioned in my intro about using Twitter in a classroom setting. Obviously, in my case it failed miserably, but that’s not to say it can’t work. Part of the reason why it never worked for my class is because student journalists either weren’t on Twitter or didn’t know how to use it to it’s full potential. If my class had devoted some time to teaching us how to tweet engaging content, although hopefully not like Cal State-San Marcos did, we may have fulfilled the required number of tweets for full credit in the course.

What mistakes are you making on Twitter and how can you improve them?

Do you feel your tweets accurately represent you as a brand?


3 thoughts on “Twitter Is Simple Yet Deceptively Complex

  1. The NYT piece left a foul taste in my mouth, too. I suspect the author doesn’t understand Twitter, so he decided to declare it the downfall of our generation. Whatevs, old man.

    I lead the team of folks managing’s Twitter accounts, and all our recent readings have me wondering if maybe we tweet *too* much. We usually send about 4-6 tweets an hour. But the difference between us and the companies we’ve been reading about is, we’re a news organization. I feel like our followers expect fairly regular updates. And we don’t come near tweeting every story we publish. I hope some of our readings at some point this semester will touch on social media for journalism, which I think is a little different from marketing. Certainly, we want people to click through to our site, which allows us to better sell ads. But the main point of our social media updates is to provide information, which all of our readings have said is good. What do you think? Do you expect a different tone/regularity of updates from a news organization vs. a company selling something?

  2. I agree with you Julie, news organization are very different from marketing campaigns. You can “get away with” tweeting more than it says you should because of the fast-paced nature of the field. Sending 4-6 tweets an hour does seem like a little much to me, but I’m sure you’re nowhere near some of the people and organizations I follow like Huffington Post and NPR. I too would hope that our readings touch on social media for journalists.

  3. The biggest mistake I have made on twitter is thinking it’s all about me. All wrong it’s all about the followers. Tweeting relevant content that is useful to them is more important than a picture of my cat. I tried that too and it failed miserably. I really need to dive deeper into twitter.

    My organization @USPS tweets relevant and helpful information for our followers. We duplicate and taylor Facebook posts and re-tool them into tweets.

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