Tweets are fleeting. By design, Twitter is a constant stream of expiring thoughts. Any experienced Twitter user will tell you that they see tweets come and go all the time without ever engaging a user. It all sounds a little sad. But don't cry for that lonesome, forgotten tweet. Instead, celebrate the glorious brand-new tweet that's about to take its place!
That said, no matter how fleeting a given tweet is, your Twitter presence can have some long-terms effects on your career. As a marketing professional, you're under immense pressure to have a personal (i.e., professional-personal) presence on Twitter. It's a way to build yourself as your own brand and show off your social media chops to perspective clients and employers. And in 2013, you'd think most marketers would have tweeting down to a science.
But they don't. And it's kind of embarrassing. Even moreso, it can be professionally damaging.
Most people on Twitter eventually understand the basic rules of Twitter etiquette. Put simply, Twitter etiquette boils down to this: Post a variety of tweets written with your followers in mind.
That said, some marketers -- even those who represent socially savvy brands -- never take the time to examine their own Twitter practices. They're still tweeting like it's 2006 (when no one knew what was going on), and quite frankly, they're ruining Twitter as a platform -- not to mention their own reputations.
Here are seven of the most annoying kinds of Twitter users. If you're one of them, please -- please -- stop it.
The marketing-only marketer
Every single update from the marketing-only marketer is a promo for one of his clients (or himself). It's as though the person's entire vocabulary was removed and replaced with marketing lingo.
The problem? First of all, it's super annoying to follow a user only to find out that the person is now supplying your timeline with a constant stream of ads. Second of all, this user is always "on" and in "marketing mode." So good luck getting a straight answer to a simple question.
Me: "What time is that Dwayne Johnson event at Staples on Sat?"
Them: "The Rock ROX Staples this Spring! Info and tix here! http://www.thanksfornothing.com/."
Don't get me wrong. Info streams can be helpful, especially for event brands and venues. But Twitter is most useful as an opportunity to engage directly with customers like real people. (And if the Twitter user is a real person, that's just expected.) When marketers only speak in promotions, they sound like giant a-holes.
The outdated marketing gurus
There was a time when simply having a Twitter profile was unusual and interesting. And if you knew "how to Twitter," you could legitimately add it as a skill to your resume. A bunch of these folks took the opportunity to add titles like "social media guru" and "Twitter expert" to their profile descriptions. But that time was about six years ago.
Nowadays, pretty much everybody knows how to Twitter. It's not very hard. But the self-labeled "marketing gurus" persist. And their tweets are the worst. If you mistakenly follow one of these boobs, get ready for lots of tweets with advice on how to increase your followers. They will all have the same link, of course. Another favorite type of tweet from these people is the "You gained XX followers this week!" That might be useful to somebody somewhere, but I don't know why. It's just an excuse for that person's name to show up in your "mentions."
If you're one of these people, everyone hates you and you just don't know it.
Trolls (and troll engagers)
For the uninitiated, a troll is a type of online personality that intentionally sabotages conversations or leads them astray for the sole purpose of being disruptive. Trolls are all over Twitter, and they are dicks.
Trolls are bad. (If you are one, jump off the bridge that you're living under.) But most of the users who engage them are making Twitter a worse place to be as well.
The hallmark of a successful trolling is a comment that says just the right thing to piss a bunch of people off at the same time. The general prescription is simple: Do nothing. And if the problem escalates, block the user. The more you use Twitter, the easier these remarks are to identify. But if you screw up and engage with one of these boneheads, no big deal. Just cut your losses as soon as you can. There isn't any good reason to engage with trolls.
On the other hand, getting the best of trolls is fun -- but only when it works. So I'm not recommending this, OK? This is a terrible idea.
Still reading? OK, here's the deal: If a person is following you, it's a bit like you are a comedian on a stage with a mic and that person is a heckler in the audience. The advantage is yours because at any point you can block the user. Blocking isn't a complete solution. And that troll can always come after you in other places. But if you are clever and funny, you can get a pretty good jab in there and make the troll look dumb before you block the person. (Again -- usually a bad idea.)
A recent Forbes article does a pretty solid job of organizing Twitter users into 10 broad groups. One of these groups is labeled "chirpers." These are the people who are on Twitter probably because everybody else seems to be. They haven't yet found any meaningful use for Twitter, so they tweet things like, "Dang. Out of OJ again." And, "Wonder why traffic lights take so long."
Some people would probably argue that I just described all of Twitter and not just "chirpers." (Ha ha, very funny.) "Chirpers" will eventually figure it out, or they will quit Twitter. But in the meantime, they have a tendency to clutter people's timelines with irrelevant messages.
The earlier-referenced Forbes study suggests that a full 60 percent of all Twitter accounts are inactive. They don't tweet, and they never will. So they're not really annoying in the traditional sense. They don't do anything to cause problems. But these dead users skew reporting numbers.
Let's say that 60 percent of your own followers are inactive. If you send out a tweet that 40 percent of your followers engage with, then you have actually engaged 100 percent of your audience. (If that actually happened, you are amazing!) So, in other words, the jerks who create accounts and then abandon them are screwing it up for those of us trying to figure out what exactly our followers like.
Many marketers are dead users. They jumped on Twitter when it became the hot thing to do so they could "figure it out." But they didn't figure it out. They abandoned it. If you're one of them, just know this: It looks pretty bad when people research you and come up with a forsaken Twitter account.
You have to customize your profile pic. The default image for new users is a white egg against a colored background. Every single time you tweet (for the most part), your profile pic appears. So it's a really important thing to change.
People who don't change their profile pics are saying at least one of the following things:
- I don't care enough about what I'm doing on Twitter to spend the time thinking about what kind of profile pic to use.
- I'll get around to changing my pic eventually after I've gotten the hang of this Twitter thing.
- I really love eggs.
I also love eggs, but most egg-profile-pic-havers fall into the first two categories. They are either new, or they don't care. In both cases, they aren't totally ready for Twitter yet. (In the third case, tweet me. Let's talk about eggs. I like 'em poached on biscuits.)
The FYI tweeter
Read the tweet that you just wrote. Does it do nothing but answer the question, "What are you doing at this exact moment?" If so, maybe skip it. A recent article in The Huffington Post identifies the worst kinds of tweets, as rated by other Twitter users. You guessed it: People really don't like FYI tweets.
FYI Tweeter: "I just woke up!" "I'm waiting for my plane." "My pee smells weird!"
Me: Can we talk about something that matters to both of us?
So how can you avoid being one of the irritating Twitter users discussed in this article? In some cases, you can't. When you're new to Twitter, you're going to make mistakes. I've personally made all of the previously discussed faux pas at one point or another. And if you are experienced with Twitter, you know that you have made most of them too. (If you think that you've never done anything on this list -- you are probably doing it right now. So check yourself.)
In general, following some basic guidelines and etiquette will go a long way to making Twitter a fun place to hang out.
- Think of every tweet as either the beginning of or an extension of an existing conversation. One-sided tweets are boring for everybody except you.
- Be polite, just like you would in real life. Mind your manners.
- Don't worry about it. Stay calm. Tweets don't stick around very long. As long as you're not a jerk all the time, people will forgive the occasional misstep.
- You don't have to tweet all the time to be an important part of Twitter. Listening is good. But in my opinion, the whole fun of Twitter is getting involved. So get out there and @reply people or businesses you admire. There is a good chance they'll tweet you back.