Wow! Phil's writing a social media blog. I never envisaged writing about a topic I have never felt qualified enough to comment on - but having been active on Twitter for about eighteen months now, here are ten things that I've learned (in no particular order) about one of the world's most popular social media platforms. I would love to hear your own thoughts and opinions as well.
Decide why you want to be a tweeter
I think this is such an important question to ask yourself. Do I want to use Twitter for marketing purposes and build up my brand name or drive traffic to my blog, website, etc - or am I just going to use Twitter for pleasure and for social interaction?
I'm going to be controversial from the start here - and I know many tweeters will disagree with me - but I don't actually think Twitter is that great as a marketing tool.
I started off by using Twitter as a way to drive traffic to the ajarn.com website but I'm still not sure if it's truly worked or not. I haven't noticed a significant difference in the daily traffic. Certainly not when you consider how much time I've spent tweeting and weigh that time up against the ‘reward'. These things are always difficult to measure of course.
Twitter may work for your particular business, but I've found in my case that the vast majority of teachers that I've reached out to - most of them I assume to be in the under-30 age bracket - either don't interact or simply don't want my help and advice. Perhaps it's a young person thing to want to go it alone and not seek the ‘wisdom' of old farts like me. Even on Twitter.
Over time, I've found myself changing from using Twitter as a business tool to using Twitter purely for social interaction. And I enjoy Twitter far more as a result. I've made some great on-line friends and got some terrific advice from them.
I chatted to a ‘social media guru' a few weeks back and we talked about Twitter and Facebook as marketing tools. During our conversation, he said ‘nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever beat a good blog on your very own website'
I totally agree. We've got articles and blogs on ajarn.com that were written five years ago and still get 200-300 readers a day. Show me a tweet or a Facebook entry that's five years old and getting 200-300 readers a day.
There is no cast-iron way to do things ‘right' on Twitter
In my valiant attempts to become a ‘Twitter master', I've read countless internet articles written by so-called social media experts, and I've come to one glorious conclusion - no one really knows all the answers on how to use Twitter the most effectively.
If you read two or three articles that all recommend doing something a certain way, you'll then find two or three articles that disagree completely.
A case in point is the eternal question - "should I follow everyone on Twitter who follows me?"
You've got plenty of experts saying "yes you should, because it's the polite thing to do and you can learn something from everyone" and you have an equal number of experts saying "no you shouldn't because that's just ridiculous. Why would you follow someone whose tweets you are not interested in?"
So there you have it. When push comes to shove, we are often none the wiser. The more articles you read, the more confused you become.
I'm firmly with the second school of thought by the way. Don't follow a tweeter just because they follow you. More on that later.
Don't be a lazy tweeter
I like to think that I put a reasonable amount of effort into as many of my tweets as possible. That's possibly why I find lazy tweeters so annoying. Who do I consider to be ‘lazy tweeters'?
a) Tweeters who post nothing but a link to some blog or article without explaining what the article will be about once I open it.
b) Tweeters who do the Follow Friday thing and just tweet a list of user names (I want to know reasons why I should follow each one)
c) Tweeters who tweet the time-honored legend "I've just posted 50 photos to Facebook" and give you no clue about the subject matter. (I want to know beforehand if I'm going to be looking at 50 photos of The Grand Canyon or 50 snaps of your kids dressed in Hallowe'en outfits )
d) Tweeters who constantly tweet the same old link to the same old blog time and time again.
Tweets look better with photos
I don't know why but they just do. I know that photos use up valuable characters but when I'm scanning my timeline, it's always the tweets with photos that make me pause for that extra second. They are just more visually appealing.
Sometimes Twitter is like a game of tit for tat
The tit for tat game is a bit sad I think.
You know how it works. You gain a new follower - perhaps a food company that makes Mexican stir-fry sauces somewhere in deepest Middle England and they've got 10,000 followers! You have no idea why they've followed you. You certainly have no interest in Mexican stir-fry sauces - not on a daily basis anyway. So you decide not to follow them back and that is a fair enough decision.
Three or four days later, they unfollow you. And they unfollow you for one solitary reason - purely because you haven't followed them. It's a bit pathetic isn't it? but it brings me very nicely to....
Beware of the one-to-one ratio Tweeter
The ‘one-to-one ratio tweeter' is an expression I rather conjured up myself. It's the Twitter account that has 20,654 followers and follows 20,576 others - roughly a ratio of one-to-one - and hence the name.
The one-to-one ratio tweeter is usually (but not always) interested in just one thing - follower numbers.
I've found from experience that these people rarely or never interact with you. They never retweet any of your brilliant content. They never ever make a comment or get involved. They're basically a waste of space.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not tarring all one-to-one ratio tweeters with the same brush but the vast majority do seem to have zero interest in what you have to say. And frankly speaking they are best avoided if it's social interaction you crave.
Following celebrity accounts is another waste of time
Yes, I realize these people are busy and famous and don't have time for tittle-tattle with the likes of me but I can still live in hope.
One of my very favourite musicians is Tracey Thorn, whose career as both a solo artist and as one half of the brilliant Everything But The Girl, I have followed since the early 1980's.
And I follow Tracey Thorn on Twitter.
I've lost count of the number of tweets I've sent to Tracey praising her new releases, commenting on her past successes and generally being just a nice and friendly loyal fan.
I've never had a single 140-character reply. Never a retweet. Not a sausage. Perhaps if I mentioned all the money I had spent on her vinyl records down the years, it might jolt her into action. I'm only kidding Tracey. I still luv ya!
Now I don't want to imply for a moment that all Twitter celebrities are a little bit ‘up themselves'. I've had a couple of very nice tweets from Boy George I'll have you know.
However, my most prized celebrity tweet came from up and coming actor, Macon Blair, who starred in 2013's utterly incredible "Blue Ruin'.
When I tweeted Macon to tell him how amazing I thought he was in that movie, he responded immediately with ‘thank you so much for your kind words Phil'
Forty-two characters was all it took to make my day. Are you listening Tracey?
I don't follow eggs. Sorry.
You know the Twitter profile bit where you post a nice picture of yourself or some suitably funny image and then you have the opportunity to summarize your existence in 140 characters? Well if you can't be bothered to make the effort to fill that in, then I can't be bothered to follow you I'm afraid.
And while we're on the topic of profiles - ‘Retweets are not endorsements' - what in God's name is that all about?
I spend a minute or two scanning a new follower's timeline
If someone follows me and they genuinely look like they might be worth following back (they're not an egg or one of the one-to-one ratio mob) then I will always spend a minute or two looking at the last 20-30 tweets on their timeline.
I say 20-30 because I think you need to evaluate that many tweets to get a feel for what your new follower is about. And I think you owe them that much of your time because new followers are clearly interested in your content and they've made the commitment to follow you.
But as I said in one of my earlier points - I'm not going to follow someone just because they follow me. I have to be genuinely interested in their content (or most of it)
The decision of whether to follow someone back or not can be a tough call but if someone tweets on Thailand-related or teaching-related topics, then there's a fair chance I'll follow them back. Thailand and teaching are what I'm most interested in after all.
I love football, music and movies as well. If someone tweets about any of those three things, there's a good chance I'll follow them back - but not if that's ALL they tweet about. I like to read a variety of tweets but that's only my personal choice.
However, if those last 20-30 tweets on someone's timeline are a mix of politics, baseball, deep-sea fishing and photos of sunsets, I won't follow back because I have zero interest in those things.
If it's any consolation, I do sometimes feel bad about it because my new follower is probably the nicest guy in the world and it's going to be my loss. But such is the nature of Twitter I suppose.
Too many hashtags is a major turn-off
Most Twitter articles I've read recommend no more than two hashtags and I think that advice is spot on. I do like the hashtag used at the end of a tweet to give it context but I loathe those tweets that are nothing but blue text because the tweeter has hash-tagged almost every single word. I'm sure most other Twitter users feel the same.
I would like to dedicate this blog to Mr Carl Heaton of Bangkok Web Services. It was Carl who patiently spent three days with me when I contacted him to say I knew nothing about Twitter and felt like I was being left behind. Thanks Carl for showing me the ropes and teaching me as much as you did in such a short time.