While trendy new social networks tend to blossom one year and fall out of favor another, Twitter continues to maintain a strong reputation among its millions of users. The site held on to its position as one of the top five most popular social sites of 2013, with 46% of its users visiting on a daily basis. Whether you’ve been tweeting since the company’s inception in 2006 or are new to the land of 140 characters, 2014 is a great time to learn to tweet better with some simple resolutions.
Using a social media dashboard to schedule tweets while you’re offline may seem like a great way to save time. However, there are plenty of examples of how a single automated, and unmoderated, message has consequences–especially in the sensitive hours that follow tragic breaking news. In July 2012, hours after the deadly Colorado movie theatre shooting, the NRA sent out this message: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” As some Twitter users suggested as they lashed out at the organization, this was most likely a generic scheduled tweet; meanwhile, the NRA stayed silent on Twitter throughout the day, eventually deleting their account late that afternoon.
Sure, the majority of people using Twitter will not encounter such high-profile problems with automated tweets, but there is no doubt that automation often means a lack of interaction. As author and marketing expert Scott Stratten explains, “[Automated tweets are] like sending a mannequin to a networking event.” In other words, to have a high-quality experience on Twitter requires human engagement. Stratten should know; he’s sent more than 100,000 tweets in his Twitter lifetime, most of them real-time replies from him many followers.
Towards the beginning of Nick Bilton’s book Hatching Twitter, you’re introduced to how 140-character tweets were born. While just a tiny tech startup, the focus was on status updates; and according to the book, not a whole lot of talk about replies to these seemingly self-centered posts. “It could be a technology that would erase a feeling that an entire generation felt while staring into their computer screens,” writes Bilton. Instead of staring into computer screens, as the author explains, users could write short messages about where they were and what they were doing.
Just a few years later, the “Compose new Tweet” command holds a lot less importance to some power tweeters than other Twitter functionality. For example, as Gary Vaynerchuk explains when asked about his top Twitter advice for 2014, “Using twitter.com/search to jump into Conversations is easier than starting a one.” The author of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World explains, “Counterpunch more often!” Vaynerchuk suggests that, instead of dreaming up a topic to post about, dive right in to one that is already taking place.
If you follow every person who follows you, perhaps you’re doing it wrong. “Currently, I’m following over 5,000 people, because when I joined the platform, I thought it was rude to not follow back those who were kind enough to follow me,” says Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image. “While that thinking is still sound and appropriate behavior, it has no place in the current world of Twitter.”
Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete expands on this point, “Prune the people you follow and if someone looks interesting, keep on paying attention to them before you follow them, or feel free to unfollow them if their tweets are not adding any value to your world. It may sound harsh, but the value of Twitter and social media is all about real interactions between real people–and with hundreds or thousands of people shouting at you in 140 characters, it’s unlikely that you’re getting any semblance of a real connection.” Again, there is no magical way to grow your Twitter community, especially if you want quality over quantity.
It would be naive to think that there will be less Twitter drama in 2014. After all, we ended 2013 with what boing boing describes in a recent headline on its site as, “The Tweet Heard Round the World.” This is in reference to Justine Sacco, a once relatively unknown PR executive, who inspired the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet after tweeting an insensitive comment about AIDS and race before she took off on a flight to Africa. Like more and more workers who forget that tweets–especially the controversial ones–travel fast, Sacco was fired.
Whether you have 50 followers or 500,000, you’re never safe acting stupid on Twitter; there’s always someone watching, so a little long-term thinking goes a long way.