More tips from the seamy underbelly of Twitter

How to avoid letting Twitter make you crazy

Twitter will make you crazy if you aren’t careful

How to avoid letting Twitter make you crazy

I think Twitter can be both useful and even fun: It’s a great way to find out about breaking news, it’s a good way to quickly connect with people who are interested in something you’re wondering about right this minute, and it can steer you to information and topics you might never have discovered on your own (right now, I’m finding #blackhistorymonth very interesting). For businesses, it can be an excellent CRM tool, delivering the kind of instant gratification that customers tend to like; it can assist with SEO by ensuring you have regular content attached to your brand/name; and over the longer term it can be quite effective at building your profile, particularly within a particular industry or field.

Twitter is also fraught with dangerous rabbit holes. Make the mistake of clicking on a trending topic like #zayndontleave or #gamergate and you’ll find yourself sucked into a vortex of vitriol, misongyny, anger and illiteracy so bad you’ll start to wonder if social media really is the scourge of humanity.

But don’t worry!

More tips to help you actually like Twitter

1. People who have text on their background pictures are trying to sell you something. If you see text on the background pic of an account, think twice before following, even if you can’t actually read the text without clicking on the picture. If the text includes a number, be extra careful – anyone whose main message is “Ask me how I can increase your traffic by 92% in 2 weeks!” is trying to sell you something you almost certainly don’t need. And, worse, is going to tweet really, really boring stuff.

1.(b) If the text is a quote, do not follow. People who put inspirational quotes like “Walking in the sand, I knew my heart was in the sky” can be classified as one of 3 things: A bot/fake account; a person who tweets way, way too much; or a person who spends 98% of their leisure time on Pinterest. None of these people will help you professionally (and probably not personally, either).

2.  It’s okay to follow brands. I used to say that it was better to follow real people rather than brands – my reasoning was that people would actually tweet interesting stuff while brands would just regurgitate party-line soundbites. I’m happy to say this has changed. Some brands have great individuals running their Twitter feeds; others have hired content strategy types (like me) to give them interesting, relevant content which is even sometimes funny.

3.  Don’t follow anyone wearing a hat in their profile pic. The exception to this might be a professional baseball player wearing a ball cap. Otherwise, it just means “I am a self-published romantic fiction/sci-fi author and I like tea and cats.”

4.  It’s okay good to get personal. Sometimes.  No, you shouldn’t tweet endless photos of your meals out (unless you’re a food blogger). But a quick tweet about the marathon you just ran, or a pic of a funny sign you saw, or an amusing comment about current events lets your audience know that you’re a real person who does interesting things and has interesting thoughts. And it will often generate better engagement than a link to an industry-related article.

5. If someone with 10k followers, who is only following 100 people, follows you, ask yourself why. In fact, you don’t have to ask yourself – I will tell you: Because they are going to wait for you to follow back, then unfollow you immediately. They are not interested in you or your business, they aren’t interested in your tweets – they just want to build their follower base so they can sell someone something (possibly access to their follower base). Which brings me to…

6.  Follower: Following ratio is important. Twitter, like so much of adult life, is like high school: The winner is the person who seems most popular. A person with 20k followers who is only following 543 people looks more popular (and probably actually is) than someone who has 80k followers but is following 93k people.  When you’re first starting out on Twitter, your ratio will be poor (see #5 in my previous Seamy Underbelly piece), but your goal, over time, should be to ensure you have more followers than people you’re following.

7.  It’s a long game.  Digital media types in skinny pants often try to give you the impression that in the Modern World, everything happens superfast! and supergreat! But the truth is that Twitter, like almost any other component in a social media/content strategy, delivers results over the longer term. It takes time to build up a following and think up some clever tweets that get attention and push out content that people actually read. I tell clients they need to keep at it for 6-12 months before they can really assess results.

8. Be very clear about why you’re bothering with Twitter in the first place. Twitter can deliver lots of benefits for small businesses: It can feed your other social media channels; it can amplify your content; it can give you access to eyeballs you wouldn’t otherwise have for free; it can help your Google rankings; it can be a CRM tool; it can make your otherwise static website look continually updated; it can act as a focus group; it can raise your profile within your industry or target market – all these things can be valuable.

But Twitter can also be a lot of work – it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time especially if you’re using the right tools, it just requires sort of constant care and feeding, and that can be tricky for small businesses with limited resources. That’s why it’s crucial to know why you’re doing it and what you hope to achieve. If you can stay out of the rabbit holes and stay the course for a year, you might find it more effective than you think.