Top 11 Twitter Misconceptions and Misuses

Twitter is the third-most popular social networking site today. There’s a lot of people who are still new to it, so I understand. I’m here to help. These are the 11 biggest misconceptions and misuses of Twitter that I’ve seen and experienced.

1. You’re not a “social media expert”
Wow, you have a Twitter page. That doesn’t make you an expert in anything. You have a lot of followers? Great. Charlie Sheen got 1 million followers in just a day, but he’s not a social media expert; he’s just a famous person who says crazy stuff. The minute he tries to sell something on Twitter (and he will), you’ll see the true value of his influence. I think it’s ridiculous to consider yourself an expert in something that’s constantly changing, but if you must, back it up with a strong social media presence (that means real influence, not a Klout score or how many followers you have) and lots of experience.

2. Resist the urge to immediately complain about a business #fail
Yes, it’s 2011, and every business should be on social media, prepared to respond to customer complaints. But keep in mind, the best way to get customer service is to actually complain to a person when you’re still at the business. If the supermarket doesn’t have what you’re looking for, tell the manager and they can explain or at least tell you when the next shipment will be in. If a restaurant screwed up your order, tell the waitress, don’t tweet it. If they still continue to #fail after that, then share it. Otherwise you’re just complaining to complain and/or a power-hungry weasel trying to get freebies.

3. Twitter Chat
While I don’t think Twitter is designed for “chat,” I do see the value in creating a chat hashtag so other people can easily join the conversation from anywhere in the Twitterverse. Keep in mind, if you’re overly chatty, you’re going to aggravate people who don’t want to see the chat conversation and (probably) lose followers that enjoyed what you were saying the other six days of the week. Minimize that aggravation by NOT retweeting more than one or two really good chat points (and they better be damn good), and start your tweets with @username when responding to other people so regular followers don’t see them. Don’t worry, other people will still see those tweets, because they’re following the #chathashtag. Duh, that’s why you set up a hashtag.

4. Live-tweeting
Like Twitter Chat, be prepared to lose followers. Not everyone wants to use Twitter the way you do. Three rules for live-tweeting: 1, don’t just describe what you’re seeing – say something original or interesting; 2, use a hashtag so people can block it if they choose; and 3, only live-tweet a live event (what’s the point of live-tweeting “Glee” or a sitcom?).

5. 50,000 followers does NOT equal 50,000 people reading everything you say
“No one’s listening!” “Why isn’t anybody tweeting me?” No, your Twitter is not broken. Don’t assume everyone’s just dying to respond to everything you say, and whining about it will just make us resent you even more. Most people I see with 50,000 followers are following 60,000 people — a lot of people have this “if you follow me, I’ll follow you” attitude but don’t actually interact. This is a prime example of how a lot of followers doesn’t equal influence.

6. You’re talking, but not listening
If all you’re doing is posting tweets, but not responding to @replies or tweeting other people, then you’ve missed the point of social media. (Hint: It’s to be social.) Also, if you’ve been on Twitter for more than six months and you’re still following more people than are following you, that’s a sign that you’re not listening.

7. “Exclusive” and “breaking” are outdated – stop using those words.
“Exclusive” and “breaking” are old media terms. Three minutes after your “exclusive” interview appears anywhere, Huffington Post has already re-purposed it and 437 blogs, 92 television stations, and 162 radio stations have the same interview. Further, the speed of share has changed the meaning of “breaking news.” Fifty years ago, Walter Cronkite could say something was breaking three days after it happened, and everyone would accept it. Now, as soon as news “breaks” on Twitter, it’s already broken. Everyone already knows it, and if you claim something’s breaking six hours later, it’s just annoying.

8. A twitpic’s worth a thousand words.
You only have 140 characters, so if you’re describing something you saw, take a picture of it. It’ll get the point across faster and better. “Gross, there’s a fly in my burger” isn’t as interesting as an actual picture of it. Plus, a lot of us need to see it to believe it.

9. Trending Topics
“If you tweet it, they will follow.” Some people think mentioning a trending topic in a tweet will get them followers. Worse, they’ll ask “Why is Urkel trending?” which will just make it trend even more without contributing to the conversation. Also, while big news makes trending topics, not all TTs are actual news – I see this a lot especially in the afternoon, when British people are surprised/excited that some 90’s movie is on TV.

10. Fake News
Mick Jagger’s not dead. Neither is Sinbad, Jeff Goldblum or any other celebrity that you’ve read about on Twitter. Worse, this news gets spread further by people tweeting it because “RIP Matt Damon” shows up as a trending topic. Twitter’s like any other media — only believe it if it comes from a credible source (i.e. @CNN.)

11. Can’t say it in 140 characters? Don’t say it on Twitter.
Clerks director Kevin Smith commits this crime a lot, so I stopped following him. Some “social media experts” tried claiming Tumblr is the new Twitter, when that’s not true – Tumblr is for posting stuff that you can’t say in 140 characters. You keep it short and sweet, but you can’t make it short enough? Blog it.