Twitter tips: 10.5 things you’re still doing wrong on social media

Twitter fail

Oops? Some so-called “experts” are still doing social media wrong, so review these Twitter tips to help.

1. Asking questions that you can get answers to elsewhere
I don’t mind if you post a photo of a new hat and ask people if they think it’s a good look for you, but please stop asking questions when you can get the answer elsewhere. “Hey what time is the game on?” “What channel is that show?” “How do you cook grilled cheese?” Use Google, a TV Guide or a calculator and look up answers yourself.

2. Tweeting without context or explanation
“Oh my god.” “What just happened.” “No way.” “I hate this so much.” The worst posts are the short little reactions to something that your followers have NO IDEA what you’re talking about. You may imagine everyone hanging on your every word so they realize that 75 minutes ago you were tweeting about the football game so they should assume you’re still talking about it, but NO ONE FOLLOWS JUST ONE PERSON. (Except @KanyeWest.) As a result, most people see your thoughts in a mix of posts about news, sports, work, music, personal life, food, etc. — so I have no idea if you’re angry about not getting enough ketchup on your burger or that your best friend forgot your birthday or your favorite character kissed the one you hate on a cable TV show. We’re not literally “following” your every move, so don’t assume we are. Add a hashtag or some other clue to what you’re talking about.

3. Tweeting with a . in front of @ mentions — every time
A good number of Twitter users probably don’t realize that if a tweet starts with an @ mention (i.e. “@MileyCyrus I love you!”) then the only ones who’ll see it are users who follow both you and the account you’re mentioning (and, of course, the account you’re mentioning). It brilliantly keeps conversations from cluttering Twitter feeds, but some have figured out that any reply/mention can be made visible to all followers by putting a period or other punctuation in front of the tweet (i.e. “.@MileyCyrus I want everyone to know I love you”). Use it sparingly — never for out-of-context tweets or conversations your followers aren’t part of (i.e. “.@MileyCyrus Your last tweet was great”).

4. Flooding feeds with Twitter chats or live-tweets
Twitter considers 45 tweets an hour to be spam and some people get dangerously close to it during chats or live-tweeting sports, which is understandable if they’re passionate about the topic. But for the sake of followers who aren’t interested, please do two things: 1) Warn people of the impending flood (“Hey I’m about to join a #xyzchat at noon”) or be ready to apologize after. We’ll always forgive it if you don’t act entitled, like we should hang on your every word. And 2) Minimize annoyance by tweeting unique thoughts with context and avoid unnecessary notes (“Next chat Q coming up in a moment”? Just ask the question).

5. Tweeting about trending topics just because they’re trending
Often trending topics are related to news — so don’t ask “why is Snooki trending?” just click on it and you’ll get your answer. Other times, trends are from what’s on TV or a popular user who started it. Don’t respond like the trending topics are talking to you (i.e. “OMG Mean Girls is trending, that reminds me of that time Sheila was mean to me”). Do feel free to join trending hashtag conversations, but don’t hijack them to promote your crap (i.e. “Check out my new photo! [link] #yolo #imsosickof #twitterconfessions #starwars”).

Facebook Thumbs Down

Facebook posts that automatically post to Twitter? Thumbs down!


6. Facebook posts that feed to Twitter, Twitlonger, etc.
It’s not quantum physics: Twitter has a 140 character limit. If you go over 140, whether through Twitlonger or another service that feeds to Twitter, then people have to click to see what else you said — it’s annoying. Also, keep in mind that if you feed Facebook to Twitter and you post a link on Facebook, your Twitter followers have to click the link to see the Facebook post before they can click the link you want them to — twice the clicks.

7. Inconsistent voice
Dear “community managers” and “brand ambassadors”: If the account represents a business with more than one person, the voice is always “we,” never “I.” Opinions should not be given, unless it’s about the brand (“We think our new thing is amazing!”) or a strong affiliate (“Pepsi thinks Beyoncé is going to rock #SB47!”). And hashtags should be consistent — stick to one tag for the brand and its customers to follow.

7.5. Accidentally posting personal tweets on professional accounts
To err is human, so sometimes you’ll “accidentally” post on the wrong Twitter account. If that happens, delete the tweet, apologize and move on — do not spend the rest of the day/week addressing or explaining the error and, most importantly, do not chastise followers upset by your mistake. It’s your mistake.

8. Hyperbole
How many concerts have you been to that are truly “epic”? Is this really “the worst” restaurant experience you’ve ever had? Opinions make things more interesting on social media (and in real life), so we want to know what movies you liked or hated but curb your enthusiasm when referring to extremes. I expect a 4-year-old to have a new “favorite” toy three times a day, but when you tweet “that was my favorite episode ever of all time” three times a week we assume you’re the least discerning person. Of all time.

9. When breaking news becomes “the telephone game”
Rumors quickly became fact on social media, and false news can spread because you’re tweeting based on what someone tweeted based on what someone else tweeted, etc. Being correct is more important than being first, so check sources and post updates based on credible information.

10. Calling yourself a “guru,” “ninja” or “master”
Adage found that, as of January 2013, more than 181,000 Twitter bios describe themselves as social media gurus, masters, ninjas or mavens. Stop it. How can you master something that’s barely a decade old and is constantly evolving?

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Titanic 100th anniversary: If the Titanic sank today, how would the news break on social media?

Titanic's Passengers All Rescued -- The Syracuse Herald

100 years ago, the Syracuse Herald and many other newspapers around the world mistakenly printed reports that all the RMS Titanic's passengers had been saved. In reality, 1,514 people died when the 'unsinkable' ship hit an iceberg and there were far less lifeboats than could hold its 2,223 passengers.

“Breaking News” and “Newsflash” are almost completely outdated terms in the world of social media, yet “old media” like newspapers, television and radio stations, still use them. They’ll even use the term when someone else has broken the news and it’s all over Twitter and Facebook, hours earlier. Sometimes it’s a result of which sources have the better credibility or a bigger audience — if the Pleasantville Daily News “breaks” something to its 98 followers, then it’s fair to say CNN is actually breaking the news to most people when they pick up the story.

Ultimately, though, the desire to be FIRST! in breaking a story is no longer just a traditional media problem. Even Joe Schmo can “break” a story to his 254 Tumblr subscribers if he posts it early enough, which is why news breaks today on the Internet in confusing yet fascinating ways.

On the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s sinking, I wonder how the news on April 15, 1912, would have been covered on social media.

Here’s a few possible tweets that could’ve occurred:

  • @FanOfSeaStuff: “Just heard over the radio that the Titanic hit something.”
  • @RoseDawson: “I could not be any happier than where I am right now.” (Sent using the ship’s wi-fi before the rising water took it out.)
  • @NewsGuy04121912: “Reports coming in that the Titanic has hit something — could be an iceberg or a whale — but all passengers are okay.”
  • @KateWinsletFan: “Don’t believe the reports the Titanic hit anything. Just look: RT @RoseDawson I could not be any happier than where I am right now.”
  • @CNNBRK: “BREAKING NEWS: RMS Titanic has hit a large object, believed to be an iceberg, and is taking on water.” (retweeted 1087 times)
  • @DudeNamedDude: “I heard from @NewsGuy0412912 that a whale hit the Titanic. Bet he’s looking to make a nice snack out of some passengers.”
  • @FoxNews: “NEWSFLASH: The ‘unsinkable’ ship RMS Titanic is sinking on the Atlantic; passengers being taken to lifeboats.”
  • @NYTimes: “White Star Line confirms the Titanic ocean liner has been hit by an iceberg and boats are headed to rescue its passengers.”
  • @HersheyChocoholic: “Tweeps, don’t worry about the Titanic — @FoxNews says passengers are being taken to lifeboats.”
  • @TMZ: “Inside sources tell us someone yelled ‘women and children first!’ as the Titanic began rescuing passengers.”
  • @ReporterGuy: “Coast Guard reporting Titanic ship is slowly sinking as passengers fill the lifeboats.”
  • @MotionPictureGirl: “Someday this’ll be a movie, and they’ll probably make the Titanic sinking WAAAY more dramatic with cheesy music.”

Eventually, the true story would emerge, but as the news breaks there’s all sorts of conflicting opinions and reactions that confuse the world wide web. Even before social media, inaccurate reports happened all the time. The Syracuse Herald newspaper first ran a front page headline that said “Titanic’s Passengers All Rescued” with a dramatic telling of how they were all taken to lifeboats.

Apparently, what happened was: A wireless message went out stating ‘All Titanic’s Passengers Safe.’ A week later it was discovered that this message had been wrongly received in the confusion of messages flashing through the air. In reality the message should have read ‘Are All Titanic’s Passengers Safe?'” Can you imagine THAT going viral on social media? Reporters would lose their jobs and Mashable readers would lose their minds (because Mashable would’ve written a story about it, too, in an effort to get SEO traffic even though they claim they focus only on web/technology news).

While many of us (including Titanic director James Cameron) are shocked that some audiences are just now finding out that Titanic was real and not just a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, can you imagine if the Titanic sank today how it would be covered on social media? Ponder that the next time you see “Breaking News” somewhere on the Internet, and think before you tweet.

8 obnoxious (but quick and easy) ways to improve your Klout score

Klout logo

Klout ranks social media users in influence with a score out of 100. Most people have less than a 50, but Justin Bieber has a 98. How can you catch up to him?

“How can I improve my Klout score?” For those not in the now, Klout is considered the foremost measurement of social media influence — I can’t go more than an hour or two without seeing someone whine about their Klout score. It mostly measures activity on Twitter, such as number of followers, retweets, clicks-from-links, mentions, and quality of who they “influence” but they also claim to look at Facebook, Google+ and other social networks.

While I applaud Klout for attempting to assign a numerical value to something that’s virtually impossible to assign a number to — influence — I think it’s ridiculous how concerned people have gotten over it. They go on vacation for 3 days and their score goes down, boohoo. My alma mater Syracuse University dropped from 2nd to 7th place on this year’s list of the “top 10 most influential colleges” and fellow alumni are having a coronary.

RELAX, people. Klout is not that important. (See: “Klout only matters if you say it does.“) But for those of you that are concerned with it, here are some tips — obnoxious, but quick and easy tips — to improve your Klout score:

1. Tweet a lot. A LOT.
One friend of mine currently has 2050 followers, follows 1484 people and has tweeted 12,110 times. Another friend has 526 followers, follows 1148 people and has tweeted 59257 times. You might assume the one with more followers has a higher Klout score, but nope — despite having only 1/4 as many followers, the second user has a Klout score of 64 while the first has a 61.

2. Follow a lot of people on Twitter.
In tip #1’s example you’ll notice both users follow roughly the same amount of people. Several blogs have claimed that the number of people you follow has no impact on your Klout score, that they just look at who follows and tweets you. Even if that’s not true, a lot of Twitter users still adopt the philosophy “if you follow me, I’ll follow you” so the more people you follow, the more will follow you. (Of course, following thousands of people isn’t ideal for a quality social media experience, as Chris Brogan learned way too late.)

3. Be “influential” about popular topics.
Klout’s decision about what you’re “influential” is always dubious (I love how @dagsly once gave me a +K for the Shaq Fu video game) but if you tweet about popular topics (i.e. Facebook privacy, Apple iPhone) then you’ll get more responses and be considered an influencer on those topics.

4. Participate in every Twitter chat you can.
There are tons of chats which happen every week on Twitter (such as #SEOchat, #blogchat, #cmgrchat) where people pump out 50 tweets an hour, including a lot of retweets.

5. Hijack every hashtag you can.
Most conferences and events (i.e. #SXSW, #140conf, #grammys) are easy to follow and, if you tweet them (whether you’re at the event or not), other people following the tag will likely see your posts and retweet/respond even if they don’t follow you. Do it with weekly events, such as #MusicMonday, #FollowFriday, #TravelTuesday.

6. Live-tweet everything.
Watching #Glee with another 10 million people? Post a reaction to every little thing. “OMG, Artie’s new glasses are sexy! #Glee” will likely get you a few responses and retweets. (Note: Live-tweeting laundry and household chores won’t work, unless your socks come to life and put on a show.)

7. Post inspirational and funny quotes.
Steal them from @iheartquotes, @quotations, or any site with Twitter-ready quotes. People are suckers for retweeting these. Accuracy and correct attributions matter little, as a fake MLK quote went viral after Osama Bin Laden’s death.

8. Start a fight.
Most social media gurus/experts/rockstars embrace the philosophy “respond to criticism before it becomes a PR nightmare,” so they’ve conditioned themselves to reply to any mention, especially the negative ones. Say something controversial and debatable (not “your face sucks”) and you can go back-and-forth tweeting for hours. Others will see the debate and chime in, too, and you’ve just boosted your number of @ replies.

If you think these tips are absurd, you’re right. But that’s my point — Klout scores are flawed and shouldn’t be used a yardstick for social media success. At least, not yet.

I’ll point out that Klout gives their own suggestions for improving your score — including signing up for a Klout account, which is ridiculous to bother with since they now measure 100 million users whether they have an account or not. I have a score, but I’ve never signed up for Klout — why would I? Really.

I didn’t hit the ‘like’ button for The Social Network. Did you?


This weekend, the net’s all a-twitter with the release of “the Facebook movie,” a.k.a. The Social Network, written by fellow Syracuse University alum Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, “The West Wing”) and directed by David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room).

According to imdb, the movie’s budget was $50 million and the movie’s pacing to make about half of that opening weekend, so it’s clearly not a blockbuster hit, but the professional critics love the movie.  There’s already rumor of it being nominated for awards.  And I’ve browsed various status updates from friends (and strangers) and it seems most people like the movie (although fflick.com says only 47% have given it a thumbs up).  I just don’t get why.

>> Read my full review of The Social Network on syracuse.com

Am I crazy?  If you liked it, explain why.  Help me understand.