It’s been a little while since I wrote an #SMsceptic post (i.e. moans about social media), but following a recent first-hand experience and various conversations with colleagues/industry peers/fellow tech enthusiasts, I wanted to discuss Twitter @mentions some more, especially in the context of conducting outreach.
For the record, in my opinion, outreach via Twitter is awesome. I prefer it to email (which is I guess the more standard approach in an online capacity) for a fair few reasons:
It’s quicker and easier. “Hey, I wrote about you – check it out: [shortened URL].” Boom! Done.
It’s less pestering to an extent (…at least I think so, as I see email as a somewhat more formal means of communication and therefore Twitter as less formal – with that in mind, an ill-timed or unwanted @mention may be viewed with less dislike than an email of the same intent).
It holds more weight from an authoritative point of view – if someone’s thinking “who is this guy/girl?!” then they can check out your profile. If you have stuff in common or they realise that you have mutual acquaintances then it might help with the process. They might not be able to assess all of that by email alone, e.g. if you don’t have any info in your email signature.
It’s visible to those who have an interest in both of you – i.e. if someone is following both the sender and receiver of the tweet, they’d be able to see it in their feed and – as they know both of you – they might be inclined to check it out as well.
Also, @mentions are generally more effective than DMs (Direct Messages) as the latter requires that both people follow each other, which may not be the case all the time, especially if you’re conducting outreach with people who may not know you (yet).
Anyway, I digress. Apologies… I tend to do that.
The main point of this post is help you to avoid a few common pitfalls, take a softer approach and generally piss as few people off as possible (which can sometimes be the nature of the beast with this type of thing).
A month or so ago, I was at Hollywood Bowl in Cardiff Bay with the BNI Quinnell guys (back when I was still a member of the group) for a social event outside of our weekly morning meetings.
In addition to the screens above the lanes that were playing all sorts of music videos, there were a few screens with the occasional marketing message: food offers, game offers, etc. At one point, they flashed up information regarding their Facebook Page, with the following statement:
“Like us on Facebook and you could win an iPad!”
Ack! I remember moaning to one of the other BNI Quinnell guys – also a marketer – about how it’s always, always, always a bloody iPad! Poor guy just wanted to bowl but there I was, ranting away…!
My issue isn’t with the strategy being implemented, but with the prize being offered. It’s not because I have anything against Apple (hell, I own an iPad and I love it)! I just find it frustrating that so many companies lean on giving away an iPad because – in my opinion – it’s a completely wasted opportunity!
Why not give away something relevant to your business instead? Hollywood Bowl could’ve given away a custom bowling ball or custom team bowling shirts. In addition to being a bit more original than giving away a product that every other company is currently giving away, a relevant product would complement your own products/services. For example, if someone won a bowling ball or bowling shirts, they might decide to then use them at Hollywood Bowl, encouraging return visits and increasing custom. The winner(s) could even share the photos of them using the ball/shirts on HB’s Facebook Page.
Granted, it’s not easy with some industries. I can’t remember who it was now, but I remember a car insurer that was also giving away an iPad. Having worked at an insurance company, I know first-hand that it’s not easy giving away free insurance as a prize, due to the trickiness surrounding the pricing (after all, what if the person who wins is expensive to insure?) and it’s also probably against FSA guidelines anyway. But even so… what about a car? If that’s too expensive (although the PR involved could be worth it!), then what about something that could go towards car maintenance (e.g. a Halfords or Kwik-Fit voucher), or a personalised number plate, or even go kart racing vouchers?!
There’s so much opportunity! Be original. Be relevant. Be fun. And stop giving away bloody iPads…!
Often, those guilty are brand new users. That’s ok. I made some horrendous mistakes when I first started using Twitter. I’m sure most of us did. Twitter takes some getting used to.
Sometimes, however, they are people who have “social media” in their job title. I’ve seen social media professionals – including a variety of consultants, trainers, executives and in-house staff – who can’t @mention properly. In my opinion, this is not cool. While it could be argued that someone doesn’t necessarily need to know how to use a platform inside-out to be able to consult strategy on it, a) it’s not exactly a hard concept to grasp properly, and b) they might be giving people incorrect advice, particularly if they’re a trainer.
Besides, if someone gave you all the details on how to build your house, but forgot to include any doors when they built their own, what would you think? It hardly inspires confidence.
Tempted to scream, tweet various swear words, or tweet something like “if I had a pound everytime someone did this…” each time I witness such errors, I thought instead that I’d vent my frustrations in a more practical and helpful way…
So here it is: a really quick and simple guide on how to use @mentions on Twitter.
@mentions at the start of a tweet:
@joebloggs has a new website. Check it out: [link]
The above is intended as an announcement. However, not all of your followers will see it.
An @mention at the start of a tweet will only be seen by you, the person you’re tweeting and anyone who follows both of you. The only other exception is if someone happens to check your profile manually, but in my experience, people may only do this when they first come across a profile (e.g. they’re wondering whether or not to follow you) or if they just want to check something (e.g. to look up your profile bio or URL).
So if you want to make an announcement, make sure the @mention isn’t at the start of the tweet! Either re-word it so that the @mention appears later on, or put a full-stop before the @ sign, e.g. “[email protected] has a…”
Hey @joebloggs, what’s your email address? Thanks!
An @mention mid-tweet will be seen by everyone in your timeline. This is fine as an announcement, but if it’s only intended as a brief, bland, personal message that really isn’t intended for anyone else, then you risk irritating your followers and clogging up their feed. Especially if you’re @mentioning a lot of people with the same message.
So if you’re posting a personal tweet, intended only for the individual, then be considerate to your followers: consider keeping the @mention at the start of the tweet.
How they should be:
Sticking with the above two examples, you should do something like this instead:
[email protected] has a new website. Check it out: [link] or My good friend @joebloggs has a new website. Check it out: [link]
@joebloggs Hey, what’s your email address? Thanks!
That way, your intended announcement is actually an annoucement, and your personal tweet is more personal. Easy, no?
It may seem like I’m making a big fuss, but if you’re a business that’s trying to make a big effort on Twitter, you don’t want your announcements to go unseen and/or risk bothering your followers with tweets that don’t concern them!
“Having the most followers on Twitter is akin to having the most imaginary friends, the biggest Gamerscore, or the world’s longest e-penis. In other words, what does it mean in the real world? Precisely f*** all.”
A friend of mine wrote that on his Facebook profile a while back. He was annoyed because a friend of his was paying a lot of money to see a social media professional for social media training. This professional’s big, bold unique selling point was that he had a lot of followers, the most in his chosen field and area of expertise, apparently. So he must know what he’s talking about and be good at what he does if he’s that popular, right? And fair enough, he did have a lot of followers. I saw his profile and he had about 100,000 followers on Twitter. Nice!
The only problem? He was also following about 100,000 in return. His Follow Ratio was pretty much 1:1.
Why do I have a problem with this? A few reasons:
Quantity can be gamed: Auto-follow tools such as TweetAdder make it easy for someone to obtain a large number of followers. Set it to automatically follow people based on various criteria (e.g. their location, keywords in their profile’s Bio, etc.). Eventually, as you’ve gone to the effort of following these people, some will follow you back – and you can even automatically unfollow those who do not reciprocate after a certain amount of time. Rinse, repeat, and after a while, voilà: you’re “popular” (read: you look more popular).
Why do I say “look more popular” when they could be genuine followers? Well…
You could be preaching to following the choir: What if the 100k that you’re following – to get 100k people to follow you back – are doing exactly what you’re doing? Then it’s purely a numbers game – you’re not reading their tweets, they’re not reading yours.
…And why do I say that? Well…
It’s impersonal: I think it’s pretty safe to say that if someone is following 100k people, they’re not actually reading the tweets in their Twitter feed. I follow 200+ people I genuinely care about as I type this, and I struggle to keep up! In fact, at an event I went to a while ago, one of the speakers – who gave a talk on Twitter – said that you should just follow lots of people from your business profile, and use a separate/personal profile or a Twitter List to follow the people you actually want to keep up-to-date with. Umm… no thanks, that’s not for me.
Quantity isn’t everything: Social media isn’t necessarily about having lots of (or the most) followers. As I’ve said before (point #12), I’d much rather have 10 followers who care about what I have to say than have 10,000 followers who don’t and who only follow me so that I follow them back and beef up their stats. As always, quality trumps quantity.
And at the end of the day…
It’s snake oil – it’s tricking potential customers/clients: I know all this, and I’m assuming most other online marketing professionals reading this know all this, but does your average Joe Bloggs – who wants to learn how to use Twitter for business use – know to watch out for it? Probably not. My friend’s friend didn’t.
So why is Follow Ratio (FR) important? Well compare the above gent’s ratio of 1:1 (followed by 100k, following 100k) to someone who truly is an authority. If someone is followed by 100,000 people but is only following 100 in return – their FR being 1:1,000 – then it seems a lot more legitimate that this individual is genuinely being followed because people care about them. The person doesn’t have to follow people back and they will still follow him/her.
Fortunately, contrary to what I’ve said above, I think people are gradually getting wise to this. SEO has had a similar problem: it seems logical to think that the people ranking at the top of Google for a keyword like “SEO agency” are the best at what they do, but what if they’ve gotten via dodgy/spammy means, or it’s a keyword that looks good but doesn’t even get much search volume? Meanwhile, Twitter does have Klout as a metric, but then it isn’t exactly accurate (and I believe Klout doesn’t currently take followers into account)…
To me, what’s important are things like reviews, testimonials and word-of-mouth. Fair enough if this social media trainer with a 1:1 FR is actually really good at giving social media training, but in my opinion, they shouldn’t use “I have lots of followers” as a USP when such a thing can be easily manipulated (and – judging by his profile – probably has).
Funnily enough, as I was going to publish this post, someone on my Twitter feed complained about how people he knows are falling for follower numbers. Using StorifyWakelet, I’ve included the tweets and @mentions between me and two others: @NeilCocker and @tombeardshaw. (More people and tweets were involved in the discussion, but as some of the tweets went a bit off-topic and became quite negative – pin-pointing a particular individual guilty of the practice – I’ve only included a few of them.)