1,001 Things You Shouldn't Tweet

Jeff Bullas recently wrote an excellent post on the 30 things you shouldn’t share on social media. Some of the gems (in my opinion) include:

  • You’re having (or thinking of having) an extramarital affair
  • Your financial information
  • Your passwords or hints about your passwords
  • Your holiday plans
  • What you ate for breakfast

All in all, it was an excellent list. Thanks, Jeff. But after reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why stop at 30? I bet that we could easily come up with 1,001 things you shouldn’t share on social media, or more narrowly, on Twitter.

So here goes:

31. Don’t tweet the play-by-play of baseball games. I unfollowed somebody because of this (and I bet he remembers). If we want to know what’s going on in the game, we’ll watch it for ourselves. There are 1,328 sports channels on cable TV. We can don’t need your “color” analysis.

32. Don’t tweet a second-by-second update on your plane delay. What are you, the first person in the history of mankind to suffer through an airport/airline/airplane delay? Aren’t you special.

33. Don’t start a tweet with the words “I just remembered…” Because you didn’t just remember it was your birthday or that you’re going to Tahiti tomorrow. You’ve been thinking about it for weeks, and we know it. What kind of idiots do you take us for?

34. Don’t tweet inspirational quotes. Be honest: Do you turn to the person in the next cube (I know you don’t have your own office) and casually cite some deep, incisive quotation from Voltaire or whoever? Of course not. So why do you do it on Twitter? Because you need to be the center of attention in the universe at all times, and since you have nothing original to say, you spout out some quote from a long-dead guy.

Before we continue with our list, allow me to anticipate a comment I know you want to make: “I disagree with you, Ron. I do those things, and I like tweeting those things on Twitter. You’re wrong about this.”

Save your breath. You can’t convince me to change my opinion. But, of course, the shoe fits on the other foot, as well: I could go on with my list of 1,001 things that you shouldn’t tweet about, but what good would that do? If you want to tweet those things, that’s what you’re going to do.

That’s the beauty of the technology: Different people can use it for their own unique needs and purposes. And even if I were to survey a million Twitter users and found that they agree with me that tweets like the ones in my list are annoying, so what? Whose problem is that? Not the tweeters.

So, go ahead, tweet about your affairs. Share revealing pictures of yourself drunk at parties. In fact, if you do any of the things on Jeff’s or my list, I’d like to give you money. I’ll need your bank account number so I can transfer the funds directly. Oh, and since I’d like to make sure that the money actually gets transferred, please give me the username and password to the account.

Or, feel free to add to the list. I fell a little short of 1,001.

Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good,
Oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

— The Animals

Margie Clayman wrote a blog post that caught my eye recently when she noted that we need a “censor button” in social media. Margie wrote:

“On Twitter, unless your account is locked down, anything you say is not just public, it’s searchable. Often out of context. People can very easily spread things that you say to people who don’t even know you. Something that you say in jest can be taken seriously if someone doesn’t know you well – especially if they have never heard your voice and don’t know your tonality. If what you say is deemed super offensive, even if you didn’t mean it that way, you can be unfollowed, blocked, reported, and you can gain a reputation for being crude, offensive, insensitive, and many other things.”

I’ve learned this the hard way, seeing my off-the-cuff tweets quoted in blog posts (thanks, Tim McAlpine).  After I read Margie’s blog post, I saw a tweet from a Twitter buddy who was re-tweeting something from a SXSW speaker:

“Fun to go through the Tweet stream and see how many people misconstrue what I say when I talk.”

My first thought upon reading this: If people misconstrued what you said, it’s nobody’s fault but your own.

My point to all this is this: Whether you’re blogging, tweeting, presenting, or commenting — in social media or in any business context — the absolute most important thing is to communicate clearly. That is, to have your points, ideas, remarks, comments — whatever — received and understood in the way you intend them to be.

I’ve never forgotten a blog post written by Seth Godin back in January 2008. Seth wrote:

“Don’t let the words get in the way. If you’re writing online, forget everything you were tortured by in high school English class. You’re not trying to win any awards or get an A. You’re just trying to be real, to make a point, to write something worth reading. So just say it. “

I took issue with this then, and I’m going to take issue with it now: This is terrible advice.

Don’t “just say it.” Agonize over it. Choose your words carefully. Write it, and re-write it. Two or three times if necessary. (The ironic thing is that Godin commented on the blog post I wrote about his post, and he “clarified” his point. In other words, had he chosen his words more carefully — and didn’t “just say it” — maybe he wouldn’t have been misinterpreted).

Without tonality, without facial expressions, without context — and very importantly — often without any familiarity with you as a person — your written words in social media channels will be interpreted by people who will have very different starting points for interpreting your comments.

Andrew Keen wrote an excellent book called The Cult of the Amateur in which he argued:

“What the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment.”

On one hand, I couldn’t agree more. On the other hand, I don’t see this as an argument for stopping or preventing people from sharing their observations and opinions. Instead, I see it more as support for the idea that we need to be more “considered” about what we say in social media channels.

The problem — of being misunderstood, of lacking deep analysis — stems from the fact that nobody is taught this stuff. Sure, we’ve had classes in Math and English and so forth, but few people really learn to write critically. Seth Godin can say “just say it” because he’s probably the best writer in the Marketing world (not that I agree with what he says, but the “quality” of his writing is top-notch).

If a large number of people are going to communicate in social media channels, then more people are going to have to learn how to write better and more critically. It’s not simply a matter of being understood or misunderstood — it’s a matter of reputation.

Reactions To Twitter CEO's Comments

Twitter CEO Evan Williams recently spoke at an event in San Francisco, CA. Here are some of his quotes, with my take on them:

Williams: “The problem with email is that it’s sender-driven, and sender-driven media doesn’t scale. The sender is motivated to send as much stuff as possible because it’s free. Tweeting can be different (and better) than email, because people who have something to say can find their audience.”

My take: Nonsense. Email marketers have learned — albeit, the hard way — that sending too much email will drive customers and prospects to opt-out.  As for Twitter being better, that’s nonsense as well. In fact, Twitter is worse. It has enabled (if not encouraged) people to tweet things they would never dream of putting in an email: What they ate for breakfast, a running account of the delays the plane they’re on is experiencing, Twitpics of the nail polish they put on their toes, and (a personal pet peeve) pseudo-inspirational quotes from pseudo-famous dead people.

Williams: “Google serves more purpose-driven needs versus Twitter’s focus on an interest-based world. Google is very good at ‘I need to solve a problem, I need to buy something, I need an answer’. Twitter is more ‘I’m interested in many things, I don’t know what I need to know.’”

My take: Google and Twitter don’t belong in the same sentence. Google is search, and it’s great for ‘I’m interested in something, but not sure what’s out there, where it is, or what might be related to it.’ Twitter is for….well, different things for different people. For me (and I bet for many of my Twitter buddies), Twitter is for conversation. For other people (and I tend to unfollow these people and firms pretty quickly) it’s for broadcasting. For sure, plenty of people use Twitter for searching. But it’s searching for what somebody tweeted — and that’s a different kind of search than what Google is for. Being “purpose-driven” or “interest-based” doesn’t factor in here — real people (i.e., not marketers) don’t think in those terms.

Williams: “What we need to get much better at is scaling that system so you don’t have to pay attention to everything, but you don’t miss the stuff you care about.”

My take: This comment reflects a somewhat narrow view of how some people use Twitter (in particular, me). I’m not worried in the least about missing “stuff” I care about. I don’t follow “stuff” — I follow people. Granted, there may be a lot of marketers out there who don’t want to miss mentions of their beloved brand, but I’ve got to believe that out of 145 million Twitterers, only a small percentage are marketers worrying about missing “stuff.”

Final thought: I admit that it’s unfair of me to try and read intention into his statements, but I think Williams’ comments are driven by a view that Twitter needs to become more useful to marketers. Why? Because that’s who Twitter thinks will pay to use it. People who tweet don’t obsess over Google vs. Twitter, or email vs. Twitter.

Tweeping Moms

My daily email from the Center for Media Research notified me that, according to a new study, “moms is a subset of women.”

This was a revelation since I’ve been laboring under the impression that moms are a subset of women.

The email cites a study from Lucid Marketing that found that 57.9% of moms Twitter from their cell phone, iPhone, Blackberry or smartphone. [Just for yucks, why don’t we call it 58%?]

The email didn’t discuss the study’s methodology, nor could I find any mention of the methodology on Lucid Marketing’s website. But 58% of moms tweeting sounded really high to me, so I decided to do my own — admittedly non-scientific — market research.

First, I called my wife. Who is a mom. Of three daughters.

Me: I know that you don’t use Twitter, but of the women you know and talk to, do any use Twitter?

Wife: I thought you were at work.

Me: I am. Answer the question.

Wife: No, I don’t know anyone who’s on Twitter. You’re the only person I know who wastes his time with that thing.

Me: It’s not a waste. It’s an important tool for my personal branding. Back to your friends: They’re all ‘moms’, right?

Wife: Yep. Except for one. [we have neigbhors who have no kids]

Me: K. Thanks. Gotta go.

Then, I decided to call my mother. Who is a mom. Of three children. Who aren’t children themselves anymore, but that doesn’t mean that our mom isn’t still a mom.

Mom: Hello?

Me: Hi, Mom.

[silence]

Me: Mom, you there?

Mom: Yes, sorry. Was momentarily shocked into silence by the fact that you called me.

Me: Great. A family of comedians. Question for you: Are you on Twitter?

Mom: Am I “on” Twitter? No. What is it? Some kind of drug?

Me: [pause] Well, I never thought of it like that before, but I guess you could get addicted to it. No, it isn’t a drug. It’s an Internetty-kind of thing for communicating with people. I take it that if you don’t use it, you don’t have any friends that do.

Mom: No. We use email here in Camp Florida. Do my granddaughters use it?

Me: No.

Mom: Then I don’t need to use it.

Me: Your friends are “moms”, right?

Mom: Yep. Most are grandmoms, too.

Me: Yeah, I don’t care about that. Just want to know how many “moms” you know that are using Twitter.

Mom: So, this wasn’t a call to find out how your dear old mom is doing?

Me: Gotta go. Love ya.

Well, there you go. Admittedly not very scientific, but not one of the moms I know use Twitter, nor do any of the moms that they know.

So where are these nearly six in ten “moms” who are not only tweeting, but following businesses/brands in order to find out about companies’ products and services?

What we have here is a failure to communicate. Specifically, a failure to communicate exactly what we mean by the term “mom.” Seems to me that marketers have gotten it into their heads that “moms” are the portion of women who are 25 to 39 years old and have small children at home.

I think that if they did a little more research, they might find that there are a lot of women beyond that age range, who not only consider themselves to be “moms”, but that still make most of the household decisions, even when there are no children — let alone small ones — left in the household.

I’d also bet that they’d find that 58.9% of moms don’t tweet.

Blinding Me With Science

Conventional wisdom holds that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” so we have metrics to help us manage our businesses.

And then there are Twitter-related metrics.

Meeyoung Cha from the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems looked at data from all 52 million Twitter accounts and determined that:

“The number of followers a Tweeter has is largely meaningless. Popular users who have a high number of followers are not necessarily influential in terms of spawning retweets or mentions,” she said. The more interesting question is how should one measure influence, she continues. Unfortunately there is no one easy answer to that, she says. “One would have to take a combination of many metrics, including follower count, mentions, and re-tweets. However the hard part is figuring out the relative importance of the component metrics.”

Cha is spot on that follower count isn’t important. But she’s wrong when she says that the hard part of measuring influence is “figuring out the relative importance of the component metrics.”

The hard part is figuring out what influence is. When you figure that out, then you can start arguing about how to measure it.

Social media analytics firm Sysomos conveniently avoids defining what influence is, and has developed a metric it calls the authority ranking: A score between 0 to 10 – with 10 signifying someone with very high reach and influence.

Social media “heavyweights” Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang have an average follower authority (an “AFA” if you want to sound cool) of 4.0 while Jason Falls’ AFA is 4.8, and Scott Stratten’s is 4.6.

I guess we’re to conclude that Jason and Scott are more influential than Chris and Jeremiah.

If they want to raise their AFA, Chris and Jeremiah can cull through their list of followers (139k for Chris, 65k for Jeremiah) and block those with a low AFA. And then, going forward, only allow people with a high AFA to follow them.  I can’t think of a bigger waste of time, or stupider thing to do.

I could be off-base here, but to me, influence is about shaping how people think and/or act, wouldn’t you agree?

If you do, then how in the world can you measure influence simply by looking at follower count or follower’s follower count, retweeting activity, or mentions? What does any of that have to with influence?

Answer: NOTHING. Those “metrics” have nothing to do with influence.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve DMed someone who has tweeted a link and asked “You believe that load of crap?” only to receive the reply “oh, I don’t believe it — I was just passing on the link.” If they don’t believe it, then they really weren’t influenced, were they? Nor are they being influential, because, apparently, they’re not trying to shape anyone’s thoughts or behaviors.

Most of these Twitter metrics are just pseudo-scientific stabs at establishing a system for score-keeping.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that you stop bragging about your follower count, influence ranking, or AFA score. Anything that helps you deal with your personal insecurities is OK in my book. But don’t try to blind me with your science. It’s not working.

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What Should The New York Times Call Tweets?

Did you see that the New York Times has banned the use of the term “tweet”? Apparently, the standards editor at the paper asked writers to “abstain from the invented past-tense and other weird iterations of the magical noun-verb ‘Twitter’.”

So what should the New York Times call it? Here’s one suggestion to the Times:

Multi-Originated Real-time Outbound Notes.

The Best Time To Tweet

Do you hold back from tweeting a tweet because you’re afraid it’s the “wrong time” — worried that not enough of your followers will see your tweet?

If you do, you might be interested in an article on MarketingVox titled When Is The Best Time To Tweet? The article pulls together some recommendations for the optimal time to tweet from sources like Social Media Guide and Guy Kawasaki. Here are my reactions to some of the recommendations:

  • The Social Media Guide recommends tweeting at 9AM PT because you hit the west coast as they’re getting in to work, the east coast as they’re taking a lunch break, and England at the end of their day. My take: Won’t work. Everybody knows folks on the west coast don’t get into work until 10AM PT (if at all) and the Brits have bolted by 4:30 in the afternoon.
  • SM Guide also suggests using Tweet O’Clock to determine the best time to tweet a particular individual. My take: If you want a particular person to see your tweet, put their Twitter ID in the tweet, or — better yet — DM them. Duh.
  • Guy Kawasaki says don’t worry about tweeting too many times — send important tweets at least four times at 8 to 12 hour intervals. My take: If you don’t mind being nicknamed “Spammy Sammy”, then, by all means, follow Kawasaki’s advice.
  • Predictive Marketing concluded that “each business has a unique set of followers with their own Twitter ‘time fingerprint’.” PM went on to recommend that marketers should “track [their] followers to see when they are most active.” My take: If you’re an individual with 100 followers, maybe this advice is feasible. But for a business with 10,000+ followers, doing this is practically impossible, but more importantly — it’s a complete waste of time, effort and resources.

Personally, I can only conclude that the best time to tweet is……right now.

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The Five People You Meet On Twitter

With no due respect to the guy who wrote that book about the five people you meet in heaven, here are the five people you’ll meet on Twitter:

1. John Bartlett. A long, long time ago Bartlett published a book of quotations. More recently, he’s been resurrected from the dead in the form of Twitterers who do nothing but tweet annoying sayings and quotes that happen to inspire them at the moment. Emphasis on the them. Maybe they’re trying to show us how deep and thoughtful they are, I don’t know.

2. Kanye West. If there’s anybody out there who doesn’t know when to shut the f*ck up, it’s him. Unfortunately, there a lot of people on Twitter who don’t know when to shut up, either. They suffer from something called Twitterhea. It’s a good thing I haven’t been drinking, or I’d be inclined to name names (it’s actually a really good thing I haven’t been drinking, because, as I write this, I’m sitting on the train on my way into work).

What is it about these people that makes them think we care that they just drank a Red Bull, or that their bed in their hotel room is comfortable, or that there’s a guy driving in front of them who didn’t hit his gas pedal as soon as the light turned green? (I’m not making this stuff up). Why are they even tweeting while driving?

3. Art Link-A-Lotter. In real life, Art Linkletter wrote Kids Say The Darnedest  Things. On Twitter (or should I say “in Twitterville”) Art Link-A-Lotters don’t “say” anything. They simply provide links to articles and blog posts. That’s it — no comments, no conversations, just links. There are a few Twitterers with dual personalities — part Kanye West, part Art Link-A-Lotter: In other words, an endless stream of links all day. Someone shoot these people, please.

4. Billy Mays. Did you ever see Billy Mays when he wasn’t selling something? Me neither. Same with these people on Twitter. Every tweet is a sales pitch for their company, or worse — for themselves. I can’t imagine why these people think that the rest of us are just sitting by our Twitter client apps just waiting for their next self-absorbed sales pitch.

5. You. If you’re lucky — and you will be — you will meet YOU on Twitter. More accurately, people like YOU. It’s the one thing that makes suffering through meeting the other four people worthwhile.

Ten Cents A Tweet

I was talking with a buddy of mine, who apologized for not being very active on Twitter over the past few weeks.

The reason for his inactivity? Get this: He’s been busy.

I nearly fell off my exercise ball. I mean, really, what kind of excuse is that for not tweeting? How in the world can my friend build his personal brand if he’s not tweeting 50 to 100 times a day (on weekdays, that is, and 10 to 20 times on Saturdays and Sundays)?

Apparently, it turns out that my friend has a somewhat unique and novel strategy for building his personal brand. He intends to do it by….drumroll, please….by getting bottom-line results for his clients.

Well, good luck to him. That clearly isn’t going to work for the rest of us, is it? No way.

But building a personal brand through Twitter is no piece of cake. What to tweet? What to say that comes off as smart, witty, and contributing to the “conversation”? This is challenging for a lot of folks looking to build their personal brand.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that I can help.

Drawing on my deep marketing experience, top-notch writing skills, and world-class wit, I will tweet for you. All while you’re working on your real job.

And all for ten cents a tweet.

Here’s how it’s going to work: I will tweet 10 to 50 times per weekday in your name.  These tweets will be insightful, informative, and sometimes funny. We’ll have a preliminary discussion to define exactly what you want your personal brand to be.

You’ll be building your personal brand for as little as $1 per day. What a bargain.

In no time, you will have tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of followers anxiously awaiting your every tweet.

With just 1000 clients, I will be making a fortune (mostly because I will require a two-year contract, and will be collecting my fees in advance).

How much money will you make from this arrangement?

I have no idea, and quite frankly, I’m surprised that you’re even asking that question. After all, since having tens — or thousands — of followers seems to be so important to you,  I would have guessed that you figured out that part of the equation already.

Anyway, I’m here to help — all for ten cents a tweet. Call me. Oops, I mean tweet me.