Twitter: Your mistakes

Recently, I posted a comment from my twitter account (@briandfrancis) “While there is no wrong way to use twitter, some of you are doing it incorrectly.”    I was acknowledging that Twitter is still the lawless wild west of the internet, but at the same time there are ways that you can better communicate with me, and ways that you’ll get more out of it.  What I found:  a lot of twitter users are uncomfortable in an arena without rules and worried about how they are perceived.  Thus this blog post.  (BIG FAT DISCLAIMER:  I may not know what I’m talking about in this arena, as a follower helped point out when I mistakenly called this a blog about Twitter mistakes when it is really a post about twitter mistakes within a blog about everything).  I’ve also discovered that there are more things to talk about than one post can cover.  So consider this Part 1 of several.  Or maybe many.  We’ll see.

So with all the caveats that I’m no expert, there are no rules, and this is all subject to change, here are a few suggestions that I think could make both our experiences better.

1. Hashtags:   There are few devices within Twitter that can make it more useful, and that can build your follower base more quickly than hashtags.  And some of you just aren’t using them right.  I’m not talking about the #OhAndAnotherThing hash tag that some like to add to the end of their tweet.  Some of you right now are saying, “Yeah, I hate when people do that.”  Well, I don’t.  In fact I do it myself.  So someone else will have to blog post about that. #mymoneyison@itybtyctykty #youshouldfollowhersheissmartandfunny

No, my frustration lies in the misuse of them for their given purpose.  The misuse falls into two categories: failing to use a hashtag when you should and using it when you shouldn’t.  As an example, my son loves NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson.  If my son were old enough to use twitter, he would  want to know everything about Jimmie Johnson.  What Jimmie  had for breakfast, what he thinks about New York traffic, and his insights on the latest with NASCAR.  I on the other hand, don’t care about Jimmie’s preferred toothpaste.  But (hypothetically) I’d like to know everything he is saying about NASCAR.  In fact, I’m so interested in NASCAR that I regularly search for tweets with #NASCAR as a hashtag.  This is the perfect use for a hashtag, so that users can search for information by subject and find comments from people whether they follow them or not.

So there are two mistakes that I believe Jimmie can make.  First, he might omit the #NASCAR hashtag from his tweet about the quality of this week’s track.  Without the #NASCAR hashtag, I’ll never see it because I don’t follow him.  OR, Jimmie may add the #NASCAR hashtag to everything he tweets.  Now I’m frustrated because his tweet about Chandra’s morning sickness is showing up in my search where all the other tweets are about the NASCAR topic du jour.  It is Twitter Spam, an unwelcome message forced upon the masses.  Even my son, who loves Jimmie, would find this frustrating.  While he does want to know where Jimmie shops for flip flops, he doesn’t want to know it when he is reading about restricter plate modifications.

The reason that I bring this up: it is a productivity issue for me.   While I am a social user of twitter, and actually enjoy reading about everything from my friends car trouble to their vacations, it is also a business tool for me.  In my line of work (government relations) it is a fantastic tool to follow the actions of federal, state and local government.  But misplaced hashtags make it harder to find the important information, and lead to missed information that could be invaluable.  So please, only use a hashtag if the tweet pertains to the subject.  And if you aren’t sure what the hashtag means, ask those using it.  In a land without laws, the mob rules.

Oh, and if you are a private account, don’t bother.  Your tweets don’t show up in the search stream so save yourself the characters.

Next time:  If I wanted commercials, I’d get rid of my DVR.  And later: You aren’t following enough people.

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5 Responses to “Twitter: Your mistakes”

  1. CBJgreennews Says:

    Nice overdue blog. I meant post. Now, can you do something about twitterfeed programs that regurgitate other tweeters?
    Oh, and a belated thanks on directions to the CMGC snack machines.

  2. @itybtyctykty Says:

    1. Excellent post, Brian. The kind of hashtag abuse you’ve discussed also bothers me. We tend to follow all sorts of smart people; and when they commit these etiquette errors they just sound less intelligent than they are.

    2. Now, how can I complain about the other type of hashtag abuse in your post when it’s that complimentary? #youflattermebutthanks

    3. Hm. If I were to write a post about such a deserved topic, that’d mean I’d have to get around to actually starting that blog like all the kids are doing these days. However, your money may be in a good place anyway.

  3. Brian Cox Says:

    #Amen

  4. @jeffgwise Says:

    Good reading and I concur with all you wrote.

    Not that there’s any way for one person or entity to aggregate all the Charlotte-related hashtags, but I’m wondering if it’d be worthwhile for someone to regularly post categories of CLT hashtags?

    Something like: #cltcc = City Council #Meckbocc = County Commissioners #cmsbrd = School Board

    Plus whatever else is in use for government issues in the area. And a tweet like this could have a link to a post explaining hashtags, especially how they relate to Charlotte, etc.

    The CLTPolitics account might be a good candidate.

  5. briandfrancis Says:

    For similar advice on Foursquare, check out http://theelephantfliesatnight.blogspot.com/2010/01/foursquare-my-personal-opinion.html#comment-form

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