The State of Twitter, 2013

5301633680_a6b70a3468_mHappy New Year, everyone!

My dear friend Susan Fox (aka @gagasgarden) sent me a very interesting email recently with several questions about her experiences with Twitter. She wondered if I could write up a post answering these questions in case other people would be interested too, so here we are. I actually thought Susan’s questions were broad enough to use this as an opportunity to kind of reflect on what Twitter is like on this first day of 2013. I’ve been using the platform for about three years now and have experienced ups and downs during that experience, as I think most of us have.

So, without further adieu, here are Susan’s questions and ponderings and my best effort at answering them.

“Most tweets are high level selling statements…” they make “a supposition the reader knows more about their business/company than we do…”

There are a lot of things that business accounts could improve on Twitter. Imagine how confusing these selling statements are if they are coming from an account with a bio that reads, “I have 3 kittens, 5 kids, 2 husbands, and I love hyenas!” A very significant disconnect there. This is not just a Twitter problem though. As marketing becomes something that is shuffled off to the sales team, you will find increasingly that statements about the product or service do not really seem geared towards the audience. This is a common human characteristic. When we know something really well, we assume everyone does. If we are really close to a project or a product, we assume everyone will “get it.” If you really want to sell something, you need to assume that the people you are talking to have no idea who you are, what you are selling, or why they would want it.

“Conversation is at a minimum, and not really invited. Really it’s just, buy my stuff.”

This is not entirely surprising to me. There were a lot of articles and posts during 2012 about social media as a marketing platform and whether or not social media should be used for those purposes (we actually wrote about this subject on our agency blog). There was also a lot of talk about social media ROI and how companies need to increase sales to get a return on all of the time spent tweeting and Facebooking. What we are ending up with, again because a lot of companies are strapped for time when it comes to marketing, is accounts accumulating on both radical ends of the spectrum. Some companies are doing absolutely no selling online because they believe that promotion of products should not be done online. Social Media is “not transactional.” On the other side you have accounts that are of the philosophy, “Oh man, we really need to do a hard sell to make this worth our time, money, and effort.” Factually, as is the case with most things in life, handling marketing or product promotion on social media platforms is not black-and-white or a this-or-that scenario. It is possible to be conversational and then mix in, on occasion, a promote of your own content, your own products, or your own services. This is the nuanced approach to social media that I learned when I started but that has since seemingly fallen to the wayside.

2191408271_2a93b4299c_m“Many times the tweeter has encouraged a reply [but] often the responses are ignored.”

For about the first year I spent on Twitter, this pretty much summarized my entire experience. People would tweet out questions, I would tweet back a reply, and then my tweet would fall into the ether of darkness where no tweets are ever recovered — or responded to. Predominantly this seems to be a problem with accounts that have extremely large followings. They want to send out questions to make it look like they are willing to converse, but really there is a select group of tweeters these folks converse with. If you don’t fall into that select group you are not likely to get a response. It has always seemed extremely silly to me – I make an effort particularly to reply to people I haven’t “met’ yet.

My best advice on Twitter is to find people who are newer to the platform than you are. Take them under your wing, offer advice, walk them through the tricky dance of building a following and starting conversations. This accomplishes a lot of things. First, it introduces you to tons of great people who might be on the verge of quitting Twitter out of pure frustration. It enables you to converse more. It tests your own knowledge to see where you are in terms of your Twitter journey. And yes, there is even a slightly self-serving reason to hang with people newer than you – you can show other people who might see your tweets that you really know your stuff.

“I see a randomness in tweets…no consistency…”

I think a lot of this comes from the influence of Triberr, Buffer, and other sharing tools that automate a lot of your process. This is why I maintain vigorously that you need to read every post you end up sharing. If you don’t, you could end up tweeting live about something that completely contradicts a post that just got shared from your Triberr account. I also think people are tuning into the keywords Klout and Kred say they are influential on, so like any disreputable SEO company would suggest, they are trying to plug those words into tweets, kind of like a Mad Libs game. This creates a less “human” and less consistent stream of tweets.

“I noticed you are very brief on Twitter and keep your tweets to a bare minimum. Is there a reason?”

Well, honestly, a lot of the people I used to talk to aren’t doing much beyond tweeting posts, so having good interactive conversations is harder than it used to be. In the days when I first was getting used to Twitter, a person would tweet out a post and they would be there to answer any arguments or to answer any replies. Now, because of these scheduled tweets, a person might be sleeping while their tweets are going out. That means if I really disagree (or agree) with the post they tweeted, I won’t get a reply and my response will be buried by the time they return. I also struggle with how to acknowledge people who share my posts via Triberr. I know that a lot of those folks don’t really read the posts, and thanking every single person for tweeting out a post would get really boring, especially if they don’t really know what they are sharing. I still am pondering that whole scenario. I always wanted to thank people who shared my posts in the past because I wanted to show my appreciation for their taking the time to read AND share my words. Now things are different.

29916517_ca13245441_m“Some celebs are subscribing to the Chris Brogan method of unfollowing most of their followers. Why?”

Ah yes, the great “unfollow” concept. The sad fact is that as I mentioned above, a lot of people who have become “twelebrities” are simply out of touch with what it’s like to be newer on the platform. They forget (or perhaps they never experienced) how valuable a mentor or a guide can be when you are just starting out.

The other sad fact is that platforms like Klout punish you for having a lot of dead weight amongst your Twitter followers. I was just reading about this in Marsha Collier’s new book, Social Commerce for Dummies. She went through a plot of platforms that allow you to find out who your inactive followers are, or they allow you to explore the demographics of your followers and determine who you should cut because they aren’t “relevant.” Again, this is function of losing nuance in the online world. You can talk about things relating to your business but you don’t have to do so ALL of the time. I enjoy talking about anything from The Princess Bride to SEO on Twitter, and I don’t really worry about whether that’s helping me be “influential.”

Folks are focusing on the wrong things, at least in my opinion. And if that misaligned focus influences them enough, they’ll just unfollow everyone and start again.

“What is the best tool to stay in touch with followers you would like to touch base with and know better?”

What I’ve done is create a couple of different lists that I keep as columns in Hootsuite. While I like monitoring replies better on Twitter.com, I use Hootsuite to keep track of what people I like are tweeting about. You could create a list of people tied to your business, a list of people you like to talk to for fun…whatever you want, and just track all of those as columns in Hootsuite, TweetDeck, or whatever other tool you use.

“What are best Twitter practices/etiquette?”

This would be a post unto itself, but I would say the most important things are to make sure you aren’t just broadcasting blog posts (yours or other people), try to talk to at least one new person a day, make sure you are following new people, stop chasing after “twelebrities,” offer help to others who might have questions, and be personable.

“What’s the best use of Twitter for bloggers/writers?”

I think there are two ways Twitter can come in handy for bloggers/writers. First, of course, it helps you expose your content to a wide open stream. However, there’s an understanding that if you want your posts shared, you should make sure you share other peoples’ content too. People will be more motivated to help you out that way. Also, conversing about the topics you’re interested in can be valuable. A lot of people use these conversations as an opportunity to spout out 5 links to their own blog. I’ve never been a fan of that approach. Would you mention a blog post while talking to a person at a coffee shop? You might mention it but you wouldn’t scream the URL into their ear, right? But talking knowledgeably about your subject will draw people of similar interests to you. You need to be consistent on your blog though. If you are engaging on Twitter, you also need to be responsive to comments on your posts.

“Why do followers just start dropping you?”

We mostly covered this already. Also, there are some Twitter accounts that are set up, I think, to follow for x number of days any account it tweets with, then it unfollows automatically when that time was up. I experienced some of that when I first started tweeting. I found it rather annoying!

Hopefully this is helpful. Of course I would love to hear what other people think about all of these issues too!

First image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laughingsquid/5301633680/via Creative Commons

Second image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/2191408271/ via Creative Commons

Third image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/poper/29916517 via Creative Commons

45 comments
NancyCawleyJean
NancyCawleyJean

Happy New Year, Margie! I love this post, especially about the "nuanced approach." I have definitely noticed that responses seem to be dwindling, and it makes me worry that the evolution of Twitter is moving in a direction that we don't want - a one-way message board. And here's to LISTS! Wishing you a wonderful, happy, healthy year, Margie, and look forward to chatting!

BlueBirdBC
BlueBirdBC

Hi @margieclayman Thanks for these awesome answers! Every week I publish a list of my favourite blog posts

http://list.ly/2oD

This is my comment for yours: "This post is one of my faves on this list of awesome blog posts! Not only because I'm a big fan of Margie but also because I find myself defending the fact that Twitter remains my favourite social connection tool out there.This one is for all of you skeptics - read it!"

creativeoncall
creativeoncall

Thanks for the general encouragement and good counsel. As a relative newcomer to Twitter, I use it mostly as a learning platform (you being one of my teachers), rather than for discussion, and I find it invaluable, if exhausting, for that purpose.  Yes, lists and Hootsuite columns are great, but I still struggle with doubts about how I'm sharing, responding, etc. Will you be my Twitter Therapist?  Better yet, how about hosting a "Tao NOW of Twitter" edition of #HecklersHangout at Social Slam this year, preferably live at some welcoming Knoxville watering hole.

nickkellet
nickkellet

I do wish there was a special "live" room on Twitter where you could exclude all things scheduled.

 

I'm with you I mean the certainty of reply.  The instant debate. I guess we just got busy with real stuff.

 

I've switched my Triberr policy - I now customize my tweet or I won't tweet it. I share less, but I have read the post. It's the only way to stand out in the noise.

 

Your thanking comment is spot on. I don't have an answer. I don't think senseless thanking is of value to anyone. That could be automated too. How to make a bot feel good.

 

PS This is really me. 

 

 

 

dbvickery
dbvickery

Very thorough as always, Margie. A few of my brief notes:

 

- We have a lot of tribemates in common on Twitter. If anything, I think are not as good as we should be informing people what we REALLY do for a living. We've built relationships, and those relationships have great "return" regarding friendship and perhaps even collaboration working through an idea or issue. However, few of my folks really know about Pulse Analytics - or that it is actually a fraction of what Mantis does (heck, we write software for clients of all sizes...including some very big ones).

 

- Even though products like HootSuite make it easier to follow a threaded conversation, Facebook is still better for longer-form replies/comments in an intuitive threaded layout. I sometimes use Twitter as a gating mechanism to determine if the relationship makes it to the next step of truly connecting professionally via LinkedIn - or connecting personally/"somewhat professionally" on Facebook.

 

- Ah, I remember when you first started using HootSuite. Was kinda funny listening to you figure out columns/streams ;)

 

- I love Triberr, but I understand your point about people automating without actively curating. I've taken Dan Cristo's approach - Triberr has become my RSS feeder, and I read what I share. I wish I had time to comment on all of the great posts like this one. You just get super-special treatment because you are my favorite Hecklers' Hangout co-host!

 

Marsha Collier
Marsha Collier

Another comment? You say if a tweet is posted automatically it "won’t get a reply and my response will be buried by the time they return." This can also happen when you post, then take a call or go into a meeting. My personal best practices tell me, at the end of the day, to go through my stream and try to respond to replies. it's like playing 'post office.' i've had convos last a few days!

RaulColon
RaulColon

The best reminder I got out of your post is how I need to tweak my writing geared towards my audience. One of my biggest mistakes since I went on my own was assuming that people know what I do and what I am talking about. Every week I get at least one reminder that things are not like that and the true magic is in creating a conversation creating the curiosity for you to engage deeper with those you are conversing with. 

 

I could not agree more Social platforms should not be looked as purely transactions. This is an easy way to help others understand why their might not be an established or measurable cause and effect quickly. 

 

I might want to take a look at @Marsha Collier 's book! Another one on my list! 

 

Thanks for such an awesome year start blog post. 

Marsha Collier
Marsha Collier

I quite agree with your post. Personally, my Twitter account is there to connect with "real people" - those I have friended online and those who may read my books. I don't check someone's Klout score before responding. If people have a bio, I want to connect. I learn by hearing different POVs from people all over the world. That is how I met you.. Tweeting is an interaction (you read my opinions in my book), not a one-sided broadcast. This is social media (emphasis on the word "social).

 

The "relevancy" I mentioned in my book was more directed to the small business who is beginning social media; trying to reach out initially to their customer. A yogurt shop with one location in Granada Hills California would benefit more by directing their efforts to their own community (customers and industry) versus throwing a wide net and expecting new customers to walk in.

 

My tweet stream is a mix of my personal and business life. I believe that is what today demands: transparency.

"Twelebrities" perhaps have a different reason for being on Twitter. I can't comment on manipulating your following - other than I do run reports on dead Twitter accounts on a regular basis and prune them from my stream.

MZazeela
MZazeela

Great article, Margie. Seems that so many folks, individuals and companies alike, have forgotten what the word "social" really means.

 

Social, as in social media, is an adjective and is defined as such:

 

1 - pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations.

2 - seeking or enjoying the companionship of others. friendly; sociable, gregarious.

 

The definition implies interaction and participation.

 

Cheers,

Marc

buildandbalance
buildandbalance

The title of the post was so intriguing I had to have a look. It's a good post. I have gone through those same ups and downs on Twitter. I did almost quit about a year ago because it just seemed to be so much noise and just link after link occasionally interrupted by a quote. 

 

I've gotten frustrated by the lack of response from some accounts. To wit I unfollowed one just today because I've written him back a few times and have never gotten a reply. Obviously I was writing a robot as I've actually never seen any humanish post from that account. Just automated tweet after tweet. 

 

I try to be human and engage as well as share my content and sometimes sell as you suggest. I can't say I've generated a lot of business from Twitter, but I don't sell online really so it's all right. I still find it more interesting than Facebook. Google + is becoming more interesting as it's like Twitter but with more depth. I plan to spend more time there this year at the expense of Facebook, which is becoming way too commercial imho. I hope to engage with you from time to time. I'm now Follower #7,298. :-)

kevjkirkpatrick
kevjkirkpatrick

Nice Post Margie! All good stuff and yes those unfollow a-holes are annoying! All the Best to my Ohio friend in 2013!

KDillabough
KDillabough

Great questions posed, and great answers provided. I work to have mini-conversations on twitter, as often as possible. It's great when people actually engage in two-way (or more) convo streams: fun, informative, educational or otherwise. I tweet out what I believe will be of value to readers, engage in banter and info exchange wherever possible, and treat twitter as I would with any other tool for conversation, engagement, education and enlightenment. And I ignore the blatant, slap-in-the-face self promotion, one-way, push selling. Cheers! Kaarina

Martina McGowan
Martina McGowan

Wise counsel, Margie, of course. I am a relative newbie and have seen some of the transformations you talk about. Most of the real engagement for me has come from a handful of chats. These have given opportunities to get to know people better and develop real friendships and relationships; especially in those chats where selling your stuff is strongly discouraged.

 

In terms of the selling, I think many people on Twitter, as well as some of the other platforms have forgotten that in order to make a sale, especially if you'd like to do it more than once requires spending time in building a relationship.

 

New people, of which I still count myself as one, are at a major disadvantage if they don't stumble into people who remember being a newbie, people who are willing to take a little time to help or explain something, or wander into chats that offer some value to them.

 

The following and unfollowing, I cannot address. I still do that manually, and remain woefully behind. The issue, I think is not whether others celebrate us as celebrities, but what we think of ourselves and what we are doing.

 

It all continues to change as we each determine how to use it best, as do we. Like life, its a work in progress and we learn as we do. You have to figure out what works, what doesn't, and where you are headed.

gagasgarden
gagasgarden

Margie, Since you took me under your wing and became my Twitter mentor I have seen so many changes as Twitter morphed into the powerful platform it is now. Just look at the role it played during the campaign, and throughout the world in countries fighting for freedom. However, in marketing jargon I read a post early this morning by a marketing guru that suggested Tweets during business hours should be primarily all biz all-the-time. I think like you often say people want to do business with people they have relationships with, then inadvertently place barriers to building them.

BrandonPDuncan
BrandonPDuncan

Yep, yep, and yep.

 

All great advice and much of it I simply never followed (or followed in the best way.) So, I simply did the right thing for me and what I do online and just shucked the platform. Seems a little drastic, but when you look at "best practices" like you have above and seem to be doing it all for the wrong reasons, it's time to re-evaluate whether or not it's the right platform to be using.

 

Se la vi. It was fun at first. I'll stick to a mix of FB, G+ and Pinterest. They all serve distinct purposes and are still "fun" for me to use. My mantra (for everything but my day job, that is) starting this year is simple---if it's not fun for me, I'm not doing anymore. This way I know my heart is in it and that always gets the best responses.

 

For those of you just starting out on Twitter, DO. YOUR. RESEARCH. It's an interesting platform that can make you a mint or miserable. Best of luck! :)

Latest blog post: Daddy-Time Bank Account

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @NancyCawleyJean thanks so much, Nancy! Great to see you here. I'm not even sure it's evolving into a one way communication channel so much as an automated radio station. Makes me sad. 

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dbvickery
dbvickery

 @creativeoncall Tellin' you @margieclayman - we gotta go "on location" where it all started. But wouldn't be right without Sam, Jure, Dawn and Kaarina as regular hecklers, right?

GettysburgGerry
GettysburgGerry

 @nickkellet Hey @NickKellet, I have to say that I don't know that I completely agree with you here. I find Twitter extremely more rewarding than any other platform, however it takes a lot more effort and involvement. Replying is a must, but you have to be set up to do it from wherever you may be, work. Stopping what you are doing to make the reply...work..you get my drift. 

I think a twitter chat is the "live" room you speak of, it has led me to some wonderful people who I have a solid friendship with...you being one of those folks. 

I am thankful for a share, I go in and thank each and every person who shares one of my posts. I believe that is part of the etiquette we speak of. Be nice, be respectful, I don't require much more if those two things are in place.  I have always had a more lenient attitude about the social space, it is up to me to change the channel if I am not interested...

Just mho....great day buddy...;-) 

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @nickkellet Heya Nick! Glad it's really you - that would have been a creepily convincing bot version of you!

 

You're right - I think a lot of people in 2007,8, and 9 were unemployed so there was more time for them to converse, and hence when you jumped into Twitter there were more people talking. Maybe it's a good sign that conversing on Twitter is going away?

Latest blog post: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @dbvickery Hey, HootSuite was intimidating to me at the time! Columns? Are you kidding? 

 

I definitely jumped into social media, or rather dipped my big toe in, to find out what I could so that we could help our clients. I never really intended to use it seriously myself, but as I got more used to it I saw the possibilities for our own company. Of course by then I had already befriended a ton of people who in other realities could even be seen as competitors. Ah well. I have no regrets :)

 

I also use Triberr as my RSS feed, but I only share posts I read. My commenting has definitely decreased though. It makes me sad - I miss the conversation!

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margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @RaulColon  Thanks Raul - you should definitely check out Marsha's book - there are a lot of GREAT tidbits in there and it's a good, easy read.

 

I think a lot of people forget that their profession isn't obvious just because they're tweeting. We assume a lot when we talk to people online, and sometimes that can get us into trouble!

Latest blog post: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @Marsha Collier Hey there lady! i just finished your book tonight (just now in fact) and it's a VERY useful tool! Well done you :) Review forthcoming! 

 

I have never bothered trimming the "fat" from my account. I just have never worried about it. I don't worry about people who unfollow me either. I used to track that stuff early on, like I used to worry about my blog traffic and my Klout score. In the end, none of that stuff is really why I'm here, so I just got out of the habit of caring. There are good arguments for trimming dead weight, like making sure it doesn't look like you're inflating your numbers, but eh...call me lazy :)

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margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @buildandbalance It is very frustrating when accounts don't follow you back sometimes. I often don't let it bother me, but as I have gotten more established and have proven myself to not be a bot or just a coattail grabber, it kind of seems more like high school clique stuff more than anything else. So be it...:)

 

Thank you for following me - I have returned the favor - and thank you for this great comment! :) 

Latest blog post: 2191408271_2a93b4299c_m

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @KDillabough That pretty much describes my technique too. I look for people who are seeming to want to actually converse and I try to feed that spark :) It used to be a lot easier to find little tidbits of conversation that you could jump into. Now it seems like Facebook is really the place for conversation. 

Latest blog post: 29916517_ca13245441_m

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @Martina McGowan There is a definite need to learn how to balance a lot of objectives when you are using social media - no matter what reason brings you there. I think a lot of the mistakes (or bad practices) we see are the result of people and companies jumping into whatever platform was considered "hot" at the time. They didn't set up a plan, objectives, or any ideas on how to accomplish what would most help them. Now a lot of people are trying to go back and make up for lost time, and it's not going over very well!

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margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @berkson0 Yeah, breaking in through all of this noise was extremely difficult three years ago when I was new. Now there are three more years worth of people. So many more chats, so many more blogs. It's easy to forget how frustrating it can be to break through that tough ceiling. 

Latest blog post: 29916517_ca13245441_m

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @gagasgarden I have always thought about Twitter as an extension of my office. When you're at work do you ONLY talk about work? That won't make you very popular with your co-workers, your clients, or your vendors. You talk about the weather, you talk about your weekends, whatever may be on your mind. It's understood when you're at work that you're in a professional setting. That's how I look at Twitter. I'm at work but I can talk to other people as I do in the "real world." It's a balancing act. It's a dance!

Latest blog post: 29916517_ca13245441_m

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @BrandonPDuncan Aw, I didn't know you quit Twitter altogether. It definitely is important to do what you are doing though. If a platform doesn't seem to be the best way to spend your time, you need to pound on the ones that are helping you. I would love to try to dedicate more time to Google Plus but I just don't have the time for it, so it has fallen by the wayside pretty much. So it goes. 

Latest blog post: 29916517_ca13245441_m

buildandbalance
buildandbalance

 @margieclayman Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Twitter will always be both interesting and confusing because there are so many different types of people on there who treat it differently. Then, there are the spammers. Sigh. The blessing and the curse of social media. Like the world, it's still more positive than negative. :-)

KDillabough
KDillabough

 @margieclayman Our mission, should we choose to accept it...(cue Mission Impossible music)...feed the sparks as much as possible in 2013. Are you with me? ;)

CASUDI
CASUDI

 @margieclayman  @berkson0 I have been thinking along these lines ~ how much harder to start today compared to when we started :-) When I take a NuBe under my wing I advise creating a  "chat" strategy ~ starting with some of the simpler ones to get the hang of things and then continue the conversation after the chat. Whenever possible I join and intro the NuBe to the chat participants and take some time to bring them "out" and give them confidence! If we all did this consistently we might help with the "Self Promote" disease! As always a great post on a timely subject.

GrandmaOnDeck
GrandmaOnDeck

@margieclayman- you picked me up as I learned to exercise on twitter, You walked me through Twitter 101. As I move on to twitter 201 I will learn all the applications and tools to use, ones that best suit me.This blog is excellant for all, newbies or vintage as you share and learn. Important facts are to be honest, respectful, and trust building. Keep learning and building. Isn't that what makes for good customer participation?

 

 

 

 

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  1. [...] The State of Twitter, 2013 Margie Clayman discusses a topic near and dear to our hearts here at Digibiz: Twitter. We love Twitter, and quite enjoyed Margie’s thoughts. We don’t necessarily agree with everything she says, but seriously admire the way she says it. (We will be sharing our own thoughts about Twitter and marketing very soon!) [...]