I’ve been talking on twitter lately about some of the ways I feel people are misusing twitter when talking about hockey games, and ways to correct it. I don’t believe there are any real Social Media Guru’s out there, just like there aren’t that many real SEO “Experts.” It’s mostly just trial and error, and eventually, you figure out what works for you and your followers.
But there are some things that don’t work, that are worth talking about. As every, most of this is my opinion, but it’s worth taking into consideration.
The Problem with Twitter -
Twitter shares some of the same problems that make email a pain. It’s easy, fast and free. It’s easy to type anything in to twitter, it’s so fast you can speak your mind right away, and it’s free so it costs nothing to use. These same three qualities hinder the medium as well. It’s easy to type anything, so people type nothing of real value. It’s fast, so you can just keep sending and sending more and more messages, filling someone’s timeline with garbage. And it’s free, so anyone has access to it, including spammers (and idiots).
The Reading Experience -
It’s easy to think that everyone reads your twitter feed just like you write it, but that isn’t the case. Just like websites often are used in the way a user thinks they should be used, twitter feeds aren’t read in the context of the person who wrote the tweets, it’s in the context of the reader. So when a player roofs a one-timer after your favorite team’s blown coverage, and you type:
“Saw that coming a mile away.”
your readers have no idea what you are talking about. Even if they are watching the same game you are, some twitter clients don’t update very often, so the context of your tweet is lost. For people not watching the same game you are, there was never any context in the first place.
It isn’t just about adding context to your tweets, but also having a reason for tweeting it. Having something to say to your followers is more important that saying nothing just for the sake of tweeting. Take the time to do it right.
Stop the Play By Play -
This will be my gospel this season: Please, stop giving play by play on your twitter stream. You can see the section above for why, but I also would say that it’s just way too much tweeting about one game. Play by play just becomes noise in your follower’s regular twitter feed. We know, you have opinions and thoughts, but on every play? All the time? Even coaches and GMs aren’t as microscopic as some of the twitter users I’ve read. Come on, folks.
If you really want to do massive amounts of in-game tweets, get a separate account. I have one (@tapegame) that I rarely use, but I don’t do a lot of in-game tweets.
This doesn’t mean don’t tweet from your seat at the game. But it does mean tweet something that is interesting outside the environment of the specific game you are at, or a small moment that only you are going to understand. If it doesn’t make sense to someone not watching the game at the same time as you, then it doesn’t need to be said.
You may notice that you don’t get as many followers to your new in-game account. Rather than take that as a blow to your ego, think about it like free Google Analytics. It’s tells you exactly how many people are interested in what. Would you rather get the tweets people want to the right people, or annoy and minimize your voice to the rest of your followers?
I’m the Mayor of Not Giving a Damn -
I have hated foursquare for as long as it’s been invading my twitter timeline. It’s nothing but noise for people who aren’t playing the same game you are. And it is nothing more than a game, like a scavenger hunt of a massive multiplayer version of tag.
We don’t care what TV show you are watching. We don’t care that you are shopping at Wal-Mart. We aren’t interested that you used DeliSquare to check-in at Frank’s Meat Market while buying the special sausage of the day, and now you earned the Salami Commander badge. Sure, it’s fun for you, but please, untie these silly games from your twitter feed. We get it, you like fresh meat. That doesn’t mean you have to share it all the time.
I will point out that I tend to take pictures of the beers I drink in various places around the country. You could make the argument that I am doing exactly what I am complaining about. The difference is, I wind up having conversations with the people who follow me about the beer I (and they) drink. That’s social. Talking with people is social. “I’m watching Dr. Who with 1,258 other people” is not social. You aren’t watching the show with them. You are home alone, with your scarf and signed photo of Tom Baker. We all know it. We don’t need to be reminded all the time.
Lowering the Noise -
I don’t follow that many people. Right now, I’m following under 100 twitter accounts. Two of those may be dogs. No, really, dogs. The reason I follow that few accounts is because I read almost every tweet in my feed. Rather than live the lie that I follow hundreds or thousands of twitter feeds, I keep my main feed shortened to things that I will find interesting all the time, and put other accounts in to lists.
This actually works well, as I can live in my main twitter timeline, but when I want something that I may be more interested in at specific times, I can go to my lists. I have lots of lists, and will probably make more soon. I have a list for the Avs fans, professional hockey writers, public radio people, NPR specific accounts, and will probably add a few for other interests I have. I know that it isn’t all that social, but what it really does is keep the expectation of how much of your twitter feed I read. If I follow you, I read every tweet, and keep that number manageable so I can read them all. If I don’t follow you, I may still be reading your tweets, but not every one all the time.
I also tend to unfollow fairly quickly when a twitter feed becomes a negative experience. I’ve unfollowed friends, bloggers I respect, people I like, and plenty of media people. If I still find them interesting, they go into a list. But if they are bringing my twitter experience down, off they go. It isn’t mean. There are plenty of people whom I like, but don’t care for their twitter streams. That’s just how it works. If I were to do anything else, I’d be lying to the people I follow, and I’m not interested in doing that.
Twitter Fights -
I hate them. I’ve been in a few, and didn’t care for it at all. Every so often, I still get roped into them (it’s hard to see a twitter fight until you are 2/3 of the way through it). These days, I tend to end the fights quickly and walk away from them. I’ve found that some people don’t like that. To them I say, whatever.
It’s hard to get the intended tone across in 140 character chunks, much less a point about something we feel passionately about. That’s fairly obvious, but it’s also hard to get across that we have heard the other person, or really understood what they are saying. Worse, we may not have really heard what they are saying at all. Twitter fights aren’t for rational discussion.
If someone wants to drop out of a twitter fight, let them. If you want to drop out of a twitter fight, and the other person doesn’t want to leave you be, block them. You can always unblock them later.
On Blocking -
I don’t like to do it, but when it’s time, it’s time. I tend to take the two-blocks-you’re-out tactic. If I need to block someone, I will do it when necessary. If I wonder if they have said anything interesting, after a while, I will unblock them. If I block them a second time, that’s it, I’m done with them. I don’t unblock that often. If someone has pissed you off or messed with you twice, they aren’t likely to change, so there is no reason to go back.
Blocking someone is the only tool we have. There isn’t another way to get someone to either leave us alone, or at least take them out of our perception. You get to choose who you hang out with in the physical world, and you should get to do so online. Facebook at least allows for a mutual relationship. You and I can’t be Facebook friends without both of us agreeing. Twitter is different.
Set a personal policy, and stick to it. Don’t tell someone you are going to unfollow or block them. That is meaningless. It’s like the bad guy saying something stupid to his victim before killing them. It doesn’t change the outcome, the guy is still dead. It’s nothing more than bad dialogue. Do the deed, and move on with your life.
For more reading about blocking, I always recommend this post from Derek Powazek on pushing the magic button.
We Are ALL in This Together -
Social media is not about just us. It’s about everyone who participates. I don’t get to write all the rules, and neither do you. Individuals who participate write the rules for what works for them. It’s like improv comedy. There is no wrong way to do it, but there are ways that work.
Whenever you do something online that you want to put in front of other people, be it blogging, podcasting, selling art, tweeting or anything else, you have to take your readers and active participants into some consideration. That doesn’t mean pandering, but it does mean you acknowledge that they are there, and they have wants and needs that may not be completely in line with yours.
Is this a list of rules? Sure, we could call it that. I could just be old man Tapeleg, yelling at you to get off his lawn. What do I know? I know what works for me, and I don’t think I’m alone.
The comments are open. Add anything you want. Tell me I’m wrong (without being a jerk about it), or whatever you think about this stuff. We need to have the conversation, to make it better for everyone.