Wednesday 7 December 2011

How not to win followers & influence people

Call it round 2. Call it an explosion of sheer frustration. Call it what you want. Here's my top 10 things which are irritating the hell out of me this week on social media and Twitter specifically. If you do these things, you'll probably get away with one or two. Do all of them, and either I've already unfollowed you or I'm about to. Am I alone in feeling this way? That's for you to decide.

What goes up must come down. Specifically, nurture your relationships built on social media through thick and thin. Because if you drop someone on your way up, be sure they will have no sympathy, no time, and no retweets for you on your way back down again. Time and attention are precious in the new world order.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Or in this case, only the former - the latter is positively encouraged. But don't pretend someone elses tweet is yours, use MT if you've modified the tweet you are retweeting or add your comment after a < or similar. Attribution is the basis of social capital. Don't steal someone elses capital. It makes you look stupid, because I'm assuming you have nothing to say for yourself.

Say thank you. For kind comments on blogs, for retweets on Twitter, for citations in articles. It costs you nothing, no one has any means of knowing if you meant it or not, but if you don't, it's noted. And if you're an organisation on social media, times this by 1,000. Barriers to engagement include ignorance.

Man up if you cock up. If someone tells you auto-correct has failed, thank them. Then, either delete the original tweet and repost a corrected version or apologise, acknowledge the typo/error and then repost a corrected version. Pretending like no one saw the mistake is just dumb. Your cock up has been seen by 100's if not 1000's by the time you've noticed it.

Don't hammer bent nails. If you're getting drawn into an argument, take it to DM. The damage to your reputation, apart from anything else, will be permanent if you don't win, and the risk is just not worth taking. You can't delete the conversation. And meanwhile, everyone who follows you both is watching and reading with mountain horror while vowing never to do business with you again.

Don't ask people to retweet your stuff. Especially, don't ask people to retweet your stuff on email. It makes a mockery of the social capital built on Twitter and for some of us our genuineness is something precious - asking us to compromise that is going to make us deliberately not retweet you even if we do agree with you. Geeks, especially, will respond badly to requests like this.

Don't email/phone/write to anyone in my team offering to train them for £400.00. a) it shows you have done no research whatsoever (a quick trawl of our front page would show futility), b) I have checked your Twitter account and seen how much you 'use social media to maximise your networking and money making potential' c) if you think you only need to spend 10 minutes on Twitter a day you're a numpty. Sorry. Conversations don't have defined time slots. You're broadcasting.

Don't use the word brand. Ever. People are not brands. People are messy, noisy, opinionated, unpredictable mistake prone stupidity in a skin wrapper. We make mistakes. We make inappropriate comments. Just deal with it and stop trying to make social media the digital equivalent of an operating theatre. Engagement doesn't happen with robots.

Smile occasionally. In other words, be light hearted. Crack a joke. Link to a silly video. Tell me your daughter just learnt to count and you're grinning like a loon. This ties into the above but be human. Please. I don't want to follow a bot and some humans are starting to suspiciously resemble bots. Bots get banned. Don't make me ban you.

Play nicely. Play genuinely. Play freely. But most of all, play.


  1. Lou this is a wonderful post. so much in there that i agree with - and love the way you've articulated. great stuff. though i have to confess to at least a couple of breaches of conduct :\
    a couple of thoughts......
    Never, ever, ask someone to RT? really? sometimes...not very often, i will ask someone if i think it's something they'd be interested in, happened this morning actually, i was getting on a bit of a roll supporting @stellacreasy with the tackle legal loansharks campaign (which was on the Today programme - do check it out on iplayer if you missed it!).
    i did tweet a few people asking for a RT. i do it very rarely (and in this instance it wasn't 'my stuff' per se...though it was my tweet).
    nearly all of them did RT for me (including @occupyLSX - which was fab).
    i admit i dont like it when people do it to me all the time with their latest blog post (naming no names...) but if it's very very occasionally, is that okay?

    the post also revived chat i'd been having with @lucyinnovation about whether or not it was good to welcome new followers with a tweet. Lucy does. i dont....cos i worry it feels a bit spammy.
    thoughts or socmed guru that you are?

    really great post Lou


  2. Hey Toby :o)
    I have, in light of your comment, decided there needs to be an amendment to point 6. It should read 'however, dispensation is given to asking for retweets within Twitter (and only within Twitter) to those who have accumulated the aforementioned social capital by sharing, talking, arguing and laughing with and about other people on Twitter. Abusing this privilege is still a bannable offence'

    You're right. Absolutely right.

    WRT new followers - I feel a proper idiot for welcoming them. I makes me sound important and I'm not. I think as an organisation, you should though. Because you're building a transacational relationship no matter what kind of organisation you are and it's just a lovely thing to do I think. Though doing it in batches and spamming everyone else who follows you both might lose you points rather quickly.

  3. Ok, so in a summarised version of what I originally said before I lost it all:

    Good points :) I can relate to most of them, even if that means I am occasionally guilty of one or two too.

    But something that is bugging me right now (and I guess it links to your point about asking for retweets) is that many people on my Facebook are now slowly moving over to twitter and are regularly posting status' asking for people to follow them.

    They are then having the same conversations, with the same people just in a different place and spread out over 140 character messages.

    Personally I don't think this is how it should work. It is so easy to reach new people on twitter, use it for that. I'm now getting followers who are just people who I knew from school, not people who are interested in what I have to say.

    It sounds harsh but I like to keep my friends to Facebook and geeky, PR type stuff to twitter.

    Rant over :)


  4. Sympathies with Amy. This is my 4th attempt to comment, prev three having been eaten.

    Good post Lou. I'd like to post a link to it on the Public Sector Social Media group on Yammer. Not sure if you are a member of that yourself. if you are, you may prefer to post it there yourself.

    Your fifth point is well made and is a point often skipped.


  5. Hey Amy - As Tom mentions this problem keeps rearing it's head and I think it might be an IE issue as I'm having probems commenting on my own blog now too. Which is irritating.

    Secondly, I agree. Totally. I keep my work persona, separate from my friends, schoolies, family. None of them know what I do, and I don't want them to, not cos I've anything to hide but I think because I need to have somewhere to just have a giggle occasionally. As Twitter becomes more popular, there are going to be some interesting choices to make - a lot of my friends are on Twitter already and just unfollowed me and that works. I don't have to worry about boring them. So yeah, agree totally and it's a tricky one and I don't know the answer.
    Hi Tom. Um...I'm sort of not too good at the self promotion thing. Working on it.

  6. Good post, I always wonder about tweetshrinking a tweet... is that considered a MT? If folks want their tweet to be retweeted, they should keep them about 125 characters or less, otherwise hard to retweet and comment.

  7. Generally good, but you say at the top "Here are things you shouldn't do, and if you do them, I'll unfollow you" (paraphrased)

    Then 9 and 10 are examples of things you *should* in fact do.

    Whilst I understand what you're trying to convey, the overall structure of the post could make it confusing.

  8. Great post Louise. Point 9 really resonated with me - as someone who has learned by watching @sospot, @watfordgap and you in acton, and then having it reinforced in training from @podnosh. I think there's a battle to be fought with some of my colleagues on this, I've already started, but it seems not everyone thinks like you do. I wish you worked in my organisation.

  9. Hi Paula - agree totally, thinking about making your tweet tweetable without making ppl mess about with shortening things and modifying is something the Met office could really do to learn, for example. Accidentally changing the meaning on those tweets would be bad. Very bad.

    Hi Timothy - Thank you for the post structure feedback. I er...didn't have a plan when I wrote this post. Shockingly bad behaviour I know. I tend to relax a bit in my own blog space.

    Hi Lorna - I'm touched. Seriously. I think people still haven't grasped that they're chatting around a water cooler rather than sat in a boardroom. Maybe if we tried to get everyone to tweet as if they were in jeans it wuold work or some other suitable analogy. It's a difficult mindset to get into for an awful lot of people.

  10. I don't know about this actually. I guess there's a tendency with social networking for users to write rules of engagement (I've kind of presented such rules myself at various conferences) but I'm wondering what we achieve by it. We seem to have taken the tightly controlled etiquette of forums and tried to replicate it on the social web. We should allow people to come to these platforms and not saddle them with the burden of having to 'get it'. For each of the above there's a case to be made for the opposite to apply. I often talk to students about how they can shape an identity for themselves using social media and point them in the direction of Danah Boyd's article on 'imagined audiences' ( where she problematises the idea that Twitter is a place where we 'play genuinely'.

    For experienced users of Twitter the answer to your initial question might be 'yes', you're not alone, but for the uninitiated surely it makes it a tad off-putting.

  11. Hi Dave - are the initiated likely to find my blog? I'm kind of little league. So initially I was writing for my audience. Who can know the size of width of the audience as it will end up if it's unexpected? All the people who have commented here are experienced users.

    To counteract, then, there needs to be a beginners version which I've been trying to write for years.