Tag Archives: Twitter

Changing Twitter might not be such a bad thing

There’s been a lot written and tweeted about the new direction that Twitter is taking in terms of introducing a more algorithm based timeline rather than its current chronological feed.

Twitter purists aren’t happy about this change and there are those who think it takes the social network down a similar route to Facebook, which as we know picks and chooses which posts you see (or don’t see) and in which order.

Twitter was, or is, my favourite social network. I spent a lot of time chatting on Twitter to other mums around 2009-2012 during the time I had my two youngest daughters.

These days I use it more professionally. I think it’s a fabulous source of information, news, tips and advice from other professionals. For breaking news, or for seeing what others think of the TV programme you’re watching? It can’t be beaten. It’s also a great customer service tool allowing customers to interact with brands, get real time information, provide feedback and get answers to questions (when done properly).

But Twitter does have a problem. It isn’t making enough money and it isn’t attracting enough new users to the site. There tends to be a lot more pushing out of content and a lot less conversation than there used to be. And they’ve even lost Stephen Fry, thanks in part to the rising army of twitter trolls who aren’t using the network for good.

In my job I spend a lot of time advising others on how to most effectively use social media to communicate. When people approach me about using social media, they usually just mean Facebook. I always used to encourage people to think about Twitter too (as well as other social networks), because I loved it and found it so useful. But the other day when somebody asked me about using Twitter and whether it was worthwhile, I found myself hesitating.

For all that I love Twitter, there’s no denying that in my experience it’s nowhere near as effective as Facebook when it comes to the number of interactions you get with posts. The number of hits to our website that comes from Facebook far outweighs those coming from Twitter, and this always disappoints me. Especially when you have to spend a fair bit of time crafting several tweets on one topic to schedule at different times of the day over several days, compared to maybe just one or two on Facebook (if you get the post right).

In that respect, an algorithmic timeline on Twitter might be no bad thing. Craft a really good tweet with some great media and maybe it’ll have that bit more shelf-life, showing up in follower’s timelines for longer than before. If the algorithm got really smart it might even ensure those followers who were particularly relevant for that piece of information still got to see it, even if they didn’t visit Twitter for hours or days after it was posted.

I can also accept that Twitter can be difficult to get into, especially if you’re not sure of the ‘house rules’ and don’t know who to follow. Suggestions like making it easier to mention and reply and to take usernames, links and photos out of the 140 character limit that I read recently make a lot of sense and personally I’d like to see Twitter exploring this before opening up to longer posts. For me, the brevity and the challenge of crafting something meaningful within those 140 characters is part of the appeal of Twitter.

The problem Twitter has is that is knows a lot less about us than Facebook does. It hasn’t spent years gathering as much intelligence on our every move – what we like, where we go, our friends, family, favourite brands, personal interests and relationships – like Facebook has. With much less time than I used to have to spend scrolling through my timeline, as a user I’m open to the idea of something that curates those tweets which I’m most interested in so I don’t miss anything. I’m a fan of Nuzzel, which does exactly that. But I’m not sure Twitter knows me well enough to know which content I’ll value most.

One thing is certain, Twitter has to move with the times and it has to make improvements both to attract new users and to retain the interest of the ones it has. So unlike the purists who want to see Twitter stay the way it was I’m interested to see how it develops and what those changes will mean for me, as a user, and also as a communicator.

As communicators, we shouldn’t be too afraid of an algorithmic approach. What we’ve learnt from Facebook is that we just have to get better at what we do, challenging ourselves to produce higher quality content that people find useful and entertaining – and that’s no bad thing. Maybe a bit of ‘competition’ for timeline space will raise the quality of what we see on Twitter too.

Anyway, I’m up for the challenge and hoping that the changes will help reinvigorate Twitter so that I never have to hesitate when discussing its value again.



Have we really forgotten how to ‘chat’ on Twitter?

Man checks black Iphone sitting at table with laptop

Last week, Paul Stallard asked this question on his blog: Why don’t you ask questions on Twitter anymore?

It’s really resonated with me and yes, I agree, there is a definite change on Twitter in the last year or so – there is more broadcasting and less genuine conversation.

I first got hooked on Twitter about five years back, when I was expecting my second child. It was a great place to chat with other mums and mums-to-be, ask questions, offer or ask for reassurance, share experiences , or just find somebody to talk to during a 3am night feed!

I use Twitter very differently now, largely as a professional tool, and as a way of getting to know other comms professionals, learning from them and hopefully giving something of myself back. And of course it is now a massive part of what I do for a living.

I still love Twitter, it’s my first choice social network and almost every time I skim through my newsfeed (which is many times a day) I’ll find something interesting, amusing or useful. I’m forever favouriting links to blog posts or articles that I want to keep or read later.

But Paul’s right, there are a lot less questions, and a lot less genuine conversation.

I love talking to people on Twitter, and I love Twitter chats, because they are a chance to indulge in a bit of real time conversation with some fascinating people from across the world.

And since reading Paul’s post I’ve decided to take a proactive approach and post a few more questions myself – and also try to provide answers to any questions that I see (if I think I have something valuable to add, of course!)

And for those accounts we manage for our organisations, perhaps a few more questions (and answers) might just encourage a little more of the  precious engagement that we’re always seeking.

Maybe we should all try it, and bring back some of that early Twitter spirit to our timelines?

What do you think?

Some Twitter nostalgia…

A bit of random Googling the other day and I unearthed this: A blog post which once listed of all UK councils that were on Twitter in early 2009.

It was put together by Liz Azyan and it was at time when being on Twitter was, for a council, something a bit new and wacky. The debate then was all about whether councils should be on Twitter at all, not how they should be using it.

Sadly you can’t see the original list on the page anymore, but I remember it detailed all the councils on Twitter, their handle, and how many followers they had.

I can vividly remember at the time thinking how brilliant this was and how excitedly I scanned the list. And I remember being genuinely gutted that my few month old shiny new council account hadn’t made the list…

No worries, a quick post in the comments and Liz sorted it for me:

My comment

I had a good old chuckle to myself when I read that back. How could we have been overlooked?? After all we had a whole 134 followers!!!

But yes, I was genuinely proud of that number at that time… because we were new, we were cool and the council Twitter account was my brand new baby!

Happy to say we now have more than 7,600 followers… (and it’s still a little bit my baby, even if it is now coming up for six years old!)

Does your Twitter account need some TLC?

Remember when you first set up that twitter account?

Chances are you spent some time trying to build up some followers, made sure you had great content to share and uploaded some pretty profile pics and cover images.

Hopefully, that early effort paid off, and you built up a community of interested, engaged followers. A quick glance at the stats tells you that you’re attracting a steady stream of new followers – so keep the content flowing and it’s job done. Isn’t it?

It’s easy to ‘neglect’ an account without realising you’re doing it. I try to make sure I spend some ‘quality time’ with each of the twitter accounts I manage for work and it is amazing how a little effort brought in instant rewards – lots more relevant, interested followers!

So if your trusty old twitter account is overdue some TLC, here’s a little checklist that’ll be a great start:

1. Log onto the account directly, rather than through a third party
I usually use Hootsuite for scheduling content, managing replies etc. But when you log onto Twitter on a desktop PC you’ll soon get a feel for how the account is really looking and any quick updates you can do to jazz things up a bit.

2. Regularly refresh cover photos and ‘pinned’ posts
The right cover image can make a page look fabulous – so make sure they’re current. A beautiful snow scene isn’t the look you want to go for in summer. If you’ve pinned tweets to the top of your page, check they’re still relevant – if not, change them. Make a note to remind yourself to change them again before too long.

3. Check notifications
Have a look and see who your new followers are. Depending on how many you have you could tweet them to thank them for following. If they’re relevant people, maybe follow back, or add them to lists. See who’s been retweeting your content and thank them – it’ll be appreciated and might start an interesting conversation. Maybe they’re also worth a follow if you’re not already.

4. Use the ‘Discover’ tab
Have a look at the accounts and tweets that Twitter thinks you might be interested in – you might be surprised how relevant some of their suggestions are. It has come a long way from the “people like you” feature of a few years ago. Look for relevant people to follow, conversations to join, hashtags to follow and content to retweet.

5. Look through hashtags to join conversations and accounts to follow
Consider the hashtags that are relevant to your account – take a look at them. Are you remembering to make best use of hashtags in your tweets? Research shows that using a maximum of two hashtags per tweet (but no more!) increases engagement. Look at trending topics and the popular hashtags used by your target audience – is there anything relevant that you can join in with? (Without posting spam!)

6. Use Just Unfollow
If you’re worried about your following to follower ratio (which isn’t something I lose sleep over, to be honest), use Just Unfollow to unfollow inactive accounts or irrelevant ones that aren’t following you back. Once you’ve culled a few, you can try following some new accounts in their place and hopefully you’ll be rewarded with new followers in return!

7. Check over your analytics
Twitter’s own analytics offer a really fascinating insight into which content went down well with your followers. Take a look at yours (all users now have access to Twitter analytics – just go to analytics.twitter.com). See which tweets worked best – and take that as inspiration for future content.

8. Set up searches to help you join conversations and see relevant content
Head back to Hootsuite (or whatever platform you’re using to manage all your accounts). Make sure you have tabs set up to see your account’s lists and to do keyword searches for tweets that mention relevant topics or hashtags. Don’t forget to review these regularly, joining in conversations, retweeting interesting content and generally engaging with others.

It’s amazing how spending a bit of quality time with a twitter account can reinvigorate your enthusiasm for it, inspiring you to build your audience and produce even more quality content in the future.

So go on, try it!

Crisis comms, Twitter tools, Facebook rules & the changing newspaper world: 4 top reads this week

Here are four of the most interesting reads I’ve found on the web this week:

‘Cut out and keep’ guide to crisis management – Catherine Lane covers the basics of how to respond to a crisis – the rest is up to us! Speed, clarity and establishing yourself as the trustworthy source of information are key.

Embed a tweet within a tweet – I love a new little trick and I really like this one, which allows you to link to a tweet in your tweet and have an image preview of that tweet appear underneath your comment. Brilliant if you want to comment but just don’t have enough characters. It also means you’re including an ‘image’ with your tweet too, helping boost your tweet’s engagement rate – brilliant.

Facebook is demolishing the like gate – From November, Facebook no longer wants page owners to incentivise people to ‘like’ their pages – so you won’t be allowed to prevent people from entering a competition or getting a discount if they haven’t ‘liked’ your page. The aim is to make sure that page likes are really genuine – that they come from users who want to stay in touch with the content on your page. I’ve never used a ‘like gate’ on any of my pages, but have run competitions where users have been asked to ‘like’ the page to enter. I think there is a place for this, if the thing you’re giving away is specifically relevant to the page you manage – e.g. a Spa business giving away a pamper day – you would hope the kind of people who would enter are local to that place and interested in attending that Spa. Therefore, asking them to ‘like’ the page seems perfectly reasonable as it should be in line with their interests. However, if that same Spa was giving away £50 cash and you had to ‘like’ the page to qualify, then the potential competition entrants may not be interested in the Spa business at all and you can see the problem. Maybe there’s room for some discretion on this one – what do you think?

David Dinsmore: ‘We aren’t as obsessed by the Daily Mail as we used to be’ – Not the most popular newspaper around my part of the world, but still interesting to read Sun editor David Dinsmore’s views on how the newspaper industry is changing around him. He says that:  “In this hugely fragmented media environment, we understand that our competitive set is not other papers. It’s Google, Facebook and BuzzFeed, even Netflix, as much as the Mail. And it’s also Alton Towers and where you go shopping.”


4 best links of the week

Here are 4 of the best things I’ve read this week – hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Five challenges for student union comms – A really interesting piece by Jo Walters, Digital Engagement Manager at the University of Sussex Students Union, on the brilliant Comms2Point0 blog. She makes the point that today’s students are a very different breed to the stereotype we might have in our minds – or even to the kind of students we were not that long ago. With the rise of smartphones and social media, long gone are the days when a poster in the Student Union was the main form of communication…

Five things businesses need to know about Facebook’s save feature – I love the fact that Facebook finally offer the chance for users to ‘save’ relevant links that pop in their newsfeed to read later. I’m going to use it a lot – but it’s also a good thing for Facebook page managers. In this post, author Mari Smith makes some really good points about how we might want to consider adapting our content as a result – she suggests more posts with links (which can be saved), for example. As this post rightly points out, Facebook is not currently offering any analytics on the save feature – so page managers will not know how many times their content has been saved for later. I think that would be a really useful thing to know – so hopefully Facebook will think about introducing that in coming months.

Why Content marketing fails – A really humorous guide to content marketing by Rand Fishkin. Very entertaining but also packed with advice. I’d recommend showing this to anybody who ‘doesn’t get’ content marketing yet – but even for those who already live and breathe it there are some tips and advice which will help you ‘fail’ less!

Why increased visibility on Twitter is just a few tweaks away – While a lot of the advice in this post by Sprout Social is basic stuff, it’s good to go back to basics once in a while and make sure you’re still getting the fundamentals right. The advice on using no more than 2 hashtags per tweet actually made me realise my organisation should be using them more – hashtags are something we probably don’t make enough of at the moment (but we will keep it to no more than two when we do!) I was also interested to read that the majority of users prefer it when you capitalise the first letter of every word in your tweet – something that I personally dislike… not sure I can bring myself to do this?!?