Don’t Listen to Twitter Advice

After several years and thousands of Tweets on multiple accounts, I’m taking a short sabbatical from Twitter. I’ll still be covering a handful of branded accounts, but won’t be Tweeting from a personal account for at least a couple of weeks.

Why am I doing this?

The short answer is that I believe a lot can be learned by stepping away. By letting go and taking time for reflection and observation, there’s much to be gained. It’s commonplace to get caught up in best practices and tactics, but there isn’t one way of “doing Twitter” and there never will be. The beauty of the platform is that it isn’t biased towards any one use of language, context, topic, or methodology. In the breath of one hundred and forty characters or less, anything can and will be said. Because of all this it’s rather normal to fall into a trap (rut is another word that comes to mind) and get stuck with old habits, for better or for worse. The way an individual chooses to handle Twitter, either personally or professionally on behalf of a brand, is all subject to interpretation, criticism, and improvement if so desired.

Listen with caution

Look around and there isn’t a shortage of Twitter advice to be had, especially via blogs that cover online marketing and social media. Here at Sparkplug I will occasionally from time to time write on what I perceive to be useful points related to Twitter amongst the wide mix of everything else we cover (see 5 Tips on Optimizing Tweets to Generate Traffic and Lessons From the Chrysler Tweet Disaster), but it’s not something I choose to write on extensively. Like any other piece of Twitter advice, it’s my hope that these and other articles are taken with a grain of salt. It’s wise to seek out methods of improvement, but not every suggestion works for every scenario. There isn’t a catch all list of Twitter commandments that will solve all problems and optimize every unique case of usage.

Last week the topic of direct messages on Twitter came up during a conversation and I was asked to weigh in if it was a smart idea to send automated direct messages to new followers to help a brand promote a contest that it was running. My initial thought and what I’ve always held to without exception is that auto DM’s do more harm than good and may end up having a negative effect on how followers perceived a brand. Taking a step back though, is it possible that this opinion is biased? Is it possible that others have found success with auto DM’s? The advice I had given was based on my commitment towards authenticity and Twitter as a vehicle for conversation as opposed to self-promotion. The fact is that I’m sure many brands have had success using automated direct messages; it just isn’t anything that I would personally endorse (however I could be persuaded if shown enough examples of success).

When taking in Twitter advice and tips via a blog, newsletter, conference, or book, take a stance of skepticism as opposed to blind faith. There’s a lot of advice, some of it is great, some of it is bad, and a healthy portion of it is going to be subjective to your individual goals and capabilities. Not all advice is created equal.

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