Ben Lowndes #viewsoncomms

A perspective on PR, development and life in the South West

The Twitter types who will make me unfollow

I’ve been using Twitter for nearly three years, during which time it’s grown to such an extent that that it has recently been credited with bringing down corrupt governments (no, that was the activists) and blamed for causing the riots in England this summer (that was the rioters). Such claims do as much to highlight the (old and new) media hype as the impact social networks have on such events. They also overlook the key point, that social media is a channel, not an audience. And it’s the audience that matters.

That said, I love the way Twitter connects like-minded people and allows conversations and reaction to flow instantly from significant events in a way that wasn’t possible before. For housing providers and public bodies, it offers huge opportunities to directly connect with the public and key stakeholders.

As more organisaions realise this potential, others use it to scan the environment for issues that could impact on them. If there is trouble brewing, it’s likely to be bubbling across social media networks first. Any organisation with a significant public presence ignores this today at its peril.

But this opportunity exists against a growing backdrop of irritation that is making me want to turn Twitter off and do something more useful, like look for somewhere to live perhaps. Here, in no particular order, are some of my most annoying Twitter types.

1. Corporations, not people: Too many organisations use a ‘corporate feed’ (company name and logo rather than a friendly face) and strip it of all that’s human. Simple words like ‘we’ or the inclusion of the names of those who are posting tweets are replaced with third person references in phrases like ‘[the company] is delighted to announce that…’. Doesn’t sound particularly social does it?  It’s not that interesting either. *Unfollow.*

2. All they want to do is sell: I don’t like being sold to, but I hate the faux familiarity and matey-ness (‘hi it’s a lovely day’) that is used to mask the hard sell. Some corporations have taken it a step further by falling for the PR disaster trap of using the wrong news hook to flog stuff, as this tweet from Microsoft the day after Amy Winehouse’s death showed.  Not their finest hour, and a lesson in how to damage your reputation some misplaced online opportunism.

3. Comms people who can’t write or spell: There can be no excuse for repeatedly misusing the English language if you are a professional communicator (sometimes it’s OK if you’re on the move). If using 140 characters is an issue, write more concisely. Don’t use capitals when writing about Marketing and Social Media or other Important Words (Social Housing, for example). Don’t ever say ‘lol’. ‘Ha’ is less annoying and shorter. Sort your apostrophes out. And picking others up for their errors if you regularly make them makes you look dim as well as obnoxious.

4. All ‘news’, no interaction: I’m bored by those who use Twitter as an extension of their news or RSS feed from their website, filling it with media releases and not varying this with conversational posts. News releases are fine as part of a wider mix of content. On their own, it looks lazy and ill thought through. News is for journalists, as this blogger states. If I was a journalist with an interest in your releases, I would probably have had them before they appeared in your Twitter feed if your press office was any good. That being the case, is there any reason why a member of the public would follow such a feed? Try speaking with your followers, rather than just spouting news at them, and you may notice a difference.

5. Lazy use of #journorequest: The rise in the use of Twitter by journalists looking for material has grown to huge levels, as recent research has shown.  Many use the hashtag #journorequest to post calls for case studies, merchandise and real life stories for news and feature material. It’s a great use of Twitter to deliver original content to tight deadlines. But some of the requests I’ve seen border on the bone idle. One recently asked whether anyone had the PR contact for Seaworld? It’s on the website. Others have asked equally dim questions which do not show the industry in a good light, but are quite amusing. I may follow more of this lot in future.

I’ve hit five and not even mentioned the stalkers who say nothing (I have some friends in this category), the spammers who send links to hack into your account and abusive footballs fans. I’m sure there is potential to update this post with more examples in the months ahead.

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