Are you representing a brand on Twitter? Read this.

Before you hire someone to run your Twitter account, they should be checked for basic Twitter competency before you hand over the keys to your brand.  Here are some things any Twitter brand pro needs to know.

1. The dot-mention

Starting a tweet with a username pretty well guarantees that it won’t be seen by anyone except you, the user mentioned, and any mutual followers you may have.  If you want to start a tweet with a username as a noun in your tweet you need to prepend it with a character.  The crowd has spoken!  Just place a period in front of the username to prevent it from being treated like a reply.

2. The favorite button isn’t anonymous

As part of Twitter’s revised algorithm, certain Tweets are put in your followers Timelines when you favorite them.  Be wary, this can have devastating consequences for your brand.

You wouldn’t want to favorite a magnificently hilarious and inappropriate tweet and then have your brand’s name saying “[your brand here] favorited:”

3. People love to be told what to do

Doing the whole “RT if you like xyz” is incredibly effective.  Hijacking things like sports/university affiliations are a very good way to get tons of cheap exposure.

4. Don’t phone it in.

Lots of brands think they can get away with auto-posting their Facebook Page statuses to their Twitter accounts.  Every single one of those tweets comes with a “fb.me” link.  Nothing advertises your ambivalence to Twitter quite like this.

These channels are different, and should be handled differently.

Scheduled content should be handled appropriately, as well.  If it’s obvious that a tweet was sent by a robot because no human wanted to be around to pull the trigger, some may perceive apathy.  Use scheduled posts sparingly.  Using scheduled posts for time-based contests (“We are going to announce a secret contest code word at 1 PM MST”) is a great way to ensure flawless execution of a time-sensitive campaign.  Other tweets?  Proceed with caution.

5. Visual content is most likely to win

Twitter’s research states that a Tweet with a photo is 35% more likely to be retweeted.

6. Hashtags are a force

Don’t try to be cute with hashtags.  Hashtags are used to allow the wealth of Twitter’s jabber congeal around a subject.  Used wrong, they can backfire terribly.

digiornos-you-had-pizzaDiGiorno Pizza proved that hashtag hijacking is not always the best idea with this Tweet.  The #WhyIStayed hashtag was being used at the time for victims of domestic abuse to share why they stayed in an abusive relationship.

Remember: with Twitter you are not in control of the discourse, and things can turn against you very quickly.

Here is where VH1 tried the hashtag #AskThicke. The discourse soon shifted.  People were grilling Robin Thicke for sexism, calling his hit song “Blurred Lines” a rape anthem, among other things.

If you’re going to go with a hashtag, make sure there is no way for it to backfire.  Comedy Central’s @midnight is a pace setter in this space.

7. Be personal

Nothing charms your followers more than a friendly discussion on Twitter.  Use emoji and emoticons.  Make jokes.  Talk to other brands.  People are on Twitter to chat without boundaries.  Go for it.

8. Distill.

You have 140 characters, and you should use them wisely.  Don’t use hashtags ironically or flippantly.  Your tweet should have meaning, and not be a waste of your followers’ time.

I’d better not see that on Facebook.

I’d better not see that on Facebook.

Here’s a quote you hear after every camera flash at every party you ever go to.  Or people milling about reminding people to not tag them in photos.

And why is that, exactly?  So their Mom won’t see?  So that potential employers won’t see what an animal they are?  (employers should never screen prospective employees using Facebook, but that’s a topic for another day)

The answer is: yes, to all of these questions.  But the reason is simple: people want to be in control of their digital identities.  And that leads me to the thesis: stop putting embarrassing photos of your children online.

We are pioneers of a new frontier.  We were thrust into a world with social media, but we weren’t given the foresight to see how it will affect our identities months, years, decades, or millennia in the future.  It was a slow fade–we all enjoyed tagging on Facebook, but then what happened?  People lost jobs, or were flatly refused employment as a result of their emerging online identities.  Our consciousness shifted.  We realized that there were consequences to sharing on Facebook.

It’s time for our consciousness to shift again.

The next generation is being forced into social media.  Their online identities are becoming known to Google and Facebook, and they don’t even have a say in the matter.  We live in a world where Facebook has facial recognition engines as good as (or better) than the human brain, but infinite capacity to store that data.

Facebook’s facial recognition is a terrifying collection of data.  This means that a photo you took in a Las Vegas club could actually connect you to the people in the background and margins of your frame.

We are subjecting our children to this scrutiny.  Our children are not even ready to fathom the expanse of the Internet and how it shapes their identity, yet we are dumping their lives, moments, and history into a machine that knows more about the state of humanity than the world has ever known.

Our lives are being cataloged.

Every photo you take is algorithmically scrutinized.  Every post you make is geotagged so you won’t forget where you were.  Every hashtag you use is intimately connected to the breath of global consciousness.

This is perfectly okay–for you.  Your children do not need their lives pasted into a digital scrapbook they have no control over.

In the past year, I’ve seen…

  • pictures of naked children in bathtubs (way too many, actually)
  • videos of children crying as they are forced into using a training toilet
  • videos of naked, panicked children running around the house during a rain storm

And I could go on.  If you’re not comfortable sharing this level of detail about you and your personal life on Facebook (Twitter, Instagram, etc), then you shouldn’t post these things about your children, either.

#precipitate: Watching Twitter Aggregate The World’s Pulse

alternate title: My Love Letter To Twitter

This should be no secret to anyone: Twitter is my favorite social network. Twitter has earned my respect because the social network is impressive. Facebook and Twitter have the unique position of receiving a majority of the world’s thoughts, emotions and input on the world’s events and the pulse of the social scene.

Twitter aggregates these events better. Over the past hour, I have watched the Jerry Sandusky trial verdicts precipitate on Twitter. The key words of the case rose right to the top of Twitter’s trending topics.

I’ve been using Twitter since it was a baby social network, long before it was a social media bohemoth, like it is today.

Twitter will be a great social network for years to come, because they love and listen to their users (how could you not–they’re very social).

Twitter’s main feature set was put in place by its users: @username tagging, #hashtagging were all features used by Twitter users before the features were developed into the product. These features, as well as Twitter’s impressive push platform, have managed to make Twitter the fastest, most accurate (albeit chaotic with a low signal-to-noise ratio) to let the interests of the people be aggregated and to let them #precipitate.