To Tweet or Not To Tweet

Social Media is a wonderful thing. At last! A way in which we can all talk directly to each other. At last! A way in which people can communicate quickly and easily to say they loved something, to ask questions, and to get all the latest news.

At last, as a friend pointed out to me, a way to tell the world what you had for lunch. And forget drunken-texting of ex-partners. Now the world is your oyster in 140 characters . . . and as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.

. . . So here are a few of the greater pitfalls I have seen and cringed over, online, in the name of that dread responsibility . . .

1) drunken tweeting! There’s a good chance that in retrospect you don’t really want the world to know. If it’s still funny in the morning, then maybe it’s worth sharing. In the meantime, like texting ex-partners, perhaps twitter is something best done sober.

2) the ‘office test’. Are you about to tweet something that you would be happy to shout out – or at least say out loud – in the middle of your office? Is it something your colleagues would be interested in? . . . if you don’t think they will be very interested in your lunch, your followers probably won’t be either.

3) ‘if you can’t say something nice . . .’. Maybe this is just me, but we can choose what we share on twitter. So think twice. Why not tweet about that thing you loved, and share the joy with your friends and followers, rather than rag on someone or something which might be genuinely hurt by your comment?

4) personal account or professional account? This might be a trick question. To have followers, a feed needs to be more than soulless promotion, so even professional accounts needs to have some personality. To keep followers, a tweeter needs to be professional about it: there are many, many, many daily personal things that the world does not need to know about. So the key to both personal and business accounts is balance: have a sense of why you are on twitter (connecting with friends, self-promotion, representing your profession, for fun, to stealthily see what your employees are up to) and try to balance your Social Media presence accordingly. If 75% of your followers are your friends, constantly tweeting about your work is going to get boring. If 75% of your followers are strangers who are interested in your work, tweeting about your friends, or evening out isn’t really what they’re looking for. Your account is yours, of course, but be aware of your audience.

5) know the limitations. On twitter there are 140 characters available to you, without any aid from body language or tone of voice . . . so however we try, twitter is never going to be a place for informed debate. It’s much easier to have a fight than a discussion. It’s much more effective to link to a thoughtful blog piece or article than to try to convey it in tweets. So sharpen your wit, hone your one-liners, and get out your banter, all of which twitter loves. It’s not all about fluff . . . but maybe twitter is a place where you can stay informed, entertainingly.

6) and finally: be yourself. You’re the best thing your account has going for it, and friends and followers will see through you if you try to be something you’re not. They’ll like you for yourself. Have a bit of faith in that, and status-update as you are, not as you think you should be.

. . . and, as I’m the first to admit I’m far from a twitter expert (more like an interested utter-amateur) if you have top tips and hints to share about tweets and #tweetfail please comment on the blog, or tweet @Gollancz and share!