Twitter Fundamentals: Two Ways to Retweet

Which do you prefer?

Get more from your software.I spent most of this past week writing a new script for my Twitter Essential Training course on Lynda.com. We update the course about once a year to account for changes in the Twitter.com interface, as well as new features. This will be the fourth edition of the course.

Yesterday, I wrote about retweeting. I faced a minor dilemma: Do I cover both ways to retweet — with the Retweet button and with the old-style RT shorthand? Or do I just cover the Retweet button, which I personally prefer?

Understand that retweeting is something that developed on its own long ago. A Twitter user would see a tweet he wanted to share. He’d copy and paste the tweet into a new tweet, including the characters RT to indicate that it was a retweet and an @mention of the person who he was retweeting. Because this added characters to the original tweet, editing was often necessary. Each time it was retweeted, more editing occurred. Sometimes editing completely removed the @mention of the originator of the tweet, thus removing credit for the tweet.

Then, a few years ago, the folks at Twitter created an “official” Retweet feature. They added a button available for each tweet that copied the entire tweet and placed it in the retweeter’s timeline with the source tweeter’s name and profile picture still attached. This made it very clear who was the source of the original tweet. It also prevented tweets from being edited into nonsense by forced abbreviations. It made it possible to keep track of who was retweeting good content. And it prevented the same tweet from appearing multiple times in the timelines of groups of people who follow each other.

In my mind, it was a win-win.

So I decided not to include instructions for the old-style retweeting in my revised course. I mentioned it, of course, and showed an example, but I didn’t show how to do it.

Fast forward to this morning. I check my Twitter stream and discover a perfect example of how a tweet can be degraded by multiple old-style retweets.

Here’s my original tweet:

(And yes, that first word is a typo. It should have been “Ah.” Damn you, autocorrect!)

Note that there’s one (at least right now) official retweet. (You can see this if you click the date in the tweet embedded above to view it on Twitter.com.) That means that one person has used the Retweet button to copy my tweet to his timeline. On his Twitter profile page, it looks like this:

A Retweet

Note that although my profile picture and name are attached to the tweet, his name appears at the bottom as the retweeter.

Now look at two old-style retweets. The first is from someone who follows me:

The second is from someone who follows her:

In order to keep her account and my account in the tweet, he had to edit the hell out of it, to the point where the second “RT” is just “R” and the bulk of the post title is removed. Huh?

Do you think this is right? Effective? Acceptable?

Why couldn’t either one of them simply use the Retweet button?

Most people who don’t like the Retweet button complain that it prevents them from including a comment with the retweet. But do you think an emoticon smiley face is a comment? The original tweet says it’s “too funny.” Does a smiley face add anything to it?

And what of the second retweet? There’s no comment added there at all. In fact, the first retweeter’s comment is removed.

So why?

Is it because they wanted their account names attached to the tweet? That’s the only reason I see.

And I’m left wondering if anyone else retweeted it but removed my account name because it didn’t fit.

The truth of the matter is, the Retweet button isn’t only a better way to retweet. It’s also an easier way. One or two clicks and it’s done. No copy and paste, no editing required. The tweet is shared in its entirety, the originator is given credit, the retweeter’s name is still clearly indicated.

What do you think? Which method do you use and why?

Seven Tips for Interacting with Companies on Twitter

Your attitude and approach will set the stage for a good relationship with the companies you deal with.

Get more from your software.One of the videos in my Twitter Essential Training course on Lynda.com includes a discussion on how you can get customer support from companies that maintain Twitter accounts. In it, I include several real-life examples of how I got quicker results from companies through their Twitter accounts than through normal customer service channels. Since recording that course, I’ve had at least a dozen other similar experiences.

If you want to use Twitter to get support for products and services you buy, you need to have the right attitude and approach. With that in mind, here are seven tips for interacting with companies on Twitter:

  1. Tip: You can use Twitter’s search feature, which is covered in Chapter 7 of the current version of my course, to find Twitter accounts for companies or specific products. Hashtags are covered in the course, too.

    When tweeting about a product or company, include its Twitter account name or hashtag in the tweet. This makes it easy for the company to easily find your mention.

  2. Refrain from using foul language when sharing negative comments about a product or company. Many people are turned off by bad language. Your comment will have more impact — and a greater potential for retweeting — if it’s stated in work-safe terms.
  3. When complaining about a product or company, be specific. Saying “Company ABC sucks” isn’t nearly as helpful to the company’s support team or fellow Twitter users as “Company ABC takes too long to process orders” or “Company ABC’s website is difficult to navigate.”
  4. If you have a question about a product or service, use an @mention to direct it to the company’s Twitter account. Ask the question in a single tweet, being as specific as possible. For example, “@CompanyABC Does #ProductA have a warranty?” or “@CompanyABC The manual for #ProductB doesn’t explain how to use it with my iPad.” If the company is properly monitoring its Twitter account, you may get an answer within minutes.
  5. Don’t hesitate to praise a product or company you like. Last night, for example, I had an extra-good shopping experience and tweeted: “Just wanted to say that we got EXCELLENT service at the PHX Camelback @BedBathBeyond store. Advised on a sheet purchase by an expert!” If everything you tweet is a complaint, you’ll look like a whiner that’s never happy. Support staff could hesitate to help you if they feel you can’t ever be pleased.
  6. If a company you complained about satisfactorily fixed a problem you had, tweet a follow-up to let your Twitter followers know they made things right. Many companies really do try hard; don’t they deserve praise when they resolve a problem?
  7. Don’t lie about an experience. Good or bad — people may rely on what you say to make purchase decisions. Do you really want to mislead your Twitter followers?

Of course, if you’re in charge of monitoring a company’s Twitter account, its up to you to respond quickly and promptly to any Tweets that mention your Twitter account or products. I cover that in my Lynda.com course, too.

Let me teach you more about Twitter!

You can watch seven videos from my Twitter Essential Training course for free. Click here to get started.

Five Retweet Abuses

Sure, it’s easy to retweet someone else’s tweet. But are you overdoing it?

Twitter logoI’ve been on twitter for more than three years now and have sent more than 22,000 tweets into the Twitterverse. These are a mix of the usual inane comments, bits of wisdom, meal reports, witty remarks (or my attempts at witty remarks), links to interesting content, and retweets of other people’s tweets.

It’s the retweeting habit of Twitter users that I want to address here.

A retweet, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is a tweet that someone else wrote that is echoed to the Twitterverse. Retweets come in two flavors:

  • Old-style retweets include the letters RT or via followed by the originator’s Twitter name. For example:
    Old Style RT
    or
    Old-style Retweet
  • Official Twitter retweets appear to come from the originator, but they were retweeted by someone you follow. Thus, they wind up in your timeline from the account of the originator, even if you don’t follow that person. Here’s an example:
    Retweet

I could go into a lecture on which method is better (official retweet, in case you’re wondering), but I’ll save that for another post. Right now, I’m more concerned with how much people retweet and what they are retweeting.

This is where I get into some hot water with some Twitter friends. You see, what prompted this post was the complete retweet abuse I’m seeing on Twitter among a handful of people I follow. I don’t mean to point fingers, so I won’t mention any Twitter names. But if you’re one of the people repeatedly committing one of the following abuses, you know who you are.

  • Retweeting more than you tweet. If you consistently retweet other people’s content more than you create your own original tweets, take a moment to consider why you are on Twitter. Is it your purpose to simply echo the words and links of the people you follow? There are Twitter bots that can do that automatically and they’re only slightly more annoying. Why should anyone follow you if nearly everything you tweet has its source elsewhere? (And if the rest of your tweets are from Foursquare, do yourself a favor and just drop out of Twitter now, before someone has to kill you.)
  • Retweeting content that just isn’t interesting to the majority of your followers — or many people on the planet. You may think the latest Latin language release of the Open Source project, thingamabobwhatchamacallit widget plugin, is the most fascinating thing on the planet. But do you really think your followers agree? And if they did, don’t you think they’d be actively following the same sources of information about that project that you are? Retweeting stuff that few people care about only raises the noise to signal ratio on Twitter. And who likes noise? A corollary to this is retweeting local area content when you have only a few local followers. Your 724 non-local followers don’t really care that the corner antique clothing store is having a big sale on Tuesday. Or that your next door neighbor’s cat has gone missing. Or that there’s a fire/flood/tornado/locust warning for your county. If we wanted local area information on Twitter, we’d follow the same kinds of local information sources you follow — but for our areas.
  • Retweeting other people’s references to your Twitter account. Okay, so @yourbiggestfan tickled your fancy by tweeting about how much he liked your latest book/blog post/tweet/haircut. Do you know how dorky and self-centered you look by retweeting his gushy tweet? Isn’t Twitter narcissistic enough by giving you an opportunity to brag about yourself? Do you really think it’s necessary to retweet the nice things other people say about you, too? Ick.
  • Retweeting the tweets and retweets of others in a special interest group where everyone follows everyone else. This is especially annoying when you use the old fashioned RT or via method of retweeting. It means that everyone who follows everyone else has to read the same tweet six or seven times. Consider the world of Ninja Yoga Masters, which may only have 20 outspoken master members sharing the same few hundred followers. When each of the masters retweets a fellow master’s comment with an old-fashioned RT, we all have to read that comment again. And again. And again. Do you know how annoying that is? Especially when the retweets appear one after the other in our timelines? It’s like the retweeting crew is singing a chorus.
  • Retweeting improperly. Someone came up with some words of wisdom or a good one-liner or a link good enough for you to retweet. But instead of doing it properly by using the official Twitter retweet tool (which is now supported by just about all Twitter client software), you paraphrase to shorten or maybe leave out the source. Not very nice, is that? There’s no reason to incorrectly retweet someone else’s tweet. Click the damn Retweet link or button; Twitter does the rest for you, leaving the original in all its glory and properly crediting the source. This helps other people find and possibly follow that source if they find the retweeted content is interesting.

Now I’m not saying that my tweets are perfect. They’re not. There are too many of them to all be good. Indeed, I’ve committed all of these abuses at least once in the past 3+ years. But the growth of Twitter has made abuse like this unacceptable. It’s causing people like me to limit who they follow and to drop Twitter friends because of their annoying retweeting behavior.

What do you think about the retweeting situation on Twitter? Do you have any pet peeves I neglected to include in my list? Don’t be shy! Share them with us. Use the Comments link or form for this post to let us know.

And do me a favor: retweet this post to spread the word. Twitter would be a much better place without so many retweets.

Get more from your software.Want to Learn More about Using Twitter?
Learn online at Lynda.com. Recently revised and expanded, my Twitter course includes more than three hours of video training material that’ll help you get more out of Twitter. Check it out. If you’re not a Lynda.com subscriber, be sure to visit to try some of the free videos. I think you’ll be hooked.

Got a Keyboard? Use it.

A blog post should be more than just screenshots of what other people Tweeted.

This morning, as I sat drinking my coffee, I began my usual ritual of checking out some of the links tweeted overnight by the people I follow. One of them was about the iPad. Interested in the iPad as my future ebook reader, I followed the link.

I wound up on a blog post that consisted primarily of screenshots of Twitter. The blogger had posted a question on Twitter about the iPad and then sat back and captured screenshots of the responses as they were tweeted.

I call that lazy blogging.

It was also extremely tedious to read. So tedious, in fact, that I stopped reading after the first scroll down. I did continue scrolling to see if there was some content added by the blogger, but there was so little of it that I wound up simply closing the browser window and getting on with my day.

And then I realized how much it bugged me that there was someone out there passing off screenshots of Twitter responses as a blog “post.”

There is so much crap on the Internet today. Huge quantities of it. I don’t “surf” the net. My Web activity is limited to looking up things I need to know about and following what appears to be interesting links that I receive from friends and business associates verbally, via e-mail, and via Twitter. I don’t want to spend my day wading through the crap online. I want the good stuff.

A blogger should not simply regurgitate what’s readily available on the Web. If I wanted to know what Twitter users thought of the iPad, I’d use Twitter’s built-in search feature — which is also part of Nambu, my preferred Twitter client — and set up a search. I’d then read the results myself. I don’t need to go to a blog to read the same stuff. As screenshots, for Pete’s sake! Hell, if I were at home with my miserably slow Internet connection, the damn page would have taken five minutes to load!

A blogger’s job is to both inform and provide analysis. A summary sentence at the top of 20 screenshots that simply says, “Many people think lack of multi-tasking is a deal breaker,” doesn’t do much for me. And I certainly don’t need to see those 20 screenshots. I get it. You’re not making this up. All these Twitter users said it. I guess it must be true.

And it’s immensely ironic that this post was retweeted. As if it had value. WTF?

My point: if you call yourself a blogger and want to add something of value to the Web, dust off your keyboard and use it.

How NOT to use Twitter for Marketing and Sales

An example of social network marketing #FAIL.

I don’t follow many people, but among those I do follow is a person connected to a tourism publication that serves the Phoenix area. As the owner/operator of a helicopter tour and charter company, I thought it might be interesting to see if this person tweeted anything that could help my business grow.

On Thursday, January 14, at 4:03 PM, he tweeted the following:

There is still time to advertise in our annual Spring Training issue – it’s only 6 weeks away. Affordable exposure that drives results.

This is an exact quote. There are a few things wrong with it:

  • The tweet makes no mention of the name of the publication or the area it serves. So unless you know what publication this guy works for — and its name is not part of his Twitter name — you’d be hard-pressed to understand why this might interest you.
  • The tweet mentions the “Spring Training” issue, but neglects to identify the “6 weeks away” as the editorial deadline or publication date.
  • There’s no link in the tweet to take action. I suppose this guy thinks that if you do figure out what this is about and are interested, you’ll track him or his publication down and make contact. A link sure would make that easier.

As a former frequent business traveler, I’m very familiar with the publication. It’s available in all major cities. It might be a good match for my business to advertise in. But I needed more information.

I tweeted back with a direct (private) message about fifteen minutes after his initial tweet, at 4:20 PM the same day:

I’ll bite. Call me with your ad rates: 928/###-####.

(I obviously provided my entire phone number, which I don’t need to reproduce here.)

And then I waited. I didn’t sit around my computer. I had other things to do.

Almost an hour later, at 5:08 PM, he responded:

Maria… I’ll have my partner [redacted] call you – he handles sales, and I produce the magazine, videos & social media :)

But because I wasn’t sitting at my computer and wasn’t checking my incoming messages, I didn’t receive this response for a few hours. I figured I’d reply with some additional information that would help his partner get a better idea about my business before he called. So when I received this tweet a little after 8 PM, I replied:

Tell him it’s for http://www.flyingmair.com/

At 10:37 PM, he replied:

Will do :)

So from the time of his initial tweet about special ad rates to the conclusion of our discussion, more than six hours had elapsed.

By this time, I was asleep. Since he’d received my phone number after 5 PM, I wasn’t expecting a call that day anyway. But I did expect one in the morning.

But I didn’t get it.

In fact, it’s now Monday, January 18, almost four full days since his initial tweet, and I have not received a phone call from his partner.

So in addition to the poorly composed tweet, here are a few other ways this person failed at social network marketing:

  • When he posted the initial tweet, he was obviously not monitoring Twitter for immediate responses like mine. It took nearly an hour for him to respond.
  • Although he had my phone number in hand, he didn’t use it to contact me — even to tell me to expect a call from his partner. Instead, he relied on direct messages through Twitter — not even text messaging directly to my phone! — which relied on me checking for such messages. This stretched out an initial contact to more than six hours.
  • Although our contact was made on a Thursday afternoon, no follow-up contact was made on Friday (a work day) or the weekend. At this point, I don’t think any contact will be made at all.

In short, this person attempted to use Twitter for marketing, actually got a lead (!), and still dropped the ball by failing to follow up in a timely manner. This is a perfect example of a failure to use social networking for marketing purposes.

The result of all this:

  • I will stop following this person. There doesn’t seem any reason to continue to do so.
  • If his partner ever calls, I’ll tell him I spent my advertising budget on Friday, when I expected his call.

What marketers need to understand is that in this economy, few people actually need their product. It isn’t enough to make a half-assed attempt at reaching customers and expect them to do all the legwork. And it’s absolutely inexcusable to fail to call a potential customer after that customer has requested a call.

All the tweeted smilies in the world can’t fix that.

I call that #MARKETINGFAIL