Is Sharing Caring?

Is sharing caring?

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Yesterday I spotted this tweet from Nextness editor Jessica Stanley (@dailydoseofjess), and it made me weirdly nostalgic for a long lost time… on Facebook.

When I was a teenager, Livejournal was the social network of choice, although we wouldn’t have described it that way. (We also didn’t call it “blogging” until at least 2006, though The Social Network tells it otherwise.) Trends then moved on via MySpace and on to Facebook where this type of group-making, keen one-click sharing and, of course, ubiquitous game spamming, were the norm.

What I’m left to wonder is this: did we quieten down? Have our habits matured? Or did we simply get older? (Actually, don’t answer that.)

In the 3 or 4 years since (broadly speaking) Facebook and Twitter took up permanent residence as our social media tools of choice, we’ve learned a lot about what is acceptable and unacceptable to share on social media. Companies with regular Twitter presences generally have a handle on what not to shout about. We’ve all learned from that petulant employee being fired by her boss whilst having a whinge about him on Facebook, that person who got him or herself into trouble for phoning in sick then tweeting about their hangover, and that graduate who didn’t get the job after the employees looked over the state of their social media presence.

Everything online is permanent. We get it. But remember when we used to talk about social media ‘noise’? Let’s get back to that for a moment.

In my line of work, I often come across, or am responsible for running, time-sensitive social media campaigns. As soon as a deadline looms, panic abounds and all sense is thrown out of the window: hands reach for keyboards, emails fly like paper aeroplanes, and the turnaround is aimed directly at the project’s Facebook fans and Twitter followers. The result is a cacophony where there should be a crescendo. Ultimately, to panic is to leave a bad taste in your precious community’s mouth.

A recent article on Econsultancy demonstrated that noise, promotion and spam will reduce your Twitter followers. This online poll by Chris Lake asked users for their common reasons for unfollowing accounts on Twitter. The poll attracted over 500 votes – a reasonable sample size and good indication if you have a follower count around that number. Many tend to be the traits of individuals (one hopes!), e.g. Foursquare / check-in abusers [22% – 115 votes], Crimes against grammar [18% – 93 votes], Auto / DM abuse [16% – 86 votes]. Meanwhile many are extremely vague, e.g. Not interesting enough [43% – 226 votes] and Too quiet [27% – 141 votes]. Overall, though, they demonstrate the tricky nature of keeping your followers happy on Twitter.

Of the ones that companies ought to be careful of, I’d point to the two peas in a pod: Spammy [47% – 245 votes] and Too noisy (tweets too often) [52% – 271 votes], along with Too many ‘begging tweets’ [28% – 145 votes], and Too many retweets [17% – 90 votes].

When campaigning hard for word-of-mouth through social media, it’s easy to be tempted into tweeting too often, begging for retweets, retweeting irrelevant content and, worst of all, retweeting tweets of praise. Although ‘too quiet’ is featured on this list, overall it is clear that it is better to be too quiet than too noisy.

By practicing quality over quantity, followers are more likely to pick up and share your rare gem of a tweet than your whimpering request for a retweet (in which case, by the way, they also retweet the request). I have more than once made the mistake of thinking that Twitter marketers had grasped that begging Stephen Fry for a retweet is not a social media strategy. A few hundred quick clicks might seem like gold dust, but focussing on your community and building a network of people and organisations who care about your message and can pass it on with genuine passion is key to reducing noise, keeping your follower numbers intact and, most importantly, spreading a message that’s worth reading and retweeting.

What are your Twitter pet hates and faux pas?

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