What I’ve learned from 500+ days on Twitter

I’m not a Twitter expert. I’m not an aficionado. And I’m certainly not a guru. Microblogging through Twitter, however, is a part of my job. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pretty good gig if you can get it — just one of my many reasons highered is the best gig in all the web. I have the freedom to roam the web engaging students and acting as a virtual concierge, news reporter, university cheerleader and general commentator all at the same time.

I’ve spent more than 500 days manning the controls of a professional Twitter account, spitting out more than 2,400 tweets during that span of time. I’ve sent another 450+ messages through a personal account I maintain for fun. In my short time Twittering the days away, here’s a little of what I’ve learned:

Never use the same app for both personal and professional tweets.

I only made this mistake once … OK, maybe twice. Seems no one following the university where I work cared to know what I had for dinner the night before. Best to save such groundbreaking information for the people in my personal life. To separate the accounts I maintain I use a different application for each. Generally, I post professional messages from TweetDeck. Personal messages I enter directly through Twitter’s website. The background on my personal account is red and obnoxious, letting me know exactly where my message will be coming from. I take the same approach when tweeting from my phone. I use Birdfeed for my personal tweets and Echofon for those from the university.

Twitter people are old.

OK, so they’re not exactly old, old — just not exactly what I expected when I initiated an account. The median age of Twitter users is 31, according to a recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. I’m 31. When I pitched the idea of launching a university Twitter account I expected the bulk of our audience to be the traditional age student between 16 and 25 years old. We have some of those students but my gut feeling is that we don’t stray to far from Twitter’s stated median of 31. Not a huge surprise since nearly 2/3 of our students are graduate students, but a surprise nonetheless.

Everything can and should be measured.

Twittering is still job for me and, like most jobs, I’m expected to produce results. There are several services that measure mentions, replies, click rates and such. Yet I have yet to find one that can really do it all — at least in the way I’d like it to. I use an amalgamation of resources to best measure results and freely admit my interpretation of the stats is more art than science. I use Google’s URL builder to create campaigns and attach keywords; bit.ly to shorten them and measure the number of clicks; Google Analytics to view the traffic onto our site; and I count mentions and replies by hand. I’m sure it’s not the best method out there, but I’m pretty comfortable with the results.

People matter.

Behind every account should be a person. It is the person with whom I wish to communicate, not some nameless corporate facade. Twitter at its best is about enhancing communication between people. People are funny. People are interesting, tell good stories, share emotions, and comment at will. Twitter accounts populated by an RSS feed do none of the above. If I wanted a steady stream of corporate speak, I’d visit your website. Nothing will cause me to stop following a Twitter account faster than an automated DM or reply thanking me for following.

Not everyone will get it and that’s OK.

Twitter’s not for everybody. I’m still surprised that I know people who live in a home without television, so it shouldn’t be a shocker that not everyone appreciates Twitter in the same manner I do. And that’s OK. I’d rather speak with these people face-to-face anyway. Twitter’s not the end-all-be-all for communication. It’s not even the pinnacle of social media networks. But it’s also not going away anytime soon, either.

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3 Responses to “What I’ve learned from 500+ days on Twitter”

  1. Good advice Patrick. Honestly, and as dim as this makes me sound, it never really occurred to me to tweet from 2 different applications…I had always used Tweetdeck for both accounts, and I have definitely mis-posted many times.

    Keep up the good work!

    March 4, 2010 at 7:39 pm
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    December 19, 2013 at 9:38 am
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    June 25, 2015 at 2:36 pm

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