Category Archives: Twitter

Social media etiquette and the Tao of Twitter

Lao Tzu

An online friend, @christinet6d, wrote this post about the indelicate practice of sending “Auto DMs” on Twitter: You’re Doing It Wrong, Sir.  For the unfamiliar, a DM is a Direct Message. You can either Tweet things publicly or send a private DM to individual people who follow you.  An Auto DM is the electronic version of a form letter. Some kind of robot detects new followers and sends them a canned message.

As Christine’s post points out, seeing you have a DM is exciting. Perhaps someone is actually reading your stuff, and liked something you said. You could be getting some direct feedback. I’ll never forget the feeling I got, age 6 or something, when it looked as if Lee Majors had genuinely responded to my request to join the Six Million Dollar Man fan club. Bad example, because it was a generic response. But I believed it, so the analogy applies. As an adult you’re jaded enough to detect that a message is fake and you feel un-special.    >>> Continue


Tao of Twitter (2)

I don’t like to make authoritative, unproven statements about social media. It is safe to say, however, that there’s a social media etiquette. It has the same function as interpersonal etiquette. Both are unwritten rules governing how to conduct communication without offending or missing the opportunity to please. In the previous example of Auto DMs somebody polluted a personal communication channel with an impersonal and probably solicitous message. It was annoying. This example highlights something unique in the nature of social media, in this case Twitter, as a communication medium. Twitter mashes business and personal communication together more tightly than other media.

Some cribbed Eastern philosophy: centuries ago Lao Tzu said doing things in accordance with Nature brings better results. Rather than forcing outcomes, it may be possible to step back and see how circumstances can align naturally to support your end. In other words act natural. >>> Keep Going

Tao of Twitter (3)

Perhaps acting naturally in the social media landscape creates personal connections that may also be good for business. You talk to people the same way you would talk to people. You don’t irritate them, and now they might buy something from you. The hierarchy of personal over propagandistic in these new media make us expect real instead of canned communication. Unless you are annoying in real life, then basic etiquette, being real with people, could easily be applied on Twitter and other social utilities.

Looking back on the wisdom of pre-social media days, there’s always been this word, “networking,” which was a very polite way of saying, “We’re talking about business. We may be trying to sell each other something, but we’re not going to be sleazy about it.” Hopefully “social networking,” a term that’s getting obscured by “social media” (we get hung up on the technology), will take a more active position. The wisdom of traditional networking says: Don’t be a [insert your own insult; mine is bad etiquette]. This can also be applied in social media networking. >>> More

Tao of Twitter (4)

Back to DMs. In keeping with the spirit of social media, which suggests we should (get ready for a major cliché) “create an authentic dialogue,” I won’t close with my Top Ten Tips for Achieving DM Success. I won’t do it because it’s gross. I will instead ask for your input, possibly non-existent reader. Do you use DMs? Do they help you achieve whatever your personal or professional goals are on Twitter? Are there other forms of etiquette you’ve seen evolve in the last 15 years in response to new technologies?

If you comment or send me some thoughts I promise to write back an actual response. With genuine sincerity, Eric.

-Eric Hayward

Wendy’s – Now serving Canned Tweets.

Is this for real?

It’s a funny ad with a good song (not so much a jingle, but a “jindle,” that is, an understated indy pop riff, used as background to a concept, instead of the usual maddeningly catchy series of three or four notes) that takes good-natured shots at fast food competitors. There’s also some real intelligence behind the theme itself: “You know when it’s real.”

Authenticity is said to be in high demand, and what makes something seem real is not just the thing itself but the way that it’s packaged. “You know when it’s real” contains both, in a triple meaning (with bacon):

(1) Wendy’s uses real food

“We never freeze em like a hockey puck, or / keep em stuck / like some others may / in a warming tray.” It’s probably safe to take these claims at face value, given the popular understanding that advertisers are not allowed to lie outright. Wendy’s philosophy, the song says, is good old honesty. True or not, the claims are Wendy’s way of setting up the field in its favor, creating its own definition of “real” that it can’t fail to fulfill: real means serving food that’s been recently cooked, using “fresh,” and not frozen, beef. I doubt we take time much time to question what fresh means, either.

(2) And you know it

Including “you” is one of the most inspired strategies in Wendy’s campaign. The desire to find things out for ourselves instead of from authority is a distinctly American quality; intentionally or not, the close-up of a timeworn “Declaration of Real,” the actor dressed as a craggy Abe Lincoln, and the fake Statue of Liberty featured in the spot are echoes of this fierce independence. Social networking has given this quality a shot of steroids. People have banded together against crappy products and their promises. Smart advertising has become more like a petition and less like propaganda in response. By putting You in the picture, Wendy’s syncs itself up with this cultural shift. It also frees itself from the burden of proof, introducing a completely subjective definition for what’s real.

3) People really like Wendy’s

How to bring up the next point without trotting out the overwrought but ever true McLuhanism… it’s impossible. The medium is the message, and in the online arm of this integrated campaign, a Wendy’s Real Time microsite features what appear to be live Tweets popping up in little dialogue boxes. It’s a long time coming; somebody has invented a bot that mines Tweets for certain keywords and re-Tweets them. “Hungry” appears to be one of those words. Not necessarily hungry for Wendy’s, although the restaurant is occasionally mentioned.  Perhaps there are canned Tweets mixed in among the authentic ones.

Wendy's Real Time
Wendy’s retweets – real or canned?

Some of the Tweets have nothing to do with food or Wendy’s at all. They just reflect online chatter, a discussion Wendy’s wants you to believe it’s a part of. But are these actually authentic Twitter accounts?

You’re skeptical at first. The Tweets really do look engineered (some of them must be; stay long enough on the sight and you will see some repeats). But if you click on any one of them, you do end up on someone’s Twitter profile. I tried it. There was @baby_ge0rge, whose latest update said, “#whatsbetter Booty or Breasts???” It depends I guess. Are they real?

– Eric Hayward

Twitter as Counter-Propaganda – #doyoufollowme?

From Cool Twitter Conference, Minneapolis on 12/3.