Everyone seems to have advice about Twitter these days, and with good reason. With each new tip on best practices, there comes another that might contradict or dispel it. Let's face it, we all want to be effective on Twitter, but with the evolution of social media also comes the changing face of social profiles, more competition to stand out, and the ongoing contradiction of promoting one's own brand while actively recognizing and supporting others.
Here are 5 "myths" I have found to be prevalent on Twitter, particularly over the past year:
1. Follow back all who follow you -- maybe not.
At the risk of possibly not enchanting all new followers, I continue to be selective in who I follow back, for a number of reasons. First, if I review their profile and it has no relevance to my niche, namely writing, editing, social media and communications, they will probably not find my content relevant anyway. More interesting to me is how they found me, as that is always a good study in market research. Twitter accounts with the infamous egg profile logo, or the dreaded "what I had for breakfast" tweet front and center, won't work for me. A quick review of the users @ reply tweets, as well as the variety and quality of content they're sharing, is a good benchmark in who to follow back. A strong following us a plus, although not necessarily a dealbreaker, particularly if they're just starting out.
2. The law of reciprocity is contextual.
For a while there, I was heavily into retweeting. I retreated a variety of folks large and small, including influencers such as Chris Brogan and Mitch Joel and Seth Godin, mostly because I liked their content and secondarily because a little recognition from them would have been nice. But I have found that influencers in general are too busy to pay that kind of attention to their community to circle back, even in responding to blog comments. So if you're looking for Retweets back from influencers, don't be surprised if it doesn't happen.
3. Linking to The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and Tech Crunch is too obvious.
Recently I've heard a lot of discussion on the questionable value of tweeting articles from big ticket publishers such as The New York Times, on the theory that everyone does it. A bland RT with no comment is dull, but here's my take on this is: so what if it's obvious, if you add your own spin to it? Ask a question, add a joke, brings some other tweeps into the picture, be creative. Including the link in the middle if the tweet rather then the very start or end, is also a good tip. The benefit of a possible retweet and increase in relevant followers far outweighs the popularity myth, and it's a brand enhancer to show that you read well respected publications, particularly if you're in journalism or publishing. I'm not embarrassed to show my followers that I read Mashable and Tech Crunch everyday. Are you?
4. If you're an author, you must market your new book on Twitter.
An interesting post from Poytner, "Are Long and Short Form Writing Mutually Exclusive" states that "audiences want both short and long writing from the same writers," and that many authors simply bow out when it comes time to market their book on Twitter or other social networks. Tweets can lead to book deals, but managing a growing Twitter account can take writers away from their own writing. Unless you are actually publishing your tweets, as some authors have successfully done, it's likely that you'll need to decide what takes priority: the tweets or the next book. And then there's always Facebook and YouTube...
5. The @reply and hashtag reign supreme.
Just because you understand hashtags and the value of the @reply, doesn't mean you should overdo it. Balance is key, as in anything. When I see tweets laden with all that ink, I get a headache. I view hashtags as most useful and relevant in conjunction with events, trends, and people, and as a creative exercise in inventing them on the fly to see what happens, as I did with #twitteration.
What do you think? Are there common Twitter myths you've encountered lately, and how do you strategize around them?
By Carrie Jaffe-Pickett
(I tweet over at https://mobile.twitter.com/carriewriter if you'd like to join me!)