Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

To Win On Twitter

Twitter seems to have established itself now. All over the globe millions of people (and other random entities) are following - for that read stalking - each other in their bite-sized snippets of information, opinion and/or indecipherable collections of letters preceded by the ubiquitous hashtag. It's a strange old thing, Twitter, because it doesn't give the writer enough letters to convey anything meaningful beyond reporting how the daily bodily functions are going. Compare that to other Social Networks that give you the space to elaborate in detail over said functions and include photographic evidence to boot.

But ignore it at your peril. Facebook might be the place to provide an in-depth analysis of your motions but ultimately that is for the benefit of people who know you, or know someone who knows you, or maybe knows someone who once saw someone who knows you across the street once. Twitter fills in the gaps with those persons not as close to you as the friend of a friend of a person crossing the street and allows those who have never met you, nor ever wants to, to ignore your6 Tweets consistently.

Because Twitter is populated by those who shout and those who listen. Not, I suspect, in remotely even numbers. Some read, many talk; it's the way of the world.

But there's more to Twitter than stalking strangers across the planet. There's the collecting element too. Because unless you've people to shout at then you're wasting your online life.  So most Twitter users spend a lot of their online life ensuring they have people to shout at. Success is measured by how many people choose to Re-Tweet your carefully crafted messages. This has two potential benefits - first it indicates that someone may have read one of your Tweets (but don't get too excited as it could just be a nervous twitch #shitivejustretweetedbyaccident). Second it may reach someone who doesn't normally have the opportunity to ignore your Tweets personally.

In fact, after the stamp collecting element of encouraging strangers to stalk you online, getting Re-Tweeted is the Holy Grail of Twitter, measured carefully and valued even higher than the total Tweet Count each person measures. Re-Tweeting is so important it's no surprise that a couple of academics have analysed what makes a Re-Tweetable Tweet Re-Tweetable, if you get my drift - #noideawhatyoumean. Some of the results are counter-intuitive.

First, there's timing. That shouldn't be a big surprise as it's a keen element of most endeavours. With Twitter it appears that posting your killer Tweets are best left until Sunday afternoons. Perhaps people are feeling more disposed to sharing the love after the Sunday roast, or maybe they can't be bothered crafting 140 character messages of #wisdom on a full stomach (#cantbearsedthinkingformyselfthisafternoon). Of course Re-Tweeting contributes to your overall Tweet count, so all RTs (as hip Twitter users type it) are a quick and easy way of achieving this. Be prepared for the courteous 'thanks for the RT' messages as they bulk up the Tweet count for the originator. And it's #durpolitedude.

Then it seems that using capital letters increases the chances of an RT. Now in most online media capitals are frowned upon, but seemingly not in #twitterworld. Given my earlier observation that Twitter seems to be full of people shouting at each other, perhaps this is literally the only way to get noticed. Like real life, then.

And finally, over-using exclamation marks statistically improves the chances of your Tweet being Re-Tweeted. There are limits to the effectiveness, of course. You've only got 140 characters per post and each additional exclamation mark is one less capital letter you can shout at strangers after Sunday lunch. #INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!

So if you want someone to read your Tweets, store them up until after lunch on Sunday, craft them in capital letters and use any remaining characters up with exclamation marks. Don't expect me to RT them though - I'll be snoozing off my lunch. #lifestooshort.

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