I received an email from a friend asking me for hints and tips on how to make their Twitter account work better for them. They also asked whether I felt that my Twitter accounts 'worked for me'. For the record, I have a personal/blog Twitter account @Barneteye, I co-administer the work account at Mill Hill Music Complex - This is used by reception staff at the studio to promote the studio and the artists who use it and is @MillHillMusicCo, I also co-curate the @abettermillhill account with the local Lib Dem focus group team. I will also make a confession. I occasionally have a peek at accounts that have blocked me, using the account my Missus uses for acedemic research. She would murder me if I posted from it, but once in a while it is useful if I want to be nosey. In all honesty I am not that interested most of the time to bother, life is too short, but occasionally someone DM's me and tips me off, such as when Brian Coleman tweeted that he hoped my Prostate Cancer had flared up a few years back.
So lets have a look at these accounts (except for the Missus).
Lets start with my main one
I started this in 2011, with the express intention of not using it very much. My initial strategy was to simply post links to my blogs and leave it there. It has been steadily growing ever since. Sadly my initial strategy failed and I got dragged in to what makes Twitter a nightmare. Strangers who turn out to be malicious Trolls, random fall outs with people who were friends who become upset at random postings, all manner of offers I can refuse, etc. So did it work? Well approx 16% of my blog hits arrive via Twitter, so I guess yes, it makes a contribution and I'd guess many of these are people who are new to twitter. Here are the last days stats for the blog. As you can see, most arrive via Google searches.
If it was a business, I'd say it was well worth while. As it is my personal Twitter account, I post all sorts of stuff on it. I am sure that people who are interested in the Welsh Harp occasionally get irritated about posts about Manchester City's amazing team. It has been suggested that I have a blog Twitter account, purely for blog related posts and a personal one. If it was a business I'd definitely do this, but I am just too lazy. You'll notice that I have more followers than people I follow. Generally if someone follows me and I think they look interesting, I follow them back, but I don't always bother. If work is busy, I miss people, so please don't be too insulted. I also follow useful news sources.
What I learned was that Twitter is far better for engaging when you are campaigning than for most other purposes. If there are a group of people, Twitter can work as glue. It is however and echo chamber. It is rare to genuinely engage with people outside your circle via Twitter, unless you make some effort. You have to go to the mountain, as it sure as hell won't come to you.
Very occasionally Tweets do go viral, but this genuinely only happens when there is some groundbreaking new. I got 25,000 hits in one day once, as the result of a tweet about the reopening of the Oriental Centre. I simply couldn't believe that. A similar thing happened when I had a spat with Mail on Sunday writer Peter Hitchens. Thousands of blog hits, but my followers on Twitter went up by 3.
Next up, lets have a look at Mill Hill Music Complex
Finally we have the account for the Mill Hill Lib Dem focus team. We set this up when I rejoined the party in 2017 and was selected to run in Mill Hill with Donna and Richard. Twitter does not get you new supporters, change people's minds about voting intentions, or serve any major function in local election campaigns. Generally people follow you because they are sympathetic to you (or they are an opponent waiting for a slip up). The idea that a Tweet saying "Free parking for all in Mill Hill" (or the suchlike) would win a single vote is ridiculous. What it does do very well, is keep your particular community engaged. At the start of the Pandemic, I had a Zoom chat and beer with a friend who is a social media branding expert for one of the countries biggest companies. He's guided me on many matters over thelast 12 years. We discussed the Pandemic and he made a very interesting comment. Many people are alone and isolated. They have little interaction and Twitter is one of the ways they keep an eye on their community. He suggested that we use the account to post positive images, post links to relevant information and use our community profile to keep our friends and supporters engaged. It means that when you see them, they don't have to ask the "what have you been doing since the last election" question. I've made it a personal mission to take nice pictures around Mill Hill.
I recently saw a friendly local Tory Councillor. He complemented me on some of the pictures and asked whether he thought it was worth the effort? Ive no idea if it will translate into a positive vote for the Lib Dems in Mill Hill. I've no idea whether it will push the vote over the line. But for anyone who follows the account, which is well over 600 people who live in Mill Hill, they know that we care for and appreciate our environment and the green belt. No one can say "You only raise these issues at election time".
As general rules, here are some
There are some complete no no's I'd recommend for Twitter if it is for any sort of professional or campaign purposes
* Don't expect the account to grow overnight, it takes months or years to develop a genuine and useful Twitter account. It is who you engage, not the number that matters.
* Block Troll and don't engage in spats
* Dont chase followers who are not genuine, it undermines your credibility
* Don't call people names, names or make potentially libellous claims if you don't like people
* Don't regularly change your handle. It looks dodgy looks suspicious.
* Don't lock and unlock accounts on a regular basis. If you do have a credible reason
* Don't set up spoof accounts to congratulate, like or Troll (yes that happens) yourself to make you look good.
* Don't Troll your competetors. People are not stupid and will soon catch on
* Don't lose your focus. If you are non personal account, don't launch personal crusades.
* Don't over egg your mates products, whilst ignoring or belittling other, better alternatives
And the list of things you should do
* Be clear and transparent in your profile as to who you are
* Post regularly
* Stick to the themes that you set the account up to promote (unless it is a personal account)
* Like and retweet other tweeters who you feel are doing a good job
* Retweet campaigns/products you support
* Share useful and interesting information
* Work out your strategy and stick to it
* Follow people because they are interesting and post useful tweets. Don't follow people who just churn out rubbish. It will just fill your time line with noncense
And a couple of safety rules.
* always report Trolls if they are clearly harrassing you or someone else
* Don't follow people who appear to be abusive, you may be next
* Before you follow someone who has retweeted you or liked a post, read their profile and check other tweets. They may just be fishing for followers, that doesn't make them a bad person, but be aware of what sort of stuff they post, as it will turn up on your timeline.