As Twitter has grown larger and faster, more and more unions are starting Twitter accounts. On the one hand, this is a good sign. Unions should exploit social media and tools such as Twitter. On the other hand, many unions are not following the basic rules of social media, or are not following Twitter etiquette.
So as to assist unions to better use Twitter, here are three Twitter tips.
1. Watch out for spammers
The rise and rise of Twitter has seen an ever increasing number of spam Twitter accounts being set up. These promote everything from teeth whitening, get-rich-quick schemes and pornography. Spammers are dangerous.
Many of the links they promote (especially the shortened URLs such as bitly or tinyturl) link to malware, viruses or phishing sites. This can both compromise you and your legitimate followers. It may also be embarrassing to you if someone (such as a hostile employer or dissatisfied member) finds out that you are following Twitter accounts set up by pornographers.
Furthermore, spammers exploit a common trait of Twitter users to automatically follow someone who becomes a follower. That is, spammers rely on your good will to follow them without checking their bonafides. This could mean that your union account ends up following scores, or even hundreds of spam accounts.
Unions accounts should never automatically follow someone. Always check whether the account is legitimate. Also make sure your account password is secure. Many spammer try to hack accounts to spread malware.
A great tool to use to check for Twitter spam is TwitBlock.
2. Be careful of your Follow:Follower ratio.
A basic mistake in using Twitter is to try to build your own list of followers by following hundreds of people, in the hopes they will follow you back. This ends of distorting your Follow:Follower ratio. Most people on Twitter like to follow accounts with lots of followers, in the belief that they are interesting, funny, informative or so on.
When you follow someone, send them a tweet, explaining why you are following them (using the @ symbol, followed by their name). If they are a member, let them know that you are their union on Twitter. Engage the people and organisations you follow in a conversation.
If your account has a high number of follows, but not many followers, this could demonstrate that your tweets are not very interesting and not worth following. This behaviour is also exhibited by spam and marketing Twitter accounts. The last thing you want is for your union’s account to be identified as a spam account and blacklisted.
To build your followers list, go slowly and make your tweets interesting and relevant. The number of people you follow should be roughly equal or less than the number of people that are following you.
Check your own account on TwitBlock to see if you are exhibiting behaviour associated with spammers (such as high levels of ignore, blocking or disparity between followers and followed).
As an aside, do not subscribe to, or use, services that promise to increase the number of Twitter followers you have. The point of Twitter is to engage your followers, rather than buy followers who are not interested in what you’ve got to say.
3. Don’t just have a feed from your website RSS
Eric Lee suggests that integrating your Twitter account with your website’s RSS feed is one of the good things about Twitter. I humbly disagree. Your Twitter account should never just be a feed for your union website’s RSS feed.
Of course, you could have links to your RSS feed. Do not, however, have the only content on your Twitter be the feed. Make sure you have additional, unique content on your Twitter (and all your social networks). Give people a reason to follow your union’s Twitter account, beyond just getting a list of links to your website articles.
Twitter is not just designed to funnel traffic to your website. As a social networking tool, it should be used as an additional communication channel to talk to your members, supporters and to non-members. Twitter is about two-way communication, not broadcasting.