Please retweet to spread the word about please retweet

Dog begging
Begging by Eric J Paparatto Photography licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Tweets that include the phrase “please retweet” are four times more likely to be retweeted than the average tweet, according to data from 2011.

It’s old news, but I was shocked when I recently included the magical phrase in a pair of Twitter posts that ended up with 802 and 349 retweets. Those are by far my most retweeted tweets.

It’s about so much more than the retweet

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you should start inserting “please retweet” into all of your tweets. Would you continue following someone if she always asked you to retweet her? Offline, do you maintain friendships with people who constantly ask for favors? Continue reading

I challenge Twitter journalists to create a list

African Silverback Gorilla
African Silverback Gorilla by Joey Lax-Salinas licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Okay, all you self-proclaimed social media journalism geeks, here is your chance to win absolutely nothing except the satisfaction of helping fellow reporters, photographers and editors who are new to Twitter.

If you’ve ever helped a person create a Twitter account, you know that one of the first questions newbies ask is “who should I follow?” I always suggest reporters follow officials, experts, companies, customers and constituents of the industries, communities, issues and topics that they cover.

In addition to entities related to their beats, some journalists want to find Twitter accounts that provide good tips and information about journalism and social media. I often point to a few Twitter lists, like Jay Rosen’s selection of Top Journalism Linkers. I have my own list of people who frequently tweet about journalism.

As good as some of those lists are, new Twitter users could easily be turned off when they scroll through tweets from Rosen’s list and find Dale Cressman tweeting about a cure for Taylor Swift converts, me tweeting about bovine dysentery, and Mathew Ingram retweeting trivia about Mark Hamill’s age.

Those off-topic tweets could be avoided if Twitter allowed users to “follow” search results instead of people. Imagine if your first Twitter experience was a timeline full of tweets that only included certain words and phrases.

To make my point, I conducted a Twitter search that includes all English language tweets that include the word journalism along with the word social or mobile. I also included the word data, to capture conversations about data journalism. Continue reading

Twitter should let you follow words again

Follow this path by Sven Lohmeyer licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Follow this path by Sven Lohmeyer licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I gave up on Twitter twice before finally “getting it” years ago. I became a fan of the tool when I realized Twitter could send me every tweet that included certain words or phrases — even if I didn’t follow the people who posted those tweets.

That feature went away years ago, but I was reminded of it recently when Danny Sullivan at Marketing Land wrote about an idea to help Twitter gain and keep new users. Danny imagines a Twitter where people follow interests instead of accounts. If you follow sports, for instance, you see all sports-related tweets posted by anyone.

Words instead of interests

Instead of following interests, I suggest that Twitter resurrect the ability to track specific words or phrases. When I search Twitter for “data journalism,” I want an option to “follow” that search. Selecting that option would tell Twitter that I want to see tweets like this one in my main timeline, even if I don’t follow Nicholas Jackson:

My concept addresses a concern that a Marketing Land commenter brought up with Danny’s interest-based approach. If Twitter offers general interests, like sports, the results would be too broad to be useful. In my model, a person could be more specific by following tweets that contain “World Series,” or “Lakers,” or  “Landon Donovan.”

Twitter can’t just flip a switch

Unfortunately, the ability to follow specific words never really existed in the way that I’ve described it.

Once upon a time, Twitter supported instant messaging, so you could tweet and read tweets by chatting with Twitter from an app like Google Talk (now Google Hangouts) or AIM. It was through instant messaging and SMS text messaging, that you could tell Twitter that you wanted to “track” a term. Here are some other Twitter commands that worked back in 2008.

Twitter stopped supporting IM clients six years ago, and the “track” command is absent from its current list of SMS commands. With the incredible volume of tweets being sent nowadays, I don’t think it would be wise to re-introduce the “track” command to SMS messaging or to revive support for IM.

If my proposed idea is a simple one to implement, it could help journalists quickly find value in Twitter by letting them track terms and public figures relevant to their beats. It could help companies quickly find value in Twitter by letting them track industry terms and competitors. If it helps attract and keep new users, it could help shareholders find greater value in Twitter.

Twitter impression rate: only 8% of my followers see my tweets

The Wild Man Of Unanderra by Alan licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The Wild Man Of Unanderra by Alan licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but most of your Twitter followers don’t see your tweets.

I have more than 7,000 Twitter followers, but my status updates are shown only 580 times on average. That’s an 8.3% Twitter impression rate.

The data comes from Twitter’s Tweet activity dashboard, which shows, among other things, “how many times your Tweet has been viewed on Twitter’s Android and iOS apps or on Twitter.com.” Continue reading