Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Advice to celebrities about Twitter - the short version

by @JoBrodie

Shortened link for this post is: 

This is the low-fat version, the full version with explanatory text and references was published back in January 2012 and heavily edited throughout the year. There's also a PDF version available.

This post is called 'Advice to celebrities' but it's really for anyone who's in the public eye. I've been using Twitter since June 2008 and this post was born after seeing all sorts of strange behaviour and wondering "is no-one giving these people advice?".

10. The basics
Picture (avatar), biography, some basic proof that you're who you say you are.

Make sure you have a picture and a brief bio. If you have a website add a link in your Twitter bio and add, on your website, a link to your Twitter profile (so people know it's really you).

20. What sort of welcome will you receive?
People like to say really nice things about celebrities but they also like to say some pretty unkind things. If they say unkind things about you on the internet they'll do it on Twitter too.

Comments about famous people on the internet depend a lot on the site (IMDb message boards are often pretty awful but YouTube is just off the scale for illiterate unkindness. It can't be nice to read the negative comments and I'm not sure the positive comments necessarily outweigh them. If

If people say mean things about you on the internet they’ll probably say it to you on Twitter as well – and the exchange is public (people can see the messages you send by looking at your Twitter profile and they can see the messages people send to you by searching for your @mentions (replies that are sent to you). That shouldn’t necessarily stop someone from joining Twitter (people can write hurtful comments about you all over the internet whether or not you’re participating in the conversation) – in fact it might encourage you to join Twitter in order to let your good humoured wit shine through.

If someone says something unkind to you or about you on Twitter it’s probably best to ignore it, unless it’s threatening (Stan Collymore got rightly peeved with racist crap on Twitter) or libellous.

21. Some reasons not to be on Twitter / or at least 'things to be aware of'
Don't be pressured into tweeting

Even if you're not on Twitter yourself be aware that others might be live-tweeting your antics (reporting them in real-time), as happened when someone famous in the acting world chatted up someone else famous, though not known to him, from the world of modelling while they shared a plane journey. She relayed what he was saying and what he looked like and her Twitter fans used this information to confirm his identity and ultimately to embarrass him.  Basically people can use it to report what you're up to - it's not fair but it happens.

Things to watch out for on Twitter
None of these should necessarily put anyone off joining Twitter but I think people need to know about the risks as well as the many benefits.
  • A badly handled tweet or response to a tweet can be a very quick way to damage your reputation, but if better handled it can be good for rapid damage limitation (well obviously it depends...)
  • Once there some people will expect you to respond to their enquiries (see Section 30) though most people understand that if you have lots of followers you can't reply to everyone, but it helps if you show willing and at least answer one or two people (see Sections 40 and 50). 
  • People will 'cc' you in their tweets, for a variety of reasons, so your mentions might get crowded out. 
  • Plausible deniability - if you're not on Twitter you can have a look at it (eg , see what people say about you (both nice and mean) and can pretend you've not seen it! 
  • Twitter can seem like a baffling waste of time at first - and it can take some time for people to feel that they've 'got' it and there can be a time cost. This may or may not be time well spent.
  • Twitter isn't compulsory.
  • If you decide after trying it that it's not for you then you can simply stop tweeting. Much better to do that than announce that you are 'leaving Twitter' which just draws attention (unless that's what you want...)

22. Trolls and bullies 
When snarky comments go a bit too far - people behaving badly to you

Anyone in the public eye using Twitter is likely to experience someone sending them an unkind message (see section 20). Sometimes though it goes much further and there have been some very high profile examples, such as the tweets sent by someone to an Olympic athlete that involved extremely unpleasant comments but also death threats.

Writer Graham Linehan commented on his own blog:
"Being able to locate someone--even on the other side of the world--who has suffered a bereavement, and whisper in their ear words calculated to break their heart, is a new chapter in our development, and I think we can all agree that the arrival of hyper-empowered bullies is far from being the most positive aspect of our current connectivity.  

 And “don’t feed the trolls” won’t cut it as a solution. That's just victim-blaming. Often it comes from people who have never had to deal with the level of abuse that many in the public eye receive, and never will. New rule: If you don’t experience it every day, you don’t get to tell anyone who does to suck it up."

23. Don't be a dick
Celebrities behaving badly / power disparity - you behaving badly to others

In addition to the inexcusable behaviour towards famous people by other users of Twitter there has also been some discussion about bad behaviour in the opposite direction.

For someone well-known on Twitter with a lot of followers there can be quite a massive power imbalance compared with someone with considerably fewer followers. This post is critical of celebrities turning their followers into an army to attack trolls - easily done unintentionally to be honest. If you draw attention to something and have thousands of followers you can't guarantee that some of them won't try and take action.

30. Do you chat to your friends or strangers on the internet already?
If you've not done anything like this before then feel free to take your time and get used to how the medium works, and how people conduct themselves, first.

Not everyone feels comfortable chatting ambiently to strangers on the internet. If you’re not used to it then my advice would be to do the old fashioned 'netiquette' thing of following a few friends, other well-known people, news resources that you’re interested in etc and see how the land lies. Personally I think it’s better to jump straight in and get on with the tweeting but it’s entirely up to you how you use it.

I think everyone probably expects that you’ll just be chatting to your famous pals and everyone can watch the conversation unfold from the sidelines ;)

How have your famous chums found using Twitter?
Consult your peer group of famous pals who started tweeting before you...

Everyone's experience of Twitter will be different but I can't help thinking that members of the famous people's club will give you a better idea than I can of what Twitter's really like, for people like you.

32. You are also sharing information about who you're friends with, or not friends with anymore
Friendships on Twitter are pretty public.

People who follow both you and your celeb pals will see, in their timeline, any messages you send to those friends (however if you contact them by direct message those messages can't be seen by the public). If you fall out with someone and stop tweeting each other everyone can see the absence of tweets too...

It's a very public medium (unless you have a protected account) and people can see:
  • all of the tweets that you have sent, and to whom (by looking at your public timeline, but they can't see your direct messages)
  • who you follow and who follows you
  • what other people have said to you (whether or not you follow those people) by searching for messages sent to you (your @ mentions) or clicking on tweets that you've sent in reply to someone - which then brings up the whole conversation. This isn't weird or stalking, it's just how Twitter works - it lets you see a discussion thread.
  • the tweets that you have favourited
Having a private (locked) account
Note that even having a protected (locked) account doesn't provide 100% privacy because people would be able to infer things about you or your activities from the responses sent to your tweets from other public accounts.

For example, your tweet sent to someone can't be seen if your account is private (only by the people that you've allowed to follow you) but if your famous pal (with a public account) responds:

" Hey great to see you last night at Chez MadeUp Restaurant, so glad you've sorted that thing with XYZ" then this is visible to anyone who looks at messages that have been sent to you. In short, on Twitter, your friends may be the weakest link ;)

See also Don't assume that your private Twitter account is all that private (by me,  7 Dec 2012)

33. Your privacy, again
By having a Twitter account you've got an internet 'address'

A Twitter account (and to a certain extent a blog, unless you switch comments off) provides your internet loons with a 'flat surface' on which they can pile up all manner of crap.

It's a given that people will tell a friend or two if they've seen you somewhere. If they're on Twitter and know your Twitter handle they can say "hey I've just seen @famousperson" and you'll get to know about it too.

If you'd rather not have people sending you random crap but still want to share your thoughts, then get a blog instead and switch off comments. Lots of people do that, although having (moderated) comments is a bit more interactive.

34. Watch out for fake accounts
Is that your friend or someone pretending to be them

Hooray one of your friends is on Twitter. Is it really them though? Check via a non-Twitter method first before sharing any information with them, could be embarrassing.

35. Your email address can (potentially) give you away
Be careful (or at least aware) what email address you use to create your Twitter account

Most social media programs let people 'find friends' by authorising the program to access their address book. If people have your email address in their contacts list they can find you on Twitter (even if you don't tell them what your Twitter handle is).

Go to your Twitter account settings page and untick the 'Let others find me by my email address' or use a disposable email address.

40. What will you tweet about?
Obviously there will be a bit of self-promotion but if that's all there is then that might be a bit "yawn".

Post what you like, it's your Twitter account, but remember you're part of a community and will probably get more from it if you interact with people and share interesting information that's not just about you.

I'm always amused when I see a suggestion as to the percentage of tweets which should be one type or another - puts me in mind of the Dead Poet's Society with the bit on the mathematics of poetry!

Another blog post noticed that the people from Star Trek The Next Generation have much higher follower numbers than might be expected "considering their main show was canceled in – what, 1994?" and puts it down to the fact that they do occasionally interact with their followers. Not a scientific analysis but it's easy to warm to someone who appears friendly.
"In my opinion, this is a result of these celebrities not only being active on Twitter, but also using it as a two-way communication medium. They all communicate with their followers: I didn’t say they speak to everyone but they do talk rather than “broadcast”.

So my advice? Use Twitter as it’s meant to be used. I know you’re busy. We all are. But use Twitter as a two-way communication medium, respond to followers, interact with them. People appreciate not being ignored and want to “touch the stars”. Give it to them. They will appreciate it and you will feel the effect."
SourceAdvice to Celebrities on Twitter (2010)

50. Are you going to tweet or will it be "your people"?
Better if it's you, but if you tweet be prepared for people to tweet you back and quite possibly with expectations.

If your tweets are written by someone else be transparent and make that very clear. People get that you can't reply to everyone but it doesn't hurt to acknowledge tweets sent to you occasionally even if only "thanks for all your replies, too many to respond to individually".

In 'A rant to celebrities' (which specifically refers to celebrities' use of Google Plus, not Twitter) Linda Lawrey points out that making a bit of an effort to talk to at least some people is perhaps a good idea.
"So what makes someone interesting? Social engagement! Well, it's not the only thing that makes someone interesting but it IS extremely important! And from what I've seen there is little to zero social engagment taking place from big time celebrities that are on Google+. 
It's no wonder why celebrities receive minimal comments and reshares on G+. Users want to interact with people who are REAL and GENUINE. What we DON'T want to see is PR managers promoting on behalf of a celebrity and we are quick to ignore celebrities who post then run off instead of sticking around to read and respond to the comments people left." Source: A rant to celebrities

Section 60 discusses the formatting of tweets - jump to 70 if you know this already

60. How will you format your replies to people? Twitter etiquette
People new to Twitter often make a bit of a pig's ear of replying to tweets because they include the original tweet and don't make it clear which text belongs to the original tweeter and which is their own response. Please get this right :)

If you're replying to someone and including the content of their tweet in your response then make it clear who said what otherwise you're putting words in someone else's mouth.

You can put quotes around their text and add your comment, or write your comment at the start of the tweet and add the letters RT before theirs (for retweet) or MT (for modified tweet).

See also Twitter Etiquette by Dawn Foster.

70. Oops I shouldn't have tweeted that
Apologise quickly and try and move on is probably the best advice anyone can give I think. 

I'm sure there are cases where even that won't work but deleting a tweet in the hope that people won't notice often fails. There are a number of tools that people can use to capture a tweet when it's visible or to extract it once it's recently deleted (eg Google cache) so assume that deletion alone won't work - and people enjoy the chase of finding a deleted tweet. If you delete an inappropriate tweet and apologise for it the chances are that should be the end of it.
"Clicking “Undo” on the internet is a good deal harder than you might think" (from link above) 
If people keep going on and on about it after that then you can probably justify blowing a few raspberries at them.

If you've had a few drinks you might want to step away from the Twitter enabled device though (suggested by @WynnAbbott)

By the way, never upload and send a picture by DM (Direct Message) - it doesn't work and the picture will be posted with your comment on the picture hosting site, although the message won't appear on your Twitter timeline.

80. Do not be alarmed if someone called the @thebloggess asks for a photo of you holding twine
She has a fantastic blog and as such occasionally gets PR pitches from people who want to encourage her to blog about their product. Occasionally these are good, well targeted pitches. And occasionally they're not. When they're not so good the PR people are sent to a photo of Wil Wheaton collating paper - he supplied this photo himself and it's turned into a good natured internet meme with @thebloggess collecting photos of well-known folk holding everyday items. If you're asked, complying sounds much more fun :)

90. Examples of where it's all gone a bit wrong
How to create a public-relations disaster: Cee Lo Green and Twitter (20 June 2011)
by Max Sparber

95. Examples of where it's gone right
Madonna (singer) and deadmau5 (DJ) had a bit of a public disagreement but seem to have sorted it all out via Twitter

100. Further reading
See the full length post for all the references.

Further posts in the Twitter tips series...

1 comment:

  1. David Chiles says "This is a great netiquette guide for twitter. Since we all have an online image I think it is useful for everyone, myself included. Thank you."

    Welcome :)


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