Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Journalists Get about Twitter, Social Media "Gurus" (and others) Don't

Over the weekend, I blurted out a four-tweet kvetch about journalists and social media types that went something like this: Journalists handle twitter far better than many marketers and p.r. people. And *far* better than most social media people. amazing!

And: freelance writers handle twitter pretty well too. not surprised, really.. . .

Then: It was when the baby diape(r) company started to follow me that I knew something had gone horribly wrong with marketing on Twitter. . .

That ended with: Journalist, however, give interesting links, aren't totally self-absorbed, are very helpful and often quite funny. even when being serious.

What got me going on this train of thought was all the "followers" that I'd recently accumulated on Twitter. Some of them were journalists from the Dallas Morning News, and other assorted journalists that I'd bumped into either as colleagues from Poynter's E-Media TidBits column or who'd read/heard about me from somewhere....

But it was the other followers--the weird "social media consultants" or "social media gurus" or baby-diaper companies, or mom-marketing firms or other (what I'd call) scam artists (not legit marketers/p.r./or others) for whom every tweet is a promotion for their latest get-rich-quick scheme that prompted the kvetch. But I wasn't the only one who'd been assailed by these social media polluters. Indeed, Michael Pinto of seems to be having the same trouble with what he refers to as "a cancer" on Twitter and "zombies":
They don’t care who it is or what that person is interested in because their first prize is the “auto-follow”. By finding enough folks who don’t have auto-follow turned off they artificially inflate their number of followers which inflates their “expertise” in the field. Most start out by doing this to each other, but before long they need to prey on the flesh of the living.

That's another thing I've noticed, too, when I see the profiles of these "guru zombies": lots of high numbers. It's as if, all of a sudden, because you have huge numbers you must be significant or are saying something important on Twitter...(maybe it has something to do with this post on "Twitter metrics" that got them started...)

When all they're doing is shoving their lousy marketing message in front of audiences who don't give a damn!

Seriously. Why the heck is the baby diaper company following me, a middle-aged single woman with *no* children and nothing in my profile anywhere that says I am remotely connected to children! Oh, sure, maybe I have friends that have children, but those friends are too busy raising their children to be playing around on Twitter!

The egregious behavior of social media clods is what then lead me to observing my journalism friends, what they're tweeting and how they tweet. Few of them tweet headlines. Most journalists do not engage in horrific over the top self promotion that I see among the "gurus" (as well as some p.r. and marketing folk), including multiple links back to their own or their client's blogs, re-tweets of A-listers tweets and other ass-kissing behavior, and what seems to be a constant drone of "me! me! look at me! I'm social!!!"

If there's one thing that says you're not social, it's telling everyone how social you are....

So, while I may allow some of these droning zombies to follow me, I certainly don't follow them back. I don't want their chatter clouding my conversation with people who are really doing it right: my journalist friends...

And what are my journalist friends doing right? It's real simple: they are engaging in conversations! Here are seven things journalists I know are doing right on Twitter

1. they post what they're doing. if it's meaningful. not just crap. or crap about clients or client meetings or anything like that

2. they post links to their blog posts--but rarely re-tweet the same link for attention.

3. they answer "@" messages and direct messages :-)

4. they ask questions *and* answer questions!

5. they will even email you if you ask them to!

6. they don't post multiple links back to items within their own blog posts, esp.
if they can post a direct link (with a few exceptions.)

7. they don't try to prove their being social by doing any Twitter equivalent of jumping up in down and waving their hands in front of your face, including re-tweeting messages from A-listers that you probably follow, too. They simply don't have to prove how important they are in social media. Even if they are.

Odd, isn't it? For the longest time we've blasted journalists for their inability to understand blogging, when so many are doing darned well at microblogging. Maybe it's because, in the microblogging 'sphere, the newspapers that journalists write for keep their own brodcast-style Twitter streams (which we can choose to follow, or not, as the case may be.) Journalists are then free to tweet what they want, when they want, how they want. And in doing so, have created some really great conversations without being smarmy "gurus" about it.

A further amusing point A young p.r. guy @AaronU got peeved that I took a potshot at p.r. folks, and started following me. He seems to understand social media, and appears to handle his tweets rather judiciously.

For more on zombies Check out Alan Patrick's Paris Hilton, Twitter Flight, and other viral afflictions of social media for a good giggle.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this post, Trish! Journalists could use a little affirmation these days, and this works nicely. I shall tweet it even, because it's worth sharing, not because I'm sucking up. :)

Tish Grier said...

you're welcome, Annette! and thanks for the re-tweet :-)

Paul Wiggins said...

Thoughtful post, Thank you @paulwiggins