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David Lee King

How Not to Tweet



how not to do twitter

Update: Cynthia Gregory, who works at MSJ Library, added some helpful info – check out the comments! Basically, they locked the account when they initially set it up, and I saw it during the set-up process … and apparently Twitter suggests followers for new users (I don’t think it did that when I signed up). So I’m glad – MSJ Library seems to be on the way to a great Twitter account. Again – not picking on them, and I think there’s some good stuff to ponder in my post (’cause I HAVE seen other organizational Twitter accounts that are locked). As always, your mileage may vary!

Every once in awhile, a library follows me on Twitter. When they do, I usually check out their Twitter feed (but rarely follow them). And every once in awhile, I see something like this.

This isn’t “Pick on MSJLibrary Day” – I’m sure they’re a fine library, and I commend them for jumping into Twitter to figure it out. But maybe this post will help other libraries as they work on figuring out social media sites like Twitter.

What are they doing right?

  • Named themselves with a form of their library’s name. They’re the library at the College of Mount St. Joseph.
  • Added a picture of their library
  • Added a web link to their library website
  • Their bio is great: “Helping You Research, Learn & Connect”

What are they doing wrong?

  • Updates are locked/protected. This means that no one gets to see their updates unless they follow MSJLibrary … and MSJLibrary has to approve all follows. This is bad. Most Twitter users want to see someone’s tweets before they start following that user, so it’s an added hassle to send a follow request/wait for the request to be approved/then check out the tweets. I’d rather not bother with it. But more importantly – they have, in essence, locked their front door. I’m guessing they don’t do that at the physical building … so why do it here?
  • Following the wrong people. Look at their following list – They are following other libraries, CNN, ALA, me, National Geographic, etc. Only about 3 of the 35 tweeps they’re following are in any way related to Cincinnati. But a quick search shows LOTS of Cincinnati-related twitter accounts. And a search in something like TwitDir or a “near:cincinnati within:15mi” search in Twitter Search finds LOTS of Twitter users int he Cincinnati area. It makes more sense to me for a Cincinnati-based academic library to follow other people/organizations located in Cincinnati. Extra credit if they follow MSJ students or other MSJ-related accounts (which they’re not).
  • I said their bio was great … but since they’re locked, it doesn’t make much sense – they can’t help you connect if you CAN”T connect!

And I should say this – there’s nothing wrong with following me, CNN, ALA, or the National Geographic. In fact, following others is a great way to start figuring out how to use Twitter. But when you test out a new service using your organization’s name (ie., MSJLibrary), the organization ends up looking a bit less than professional. Start off learning … but use a personal account to do it (and for the record, I’ve killed more than one service at my library for that very reason).

Before you create an organizational account, do some planning and goal setting. Answer these questions:

  • What do you want to get out of it?
  • Why are you setting it up?
  • Who’s going to maintain the account?
  • Who’s going to answer tweets?
  • Who do you plan to connect with?

Answer these (then stick with the plan for awhile), and you’ll be well on your way to organization twitter success.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.maine.gov/msl/ Peggy

    Thanks, Your comments will be added to my social networking best practices file.

  • http://www.maine.gov/msl/ Peggy

    Thanks, Your comments will be added to my social networking best practices file.

  • http://rhslibrary.org Tom Kaun

    I’m a little confused about following, from an institutional account, geographically localized sites. I’m at a high school and after setting up a twitter account for my library — http://twitter.com/BessChinLibrary — I, too follow a few library-related folks.
    Take a look at my blog posting (http://libraryleaves.blogspot.com) and let me know what I’m missing.

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  • davidleeking

    Tom – from the description of your goals in your post, it looks like you’ve got it! I’m coming from a public library viewpoint, so it makes sense for us to follow local businesses and organizations that tweet…. because they are potential library customers. It helps us locally spread the news about what we’re doing.

    And about the library-related folks you follow… at my library, I have my own individual twitter account where I follow whoever. But for our organizational accounts (2-3 of them), we follow only those that makes sense with our twitter goals. So we only follow local people/orgs. Anyone’s welcome to follow the feed … we just might not follow you back unless you live in Topeka.

    So – answer those questions, focus on goals and reasons why you’re doing it, and you’ll be well on your way to success with twitter.

  • davidleeking

    Tom – from the description of your goals in your post, it looks like you’ve got it! I’m coming from a public library viewpoint, so it makes sense for us to follow local businesses and organizations that tweet…. because they are potential library customers. It helps us locally spread the news about what we’re doing.

    And about the library-related folks you follow… at my library, I have my own individual twitter account where I follow whoever. But for our organizational accounts (2-3 of them), we follow only those that makes sense with our twitter goals. So we only follow local people/orgs. Anyone’s welcome to follow the feed … we just might not follow you back unless you live in Topeka.

    So – answer those questions, focus on goals and reasons why you’re doing it, and you’ll be well on your way to success with twitter.

  • eric

    Are you suggesting they should be following other accounts that aren’t related to their area of interest? Or, on that metric, are you really criticizing the library for not having a more local/regional focus?

    And w.r.t. the follower-approval issue: Is it better to let the account fill up with bad followers, or to require approval?

    (That is actually a likely dilemma they’re liable to face: academic departments, like small businesses, often have finite resources. Very possibly no one has been given license to take the time to prune bad followers from the twitter account or look for appropriate local or regional accounts to follow. My experience with academic libraries leads me to believe that they’re likely to be particularly vulnerable to this kind of resource constraint.)

    So it sounds like what you may be saying is: Don’t HAVE an account unless you will be minimally active (where ‘minimally active’ is defined as x)

  • eric

    Are you suggesting they should be following other accounts that aren’t related to their area of interest? Or, on that metric, are you really criticizing the library for not having a more local/regional focus?

    And w.r.t. the follower-approval issue: Is it better to let the account fill up with bad followers, or to require approval?

    (That is actually a likely dilemma they’re liable to face: academic departments, like small businesses, often have finite resources. Very possibly no one has been given license to take the time to prune bad followers from the twitter account or look for appropriate local or regional accounts to follow. My experience with academic libraries leads me to believe that they’re likely to be particularly vulnerable to this kind of resource constraint.)

    So it sounds like what you may be saying is: Don’t HAVE an account unless you will be minimally active (where ‘minimally active’ is defined as x)

  • eric

    Re-reading post: It seems another implicit takeaway could be don’t conflate personal and institutional goals. If they’re following you, that’s probably driven by a professional development goal.

  • eric

    Re-reading post: It seems another implicit takeaway could be don’t conflate personal and institutional goals. If they’re following you, that’s probably driven by a professional development goal.

  • davidleeking

    eric – the second one is what I’m getting at – it’s fine to follow whoever you’re interested in… with a personal account. But with institutional accounts, it seems to be best practice to figure out some goals for following and stick to that.

    Definitely NOT saying an institutional account should be only minimally active! Instead, be active with your actual users – in my library’s case, we should be active with Topekans.

  • davidleeking

    eric – the second one is what I’m getting at – it’s fine to follow whoever you’re interested in… with a personal account. But with institutional accounts, it seems to be best practice to figure out some goals for following and stick to that.

    Definitely NOT saying an institutional account should be only minimally active! Instead, be active with your actual users – in my library’s case, we should be active with Topekans.

  • eric

    Well, but you’re in a public lib. My experience is that the academic libs are often at best quite awkward about their community involvement. If you’re saying they should change that, i’d agree with you, but i’m not sure that’s a twitter issue so much as a policy issue. (though twitter ends up being policy these days…)

  • eric

    Well, but you’re in a public lib. My experience is that the academic libs are often at best quite awkward about their community involvement. If you’re saying they should change that, i’d agree with you, but i’m not sure that’s a twitter issue so much as a policy issue. (though twitter ends up being policy these days…)

  • eric

    if you can’t support the time to tweet properly, should you not be on twitter at all? (i.e., is it more damaging to reputation to be there and not be interactive than it is to not be there at all?)

  • eric

    if you can’t support the time to tweet properly, should you not be on twitter at all? (i.e., is it more damaging to reputation to be there and not be interactive than it is to not be there at all?)

  • Cynthia Gregory

    David,
    You have some helpful feedback, but looks like you completely jumped the gun on the critique! The MSJ Library set up its account yesterday afternoon and looks like you caught our Twitter page in the initial set up and testing stage. It was “locked” to keep out the spambots as we completed fine tuning. (Knew about the spammers based on my testing with a personal account.) Obviously, no library should have locked tweets, and once our account was ready, it was unlocked.

    As for the “who we’re following”–that isn’t who we’re following at all! A glitch during set up–clicking “next” instead of unchecking the default follows created all the “wrong follows.” The twitter “Following” avatar pictures on our Profile page are slow to update, and quite, frankly, I don’t see a way to remove them since we’re really not following them. You and your readers can see our http://twitter.com/MSJLibrary/followers and http://twitter.com/MSJLibrary/following and open feed @ twitter.com/msjlibrary.

    By the way, the whole idea of “locking” one’s feed keeps coming up on posts by various new media writers, maybe you’re following some of them. I’m thinking of Michael Zimmer’s recent tweet: “RT@michaelzimmer Ditto RT @nancybaym: Considering becoming a private twitterer not cuz I want privacy but cuz I’m so put off by ever more prolific spambots” and vgill “RT @vgill twitter should have a button that says mark follower as spambot”

    Thanks for your feedback–even if it was a little premature :) Best.

  • Cynthia Gregory

    David,
    You have some helpful feedback, but looks like you completely jumped the gun on the critique! The MSJ Library set up its account yesterday afternoon and looks like you caught our Twitter page in the initial set up and testing stage. It was “locked” to keep out the spambots as we completed fine tuning. (Knew about the spammers based on my testing with a personal account.) Obviously, no library should have locked tweets, and once our account was ready, it was unlocked.

    As for the “who we’re following”–that isn’t who we’re following at all! A glitch during set up–clicking “next” instead of unchecking the default follows created all the “wrong follows.” The twitter “Following” avatar pictures on our Profile page are slow to update, and quite, frankly, I don’t see a way to remove them since we’re really not following them. You and your readers can see our http://twitter.com/MSJLibrary/followers and http://twitter.com/MSJLibrary/following and open feed @ twitter.com/msjlibrary.

    By the way, the whole idea of “locking” one’s feed keeps coming up on posts by various new media writers, maybe you’re following some of them. I’m thinking of Michael Zimmer’s recent tweet: “RT@michaelzimmer Ditto RT @nancybaym: Considering becoming a private twitterer not cuz I want privacy but cuz I’m so put off by ever more prolific spambots” and vgill “RT @vgill twitter should have a button that says mark follower as spambot”

    Thanks for your feedback–even if it was a little premature :) Best.

  • davidleeking

    Cynthia – COOL. I will update my post pronto. I hope it didn’t sound like I was “picking on you” because I wasn’t. I’ve seen more than one library’s tweets locked (and they keep them locked), just like I’ve seen libraries do the same with their MySpace pages (when those were all the rage).

    Glad to hear you’re not one of those, and were just setting up the account!

  • davidleeking

    Cynthia – COOL. I will update my post pronto. I hope it didn’t sound like I was “picking on you” because I wasn’t. I’ve seen more than one library’s tweets locked (and they keep them locked), just like I’ve seen libraries do the same with their MySpace pages (when those were all the rage).

    Glad to hear you’re not one of those, and were just setting up the account!

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  • http://dltj.org/ Peter Murray

    I agree with your assessment, David, and also with MSJLibrary’s take-it-slow approach. The recent case of what happened with the Clinical Reader service is a counter-example of how to bring your bricks-and-mortar presence into the social media space. Learning from that counter-example, I have another set of observations and recommendations for organizations that are moving into the Twitter space.

    Thanks for posting your checklist, too.

  • http://dltj.org/ Peter Murray

    I agree with your assessment, David, and also with MSJLibrary’s take-it-slow approach. The recent case of what happened with the Clinical Reader service is a counter-example of how to bring your bricks-and-mortar presence into the social media space. Learning from that counter-example, I have another set of observations and recommendations for organizations that are moving into the Twitter space.

    Thanks for posting your checklist, too.

  • davidleeking

    Peter – wow. I must have missed some fun while at ALA! What a terrible public face they put on.

    I’m not sure that what they did has much to do with social networking tools, ultimately. The web tends to magnify personalities. If you’re a good person, it will show. If you run a company that links to uncopyrighted stuff & posts fake recommendations, then posts defensive tweets about it … well, that shows too.

    And – your list of recommendations is great! Thanks for sharing those.

  • davidleeking

    Peter – wow. I must have missed some fun while at ALA! What a terrible public face they put on.

    I’m not sure that what they did has much to do with social networking tools, ultimately. The web tends to magnify personalities. If you’re a good person, it will show. If you run a company that links to uncopyrighted stuff & posts fake recommendations, then posts defensive tweets about it … well, that shows too.

    And – your list of recommendations is great! Thanks for sharing those.

  • http://dltj.org/ Peter Murray

    That is a good point, David, about how social networking tools amplify underlying tendencies. But rather than amplifying them to a small number of people in your immediate vicinity, those tendencies get broadcast around the world.

  • http://dltj.org/ Peter Murray

    That is a good point, David, about how social networking tools amplify underlying tendencies. But rather than amplifying them to a small number of people in your immediate vicinity, those tendencies get broadcast around the world.

  • http://dltj.org/ Peter Murray

    I should also add, as an example of how to do things right, Shared Twitter Updates Done Right: The Case of NPRTechTeam

  • http://dltj.org/ Peter Murray

    I should also add, as an example of how to do things right, Shared Twitter Updates Done Right: The Case of NPRTechTeam

  • http://sites.google.com/site/lchslibrary/ Tiff

    Wondering you have any advice for a high school library? I have started a twitter account, which I mainly want to use to keep students/parents/faculty up to date on library happenings ie ‘we just got this new book in.’ I also hope to encourage reading through twitter by linking to chapter samples, book trailers, etc.

    At first, I had my lib account public. Then to my horror, I got back from vacation this August and saw that 50% of my followers needed to be blocked. Now, I DO have my account protected, which I hate to do, but here is my concern: I do not want parents/students to click on my list of followers and see spam/nude photos of users following me – I feel that I could potentially damage my reputation, the library’s reputation, etc. [also please note: I work at a Catholic high school!]

    I would be thrilled if there was an option to keep my tweets public, but my followers private. That would be ideal.

    But since this is not the case, do you have any suggestions? Are there other settings I am not aware of that will help keep my twitter page ‘clean?’

    [I know that I can block users as needed, but I can’t be sure that this will happen before someone sees something I don’t want them to see!]

    Thanks! :)

  • http://sites.google.com/site/lchslibrary/ Tiff

    Wondering you have any advice for a high school library? I have started a twitter account, which I mainly want to use to keep students/parents/faculty up to date on library happenings ie ‘we just got this new book in.’ I also hope to encourage reading through twitter by linking to chapter samples, book trailers, etc.

    At first, I had my lib account public. Then to my horror, I got back from vacation this August and saw that 50% of my followers needed to be blocked. Now, I DO have my account protected, which I hate to do, but here is my concern: I do not want parents/students to click on my list of followers and see spam/nude photos of users following me – I feel that I could potentially damage my reputation, the library’s reputation, etc. [also please note: I work at a Catholic high school!]

    I would be thrilled if there was an option to keep my tweets public, but my followers private. That would be ideal.

    But since this is not the case, do you have any suggestions? Are there other settings I am not aware of that will help keep my twitter page ‘clean?’

    [I know that I can block users as needed, but I can’t be sure that this will happen before someone sees something I don’t want them to see!]

    Thanks! :)

  • David Lee King

    Tiff – unfortunately, it’s either private or public – there’s no middle ground. My suggestion? Make it public. Alot of those spammy followers get deleted in a couple of days by Twitter, and you can block the others.

    If someone sees that … ? I wouldn’t worry about it. How many parents are seriously going to scan through the twitter followers of their kids school librarian? I’m guessing not too many.

    But I could be wrong!

  • David Lee King

    Tiff – unfortunately, it’s either private or public – there’s no middle ground. My suggestion? Make it public. Alot of those spammy followers get deleted in a couple of days by Twitter, and you can block the others.

    If someone sees that … ? I wouldn’t worry about it. How many parents are seriously going to scan through the twitter followers of their kids school librarian? I’m guessing not too many.

    But I could be wrong!

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  • http://rhslibrary.org/ Tom Kaun

    I'm a little confused about following, from an institutional account, geographically localized sites. I'm at a high school and after setting up a twitter account for my library — http://twitter.com/BessChinLibrary — I, too follow a few library-related folks.
    Take a look at my blog posting (http://libraryleaves.blogspot.com) and let me know what I'm missing.

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