All The Weird Things Business People Do On Twitter

I’m on Twitter a fair bit, which is to say, my wife thinks I have a problem. (She’s a PhD candidate and therefore spends most of her time strengthening her brain. On the other hand, I spend my time trying to smush all my years of education and my experiences of life, the universe, and everything into 140 characters.)

Anyways, after spending so much time on the tweets, I couldn’t help but notice two things:

Thing #1:  I, like, really need to go outside.

Thing #2:  All us business folk do some really weird things on Twitter that we'd never, ever do in person.

Now, if the social media thought leaders, gurus, sherpas, ninjas, and Level 9 wizards out there are correct, then Twitter is supposed to be more authentic to the offline experience. It’s supposed to be the “cocktail party of the internet” where we all “listen, engage, and interact” in ways that are “genuine and human” and not at all “interruptive” or “placed sarcastically into quotes.” 

But, I mean...c’mon. Is Twitter actually like a cocktail party? Have you ever really noticed how we behave on there? 

People act like all these weird little things they do are somehow okay (they’re not) and that others somehow won’t notice what they're doing (they do).

So with that in mind, let’s go down this scary path together by exploring some common-yet-still-bizarre things we do on Twitter. And yes, we’re all guilty. 

(A quick disclaimer before we get started, intended for Person Who Takes Social Media Way Too Seriously: I embrace the value of social media in work and in play and believe it generally adds more positive than negative to the world. Now please fight your burning desire to launch a tirade in support of a third party's software program that in no way affects how much your family and friends love you in real life.)

Without further ado...

 

Weird Things Business People Do On Twitter

 

Weird Thing #1: Following People

This is Twitter 101...which in no way makes it any less awkward. It's weird behavior, if you've ever really stopped to think about it. (Spoiler alert: You haven't.)

Every single day, people on Twitter essentially tell someone else that — hey…psst…hey! — I’m following you. What are you reading? Hmm? Where are you? What are you doing?

Even the phrase Twitter uses to update you — "So-and-So followed you” — sounds more like a local Neighborhood Watch alert than a testament to how likeable and brilliant others think you are.

Seriously, this should all feel at least a LITTLE BIT creepy, shouldn't it?

What This Would Be Like At An Actual Cocktail Party

This:

Let’s just push ahead before I abandon this list after just one...

 

Weird Thing #2: Responding To A Question By Clicking Favorite

In Weird Thing #2, you think to yourself, “Hey, I have a question that needs answering from other human people!” And for some reason, you think you’ll get actual human people responses by posting that question to Twitter. 

You are wrong.

Because for some reason unbeknownst to scientists everywhere, people think it's acceptable to just click "favorite" in response to your question.

Do you realize what’s actually happening here? Whoever favorites your tweet is voluntarily and publicly alerting you that, yup, they’ve received your question but, nope, they're not gonna reply.

Because screw you. 

What This Would Be Like At An Actual Cocktail Party

My first thought went to Hector Salamanca. He’s that really old Mexican mob boss from Breaking Bad who sits in a wheelchair and communicates by tapping a little bell in response to your questions. But, no, that’s not a good analogy — he’s actually trying to convey meaning and get you a valuable response.

 

Instead, I think a more appropriate experience would be if you asked your friends a question...only to have them flick peanuts at your face.

Just like those favorites on your tweet, each individual peanut is pretty harmless. But after the fourth or fifth hits you? Sweet Baby James. You suddenly feel justified flipping tables and screaming at your screen and setting fire to their car. And I'm only partially exaggerating -- you reach a level of anger that's completely and totally irrational, except in that very moment, it feels warranted. Anyone who’s ever experienced this will know my pain. Stay strong, my friends... (taps fist against heart)

(In case this section wasn’t clear — yes, I'm saying that a 180-year-old mostly paralyzed ex-criminal who barely understands English and responds to stressful questions from drug dealers and cops by tapping a freaking bell is more helpful than most people on Twitter.)


Weird Thing #3: Retweeting And Sharing Content To Your Followers That Overtly Compliments You

Like following others on Twitter, this behavior is so deeply ingrained in how business people act on the social network that it may seem a bit out of place to mention as a weird thing. But trust me — this is weird.

For those of you living under a rock, which is then buried under a much larger, much more wifi-proof rock, let me explain what happens:

1. A company blog or a media outlet mentions someone’s work in their post. In some cases, the person being mentioned — let’s call him Eddie Expert — gets ranked alongside other experts based on how smart or successful or devilishly handsome they are. In other cases, Eddie might have been asked to contribute upfront, or maybe the author cited Eddie's work in their post. Regardless, Eddie comes off looking great in the article.

(Side note: Subscribe below for my upcoming post, The Top 10 Devilishly Handsome Marketers!)

2. Next, when the post has been published, the author of the post mentions Eddie on Twitter alongside the link back to the content that compliments or cites Eddie.

3. Seeing the post for the first time, Eddie gets both an ego boost (“They like me!") and guilt trip (“They expect something of me…”). This leads him to flip the post to his own followers, either in the form of a RT or by writing a (some would say falsely) modest tweet like, “So flattered to be included!” or, “Thanks @Author for a great writeup!” or, “I’m in good company with @MorePopularExpert on this list!”

What This Would Be Like At An Actual Cocktail Party

Something not at all annoying or stupendously selfish...

Too much false modesty and self-aggrandizing behavior? 

Not on Twitter!

 

Weird Thing #4: The Too-Soon Request

In some cases, people DO use The Twitter in the way it’s supposed to be used: human people connecting to other human people. But then, almost instantly, they turn around and ruin it.

Of course they do.

In Weird Thing #4, one person tweets another person with something that’s actually, genuinely enjoyable or nice. They might say something like, “Really enjoyed your article, thanks!” or, “Nice meeting you!” or, if you’re lucky, “Hi, I noticed you just dealt with Weird Thing #2 — here's an actual answer to your question instead of another peanut flicked at your face." The list goes on.

But then, in the VERY NEXT interaction, which happens almost instantly, they hit you with a self-serving request. Suddenly, after what felt like a cursory interaction on Twitter, they’re asking to jump on a call or pitch you a product or cut out your kidney. After their initially nice tweet, it's like a robot brain takes over:

"HUMAN PERSON RESPONDED. RAPPORT-BUILDING PHASE COMPLETE. DESTROY! DESTROY!”

What This Would Be Like At An Actual Cocktail Party

How I Never Met Your Mother:

 

(We're almost done with the list. Now is probably a good time to remind you that all of this is HOW WE ACTUALLY ACT on Twitter. I completely understand if you need to go hug a puppy. Go ahead. I'll wait...)

 

Weird Thing #5: Referring To Yourself As A "Visionary" Or "Thought Leader" in Your Own Profile

Weird Thing #6: Quoting Yourself in Your Own Tweets

Proof positive that eating glue as a kid has consequences.

These are so atrocious, they don't warrant further discussion. Let's just move on...

 

Weird Thing #7: Going Out Of Your Way To Make Private Discussions Public

Did you know that if you start a tweet with an @-mention of another person, then your followers won't see it? It's true. Starting with "@" means the only people who see the tweet are you, the person you @-mentioned, and anyone who just so happens to follow both of you. To make a tweet public, the message's first character can not be "@" -- it must be some other character. (This is why you see some people putting a period in front of the very first @-symbol.) 

This is somewhat nuanced, so here’s an explainer graphic I created (via Hubspot):

Now, this feature isn't the weird part.  You just need to understand it to understand Weird Thing #7.

In Weird Thing #7, a person who fully understands this @-mentioning nuance will intentionally add a period ahead of an @-mention. Worst of all, these tweets that are now public should really have remained private, because they're just a bunch of meaningless conversation back-and-forth or semi-private comments. They're not intended for you, nor can you decipher what they mean without clicking them to read the rest of the back-and-forth (likely with a person you don't even follow).

In short, you don't want or need to see this tweet -- you lack all context to understand it -- but the other person doesn't care because they're an Attention-Mongering, Tweet-Blasting Little Leech. 

Let's take a look at two vomit-inducing examples. In each, notice the period or the characters added before the first @-symbol:

  1. .@Bob I totally agree!
  2. Hey @Bob, great meeting you today!

In the first example, it's likely that Bob and the AMTBLL are having a conversation. Or maybe the AMTBLL just decided to express, with WAYYY too much pep, just how much he or she agrees with Bob, because Bob is perceived to be influential and important. Either way, the first example is one part of a conversation that you know nothing and care nothing about, but does the AMTBLL care? Of course not! Because, yet again, screw you.

In the second scenario ("Hey @Bob, great meeting you today!"), there's likely no initial conversation happening that you missed. The AMTBLL probably just met Bob offline, and because they didn't get enough hugs as a kid, that somehow matters, and they feel compelled to let the entire world know with an unbelievably obnoxious tweet...whether you want it there or not.

You guys...seriously...

WHAT.

THE HELL.

ARE WE DOING?!?!

Answer: I don't know, but I suddenly have to go outside.

What This Would Be Like at an Actual Cocktail Party

Posted on June 10, 2014 and filed under social media, business.