First, let’s be clear, my wife is no Luddite when it comes to technology. She runs laptops, tablets and smart phones on a regular basis. She even swims the Apple-Windows divide on a daily basis. She knows what Twitter is and some of the basics of how it works, but what she really needed was a road map on how to get the most for her purposes out of Twitter. Which, when you think about it, is really all that anyone wants when it comes to Twitter, or any other social media platform.
Lucky for my wife, this conversation inevitably led to my well-rehearsed, oft used social media speech entitled, “The Four C’s of Twitter,” (which until lately was only the three C’s). The way I break it down to make the concept easy for people to understand is that most of what appears on Twitter can be lumped into four categories: Cults, causes, commotions and clutter.
I start with this: Twitter is like an open river flowing through not just Anytown, USA, but Anytown, anywhere in the world where a person has access to the Internet. There are those who argue that it’s more like an open sewage pit running through the middle of a medieval village—and there is plenty of toxic dumping that is done on Twitter—but I’d prefer to think of it more as a riverway of pontifications, swept along on a current of offerings, some more intelligent than others. My wife was pretty impressed by that part. At least I think she was.
With Twitter, a good fisherman can sit along the bank and cast about using appropriate hashtags to glean a lot of truly useful information offered up in real time. These same fishermen are generally adept not only at using hashtags, but also at finding and following users (we might even call them “influencers”) who are genuinely beneficial to their companies or their own personal interests. Usually these folks stay above the toxic diatribes that muddy the waters of the River Twitter and share relevant, important, or necessary items. My wife was getting restless by this point, so I needed to get right to the promised four C’s. Here we go:
The cults that I mention are really cults of personality. These are the celebrity accounts, whose followers oftentimes number in the millions. Everyone from famous athletes to celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Sir Paul McCartney tweet these days. Some celebrities even have Twitter accounts for their dogs. I’m looking at you and Finn, Amanda Seyfried. Want to know the latest that Demi Lovato has to say to her nearly 29 million followers? Just follow her on Twitter. I’m sure you get my drift.
Then there are the causes. Usually these include hashtags that make them easy to find (and support, of course)—things like #tornadorelief or #earthquakerelief. You can get the latest news and stay up-to-date by following these accounts and hashtags. But be forewarned, these tags often get hijacked. During the recent Kansas legislative budget battles (#KSLEG), someone decided we all needed a magazine recipe for chocolate cake to get us through the stress, and hijacked the hashtag to share that.
I vascillate about whether commotions need their own category or if they are just a subgroup of causes. Generally, commotions are things or events that a lot of people are interested in, such as industry specific conferences, or big events like the #TonyAwards, the #SuperBowl or the #FinalFour. Say you’ve got a big event coming up, make sure you brand it with the right hashtag and let everyone with a vested interest know what to follow.
The last category in my Twitter breakdown is clutter. Clutter is just that—clutter. Clutter is everything else that doesn’t fall into one of the other four categories. Clutter is the stuff that stops up the pipes, like pictures of what you are about to eat, messages about what drive-thru line you’re currently waiting in, pictures of your dog (or your cat), Internet memes, and other stuff that mostly no one cares about. Clutter is the white noise of the Internet. It’s people saying things just to hear themselves tweet.
As a matter of full disclosure, at work I’m a Facebook true believer. It reaches the audience we’re seeking. It’s malleable for a variety of content, ranging from text to images to video. And, it’s the big kid on the block. An AdWeek snapshot of social media users from earlier this year showed Facebook with 156.5 million users growing to 160.9 million by next year, while Twitter checks in at 52.9 million, with predictions sending it to 57.3 million in 2016. It’s also probably important to note that nearly half of Twitter’s users are ages 18 to 34.
Where Twitter has it all over a lot of the other social media is its immediacy. Point, shoot, click, tag, and off your post goes on the way down the Twitter River.
So I wanted to leave my wife with some sort of grand takeway that would set her tweets apart and raise them from clutter status to say cult status. Then I thought of a fifth C, which is the most important of all: Content. Content is king, queen, and all the social media royalty rolled into one. If you don’t have good content, regardless of which social media channel you choose, you won’t attract much attention.
Way back in J-School, a friend and I were studying for an exam when she said “don’t forget TACO PIP.” TACO PIP? Had I missed something on the extra value menu at Taco Bell? My friend smiled, then explained that the answer to the question, “What is news?” comes down to the acronym TACO PIP.
And so it follows that good news writing as well as good social media content—regardless of where it is posted—should include one or more of the following:
I – Impact
TACO PIP. After thinking about it, I decided I’d add one more to the list: E—Entertaining. But really, who ever heard of a TACO PIPE?
A veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper and online news business, Greg Peters is the communications coordinator for the University of Kansas School of Health Professions at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He also serves as blogger-in-residence for the national employment blogsite CareerFuel.Net. Greg earned his undergraduate degree from Fort Hays State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.