Fear of Twitter Replies
May 31, 2013 6:27 AM   Subscribe

The powers that be where I work are reluctant to use Twitter because they think anything they tweet will get spammed. Help me convince them they're off the rails on this!

A few weeks back I asked this question to this great community and received a wealth of information.

One of my goals afterwards was to get Twitter going for us, but have since encountered resistance by the folks in charge that any info we post on Twitter will be immediately spammed by kooky individuals. I don't think this is either rational or likely. We already use Facebook and do not have problems - why would Twitter be different?

I'd love for our town Twitter account to be verified to give the option of "All | No replies" but until that day, we'd have to deal with (maybe imaginary) spammers.

Thoughts?
posted by dukes909 to Computers & Internet (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
what repercussions do they think "get[ing] spammed" will have on your company?
posted by wayland at 6:32 AM on May 31, 2013


Worry about spammers doing what, exactly?
posted by rtha at 6:33 AM on May 31, 2013


Its irrational fear of change which you encounter often with non-tech savvy folks.
posted by 0 answers at 6:33 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Part of it is that it's an election year here, so they might be afraid of it being used as a political discussion (rants) instead of for information dissemination.*

This is just conjecture on my part and may only be part of it, or have nothing to do with it at all.
posted by dukes909 at 6:42 AM on May 31, 2013


Yeah, can you clarify what they mean by "any info we post on Twitter will be immediately spammed"?

- Their tweets will be RTed by spammers (thereby associating their brand with spammers/spam)?
- They will get spam replies?
- Their account will be followed by spammers?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:43 AM on May 31, 2013


The thing is, a twitter account can't be "used" by other people. That's one of the nice things about it, compared to facebook, for brand management - ten thousand people could write "@dukes909 IS THE STUPIDEST" and nobody who isn't specifically searching for you will ever know; your own feed will remain pristine. It's not like facebook walls, where you have to deal with 'fans' writing "your brand is the worst."
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:44 AM on May 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


@Tomorrowful - but without a verified account, would it not be the case that folks following @dukes909 see both my tweets and any replies like the "STUPIDEST" comments (or replies that say @dukes909 IS THE GREATEST")?
posted by dukes909 at 6:50 AM on May 31, 2013


Probably they're imagining a blog post with a ream of crappy comments underneath (that somehow make them look bad). Twitter isn't like that, and you often don't see, let alone get held accountable for, crazed repliers. I don't know how you can convey that other than to, maybe, use the telephone metaphor -- nobody's going to be bothered unless the rant comes from somebody they're already on the phone with... ?
posted by acm at 6:50 AM on May 31, 2013


Actually, I guess it is a bit like that now, since you can "Expand" a tweet to see the discussion that it generates. Still requires an active interest, but I guess it means that random drive-by's are still visible. So I *guess* somebody might worry about that, but honestly, don't most assholic replies make the responder look bad?

You can't do much about link spam and the rest, except to console yourself that most people don't expand every twitter conversation (unless there are some grim reader interfaces out there that I haven't experienced!)...
posted by acm at 6:53 AM on May 31, 2013


I'm unclear - do they mean they worry about the actual posts from the feed will be spammy (or ranty as per your addition) or that other people will retweet it in a spammy (eh?) way?

If former, then a clear set of 'what is appropriate content' guidelines/someone with whom the buck stops/named users (i.e. "good morning, today it's Mike and Isobel!") should be sufficient to prevent issues and obviously, with guidelines, there can be repercussions for inappropriate content but oviously, this is not already a problem in your organisation re: facebook so unlikely to suddenly manifest on Twitter.

If the latter, well, it's the internet. Once you post something, it's out of your control. I look after a couple non-personal twitter accounts and the only real 'spam' related problem we have is porn accounts/bots retweeting us based on keywords, so I block them and poof, problem solved!

If they're worried that other users might be all 'they're making people into soylent green!!!! xyz says so on twitter!!!!', then approach it in the same way, ignore and block or respond in a clear way 'xyz would like to clarify that we're not actually making soylent green out of people' so that any (logical) 3rd party can make their own decision.

tl;dr - what 0 answers/acm says.
posted by halcyonday at 6:55 AM on May 31, 2013


@Tomorrowful - but without a verified account, would it not be the case that folks following @dukes909 see both my tweets and any replies like the "STUPIDEST" comments (or replies that say @dukes909 IS THE GREATEST")?

Nope. Verification is just that - it verifies that the account really is who it says it is. It does *nothing* to change behavior for what anyone sees.

If I follow @dukes909, I see what @dukes909 posts or retweets. Nothing more. I follow lots of my friends who are unverified - I don't see anyone mentioning them or talking to them (unless, of course, I follow that person too.)

For example, a couple of my friends have relatively large followings of people they don't even know, because they're D-level Internet Celebrities. But it's easy for me to forget this, because I don't ever see the dozens of replies they might get to any one of their tweets - just the things they tweet themselves.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:57 AM on May 31, 2013


To clarify - the brass is not worried about what we'd post but rather replies. For instance:

OurTown @OurTown
We are putting in a sidewalk on Smith Street today.

- (expanded replies)

UnhappyCamper @UnhappyCamper
@OurTown Yeah, well why doesn't the Mayor fix all the broken ones over here in the west side of town first. JERK!

etc.
posted by dukes909 at 7:01 AM on May 31, 2013


Well, ok, but what's so bad about that?

Nobody's going to see those unless they hunt them down. And one of the whole points of social media is to be able to reply back to people who have a problem, rather than having them stew endlessly. My own city's mayor (or his staff) regularly replies to people bitching about potholes and code violations and whatnot, asking for more details or pointing them at the appropriate city resources to resolve their problems.

(Also, honestly, I'd be very careful to separate that issue from spam. Spam is totally unrelated content; what you're concerned about is actual negative feedback, and if you don't want to cope with some people telling you you're not awesome, then maybe you don't want a social media presence.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:05 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


To clarify - the brass is not worried about what we'd post but rather replies. For instance:

OurTown @OurTown
We are putting in a sidewalk on Smith Street today.

- (expanded replies)

UnhappyCamper @UnhappyCamper
@OurTown Yeah, well why doesn't the Mayor fix all the broken ones over here in the west side of town first. JERK!
Yes, that will probably happen, assuming that "OurTown" is the municipal government. So what they're saying is not that they're worried that they're getting spammed, but that the public will see criticism.

Your twitter account will not get "spammed" as such, because generally you don't get notified of replies from people you're not following (you could even change that setting so that you don't get notified of replies from anyone at all, if you wish).

But, yes, if you have a public twitter account, other people with twitter accounts will be able to communicate with it, unless you specifically block them.
posted by deanc at 7:05 AM on May 31, 2013


I've run multiple business twitter accounts, and one of the arguments that's always helped me establish a presence is that the conversation about your brand is ALREADY happening on Twitter. Shouldn't you be there to notice and respond?

In your example, people may already be complaining about broken sidewalks on the west side of town. What if you could turn that complaint into "Hey @UnhappyCamper, sorry to hear that you've got broken sidewalks near you. Can you email me some locations at sidewalks@ourtown.us and we'll send someone out to check on them?"
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:09 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I understand all that and probably should not have used the word "Spam". And I agree about the replies - that is the whole idea. Remember I'm trying to convince them!
posted by dukes909 at 7:09 AM on May 31, 2013


But that's not spam, that's an unhappy citizen whose concern you can address.

What you/they are calling spam sounds more like just negative feedback and criticism, which is part and parcel of being in government/public service, I would have thought.

You will need to create a policy about who will address complaints and how. You should already have the roots of a policy about addressing criticism--apply it to Twitter. Being responsive, helpful, and transparent to people's complaints on Twitter will make you look amazing.

"Spam" Twitter accounts get shut down pretty quickly. If an actual spambot replies to one of your tweets, you can flag it as spam and it will probably be hidden/removed shortly.
posted by thebazilist at 7:10 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only replies to you that Person A will see are replies to you from people Person A follows.

- So let's say A follows You and B but not C.
- You tweet something awesome.
- B replies something stupid. A sees this.
- C replies something stupid. A does not see this unless A clicks on the specific tweet You tweeted and reviews all the replies. In doing so they know they may see some garbage. People do not generally attach negative connotations arising from that garbage to You, but rather to B and C and other fools.
- Someone goes to Your feed to see all Your tweets. They see no replies except those coming from You, unless they click on a specific tweet to see the garbage trail.

In neither case will A be inundated with spam (unless they choose to), because A chose to follow B.

Some people don't get this. I've encountered people who thought that being mentioned (@theirname) or replied (@theirname in response to a particular tweet) meant that they were being spammed or harassed. I think that's laughable, but you can only lead a horse to water.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:10 AM on May 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Remember I'm trying to convince them!

The only thing you can really say, then, is, "Everyone done this. It is part and parcel of public services. If you don't, people will think you're trying to hide something."
posted by deanc at 7:12 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Give them this analogy: should a public official never go out in public or appear at events or talk to the press in case someone says or asks something negative?

These people and their concerns are already out there--avoiding Twitter to avoid them is in essence hiding.

Maybe the personalities you're working with would rather hide from the public than encounter negativity, in which case you might not win this.
posted by thebazilist at 7:12 AM on May 31, 2013


The conversation is also happening already out in the streets. Twitter doesn't create unhappy citizens/customers, it illuminates them.

It can also give them a platform to find each other, but that's happening already as well. City Council meetings, the aforementioned streets, etc.

Another thing you might show them is that ALL "brands" receive this criticism, so it's a level playing field. I've done a twitter search on my hometown out of curiosity; it's full of people throwing rocks. So what? It's a reasonably well-run community, so the ranters are typically kids who are pissed because the city wrote them a speeding ticket. If the city were going down the drain due to a bond issue they weren't paying, there would be more serious criticism. So your leaders should only be afraid if they're not doing their job.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:16 AM on May 31, 2013


Thanks all, I will use the arguments here. I think presenting it as it is laid out here will help.
posted by dukes909 at 7:21 AM on May 31, 2013


I might show them selected tweets that are already happening about your town/agency, both positive and negative - they will instinctively have something to say. Then pull examples of how other towns are doing a great job - San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, and NYC are good examples.
posted by amaire at 7:22 AM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's always the argument that if they don't take the reins on their social media presence then someone else will. Imagine the havoc brass' imaginary critic would wreak if that person somehow started impersonating your municipality on Twitter.

Also, exposure to criticism generally strengthens the subject. There's no better way to improve service to more voters and more taxpayers than to interact with more voters and more taxpayers. Tell them it's like gladhanding at fundraisers, except you don't have to wear a tie.
posted by carsonb at 7:23 AM on May 31, 2013


Some peer-reviewed literature on the subject may be helpful. For example, this 2009 article on how Congresspeople use Twitter (or this more recent 2013 article on the same subject), this 2010 article on how police departments use Twitter, or this 2012 article on social media use by government might all be good things for you to skim and then discuss with them.
posted by k8lin at 7:29 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, I was going to use the SFgov one as an example. Thanks!
posted by dukes909 at 7:36 AM on May 31, 2013


To clarify - the brass is not worried about what we'd post but rather replies. For instance:

OurTown @OurTown
We are putting in a sidewalk on Smith Street today.

- (expanded replies)

UnhappyCamper @UnhappyCamper
@OurTown Yeah, well why doesn't the Mayor fix all the broken ones over here in the west side of town first. JERK!


Do they think that @UnhappyCamper isn't already posting stuff like
UnhappyCamper @UnhappyCamper
Why won't Mayor of OurTown fix the sidewalks already!!?
In other words:
the conversation about your brand is ALREADY happening on Twitter.
This!

In fact, if OurTown gets on Twitter and Unhappy Camper posts @ them as in your example, it will actually REDUCE the visibility of their complaint!

Situation: OurTown not on Twitter.
UnhappyCamper posts "Our Town's sidewalks need fixing!".
Everyone who follows UnhappyCamper sees this tweet in their regular tweet stream.

Situation: OurTown on Twitter.
UnhappyCamper posts "@OurTown yr sidewalks need fixing!".
Only users who follow OurTown AND UnhappyCamper sees this tweet in their regular tweet stream.
People who only follow UnhappyCamper do NOT see this in their stream, and would only see it if viewing UC's individual twitter profile.
People who only follow OurTown do NOT see this in their stream unless they specifically choose to view replies to OurTown's tweets.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:04 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you continue to meet this kind of resistance around social media, you might want to consider hiring a consulting firm to help explain the digital landscape to the Powers That Be and put together some guidelines. I was really struggling with this at my organization, and the best solution was to bring in a savvy third party that could explain things better than I could. It also got rid of the me vs. them (and young vs. old) dynamic.
posted by jrichards at 8:05 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of my goals afterwards was to get Twitter going for us

It seems that your true goal is to effectively disseminate SMS alerts. Unless your town is very unusual, Twitter is not likely to be a reliable means to that end.

According to Pew's 2012 study, about 15% of adults use Twitter—only 8% do so on a typical day. As you might expect, use is highest among very young people and drops dramatically among those over 30. If your small town is rural, the number of users is likely to be well below these average figures because urban/suburban folks are significantly more likely to use Twitter than their rural counterparts.

As noted above, you're running into red herring issues because people don't understand how Twitter works. They don't understand because they don't use it—which means it's not a good tool for sending mass alerts. You might considering bringing this up again if/when your town reaches the point where a significant number of local people communicate regularly via Twitter.
posted by she's not there at 12:11 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Try to help them understand that this is an opportunity to better serve their constituents. Heck, I tweet at AC Transit all the time. So does my husband. And they tweet back with useful responses: sorry about that, here's our customer feedback form, or thanks, we'll alert the maintenance yard to check that bus's door when it comes back in.
posted by Lexica at 7:05 PM on May 31, 2013


Its irrational fear of change which you encounter often with non-tech savvy folks.

Right, because if there is one thing tech savvy folks love; it's change.
posted by banshee at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2013


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