Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 8, 2011 8:35 PM

The Twitter Test

I've been thinking a lot about Twitter lately. It's success and how much attention it receives in the public domain.

Beyond Twitter's dramatic growth and the buzz that still surrounds it, it's becoming an increasingly important place to be because as people used to "Google" one another to find out what they're about, you may note that a Twitter profile ranks fairly close to the top of the organic search results. What does this mean? It's means that if you're active on Twitter and looking to build your profile (or personal brand), it would be wise to remember that Twitter (unlike Facebook) is an open platform and anything you tweet (or say) is now open and available for all to see.

Twitter is like a real-time resume.

It's not hard to mold and craft a LinkedIn profile, Blog or even your Facebook profile to look pristine at all times. It's harder to to do that in real-time and when you consider how Twitter is best played in terms of engagement. It's interesting to see how certain people are able to connect, get followed, be added to lists, retweeted and generally treated like Twitter royalty while others fumble and grumble through the process, shaking their heads in disbelief at what accounts for an interesting Twitter experience.

The Twitter Test...

When was the last time you took a look at how someone would you "see" you on Twitter if they connected to you for the first time right now? Do this:

  • Head over to www.twitter.com/[insert your Twitter username here].
  • Take a look at all of the tweets you've recently posted that appear on the entire first page.
  • Look, read and think about all of them.

Now add a thought from The Economist into the mix:

The Economist magazine used to run a print ad with the copy: "would you want to sit next to you at dinner?" It's a clever line of copy and an even cleverer thought. You have to smart, interesting, pithy and curious, don't you? How do your tweets stack up? You see, beyond the basics of a good Twitter profile (a simple username, photo, legible biography, a link to something more relevant about you, etc...), it's really what you're tweeting (and how you're doing it) that's going to keep someone who is finding you for the first time interested in hitting that "follow" button.

Do The Twitter Test often.

Every month (or so), I'll do The Twitter Test. It's not a question of how many @ replies or self-promotional tweets are being pumped into the stream. It's more about the context.

  • How interesting (overall) is the conversation and engagement taking place?
  • Is it all mostly inside jokes or personal innuendos between friends?
  • Am I using language that would make me embarrassed if my mother read it?
  • When my children get older, would I be proud that this real-time flow of my thoughts over a series of years is now available for them (and their friends) to see?
  • How interesting is the content I'm publishing and sharing?
  • If I were looking to change my position at work, will these tweet leave a good impression to my potential employer?

Don't put too much pressure on it.

It's not meant to overwhelm you or have you change your tone and manner on Twitter... it's just something to think about. More often than not when someone recommends that I connect to someone else, the first place I turn to is Twitter to see what they're "really" all about (you know those late night tweets or the tweets after a rough day at work). I suspect I'm not the only one doing this. As we sprinkle our personal brands in different places across the Internet and the mobile channels, we create a more holistic and widely distributed perspective of who we truly are. It's important to remember that a personal audit of that content - every now and again - is probably a wise move to make.

What's your take?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Shawn Rossi
    Mitch Joel

    Actually, I discontinued my LinkedIn tie-in to Twitter for the very same (but kinda different reason). LinkedIn readers were just seeing one tweet - totally out of context. And if you follow people on Twitter for a while, you have "context." You know when they are joking by their tone, etc.

    So I think you also need to look at - from a social media perspective - where you "share" other feeds. (For example, Plaxo lets you share your latest Facebook update).

    Reply
  • Posted by Papa Awori
    Mitch Joel

    I totally agree with your take on this. Usually I check my tweets at least once a week just to see what impression a person gets when they read them.

    I tend to think that I generally tweet about a variety of subjects, but the feedback I get from my connections is that most are based on economics of African countries. To me this is not a bad thing, since the business deals in products from Africa.

    The danger on twitter is the conversations. If one is not paying attention you can be drawn into an exchange that might make you say something you would not normally say, but by then it might too late because it has already been archived.

    Thanks for the reminder to always be aware of what impression your tweets are making.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jody urquhart
    Mitch Joel

    I check twitter to see what people are like to. It is hard to determine this though in 140 characters or less. Someone may sound super sophisticated, funny or irreverent in their tweets, when in real life they are totally the opposite

    Reply
    • Posted by Charles Baratta
      Mitch Joel

      People learn how to get directly to the main point with just using few characters when they are tweeting.

      Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    This post really made me take a good look at my Twitter feed. Sometimes I forget how important balance is when posting. I remember a good friend I met online telling me he followed me only because I had conversations. I guess there has to be a combination including interesting facts, relevant links and a little banter.

    Reply
  • Posted by Michael Q Todd
    Mitch Joel

    Good post. Yeah have always recommended that people look every second day at their last few tweets to make sure the theme of their account is presented accurately and that their appropriate balance of retweets,conversation and self promotion is being maintained

    Reply
    • Posted by @mqtodd
      Mitch Joel

      Woops forgot to add you HAVE to watch regularly to mainatain your theme so that people can easily see what you are about to recommend you, connect you to others , add you to lists etc

      Reply
  • Posted by Joel Hughes
    Mitch Joel

    Great post and 'realtime resume' really resonates with me.

    A word of caution though: if you review your profile timeline, i would not drastically alter your use of Twitter (unless really inappropriate content) because we have to understand that simply reviewing someones "x" last tweets is a broken experience - your dipping into their firehose - and you need filters to make sense of it.

    Key filters would be:
    - "show me this persons public (non reply) tweets"
    - "show me this persons conversation threads" (replies)

    When i review someones profile i find myself doing the above automaticallly - however, we will see better tools to help us with this. And people will more & more use such tools to help make sense of the noise when reviewing Twitter profiles.

    Sorry for the long comment!

    @joel_hughes

    Reply
  • Posted by monique lo
    Mitch Joel

    brilliant. thank you.

    Reply
  • Posted by Victoria Baksh
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for the great post! Unfortunately, twitter seems to have become largely a platform for "witty zingers" and public conversations between people that maybe should be left private. Who cares about #boobsndpie or suggestive comments about uses of whipped cream? Its not that I'm saying these conversations shouldn't be had - why do they need to be on a public forum for everyone to read? Is it exhibitionism? I don't know. I think the occasional "public service tweet" or a rant on some topical issue justifies a lot of "random tweets"
    Great article!

    Reply
  • Posted by Mike Proulx
    Mitch Joel

    100% agree with the statement "Twitter is like a real-time resume." I'm in constant recruiting mode for my team and the very first thing I do is the "Twitter test" in assessing a candidate's potential fit (and if they're not on Twitter, they're automatically out) even before I look at someone's resume.

    One of my best hires was made because he started following me on Twitter due to a mutual Foursquare check-in -- when I looked at his Tweet stream, it said volumes about who he is and what he thinks about.

    Reply
  • Very good point, Mitch.

    I use a WordPress plugin called TwitterTools, which publishes a digest of my Twitter updates to my blog each week. That way, I and others get to see what I've talked about. Over time, as my usage of Twitter has changed, I've become more conscious of what others see via my Twitter feed. In some cases, I opt to post a "Friends Only" update to Facebook.

    Reply
    • Posted by Nathan Hughes
      Mitch Joel

      I just switched to Wordpress.org and have been looking for a good plug-in for publishing my Twitter feed. What you said here, Daniel, along with the other comments, makes me wonder if I should publish only "non-reply" tweets & retweets. (and if any of the plug-ins have that setting)

      Reply
      • Hi Nathan! I like seeing my replies/mentions in my Twitter digest because it shows that I've been interacting with others. Twitter Tools also provides a hyperlink to the tweet, in case I want to see the context.

        Having the digest has been helpful to me on those occasions where I wanted to refer to something I remembered tweeting months or even years, now, back.

        Feel free to reach out privately if you want some help with TwitterTools. blog AT danieljohnsonjr DOT com

        Make it a great day!

        Reply
        • This conversation reminds me of something that I've heard Mitch say a number of times:

          "Your personal brand speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say."

          We're all giving off an aroma... the key is to make sure it's the kind of aroma we intend to give off. If not, then maybe it's time to wash up! :)

          Reply
  • Posted by Jeffrey Luke
    Mitch Joel

    I've always thought of Twitter as a way to build your personal brand and a way to build your resume one tweet at a time. So agreed on all fronts. Nice post.

    Reply
  • Posted by Dave
    Mitch Joel

    Interesting post, I do agree that you should check to see what you are doing often but the knock on effect of doing it badly is that you will lose followers. I have unfollowed people for constant self promotion, don't get me wrong I don't mind a bit, good to see what people are doing, but doing it constantly is annoying and If the tweets have no value I'll dump them off.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ramsey Mohsen
    Mitch Joel

    Twitter is the new business card.

    Reply
  • Posted by Maureen
    Mitch Joel

    I don't have my linkedin profile connected to my twitter account for the same reasons as others, however I think anyone's tweets that are all statements with no interaction are like viewing a robot. I like a good mix and it shows that person is real and is actively participating in making connections.

    Thanks for the good advice to check my twitter page to make sure I'm not moving too far in one direction or the other.

    Reply
  • Posted by Stephen Tiano
    Mitch Joel

    See, now, and I kind of feel the opposite from the Twitter-not-linked-to-LinkedIn sentiment. I think it's valuable for potential clients of my book design practice to see as much as possible of what informs my design aesthetic and how I work.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jim Spencer
    Mitch Joel

    As much as I prefer to be foot loose and care free on Twitter, your point is well taken. I too check Twitter when connecting with new people. I am not sure how to address your point about the 10 tweet banter of inside jokes, other than to skip it.

    Another angle is to consider how your Tweets earn you a place on various Twitter lists. I just organized all of the list names people put me on and I think there is a pretty accurate and proportionate representation of what I do. Lots of social, seo, design and WordPress. I began to wonder if that might be considered more accurate than a Linkedin profile in some ways. There is social proof in the Lists. You can read more about it here - http://bit.ly/h5zloh. I think for someone who is pretty transparent it can be quite accurate and informative because you can't just write whatever you want.

    On the other hand, plenty of people keep quiet about what they do, so it won't apply to everyone and for that reason remains an open question more for thinking about than seeking a final answer.

    Reply
  • Posted by Brandon
    Mitch Joel

    I understand where Mitch is coming from. As business people, we are leaving a digital trail that gives a lot of insight as to who we "really" are.

    The only issue I see with doing this self-assessment, is that most of us think we are more interesting than we really are. So, I would suggest to have someone else that knows you best conduct the Twitter test for you.

    Reply
  • Posted by Susan Milligan
    Mitch Joel

    It's difficult to be objective. I go back every couple weeks and delete many Tweets that are no longer relevant. But, mostly I delete the ones that, in the light of day, just sound stupid. Found you by a retweet from Chris Brogan. I asked if he wanted to critique my Tweets. (seriously, have not heard back.)

    Reply
  • Posted by Nrip Nihalani
    Mitch Joel

    A personal audit across all forms of open communication is very useful... Although was hoping "The Twitter Test" would be something much cooler...

    Reply
  • Posted by Miles Maker
    Mitch Joel

    Be yourself! All of this sounds far too deliberate and introspective to truly resonate with others in the moment, which is exactly what Twitter is all about; a real-time exchange of thoughts, feelings, opinion, inspiration and motivation from the imPULSE of humanity. Simply BE who you ARE--no more and no less. I would Love for my kids to know who I AM truthfully and authentically vs. a false projection of me. With regards to jobs and embarrassed Moms--brands will never have the influence people will for this very reason and those who tweet with guarded reservation are unfortunately deprived of Twitter's cathartic value as well.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ernest Barbaric
    Mitch Joel

    The old axiom still stands where first impressions can make or break a relationship. Much like Gladwell outlined, we all do tend to make these snap decisions, or shortcuts on a regular basis.

    When it comes to Twitter, it's no different. The last three tweets is what a person clicking on your username will see and those last three tweets are defining you as a person within their mind.

    The 6 points you outlined about the Twitter Test are a really great reality check more of us should partake in.

    Reply
  • Posted by Judy Gombita
    Mitch Joel

    Interesting. Heather Yaxley and I covered this same topic in our (two-part) blog post on PR Conversations. Rather than reinventing the wheel in a comment here, I am snipping part of my "conversation" on part I:

    "My advice to Brennan and his Gen Y (or C) cohort: if you followed someone on Twitter (or Facebook) because you were under the assumption that he or she had worthwhile things to say or they engaged with a lot of people, take a moment and re-evaluate whether this is indeed is the case.

    Look back on a day or two worth of ‘updates.’ How much value add do you see? Approximately how many people is an individual conversing with, and on what topics – does the stream demonstrate a diversity of people, opinions and links? Or are the same names coming up, again and again, covering the same type of self-serving areas? Are many of the tweets simply group ‘hello’ ‘thank you’ or inside jokes to the same people? (Are any of those tweets directed to you, particularly if you’ve opined or asked a question?)

    On a longer term, does the person tend to select the same people as a #FF (Friday Follow), week after week? Share blog posts from the same select circle of ‘friendz’ (who in turn share that person’s new blog posts)?

    In your follow strategy, what you need to figure out is whether you are satisfied with one of the Twitter ‘rock stars’ simply following you back…or do you need some validation as to why. If a person ‘follows back’ 5,000 people (out of, for example, 9,000 followers), including you, but continues to converse with only 40 people on a regular basis (mainly other ‘rock stars’ or a personal entourage of fans), the networking ecosystem is one-way and mainly nurturing that person’s ego. Ask yourself: WIIFM? Don’t feel obligated to continue following, despite a person’s age or perceived professional experience or ‘influence.’

    Consider a Twitter audit. Don’t be an acolyte of the Cult of Personality or attempt to join the ‘PR blog party.’ ‘Just say no’ to empowering narcissism. This is my advice, no matter what your age. (And don’t be hurt or surprised if the people you unfollow don’t even notice….)

    Instead, search out individuals to follow in the PR or communication spheres that consistently provide or share solid information (original or curated – from a variety of people, young or old, known or new to you), and who are open to engaging with others, across generational, sector and geographical boundaries, even if the conversations don’t revolve around them. They are out there, I promise you, Brennan. I hope you find at least 500 of them."

    http://www.prconversations.com/index.php/2011/03/a-cautionary-conversation-about-pr-and-social-media-part-i/

    Reply
  • Posted by Jim Bland
    Mitch Joel

    I created the following survey based on some of Mitch's comments in his blog. If you paste in some of your recent tweets in Question 1, I will actually do some basic analytics to evaluate the image that you are projecting. Will publish the results online in a couple of weeks. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/33WHFBH

    Reply
  • Posted by Virtual Agent
    Mitch Joel

    That is a great point of reflection. I usually think a couple of times over before I hit the post button, just because I feel like posting them on an open space, even if they're my "people" will lead to instant judgment, of how petty someone is, or how much of a show off I am.

    Reply
  • Posted by Christin Mowery
    Mitch Joel

    There are a lot of things I won't say on Twitter. I am always thinking about how this tweet will look to potential new followers. There are people I won't follow either, because their posts are too vulgar or ignorant. Thank you for this reminder.

    Reply
  • Posted by Sarah Bustard
    Mitch Joel

    Great reminder to all that Twitter is open for everyone and what you say is forever out there. I find myself doing the "twitter test" periodically, probably not often enough. I usually "fail" the test in the "Is it all mostly inside jokes or personal innuendos between friends?" question. It is easy to get involved in personal conversations, but Twitter isn't always (or ever) the place for that.

    Thanks for the reminder! I'm looking forward to seeing you at the CPRS event in June.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jim Rowe
    Mitch Joel

    I can see from the posts that many are now spending time reviewing their tweets to ensure they are of the right quality and more importantly i think, Interesting. However remember that its the whole interaction and not just the odd tweet that you should use as a reference. Otherwise your missing the point.

    Reply
  • Posted by JoeCascio
    Mitch Joel

    As Twitter has grown, which is to say, as more and more people read it, I find I have reined in my tendency to the profane or provocative. Back when only the early adopters even knew what Twitter was, and "serious" business people scoffed and joked about it, my old-school Twitter pals and I could get really outrageous and free-spirited because we knew no one we knew in real life was listening. In fact, we now routinely bemoan how Twitter has gone mainstream and thus "respectable". One fellow I know even created an alter ego account so he could say what his "real" self can't.

    Twitter going mainstream is blessing and a curse for sure.

    Reply
    • Posted by Jim Rowe
      Mitch Joel

      Joe I so agree with what you say although I find many people lack the confidence to say much on Twitter. I find this difficult to understand however, I have never had a problem expressing my views "in public".

      Reply
  • Posted by David Mon
    Mitch Joel

    I'm not sure I agree with this 100% but it does give you something to think about for sure.

    Thanks,
    Dave

    Reply
  • Posted by Scott Piro
    Mitch Joel

    Great post. Especially not putting too much pressure on yourself about it, but just giving yourself something to think about, and doing it once/month. I liked your approach.

    Reply
  • Posted by Julie Myers
    Julie Myers

    Good content is thought-provoking and it seems you've done it with this. For me, I do a little of both where I think through and schedule tweets but also do the spur of the moment based on some of what I see. I think I do the review somewhat subconsciously because of this. Like many of you I don't link Twitter to either LinkedIn or Facebook because I use each of these differently. I also do look at someone's Twitter profile before following them, too ... don't want to see a lot of tweets that are blatant self-promotion or just not of interest. I like the questions you pose and do agree that it is good practice to do the "Twitter test" as well as the "Facebook test" and "LinkedIn test." Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Mitch.. a routine Twitter audit is a good idea but I'd fail the test. Most of my friends don't care about marketing or social media, would find my tweets and dinner company way too boring. Per Judy's comment.. Good point about the FF, I mix mine and pick someone new on Fridays. I do make a few 'inside jokes' with a few friends, but not many. I think about what's in it for me and for them, my followers: I've been on an unfollow kick lately zapping wasted feeds, people who don't pass 'my' Twitter test. FWIW.

    Reply
  • Posted by Cresilda
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for the reminder. Haven't done the twitter test yet. Only one word can best describe twitter, it's SOCIAL. Being yourself and at the same time respecting other users are good enough. :)

    Reply
  • Posted by Jon Weedon
    Mitch Joel

    I tend to check the recent tweets of people I follow, so I guess I should expect others to do the same to me. The thing that puts me off following people more than anything else is simply is their total number of tweets. Anything close to 5 figures and I'm unlikely to follow. No one could possibly be interesting that often.

    Reply
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