What’s in Your Tweet?

Post by: Kim Stephens

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The Social Media and Emergency Management chat devolved a little bit today into a debate about what to include in a tweet, specifically hyperlinks, and whether or not it was good practice to cross post between Facebook and Twitter.  The conversation reminded me of a blog post from last year entitled: All in a tweet. The author [no name is given] notes his observations about official twitter accounts during the January 2011 record flooding event  in Australia, as well as people’s reactions and interactions with those accounts. I wrote about this last year,  but wanted to revisit this story since it provides some great lessons on how to design tweets in order to ensure your customers and/or citizens are not only happy, but actually able to understand the information you are trying to convey.

The author describes one particular “channel” on twitter, the TransLink SEQ–the twitter feed for the rail and bus service, and states that they were “an example of how not to use [twitter].” His biggest complaint was how TransLink stated very generic information in their tweets and expected people to go their website for details. The content of this tweet is illustrative: “Services are running throughout this afternoon. Expect delays & some cancellations. Check the website for service status info.” However, as the author notes, this presented numerous problems, especially since most of the users were accessing the information on mobile devices, literally standing on train platforms:

  1. Going to a website on a smartphone doesn’t always work, especially if the user doesn’t have a great signal;
  2. Reading a website on a smartphone is not always easy, especially if the site is not optimized for mobile and;
  3. Since so many users were directed to the website, it eventually crashed.

Another aspect of the story is simply Translink’s non-responsiveness to users.

There was every indication that they were explicitly refusing to respond to direct messages or any sort of feedback.  “The height of their lunacy on Tuesday was when many, many people were asking if the rumour that public transport was halting at 2PM was true, and the *only* response in return was to keep repeating that they had a [web]page with service statuses on it. At no point did they respond to the simple question “are services halting at 2pm.” The only rebuttal of that rumour came from the QPS Media service [Queensland Police Service].

A direct consequence of their inability or lack of desire to tweet out the information was huge spikes in the number of calls to their call center.”Our call centre is receiving a high number of calls, causing delays in answering. Check website for info to help us manage the call volume.”

Two interesting points from the author:

  • relevant information-rich messages are spread further and live longer than information-poor messages;
  • the service is inherently a two-way information flow, and questions and criticisms that flow back are indicators of errors or inadequacies in the outgoing flow.

In sum, organizations that are using social networks during a crisis really need to consider in their content strategy not only what the message is, but what kinds of devices people are using to access that content. Let me know if that is a consideration you have taken into account.

4 responses to “What’s in Your Tweet?

  1. The author is Robert Hook, I believe. You can go to “About” then his version 1.0 blog and then into the FAQ of that blog to find him.


  2. Great article Kim, thanks for posting. I think the “All in a Tweet” author is part-time polymath Robert Hook. You may want to email rahook [at] gmail.com to confirm. http://www.parttimepolymath.net

  3. Thanks guys! I did try to find his name, I clearly didn’t look hared enough!

  4. Looks like some folks have popped up with my name before I did! Glad you liked the article. One of these days I will have to follow it up.

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