Two posts this week caught our eye this week, both in different ways to do with building real relationships on Twitter.
Twitter email notifications can help engagement
Twitter is rolling out changes to the email notification system. Certain actions by you on Twitter (retweeting, replying, favoriting) will trigger automatic email notifications to the original tweeter, as long as that tweeter is a follower of yours, as well. This change, announced last Monday, will gradually be available to all users with the options below:
A warning – the default setting is to receive all emails, so if you’re a ‘power user’ you can expect a very full inbox. And note, this only applies to users you follow. It doesn’t apply to those who follow you (but you don’t follow) or to Twitter accounts with whom you have no relationship at all.
We had a think about the potential advantages to both professional tweeters (social media mavens, social media journalists, community managers, brand managers, etc.) and those of us who use Twitter on a more personal basis.
With some adept use of email filters such as those Gmail provides, it should be possible to access stats on RTs, replies and favourited tweets without resorting to the normal apps – backtweets, Twilert, etc. (Although note the limitations on accounts above). It remains to be seen if the new notifications will mean some of the third-party tools and add-ons are no longer quite as useful as they once were.
But the advantage that really stands out to us is on the engagement side – that with the new notification system, it is more worthwhile than ever to make those one-on-one connections with regular and casual users: the ones who don’t have multiple third-party tools and searches and who use Twitter in a very authentic and organic way.In terms of building a fan army, making followers feel valued in a Twitter relationship, and genuine engagement, these email alerts can only help. Reaching out by being generous with favoriting and retweeting and direct mentions may be more likely to have the desired effect with the new email notifications in place- and is, in any case, the only way to truly build up your Twitter connections.
New York Times Twitter gets real
In a not-unrelated post, we were also pleased to see that the New York Times is testing the effect of having a human at the Twitter controls for a week. Instead of their normal “cyborg” approach (automated headline-and-a-link feed of homepage stories with occasional contributions from the social media editors,) the team members are taking turns running the @nytimes account during working hours, putting in the effort of replying to followers, RT-ing their non-NYT links and generally using Twitter for what Twitter does best: dialogue, not just broadcast. Whether a week is long enough to judge results remains to be seen, but the response from followers so far has been enthusiastic.
Contrast that with the robot headline postings available on the account when I checked it today (overnight New York time), and the difference is dramatic:
The Wall Street Journal has had a similar process of human-driven tweeting in place for over a year and reports improved metrics, as has the Los Angeles Times. But both the WSJ and the LAT admit that it takes a lot of manpower to human tweet properly in order to build authentic engagement. However, the payoff in goodwill can be impressive. Zach Seward, the main voice behind the @WSJ account, works with other staff members to almost constantly monitor mentions of @WSJ and reply to factual questions that they can answer — such as what an IPO is or why a particular stock is down. This kind of interaction tends to be “extremely well received,” he said, because people aren’t expecting a reply from a large, faceless institution. He reports that some readers respond that they are going to renew their Journal subscriptions because of such attentiveness – that’s instant ROI.
Will the NYT keep up their experiment or will they return to bots and cyborgs blasting away with headline tweets? In either case, both the new Twitter notifications and the NYT experiment illustrate what most of us knew about Twitter in our heart of hearts all along: talking with someone is a lot more fun when you take turns doing the listening.
Thanks to Bliss H., who suggested and helped on this post