Here are some examples from my Twitter stream recently. They're typical social media ‘blurts:’
Blog Blurt: "How my Blog Landed Me a Book Deal: http://bit.ly/....”
Location Blurt: “I'm at Crunch Fitness (330 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn).”
Peeve Blurt: “Pet peeve #1: People who talk on the phone in bathroom. Stop it. Not only is it inconsiderate to your neighbors, but it's kinda gross.”
Quote Blurt: "'Like farmers we need to learn that we cannot sow and reap the same day.’ – Unknown” (Editor: gag.)
Each of these is meant to be a conversation starter. But, do they invite a conversation?
If the woman who Tweeted the inspirational quote above had uttered it in the supermarket as I passed, I’d give her shopping cart a very wide berth. If I met the blogger who Tweeted his blog title at a networking event and his first words were ‘my blog landed me a book deal,’ I’d offer my congratulations and move on.
For me, what makes starting a Twitter or Facebook conversation a little less socially awkward is falling back on a conversation classic: the question.
Blog Query: “How’d You Like your Blog to Land you a Book Deal?: http://bit.ly...”
Location Query: “Who else is at Crunch Fitness (330 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn)?”
Peeve Query: “Pet peeve #1: People who talk on the phone in the bathroom. It’s not just inconsiderate but don’t you think it’s kinda gross?”
Quote Query: “Need a lift? Like farmers we need to learn that we cannot sow and reap the same day. – Unknown” (Editor: still gag.)
Yestereday, I Tweeted the following question: “Who else finds inspirational quotes on Twitter a nice but annoying idea?” I had responses from eight Twitter followers. I enjoyed engaging with them because each response brought slightly different perspectives, felt like a conversation, and kept the social media experience fresh for me. Without such responses and interaction, I can understand why people abandon Twitter at such high rates and that's why I'm sharing this social media secret today. (By the way, thank you @slightlyserious, @cantondog, @evolutionfiles, @keithbooe, @sdtips, @cjsettles, @nicmcc, and @scerruti for the feedback on inspiration quotes.)
For businesses using Twitter, querying your followers instead of blurting your press release headlines, special events or promotions will also make the experience more rewarding. When you get responses, (a) you know people are reading and (b) that they're connecting with your content.
Sure you can use sites like Hootsuite and Bit.ly to track clickthroughs on your hyperlinks, but that only works if you've got a hyperlink or if you are more concerned with clickthroughs than conversations and engagement.
So, if you’re new to Twitter or have a Facebook account that has grown stale, think about the difference between a blurt and a question. And try querying your followers to get real, meaningful connections and results.
P.S. When you get answers or feedback, respond and acknowledge it if you want to reward that behavior.