Pop culture: Help. My Twitter is broken.

My life with Twitter, so far…

Like most of us, I came to Twitter with all the naivety and excitement of a child stumbling into the playground on his first day of school. It was November 2008 and I was only a couple of years into my ‘content’ career, writing online news copy for an agency with what was, in hindsight, a disturbingly simple approach to SEO. By then, Facebook had established itself as a mainstream tool for connecting with loved ones, leaving platforms like Friends Reunited and MySpace unable to find any consistent purpose. Twitter, on the other hand, was something different. Something that seemed to offer limitless opportunities.

My first tweet. How quaint.

As someone still new to my craft, Twitter was a fantastic writing tool that taught me to be concise and think about my ‘audience’. It also felt like a platform that could boost my profile – a profile that, at the time, was pretty focused on my film writing. I’d studied film theory at university and the only thing I enjoyed more than writing about movies was talking about them, and Twitter felt like it sat comfortably between the two. Before long, I’d supplemented my film blogging, festival-going and podcasting with a whole community of people who shared my interests.

More importantly, Twitter gave me something I’d never had before, friends who had the same passion for film as I did. And not just online friends, real ones I still have to this day. Over time, I built quite a community around me, people I could chat and share opinions with, as well as real-life film makers and professionals within my own industry too. I had little Twitter projects, like the year I watched 365 films I’d never seen before and composed 140-character reviews for every single one. The channel even had a big role to play in getting my book published. To be honest, I don’t think it would have happened without it.

So what’s changed?

But today, it seems, the atmosphere has changed. What was once a sharp tool for crafting passionate conversation, feels more like a blunt hammer for beating opinion into people. Tweeters are falling over themselves to tell you how to feel about Trump, Brexit, Charlottesville and Harvey Weinstein, or offer cast iron criticism of films that don’t exist yet. And it’s not that these things aren’t worth talking about, it’s just the certainty and sanctimony that comes with the statements themselves. This is black, that is white. This is white, when it should have been black. This is the best thing of all time. This is the worst thing of all time. This is his fault. That is her fault. All these people are like this. And if you don’t agree, you’re one of them.

Think about the last meaningful conversation you had. Were you just just yelling statements at the person opposite? Or did you take the time to listen and consider someone else’s point of view? And that, as Dean so succinctly points out above, is what seems to be the problem. So many tweets are now composed to be statements, 140-character commandments built to teach you something about the the person sending them. Not to be engaged, but accepted as an illustration of that particular user’s personal, indisputable truth.

And I’ll admit, I’ve probably been guilty of this myself. But what I’ve noticed more recently, is that I’m actually way less likely to share my opinion on Twitter, because nowadays, if your opinion doesn’t 100% chime with the black/white position of public opinion, you’ll get savaged by a swarm of angry voices. We’ve all heard the horror stories of when social media goes bad and destroys people’s lives, and do I really want to put myself in that position because of my opinion on who’s been picked to play the lead in A Ghost in the Shell? Not really.

So what do I do? Do I delete my account and give up on Twitter? Well no. Because I still think there are worthwhile conversations to be had. Ideas and content worth seeing and sharing. And that’s why I’ve decided…

I’m taking Twitter back.

But how? Well, I’ve been in the field of online content long enough to know there are certain questions that should be asked when a client approaches you with social media on their mind. So, if answering those questions is a valuable exercise in helping to come up with a plan for getting the most out of a business account, maybe it’ll help me figure out how to get a better deal for myself out of Twitter. I mean, it’s worth a try, right?

Five questions to ask that will help fix your Twitter

Q1 – Who am I?

It’s important for brands to understand their identity. What makes them tick, what makes them different and what motivates them. When I came to Twitter (as my old handle ‘@filmrant’ should tell you), I was motivated by standing out from the film blogger crowd. I wanted a successful podcast and to have enough people pay attention to my writing. And that’s what I did. But publishing Adventures in VHS in 2016 very much felt like the closing of a chapter in my life, so who am I today? Well, a lot has happened since 2008, I’m a husband and a dad, but I still loves movies, comics and my marketing career. It’s not much of a brand, but thats the way it is. And I’m sorry, but if you’re more like the person I thought I was in 2008, it’s time we parted ways.

Q2 – Why am I here?

If you can understand how Twitter is benefiting you (or not benefitting you as the case may be) then you can get an idea of how much resource to dedicate to it. These days, Twitter is a source of news for me as much as it is a place to chat, though I think if I’m honest I’ve neglected the latter rather more of late. I’ve lectured on the subject of social media many times and have always said you’ll only get the best out of Twitter if you converse with people. Discuss, share, contribute. Ever been trapped at a party with someone who only wants to talk about themselves? Those people are the worst aren’t they? Well, so are social media accounts that do this. For my part, I’ll try harder to make Twitter less about me and more about the conversation.

Q3 – What am I trying to achieve?

Being on social media because everyone else is on it is the worst reason a business can have and the same is true for people. Having said that, the question isn’t whether or not you should go, it’s what benefit there is for you to stay. I still want to stay informed about film and TV, and I want to talk to people who care about those things as much as I do. However, I also want to learn. I want to learn how to be a better writer, a better marketer, a better professional. So, I need to take the time to find the people out there who can add some value to Twitter for me – and that’s going to mean looking more carefully at the people I follow.

Q4 – Who are my audience?

This is a vital question for anyone using social media, as it helps you understand what it is your audience wants and what they can give you in return. As I’ve touched on above, this is an area that needs serious attention on my personal account. I’ve no interest in the incessant hating and/or fawning over individual films, and I’ve got no time for overzealous fanboy enthusiasm. If, on the other hand, you are here to talk about marketing, I don’t want to hear your sales pitch and I really don’t want to hear your buzzwords. All in all, there are things I hate about the industry I work in just as much as I do the film community that brought me to Twitter. My job now is to create a community that reflects the things I love instead… across both these areas.

Q5 – How will I measure success?

Social media success looks different to everyone. For some it’s likes and shares, for others its creating a network. But usually, it always comes down to return on investment. If I’m going to take the time to create a more useful community, to be a better, more caring and sharing Tweeter – what am I getting back in return? As I’ve mentioned, I’ve got no podcast to promote, no book to sell, so ‘results’ may be less tangible than downloads or conversions, but actually, it’s pretty clear. My investment is my time and the potential return is a better Twitter experience.

I’ve decided I’m not letting Twitter go without a fight. There’s value out there and I’m going to find it. And the best way I think I can do this is to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem So please, if you feel I’m not living up to my end of the bargain, let me know.

Follow me on Twitter via @thenoelmellor.