Twitter Dos and Don’ts from the Magazine World

Stories about companies and celebrities making major Twitter gaffes have become legendary, but less newsworthy mistakes are made every day, even by established users. A panel of magazine editors and social media managers offered Twitter pitfalls and pointers based on their own media brands’ experiences at the MPA Digital: Social Media conference in New York on Wednesday.

Hashtag obsession: While hashtags help your brand or event to be found on Twitter, their use should be limited. Allison Dempsey, social media editor at Parenting, outlined the downside of using too many hashtags in one tweet. “It’s like bolding every word in a sentence, and then nothing pops.”

Multiple personality disorder: This arises as a result of too many employees posting on the same Twitter account. As Anne Roderique-Jones, senior social media manager at XO Group, pointed out, “You need a voice behind your brand, which can be fun and snarky, but professional. You shouldn’t allow salespeople to post on your account. At The Knot we have a social media manual to maintain control and provide user guidelines.”

“For us it’s about common sense rules that also apply to the magazine,” commented Hank Will, editor-in-chief at GRIT. “All our editors use Twitter, where they’re positive and upbeat. Tweets should be fun and engaging to the audience, but we don’t have a clearinghouse or too much structure.”

Headline misuse: Catchy, relevant Twitter headlines can be elusive, the panelists reported, and there are many hazards to avoid. “Certain headlines are appropriate for social, but there’s no golden rule,” Allie Townsend, social media producer at TIME, observed. “People’s Twitter feeds are mixed with messages from friends and colleagues, so tweets need to sound personal, not jarring.”

Dempsey advised if the story is about a minor news item to use headlines that tease rather than give the entire story away. For example, Parenting changed its Twitter headline based on its blog post about the biggest baby ever born. Their initial headline was “Woman gives birth to thirteen pound baby.” (No word on what the revised headline was, but now you know almost the entire story).

Dabbling: We’ve often heard about companies or celebrities who try out Twitter, then drop it over time or don’t post often enough. As Will summarized, “Dabbling is wrong because it is inconsistent, you’re not available frequently, and followers learn that they can’t rely on you, so you drift into Neverland.”

Narcissism: Twitter should be a two-way street, not just about the company or the writer. Roderique-Jones said, “We try to avoid just spitting out links to our sites to drive traffic. You should also ask users questions.” Dempsey recommended “balancing tweets so you don’t sound like a commercial.”

Townsend explained that TIME wants its journalists to use the platform to relay news and not make it all about themselves. “They don’t need to sound like corporate robots, but they need to give back to the community they serve.”

For more tips on how to make your news more Twitter friendly, click here.