Some direct talk about direct messages


Direct messaging is to Twitter what the appendix is to the body. Nobody seems to know what the heck it does and it can also occasionally get you in some serious trouble so maybe it’s just safer not to use at all?

Well, sure you can play it safe. But you might also be missing out on promoting your business, on streamlining your Twitter, on protecting privacy. I actually believe direct messaging is a powerful tool when used properly.

But first let’s talk about the wrong ways. And there are quite a few. Maybe you recognize yourself in some of these examples?

  1. One wrong way to use direct messaging is to direct message everyone when they start following you. Yes, I followed you, and yes, I know I’m another potential customer for your service, but sending me a direct message telling me how amazing you are and why I should buy this and that from you just smacks of desperation. I just followed you two seconds ago. Let me catch my breath. Let me discover you through your amazing tweets. Let me be so bowled over by your personality and accomplishments that I can’t help but flock to your site to see what your hustle is. Let the process happen naturally as God and Jack Dorsey intended.
  2. Another wrong way to use direct messaging is to ask for something. Actually, no asking should ever take place on Twitter and especially no asking for work or money. You can get a job on Twitter if someone posts a need for an employee (and you then contact them OUTSIDE of Twitter to apply for the gig), but you are not the asker ever. Twitter is not Go Fund Me or Monster. It is Twitter and we go there to be informed about the day’s news and for vibrant discussion. Asking a favor of someone you don’t know in a Twitter direct message may well get you blocked and at the very least unfollowed. It’s the real-world equivalent of shoving your resume into someone’s hand at a fancy cocktail party.
  3. Disagreeing with someone is fine, but doing it via direct message feels trollish — even if you’re not a troll. You don’t want people to fear you. Keep all discussion classy and keep it on the timelines.
  4. Direct messaging someone because you’re too lazy to look up their email is another faux pas. Though direct messaging looks and acts like email, it is not email. People often give out their emails, but a Twitter inbox feels more intimate somehow. You have invaded someone’s private space when you leap into their DMs. Also Twitter is where we go to escape, so folks don’t need a carbon copy of the overflowing inboxes they’re trying to avoid on gmail. Direct messages — because they’re not email — may also be treated as less urgent than email and therefore not opened up in a timely manner.

Okay. Enough admonishment. Let’s get to the right ways to use direct messaging.

  1. When you have a new project out, a gentle reminder via direct message is effective — but should only be used on people who have been following you awhile. And don’t do a hard sell — just casually mention you have done something that might interest them. Something like, “Hey, my new book comes out today. If you love stories about fairies and unicorns and a magical fantasy world where Trump lost the election and none of us are fearing World War 3 or the ramifications of our pre-existing conditions, I think it might be up your alley.” Direct messages, if you are fairly famous, might be a good way to remind someone of a TV appearance happening that night or a reading you will be doing later in the week or a sale on your eBook. (Phrase it as “If you were dying to buy my book before but thought it too expensive or needed the dough for other things, guess what? It’s $1.99 now. Got to love Kindle.” Don’t say, “$1.99 sale happening right now. Buy! Buy! Buy!” The tone should be friend to friend not seller to buyer.) It’s a way to keep that important info from getting lost in the Twitter shuffle, although pinning the post is effective too. Keep in mind though that such messages should be used sparingly. You don’t want to remind someone of a “special” sale every week. Then you’ll look like a spammer regardless of your tone. You can also give the person an option not to receive such “reminder” messages in the future.
  2. Running a contest? The direct message is a good way of contacting the winner, instead of boring your audience — and violating privacy — by putting the winner’s info in a post everyone can see.
  3. And if you want to ask your audience a sensitive question, you can ask for responses in your DMs instead of on the open forum that is twitter.

I hope this answers some questions you may have about direct messages. Although people are easier to reach than ever on social media, you should still use old-school common sense when considering whether to approach them.


The Great Twitter Research Tool You Are Probably Not Using


Image via

Twitter’s search features might not be immediately obvious. You search in a tiny spot in the right-hand corner. It is not a feature Twitter heavily advertises. But it is very powerful, at least in my experience, and helps optimize your Twitter experience to its fullest potential.

First of all, let’s start with trending topics. Now, you may love, and yet not necessarily want to read everyone’s opinion about the Real Housewives of New York. Maybe you just want to see the most popular posts on the subject. So you search “Top,” and you get that info.

Maybe you don’t even want to read a lot of opinions. Maybe you are a video person. You want to see the great on-the-street reporting social media is known for. Search “Videos.” You can do the same with photos.

One of the most helpful features is the Accounts search. Sometimes it is difficult to connect with powerful people or influencers. Let’s say you want to find out who edits a certain website. They may not be listed on the site, but he or she probably has a Twitter account. Search the company name and they will pop up, along with probably several other staff members. I find this way more user-friendly than LinkedIn’s search feature, to be honest.

“Live” is confusing. I guess it’s for live events, but isn’t all of Twitter “live?”

You can also search tweets from people you know and save certain searches if you plan to come back to them again.

Check out this feature on Twitter and tell me if you find it as useful as I have.


What the heck are Twitter’s “moments” for?

7550960312_9e8f883d38_o(1)Photo courtesy of

Twitter is the king of “if it isn’t broken, we’ll fix it anyway.” They added a heart button to tweets when no one was really crying out for one; they will be removing Twitter names from the 140 characters you are allowed to tweet, which will almost certainly lead to really long, annoying tweets; and they have this stupid “moments” feed, which is the most ridiculous thing ever.

Moments are just a long list of news and what is trending, but if you want to see what is trending, all you have to do is look on the left of your Twitter homepage. Furthermore, the layout of Moments is really clunky, like some fifth-grader’s attempt to do Tumblr, and many of the “moments” themselves are things that happened yesterday. Why bother reading about things that happened yesterday when the trending section will tell you what is happening right now? The Moments page just makes things a whole lot more complicated than they need to be.

These new rollouts, like Moments and hearts, hurt the Twitter brand. A good brand doesn’t need to add improvements every few minutes. A good brand is confident of the services they are offering, not trying to play catch-up with the other guy. And when you include such unnecessary rollouts, eventually you may have to realize the error of your ways and delete them. That makes you look like you tried something that didn’t work, which isn’t a good look for a brand.

I think Twitter is trying these new additions because they are trying to make themselves attractive enough to eventually start charging money for their services. That would be the smart move, anyway, because right now, they are losing a huge source of income by not charging the users. But will the users pay when they’ve gotten it for free for so long? Maybe a fraction will if you give them special features, but I don’t believe the majority will. This is the main financial problem for Twitter.

What do you think of Twitter’s Moments? Are they worth it? Do they provide value to you as a business?


Is that photo you’re posting legal?

camera-1191286-1279x850Photo courtesy of

How do you look for photos to post? Do you simply do a Google image search and hope for the best?

You may want to rethink that strategy.

Random Google photos may well be copyrighted — whether or not they say so — and you could get in trouble (i.e. sued) for posting them.

But never fear, as there are great ways to get photos legally, and most are free. is one of my favorite ways to get free photos. You search for a photo based on theme, as you would in Google, and all you have to do is download and attribute (to both freeimages and the photographer). As you can see, I use a lot of photos on this blog. They have a decent selection and they’re pretty high-quality too, though you probably won’t find too many (if any) celebrity photos here. also plays host to a stock photo site, so be careful when searching that your photo is actually a free image.

Flickr’s Creative Commons is another good and fairly well-known source. There are several different types of copyrights here, so check the photo to be sure you have the right to use it. You can find celebrity photos here, though the selection may not be too fabulous.

Press photos are the best free way to find celebrity photos on the Internet. You simply go to the website of the artist you’re interested in and click on the press section. You should find a variety of photos to suit your purpose, but be sure to credit the photographer, and if you are feeling especially nice, send a link to their press person, with the article.

The safest option is to take your own photos, of course. Even if you don’t consider yourself a great photographer, you can take decent pics on a mobile device or cell phone, and you don’t even need to take fancy photography courses to do so (though it wouldn’t hurt). If you enjoy it, you can always upgrade with a digital camera. Content creators like to think of themselves as writers primarily, but we live in a digital age, and that can’t be ignored. If you can bill yourself as a photographer in addition to a writer, you’ll be all the more valuable when you market your services.

Death to the Stock Photo is an interesting, though less convenient site. Technically they are free, but to really get the most out of their service, you have to pay. For free, they occasionally send a packet of photos with a certain theme, once a month. It’s a good idea to stockpile these photos for future use in your media library. Hubspot also recently offered a bunch of free photos, and they’re a good site to follow as well.

Finally, you can always pay for it. Sign up for a photo service like Getty Images, and you’ll find high-quality photos you can use for your site.

What you choose depends on your budget and individual needs. Whatever you do, don’t think you can get away without using photos on Twitter or other social media. Your audience is expecting them.

And now, you tell me, my faithful readers. Is there a free or low-cost photo service I missed that you rely on regularly?







The Secret Sauce in Olive Garden’s Social Media Success


Image via Dulex
Do folks love the Olive Garden or just love to hate it? Depends on who you ask. One of my favorite writers and noted curmudgeons, Joe Queenan, devoted part of his most excellent “Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon” to dissing the place, specifically the Times Square outpost, where some folks recently (and rather foolishly) coughed up $400 a head to spend New Year’s.
Sayeth Joe:
“The bowl of soup I received was repugnant to at least two senses, both the eyes and the taste buds, it having no discernible smell. A fearsome quagmire of deeply failed vegetal and lactic ingredients, the zuppa toscana was so awful that not only was I unable to eat it, I was unable to look at it. Gathering a couple of napkins together, I quickly interred the offensive item in an impromptu shroud, a makeshift burial for a leprous warrior slain in an unnecessary, easily preventable war.”

But tell us how you really feel, Joe.

You ask me, I don’t think the food is that awful. I used to love it back in the day, when my family and I would go to the one out in Long Island. But in recent years, it seems like the quality has gone down quite a bit.

But Olive Garden is like the honey badger. It don’t care. It thinks its food is the bee’s knees and its social media reflects that. If you’re looking for how to present a food brand on Twitter, you would do well to peruse a few Olive Garden tweets. Their Twitter is full, of course, of mouthwatering photos, but they also have a fantastic sense of wordplay. My favorite, so far: Capture

Olive Garden is doing three things right in this tweet. Like all their tweets, this one has a photo, which is always a good idea, since photos typically get more engagements, but this is especially vital for a food brand. The humor makes the post shareable. And it’s current. Who hasn’t heard the Weeknd’s song?

That tweet got over 200 retweets by the way.

People don’t like being advertised to, but Olive Garden has figured out a way to make their ads seem less like ads and more like fun. They’re doing it right, at least on the Web. Now, if only they could up their food game.



Creating a killer Twitter profile


Image courtesy of Ljungblom

What exactly should you put in your Twitter bio? How can you showcase all you do in such a small space?

The larger brands take it for granted that we know who they are. Staples, for instance, doesn’t have to say they sell office products and services. That would be a waste of everyone’s time and a waste of a bio. It’s what their TV and print advertising is for. Their Twitter profile simply says, “We make it easy to #MakeMoreHappen.” They use their profile to reinforce the concept that they are a company that allows you, the business owner, to get more stuff done each work day. They also are reinforcing their unique hashtag #MakeMoreHappen in the hopes that maybe their customers will use it in their tweets about Staples. And, who knows, that hashtag may well go viral, if it hasn’t already.

Chi-Chi’s is a brand that is well-known, but less well-known than Staples. Before reading their profile, I assumed they were a salsa brand that once was a restaurant (well, at least here in the Brooklyn area, that’s the case, or am I the only one who remembers when they had a restaurant in Kings Plaza?). Their Twitter bio, however, informs me that there is more to them than just salsa and restaurants.

“CHI-CHI’S® Brand offers everything from salsa to tortillas and more so you can create delicious Mexican-inspired dishes at your casa.”

No, it’s not super humorous or quirky, but it shouldn’t be. What it needs to do is convey a specific message and it does it well. In just a sentence, they sum up what they do and what value they offer to the consumer. I might be a little less vague than “tortillas and more,” but generally speaking, this is the right idea. Now, I know that if I want to make some kind of Mexican dish in my home, assuming I could cook, I would look in my grocery for Chi-Chi’s.

Being specific is important when trying to convey what your brand does or sells. Another salsa brand on Twitter mentions they have bold flavors, but doesn’t say what they sell. Clicking on their website I see they sell not only salsa but several other kinds of condiments. The best way to think of your Twitter bio is to think of a label or packaging. You don’t have a lot of space to hook your consumer and so you have to be clear in your message about everything your brand does.

If you are a writer or actor on Twitter, I’d strongly suggest highlighting the places where your work can be found by using the @ sign and the company’s name. That way when folks look up the company in the “Accounts” search, your name also comes up. Using hashtags in your bio can also lead to your name being found in search results. Pick one to three hashtags that sum up your brand. Don’t go overboard.

A good idea for writers especially is to include some of the beats they cover. “Sex, shopping, fashion,” for example. Don’t worry about writing in full sentences in this case. Your audience will get your meaning.

You also shouldn’t see your Twitter bio as something that’s set in stone. Change it when you have a new product out or a new part of your website that you want to promote.

You should also feel free to say if you are currently accepting clients. Don’t worry about appearing desperate. In my Twitter bio, I say I’m for hire. No muss, no fuss. No “please hire me.” Don’t expect Twitter to lead to a flurry of clients running to your door — I’ve found it really doesn’t work that way — but one or two clients might be intrigued and DM you. Never hurts to put it out there.

If you are a freelancer working for clients, it is always a good idea to say that your opinions are your own and that you are not representing the company’s opinions.

Some things you never want to be in your Twitter bio? Mysterious. Too personal. Sarcastic. Controversial. Pleading. (i.e. “We’re having a big sale! Right now! Click on our website now!”)

Look around at the competition to see how they are describing themselves in bios. Pick out the ones that most resonate with you and try to incorporate some of what they’re doing. Because even though a bio might not seem important at first glance, it can make all the difference in the world, as far as your customer or client is concerned.








Why Twitter is the New 800 Number


Image courtesy

I don’t know about you, but I hate calling a company’s 800 #. There’s that long wait, that awful hold music, and finally, that wonderful moment when someone answers and they:

a) accidentally hang up on you

b) have attitude from the word “hello”

c) ask you to give a ton of personal info before you’ve even said “hello”

d) are as insightful as a box of hair

e) transfer you to someone else because they’re not the right department

f) or maybe, just maybe, are decent to talk to, but you are still on the phone with them forever

I got news for you.

Your clients are looking for a quicker, better answer.

They want to be able to resolve customer service problems quickly and they want to do it on Twitter.

If you don’t have a customer service department set up on your Twitter account, well, what are you waiting for? It’s a vital step in improving relations with your clients. If a client can get a problem solved in a few seconds on Twitter, instead of a half-hour or more on the phone, that client will feel really positive about the whole experience and your company in particular, plus it will make it that more likely they’ll recommend you to friends and family. And: other folks on Twitter may see the conversation, and they’ll be impressed you solved a customer’s problem so quickly. Win-win-win.

That being said, sometimes, customer relations on Twitter can go very wrong. I once had a medicine company contact me on Twitter after I complained about an issue. I ranted on Twitter that they ruined my night’s sleep and then the company asked me if I would share my experience with them. Why? I knew I was never going to use that product again. If a client is upset about your product, and you can’t fix the problem, there’s no point in contacting them on Twitter, or anywhere else for that matter. But if you can fix the issue, by all means, use Twitter to do so. Offer free store credit, apologize, ask what you can do to make it better, etc. With customer service, it’s all about using common sense and asking yourself what you would like if you were that customer. They want a nice, friendly person to talk to and the problem resolved fast so they can get on with their lives. It really isn’t that hard.





Why Following Everyone is a Terrible Idea

Photo via ghostfire at

When you start getting followers on Twitter, and especially when they’re high-profile folks, it’s such a thrill. “They like me, they really like me,” you might exclaim, in your best Sally Field voice. And while getting all these followers is exciting, you shouldn’t get carried away, following all the great folks who now love you.


  • Not everyone is worth following. The folks you follow wind up in your Twitter feed (aka “Home”). If you follow folks who tweet about things that aren’t interesting, your feed will be a mess of junk, with the useful information impossible to find.
  • Some people who follow you won’t share your values. We are judged by who we associate with, and if you follow unsavory characters, others might think badly of you. Remember, anyone can see your following list.
  • Following everyone is bad for your rep. I know, this sounds odd. Following everyone should be good for your rep, because it shows you are a genuinely nice person. But that’s not how Twitter works. Twitter rewards those who have more “followers” than “following.” It makes you look like a popular person, someone worth getting to know. When I started on Twitter, I said yes to almost every follower, and now I’m working hard to rework my profile so I am following less (deleting dead accounts and so forth) and being followed more.
  • Following back takes time, especially if you don’t do it on a daily basis. Don’t spend that time unless the other party is worth it.

That being said, you don’t want zero in your following list. That just makes you look like a snob.

In conclusion, think long and hard before following, and you may well become a leader, at least on Twitter.


Are You Using Trending Topics Incorrectly?

Photo via Sureash Kumar at

You see them as soon as you log on to Twitter — a small group of subjects and/or hashtags on the left side of your screen. You may not know why they’re there or what to do with them.

Trending topics are powerful. They are a convenient way to see the day’s news, all gathered in one place, before, perhaps, even the local news reports on it. (This is not to say all the news on Twitter is always accurate.) They also allow us to collectively snark on or praise awards shows or popular TV shows. Trending topics let us experience our world collectively, and isn’t that what social media is all about?

More important for you, though, is the fact that trending topics are a way for you to have your tweet noticed. If you type a trending topic after your 140 characters–and if you’ve composed a well-written tweet–there is a nice chance it’ll get retweeted by others. Think of it as a highlighted piece of text in a book. And once more people notice you, that, of course, can lead to more followers and maybe more business.

So, does this mean you should use a trending topic with every tweet?

Absolutely not.

People who click on trending topics expect to see tweets that have to do with that topic. Throwing a trending topic on a tweet about something else you want to bring attention to just makes you look like a spammer, and you’ll quickly lose credibility — the kiss of death on Twitter.

So don’t be that person. And just in general, use trending topics wisely. Here’s how:

  • Understand the topic. Read an article or two about it before you start tweeting so you can bring an informed perspective.
  • Be careful. Humor and politics can gain you more followers, but they can also be misinterpreted and/or alienating. If you’re a comedian, sure, go ahead and be funny, or if that’s part of your brand. (I use humor in my tweets, but I always try to be wise about it.) If you’re a political/activist type of non-profit, yes, certainly express your views. But if you’re running a big business account, you want to avoid humor and politics in tweets in general, and especially in trending topics. And even if you’re using humor and politics, make sure you’re not going over the line. Write the tweet out first, then come back to it in an hour, before deciding if you still want to post.
  • Save trending topics for your very best tweets. If your tweet isn’t especially interested to read, you’ll waste your time posting it under a trending topic.




Two Secret Ways to Analyze Tweets

Image via Svilen Milev at

How do you know if your tweets are attracting an audience? You can tell a little by how many re-tweets you get, or how many times someone “hearts” a tweet, or how many new followers you get, but there are other ways to measure your tweeting success that are more thorough and a little less obvious to the beginning tweeter (meaning it only took me seven years on Twitter to figure out).

Twitter analytics is an amazing free measurement tool. It gives you a month-by-month summary of how many tweets you posted, how many tweet impressions you received (for more about tweet impressions, click here), profile visits and mentions.

It also lets you see your top tweet of the month, who is your most popular follower, and how many impressions the top tweet received. It’s a great way to see what subjects get you the most attention. (My most popular tweets tend to be anything having to do with celebrities and humor.) Go to “audiences” (at the very top of the page) and you’ll see what subject is of paramount interest to the folks you’re tweeting to.

If you want to analyze each tweet individually, click on the thing that looks like a couple of chimneys on the bottom of your tweet (it’s next to the heart symbol). That tells you how many impressions that particular tweet received.

Use these tools to create future tweets and watch your follower count grow.