Monday, May 30, 2011

Follow up on "When... Twitter Fails" or, What Not To Do

Now that the issue has been resolved and I learned a valuable lesson, I would like to share a cautionary tale with you.

While working on the logistics for a public event, it was decided that food trucks should be invited to participate so the attendees would have more options. Instead of just doing a regular Google search for food trucks in that geographic area, I thought I would use Twitter for this research. Doing a simple search for “food trucks”, I quickly came across a tweet about an event the next day that would involve food trucks in the same metropolitan area that my event would take place. It had a link to the website of the event so I clicked over to it. Because this particular event was a very large food truck event, they had a form on their website that listed the names of the food trucks and their twitter names. I thought I had struck gold! Instead of having to find each website and contact information for each truck, I had their twitter names.

The next step for me was to contact trucks and tell them about our event to see if they were interested. I sent this tweet to 57 trucks I had found on the other event’s website. “Would love to see you at the Port of Long Beach 100th B-day Party! Contact me for details. http://polb100.com/” Here’s an important note: You can’t send a direct (private) message to someone who does not follow you. I didn’t have time to follow the trucks first and hope they follow me back in order to send the message. However, you can mention (include a twitter name for) someone whether they are following you or not. Most people have alerts setup to notify them when someone mentions them on twitter. Given my goal and timeline, this was the most efficient way to do it.

Since I sent each one individually, it took a few minutes to send 57 tweets. At some point; it occurred to me what I was doing did seem like spam. However, I thought because I was inviting them to an event where there would be 3,000 people, they would be happy to see my tweet and want to participate! Well, about a dozen or so trucks did respond to me via twitter and we moved the conversation to e-mail. I can’t know for sure, but it seems that a number of food trucks who did not receive my message as a positive one marked me as a spammer. A week or so later, my tweets were not showing up in the streams for any subjects to which I would tag them. I was baffled and thought it might be an issue with my phone, with twitter, or with the hashtag where I first noticed it. The issue persisted. It was happening no matter what hardware I was using or which hashtag I was posting to. I checked my security settings to make sure nothing had changed, I contacted twitter customer support, and I asked a few other social media nerds if they had ever seen such a thing.

After a couple of weeks, I received a vague response from twitter indicating that my tweets would start showing up in hashtag feeds again. I just checked it and it seems that it is working. So, to summarize the lesson… twitter is a powerful search engine if you know how to use it. However, when you are ready to take the next step and reach out to those prospects, take your time and do it right. Follow them first and then when they follow you back, send them a personal direct (private) message with something of value. There are no short cuts.