May 14, 2014

8 Tips for PR Pros Who Want to Avoid Being Muted on Twitter

Victoria Harres is a Vice President, Digital & Events Marketing

With Twitter’s announcement this week of the ‘mute’ feature, which will allow people to hide from their feeds tweets by Twitter accounts they follow, PR pros have to think even harder about their Twitter strategy.

You may think that because your brand has thousands of followers that you are reaching thousands of people. No. It wasn’t so before (people aren’t watching their Twitter feeds 24/7) and it may be even less so with the new mute feature.

According to Twitter, users can expect the following results when muting another Twitter account:

  • Muted users can follow you and interact with your content.
  • You can follow a user you’ve muted. Muting a user will not cause you to unfollow them.
  • @ replies and @ mentions from muted users you follow will still appear in your Notifications tab.
  • Muted users you follow can still send you a direct message.
  • When you mute a user, their previous Tweets will still be displayed; only Tweets from the point you muted them will be hidden.

From the receiving end of managing brand Twitter accounts, this feature could be useful. You can silence someone tweeting in a manner you don’t like while still leave the communication lines open. They can still message you (unlike blocking) and they can still send you a direct message (unlike unfollow).

But the situation is not so appealing from the other side of the coin. People can mute your brand and simply forget about you. You’ll think you have a lot of followers listening, but you might be wasting resources better spent elsewhere.

So how can you prevent your brand from being muted, or even unfollowed by your followers?

As I started to write my thoughts on this subject it occurred to me that I should ask the PR Newswire audience what would drive them to hit mute, so I posted the following question on Twitter and Facebook:

Tweet ie mute button May 13 2014

And here are the responses I got most often:

  1. High frequency: Don’t tweet excessively. Too many tweets, too often, or in a short span of time is very annoying to people.
  2. Too promotional: Mind your manners. All brands need to find their balance in content that is simply useful to their audience and what is simply self-promotional.
  3. No engagement: Talk to people. If all you’re doing is broadcasting your messages and not engaging your audience you are missing the point of social media, and your Twitter account won’t be very interesting to follow. Of course there are exceptions. Newsfeeds like @AP, for example.
  4. Non-relevant tweets: If you are a fashion brand and frequently post about football or politics, you will probably lose audience. And that goes the other way around too.
  5. Too personal: This is business. Having some human/personal touch to a brand Twitter account can be very useful to connecting with people, but you have to know your boundaries.
  6. Too many @’s and #’s:  Overused, they can make reading a chore. There are times when you are going have a lot of mentions and hashtags, like during a Twitter chat, but it shouldn’t be a daily thing.
  7. Boring! I don’t think this needs any explanation. You don’t have to be entertaining, but you do have to hold people’s attention.
  8. Too much automation: some automated tweets mixed with human curation and engagement can work fine. But again, we have to mind the frequency.

These responses are a clear reminder to all of us about what people expect and what people will tolerate.  In general, people appreciate useful content and don’t mind the occasional promotional message, but we have to strike the right balance. We have to know and understand our audience.

Of course, one concern with the new mute feature is that people may hit mute during a Twitter chat when you are posting a lot, intending to un-mute you later, of course. But what if they forget?

In that case, you better be unforgettable. As PR pros we all need to make sure that people would miss us if we were silenced.

At least one respondent on Twitter stated she wouldn’t bother with the mute. She would just unfollow:

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Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire and is the original voice behind @PRNewswire. She leads the media relations team that provides customer service to the members of PR Newswire  for Journalists, and in her spare time, she Instagrams the world around her.

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