About you, but not to you: When should companies reply on Twitter?

People like to complain a lot about the goods and services we receive, and in the digital age, a lot of those wahs end up online, in public forums like Twitter.

I’ve always operated on an instinctive basis: If I’m @mentioning a company specifically, I want a resolution, I need help, or I’d like an answer. If I don’t @mention them, I’m having a whinge and I want to be left alone. If they see it, I don’t want to talk to them about it. (Unless they’re giving me a huge freebie, but that’s another story.) Yes, I’m your typical passive-aggressive, find-it-difficult-to-give-negative-feedback kind of person. (As a funny aside, I’d expect a small business or person to call me out because it feels so much more personal!)

This morning was one of those complainy occasions. I tweeted my displeasure at a service I had received from a company I liked. I didn’t @ the company because I didn’t want a reply – more just to warn my mates off this particular service.

Good ole Dan didn’t know this. He replied to my tweet and PUT THE COMPANY HANDLE IN, which essentially was inviting them to TALK TO ME ABOUT IT.

Okay. Um. Okay.

The ensuing debate lead to me sending these tweets out.

I got a lot of replies.

Some agreed with me:
“That’s how I use Twitter – can’t think of a time where the company has responded without me mentioning them, but it sounds creepy.” – Simon
“sometimes you just want to talk shit about a brand and don’t want their ‘i’m sorry to hear that'” – Lena
“it gets me by surprise and I kinda feel caught out” – Akexis
“I know one nz business who clearly searches for their name regularly and replies to people who weren’t after a response. comes across as a bit intense for my liking.” – Kim
“it kinda freaks me out when they do. If I wanted to make a complaint and get their attention, I would.” – Chelle
“general whinging? Leave ppl to it.” – K
“if I don’t @ them, they are welcome to reply if they have an actual solution to my issue… otherwise they’ll just piss me off.” – Alison
“If I don’t @ them, that means I don’t want to engage. If I did want to engage, I’d prob use email or phone.” – Moodle
“sometimes I DO just want to rant uninterrupted lol so I wouldn’t @ ’em, maybe even spell their name a tad diff.” – Mata

Some sat on the fence:
“Depends on why they’re contacting me.” – Miche
“Depends on my mood.” – Eric
“Agree, but feel if they respond they’re actually being proactive which is smart, if a little creepy. Social’s changed feedback” – Darren
“I pretty much agree with this, but sometimes also you don’t @ them because you can’t find their details. So if they then reply that’s quite good. I think the reality is you tweet, it’s public, unless your acc is locked. So you gotta accept they will see it, and they’re entitled to tweet to you if they want to. How they handle it is a different story.” – Ngaire
“I initially don’t tag them because I want to have a rant. But if they fix/resolve from that and respond then I’m pretty happy. That would even impress me more and it builds respect with me.” – Amber

Some disagreed with me:
“isn’t a good thing if they want to try make it right?” – Sharyn
“I think everyone has a right to respond on a public forum, companies included. If I didn’t want them to, I’d avoid naming them. I know big businesses can be mega annoying with insincere “We’re sorry to hear that” messages, but as a small biz I think many are looking to genuinely rectify a situation” – Evie
“if you are going to talk shit about a company on a public forum surely they have the right to defend themselves.” – Ian
“I think people who get all “How Dare You Address Me” on twitter are the funniest. Unless you’re locked, t’s a public space.” – Cara
“I’ve actually had a few times where I couldn’t find a co’s Twitter, named them, they found it and responded. Happy customer after!” – Dan
“Everybody should get a right of reply if you’re going to criticise them in a public forum. Whether it be a person or a company” – Karl
“Farmers did this to me and I was pleasantly surprised, was very quick to respond & offered to call store in question :)” – Kerie

Someone provided a company perspective:
“lots of people don’t realise we’re not just here to push links in your face. We have a social care manager. Her job is to help. most of the time people appreciate it if we reach out on search. If they don’t, they ignore us. I’m not letting bad experiences slip through the cracks. We are first & foremost about social care & community. that’s my rule. No cool stuff, no Vines, no blogs unless we’re responding within our time frames 7 days a week.” – Anna

Aaaaaand there was this
“Recently I’ve had staff members like their employers’ replies to my questions/criticism, which is kinda creepy” – Dan

So the common points here are that if companies are going to reply to a remark, rather than an @, proceed with caution. If you decide to engage, offer real value to the consumer, with a non-robotic response.

And if you’re sending non-@ tweets about a company, be prepared for that company to talk to you about it anyway. Or for Dan to come along and tag them in anyway.

Seven Twitter tricks you might not know

If you’re a heavy-duty Twitter user, you probably already know these tricks, but for the uninitiated among us, here are some nifty tips that have helped me have a better online experience.

. in front of @username
When you’re tweeting to someone, the only people who get those messages in their newsfeed are people who follow both of you. By putting a full stop in front of the other person’s username, you’re making sure everyone who follows you will see that tweet, if they’re on Twitter at the time.

Use it wisely. No one wants to read every tweet.

DMs via text + sleep settings
Did you know you can get your private messages text to you? And you can turn them off so you don’t get pinged by a drunken DM at 2am.

Firstly, pop in your mobile number on settings >> Mobile, then pop in what you want text to you, and the no-contact zone.

Tip for new players: Don’t reply to these text messages – they’ll go onto your feed like a regular tweet!

Keyboard shortcuts
Did you know you can click j and k to scroll between tweets? Or that the full stop will load new tweets?


Twitter analytics
You’re welcome.

Turn off RTs from a user
Sometimes I’ll ask a question, and then retweet all the interesting and varied replies I get. That no doubt annoys people. To turn it off, go to the user’s profile page, click the cog symbol on the right, then turn off Retweets. Easy!

Sort out your search
Want to know who is tweeting your blog links? Put your url into the search, click “all” and bam! Also, you can narrow search terms using negative keywords – it’s simple. Just put in your search words, then -abc the words you don’t want to appear. Really useful if you’re searching something that has multiple meanings!

Tweet gifs!
You can tweet gifs now! Man, have I taken advantage of this in the last few months.

Got any tricks? Add them in the comments!

#MeanNats are the only political tweets you need to read this year

The hashtag de jour, ladies and gentlemen, is #MeanNats, and it comes courtesy of one @_surelymermaid.

It began simply enough


Best Kiwi tweets: The Royal Edition

The Royal Family have alighted from their jet and are in New Zealand and Twittererers have responded with all the grave dignity you might imagine they would. Here are some of my favourites.

Twitter web gets a facelift

A few Twitter accounts have started to get some special features, which others are missing. It looks like Twitter are rolling out partial web updates to various users as a trial.

Here’s an example of the new layout for the web homepage:

newlooktwitterIt’s running a white menubar on top, whereas the previous one was black. The bio, header, and username now display in a box on the top right, and the tweet button is more prominent.  The icons on the right have been updated, too. Overall it’s a cleaner interface, and very nice to use.

Meanwhile, I’ve started getting popups in the bottom right corner for everything appearing in the Connect tab.


It gets a little annoying. Good notification system, but you need to be able to control what’s popping up – when you get it for every single RT and favourite, it’s a bit overwhelming. Customisation please, Twitter!

DMs also show via the popup and you can reply straight from that screen – good stuff!

The changes seem to be user focused, attempting to make Twitter web a cleaner interface, and bringing in some of the real-time functionality we see in clients such as Tweetdeck. They just need to get the balance right, which I’m sure will come from beta testing and user feedback.

Have you seen any changes to Twitter web lately?

How you can help the @AKcitymission this Christmas with #TwitterMissionNZ

This year, the lovely @katjnz and I had been thinking of charities we could get behind, and help other People Of Twitter do the same.

City Missions. They do amazing work with some of the outcast, overlooked, and needy in our communities. They’re always in need of stock and volunteers, but never moreso than at Christmas.

We thought it would be a cool idea to give back to our community – both the Twitter community, and Auckland – by offering our services: We want to help you connect with the Auckland City Mission.

What they need:

  • Non-perishable foods such as pasta, tinned fruit, canned tuna, tea and coffee, powdered milk, juice, rice etc
  • Unwrapped gifts for kids – try to choose things that don’t require batteries, aren’t toy guns, would be good for outdoor play and aren’t expensive (can’t give one child an expensive gift and not others!)

What we’ll do:

  • Kat and I will come to your house on Saturday the 30th of November and collect your donations, and take them to the Mission’s collection point in time for the Christmas rush.
  • When we see you, we’d like to get a wee photo with you so everyone can follow the collection day on Twitter, but that’s entirely up to you.

What you need to do:

Thank you all so much for your support and encouragement – and if you aren’t in Auckland, you no doubt have some amazing local charities doing this work in your community. Maybe you could run a #TwitterMissionNZ in your neighbourhood? We’d love to hear about it if you do!

Cate and Kat.

Five reasons why hashtag hijacking is bad marketing

Those of you who regularly use Twitter (or Instagram, or Pinterest, etc) will be familiar with hashtags. For those who aren’t, a hashtag is a way of grouping similar tweets or photos – like a tag. When enough of them happen in a short amount of time, that tag starts to trend.

Why anyone would choose to hijack a trending topic for their unrelated business is beyond me.

Reason 1: It’s not about reach anymore
If you’re going to market your company via Twitter, put your old rulebook away. It’s not all about reach and frequency on social media, it’s about finding the right audience and connecting with them in meaningful and helpful ways.

Reason 2: You look like you don’t understand hashtags/the platform/your audience
You know those #people #who #hashtag #every #word so the tags become nearly meaningless? Or those mindless bots who tweet rubbish just to get their URL onto the top trending topics? They’re pretty much the lowest rung of Twitter users, due to their abuse of tags, and if you do it, you’ll be right down there with them.

Reason 3: You’re being rude
If you don’t respect the community, it won’t respect you. Imagine a group of friends at a party. Rather than participating in the conversation, you interject and start talking about your company. That’s what you’re doing when you hijack a hashtag. It’s not cheeky, or funny, or cute… It’s rude.

Reason 4: Spam is spam
Sure, spam has a click through rate good enough to justify spammers going at it, but no respectable business should be spamming people on ANY platform. You’re sending unsolicited commercial messages in an electronic format to an unrelated hashtag where a group of people will be unable to avoid it; Sounds a lot like something that could be covered under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act of 2007, if you think about it.

Reason 5: It can damage your business
If you don’t know why the topic is trending, or abuse the tag regardless, you can irrevocably damage your business. There are heaps of examples of this floating around. Here’s one: Just after the Aurora shooting in the US, Celeb Boutique sent this out.

Celeb Boutique use "Aurora" to promote themselves


You can read more about it here.


As I said: Why would anyone would choose to hijack a trending topic for their unrelated business?

Tweeting from a bubble

Celeb Boutique use "Aurora" to promote themselves

We have all heard about the terrible shooting in Aurora, and know what a difficult time those affected are having. Naturally Aurora, shooting, and Batman became top trending topics on Twitter, and most of the online community was talking about what had happened.

Then online retailer Celeb Boutique made a terrible call – to use #Aurora to talk about their dress of the same name.

Celeb Boutique use "Aurora" to promote themselves

After a barrage of replies, the tweet was deleted, and Celeb Boutique published a four-tweet apology, claiming their social media team were not aware of what was really going on.

“We are incredibly sorry for our tweet about Aurora – Our PR is NOT US based and had not checked the reason for the trend, at that time our social media was totally UNAWARE of the situation and simply thought it was another trending topic,” they said. “We have removed the very insensitive tweet and will of course take more care in future to look into what we say in our tweets. Again we do apologise for any offense caused this was not intentional & will not occur again. Our most sincere apologies for both the tweet and situation.”

The response to Celeb Boutique’s apology was frosty at best. Many tweeters didn’t buy the non-US excuse, and called for the PR company to be fired. Others wished the company would go bankrupt, and still others called the company all manner of bad names.

Tweeting from a bubble has happened in New Zealand before. During the night of the Pike River disaster, one very famous designer auto-tweeted links to a huge sale she was kicking off, while the rest of Twitter was talking about Pike. The updates stood out like a sore thumb.

The feedback the team behind the account received was not pleasant, to say the least.

This is not a good thing to do, people. In fact, I tell people I work with that if they set up auto-tweeting – which I don’t recommend but know sometimes you’ve got to – the second they hear anything of national significance kicking off, they must turn off all non-human comms.

The lessons here are: Don’t live in a bubble, and don’t hijack a hashtag. Read the environment before you tweet, and if for some reason you’ve given the community the middle finger, apologise fast and be honest about why it happened.

Tweet links like a boss

Dan Zarrella of HubSpot has got some handy data about linksharing on Twitter. This is really important if you want to maximise click throughs. In a nutshell:

  • Tweet later in the week
  • Tweet later in the day
  • Dont bombard your audience with links
  • Put the link 25% of the way through the Tweet
  • Don’t use all your 140 characters!

Here’s his infographic