This morning, I was distracted from what I SHOULD have been doing by a story on NPR. It seems the oldest known “message in a bottle” has been found in the Baltic Sea after over 100 years bobbing aimlessly. It didn’t go far, though – it was found close to the spot where 20-year-old Richard Platz tossed it back in 1913. You can read the story here.
Sadly, the bulk of the writing has been obscured by damage from time and moisture, but still, it’s pretty cool, right?!
So, what’s the connection with Twitter?
When you toss Tweets out at random, with no direction and no intended recipient, they could go unnoticed for a hundred years or more (that’s 100 “Twitter years” – probably equal to about 6 hours :)). If someone does stumble upon it in a search later, the content might be completely lost due to lack of context or focus.
Sometimes it’s fun to just “throw something out there” and see if anyone responds. I’ve done this on my personal account. Something came up that saddened me and I shared it on Twitter, never expecting a response. I directed it to no one, used no hashtags and it had no purpose other than to get it out of my head. What resulted surprised me. One of my connections saw it and it started a very nice back-and-forth discussion of shared experience.
That was great, but it was a rarity. If you aren’t tweeting with purpose, you might as well be tossing your messages into the ocean – in a bottle, or not!
No Mysteries – Tweet with Purpose
We may never know the purpose of Mr. Platz’s message – and indeed there may not have been one. This is fine for a young guy on a nature hike, but this approach doesn’t work well on Twitter. Yes, it is OK to share your blog posts, share the great content of others and just see what happens. But, it should have a purpose. Most often, the purpose is to inform, amuse or enrich your followers. Start there.
No Littering – Don’t Clog the Twitter Stream with Self-Serving Messages
Can you imagine if every tweet ever sent were written down and stuffed in a bottle and set adrift? At an estimated 58 million a day or 30 billion total, it wouldn’t take long to clog the oceans and stop sea travel completely (PS – For the record, I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know exactly how long that would take.).
If you look at the tweets on an account and you notice that every single tweet is about them, their services, and their content – you know what “Twitter litter” looks like. This kind of Twitter trashing reveals a complete lack of concern for their followers and for Twitter users in general. If everyone tweeted “me, me, me” all the time conversation would cease, and Twitter would become first an advertising platform and then (shortly) a ghost town.
No Aimless Drifting – Tweet with Direction
Don’t leave your Tweets to drift in the current. If you share someone else’s content, tag them in your tweet with “via @username.” Most websites make it very easy to find the Twitter username associated with the content. You’ll find that after a while, it puts you on their radar, and if they like your content they may return the favor. Besides, sharing someone’s content and letting them know is a nice way to tell someone, “Great job – my followers will enjoy this!”
No Obscurity – Make it Easy to Find
Baltic fishermen (the ones who found the bottle tossed by Platz) must have pretty good eyes. The bottle he used was brown and dull (yes, I realize that’s probably all that was available back then, but not so today!). Make yours the equivalent of fluorescent and sparkly by adding hashtags. Then anyone (whether or not you’re connected) searching for your particular message in a bottle is much more likely to find it! Oh, and it should go without saying that if you’re on Twitter to be found, please don’t make your account private.
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- 100-Year-Old Message In A Bottle Plucked From Baltic Sea (wnyc.org)
- How to Choose the Perfect Hashtag: Five Tips for Success (business2community.com)
- Face Water, Medals, & Eyeballs: How Twitter Took the Gold in Sochi (scalablesocialmedia.com)