I worked for one of the so-called Beltway Bandits in the Washington, DC media market. These are companies that provide services to the United States government. Your taxpayer dollars go to these companies, which is why some consider them to be stealing your money. One humorous and unforgettable experience was when the client, an agency within the United States military, wanted to use social media outreach for cause marketing. The client approved a campaign presence using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Somehow, Twitter was misunderstood by the female project manager, who, like me, was an employee of the consulting company (not the federal government.)
She was unfamiliar with (and I think fearful of) what would happen if the consulting company set up a Twitter account for an agency of the US military.
With Twitter, you choose whom you want to follow. One essential trait of Twitter is a social outcome. When you choose to follow someone on Twitter, the accepted behavior is for them to reciprocate and choose to follow you.
I am happy to report that by working smart to choose to follow particular Twitter accounts which had large numbers of followers, I was able to boost the number of Twitter followers for the military client so that we hit the one thousand mark within the first four months using Twitter. It is easier to have a Twitter account and just let the organic process work in which people choose to follow you on Twitter or not. But, that approach will not allow you to hit one thousand followers in your first four months using Twitter like I accomplished for the military client.
This social transaction process on Twitter is very different from what happens when you set up a website. A website can be an entirely passive product on the Internet. Visitors can choose to visit your website or not. One of the essential drawbacks of setting up a website is that there are so many sites available online nowadays that yours can easily get lost in the crowd unless you spend considerable time and effort to promote the site. In contrast, Twitter accounts are specifically social in that you set up a Twitter account because you want to reach out to other people in a highly interactive way.
I wonder what is the point in setting up a Twitter account if you then do not work on your engagement of other Twitter users so that you generate a high number of Twitter followers? Also, what is the point if one does not interact with other Twitter users in the tweets, themselves? I believe that Twitter should not be used by people who only want to post mundane things like what their cat did that was so cute this morning. Nor should Twitter be used unless one is ready and willing to jump in and interact with other Twitter users. Others may disagree with me about that.
If you are an individual and you set up a Twitter account, you probably won’t concern yourself with who chooses to follow your tweets. But, if you set up a Twitter account for a US government client, should your thinking be different because you are representing someone other than yourself? If you set up a Twitter account for a military client, should you be concerned with managing who chooses to follow your military client’s presence on Twitter?
Spammers (those who send out unsolicited messages to make money from selling products or services) are able to thrive by using the Internet. Each new online tool is quickly accepted by spammers who are happy to have additional ways to have their messages seen by millions of Internet users. Spammers took to Twitter quite readily. Some spammers use Twitter to conceal their true identities while pushing out messages that attempt to sell products and services. Other spammers are open about their efforts to sell stuff and it is not difficult to find Twitter users whose purpose of being on Twitter is to sell sexually-oriented services or products. This is just one of the realities of today’s Social Media.
Should you concern yourself with sexually-oriented Twitter followers? If you have an individual Twitter account just for your own personal use, you really are totally free to decide that on your own. But, what if you set up a Twitter account for a government and/or military client? Should you allow sexually-oriented Twitter followers on your client’s Twitter account, or, should you use the built-in Twitter capability of blocking followers? These are not hypothetical issues.
During the first few months after I set up a Twitter account for the military campaign’s outreach, it didn’t take long before there were Twitter followers of an obvious sexual nature. Some Twitter followers during the initial months posted a profile picture with nudity. Other Twitter followers posted a profile picture with drug-related imagery such as a marijuana leaf.
The female project manager grew very angry with me when she saw these profile pictures on Twitter. I will never forget her raising her voice to me and saying in an unpleasant tone, “Woody, get rid of the hookers!”
One argument today is that there is no negative impact upon either you or your client if Twitter followers have either a profile picture or a Twitter username that seems controversial. The Internet is wide open. You will find that there are varying degrees of openness across the Internet and acceptance of controversial images or words. Unless one has signed up for a Twitter account, it is not possible to see who is following whom on Twitter.
It may be best to think of Twitter usage this way: If you sign up to use Twitter, you implicitly are accepting the rules of the road that some followers may come along that you would prefer not to have around. But, it is definitely true that there currently is no global consensus as to what is considered controversial online versus what is not. The standard–if there is one–as to what is controversial or undesirable may also be in continuous flux. I think that there may come a day when vetting your Twitter followers will be considered outmoded. Perhaps the desirability of vetting Twitter followers is one of those many things whose value exists primarily in the eye of the beholder?