A lesson in tweet this, not that

spauff@ledger-enquirer.comApril 23, 2012 

Bad news for frequent Twitters: A recent study in the Harvard Business Review found that only 36 percent of all tweets are worth reading. Another 29 percent were deemed "just ok," and the rest no one cares about.

Are you part of the 36 percent? Perhaps. Did you tweet about something other than your dinner last night or how much you hate Mondays? Were you able to work in a witty pun or deep insight about the world?

If your answer is "no" to both of those questions, then I'm sorry. Chances are your tweet disappeared into the Internet, along with millions of cat photos and unfinished Livejournal blogs.

Some might say that the study proves that most social networking is mindless and therefore, useless. I would argue that Twitter can make you feel mindless sometimes. You start scrolling through everyone's updates and before you know it, you've wasted an hour. But when Twitter is good, it's really good, and it's useful.

Those 140-character messages can be funny, profound or insightful. They can connect with you others. They can drum up support for a cause.

We saw an example of the local power of Twitter last week, when students and other supporters of ousted Columbus High principal Marvin Crumbs used tweets to speak against his removal from the school. They also used Twitter to organize protests at the school and contact comedian Ron White. Crumbs was removed after he showed a video of White's act during a staff meeting.

When I was in high school -- which wasn't that long ago -- Twitter and Facebook did not exist and I have no idea how such a protest would have been organized back then. Flyers or posters? Word of mouth? Maybe an email -- but who has the email address of every student in their school?

I think the way Twitter was used last week at Columbus High was awesome -- mostly. Amidst all the support, there were some offensive and threatening tweets. Those Twitters need a refresher course in tweet this, not that.

Tweet about your favorite cause, whether it's the return of a beloved principal or support for the best American Idol contestant. Do not include threats or anything that could be construed as a threat in those tweets. Tweeting about burning down the school may get you noticed -- by the cops. Being part of the 36 percent isn't so great then.

Anyone who uses Twitter regularly will tell you, 140 characters isn't a lot of room, so you have to make sure your message is clear. There's no room for explanations. There's no context. Sarcasm doesn't always come across either. And please, stop typing in all caps.

Obey these simple rules, throw in a pun or two, and you could be part of the 36 percent.

Contact Sara Pauff at 706-320-4469 or spauff@ledger-enquirer.com. For more commentary, read her 20-something blog.

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