SMX live blog: ‘How To Win Friends & Not Be Unfollowed By People (Or Worse)’

Raven liveblog

Session description:

It’s a proven fact: Twitter can be a huge driver of traffic to websites when tweets offer compelling reasons to click, and are virally retweeted to the ever-expanding Twitterverse. But remember: Twitter is opt-in, which means if you get even a little bit spammy people will un-follow you or not follow you in the first place. Del Harvey – @delbius – who leads Trust & Safety at Twitter, covers the finer points of twitterquette and answers questions about tapping into this important source of referrals.


Del Harvey and Danny SullivanDel Harvey, Director of Trust & Safety, Twitter (@delbius)
Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land (@dannysullivan)

What they said:

(Direct quotes are in quotations; the rest is paraphrased)
Del begins with a tale of a tweet: a plea to buy a few books from a Portland bookstore nearly on the verge of going out of business. After one viral tweet, the bookstore went on to have its most profitable holiday season on record and is still thriving today.

“It’s not a crazy thing for a tweet to do a whole lot of stuff,” she said.

Why this tweet worked: It not only reached people who cared, but it connected with people who were able to do something about it (go buy books) – not too different from targeting.

Simply put: “If you can connect effectively, you will win friends.”

Connecting effectively allows you to do four things: tell your brand’s story, expand your audience, strengthen loyalty and increase brand exposure.

But it’s not just how you tweet – it’s what you tweet. Some worst-case scenarios that can make a good tweet into a bad tweet:

Unsolicited @ replies: Copying and pasting the same thing over and over again is not the same thing as targeting. “It’s just never going to really engage people.”

Duplicate posts and #random #hashtags: Don’t piggyback off of popular hashtags just to get your tweet seen by more people. “You are just adding random words trying to get into search results. People see through this.” Avoid the copy-paste. Avoid the duplicate.

And some best practices that make the most of Twitter for marketing:

Host a chat: “It’s a really great way to interact with others, figure out what your comfort level is.” Remember to be prepared and be flexible – Twitter chats require you to expect the unexpected. Prepare for criticism about your product or platform.

One example: Tide hosted a patriotic Twitter chat using the hashtag #TideFlag and had influential mom bloggers host it, allowing them to step back and reap the benefits of the chat without making it a heavy-handed selling moment.

“It was a very natural fit; it wasn’t forced.”

Run a contest: People like free stuff. Contests give your audience a chance to participate and take part in a shared event. And it doesn’t have to be free stuff: Mercedes Benz used Twitter to run a contest where users helped choose the path an interactive ad would take.

“There’s still a lot of room to do really cool contests with Twitter.”

Announce a sale: “It’s the perfect starter activity. People like saving money. You can provide a way for them to do so.”


Example: In addition to engaging with customers on a regular basis, @WhippedBakeshop tweeted about their Black Friday sale and included coupon codes. Customers shared the bakery’s quirky “ugly Hanukkah sweater cookies” with their friends.

“They’re spreading the gospel of you for you. It can disseminate over these vast networks really easily.”

But “it’s only when you really connect with people that they’re spread the gospel for you. It’s only with genuine interaction that you’re going to get that.”


Danny: Some people get put in Twitter jail for tweeting too much. Is there a set limit they’re running into?

Del: That’s something we’re working on. The automated spam component of Twitter is now vast, because it has to be. We have a billion tweets every three days. There are so many variable in terms of what they could hit and why. Those limits aren’t fixed. You’re not stuck there forever. We’re not targeting you individually. We don’t want to silence anybody.

Danny: You talked about not wanting to silence anybody, but there was the situation that came up during the Olympics about the reporter whose Twitter account was shut down. Can you talk about what happened there?

Del: That was the conflation of two different departments acting independently, and it was unfortunate. One of Twitter’s core values is to defend and respect the user voice. Nobody’s perfect and things like that are going to happen, but we really do want to respect the users. Trust and Safety is totally separate from the rest of the company for that reason.

Danny: What is Twitter doing to fight spam?

Del: It’s actually really hard to fight spam. There are smart people on that side – it’s an arms race. I do know that it’s a pain point in a lot of ways. You don’t necessarily play whack-a-mole to get the bad guys – you want to find out how they’re getting there.

Danny: What are the rules on whether you’re able to buy followers? There was a great New York Times story about a guy who felt his Twitter account didn’t reflect his popularity so he bought a slew of followers.

Del: No, you cannot buy followers. And if you buy followers, those aren’t people who care about your issue or area or brand. They’re spammers who’re going to get their accounts shut down, and then you’re out the followers and the money.

Danny: How does Twitter suggest followers, and how can you get suggested?

Del: It’s an incredibly complex algorithm. The best advice I can give you as far as being suggested is to be interesting.

Danny: What happens when people report spam? What’s the process and how long does it take for you to find them and nip it in the bud?

Del: Once you click the button, it goes through the back end. It is not reviewed by humans.

Final note: Del wants feedback from users and actually checks her replies! Hit her up at @delbius.


Courtney Seiter

Listener, storyteller and petter of all animals. Content crafting at Buffer; sharing stuff about social media, workplace culture, diversity and music.

Listener, storyteller and petter of all animals. Content crafting at Buffer; sharing stuff about social media, workplace culture, diversity and music.