Note: This is part of the Twitter curriculum on SMUG.
In the last week or so I’ve had some great interactions with Lisa Fields (@PracticalWisdom on Twitter.) She gave me the heads up about Marc Slavin, the hospital PR guy who ignored a reporter’s repeated requests to “stop touching me!” as described in my recent Manual Spam post.
In our back and forth discussion I realized that Lisa had “protected” her tweets, and I asked her why. Her response:
Protect Tweets: Open to coaching. Have gotten requests from “less than splendid” Didn’t want to be associated. Will take your advice.
So I asked Lisa for her email address to send her some reasons why she should change her tweets to “unprotected.” What you see below is what I sent her, and I’m happy to report that as of right now you can follow Lisa without having to ask permission.
I did, however, ask Lisa’s permission to share this story, as well as the reasons I had outlined for her, to help others who may have similar questions or concerns. She agreed.
Here’s what I told Lisa:
It’s understandable why you might instinctively choose to “protect” your tweets. Especially with the controversy over Facebook and its privacy settings, it may feel like protecting your tweets is safer, and would better safeguard your privacy.
That’s true, to a point. And depending on how you want to use Twitter, it COULD be a valid choice.
I think that’s highly unlikely, though, particularly in your circumstance. For almost anyone (I would say more than 95 percent of Twitter users), protecting tweets is counterproductive.
Here are 10 reasons why you should NOT protect your Tweets:
- Twitter isn’t Facebook. Facebook is for your friends. Twitter is for the friends you don’t know yet. Here is an example of how I got to meet someone through Twitter who has become a good friend.
- Following isn’t Friending. This is related to the first point. On Facebook you can require that only your friends can view your profile. People have to ask permission to see more details. That’s entirely appropriate, because you probably have personal information there, such as your birthday, phone number, family members and other details that you likely want to keep private. On Twitter, your entire bio is 160 characters. You may also have a link to your Web site or blog, but that’s the extent of the really personal information.
- What if everyone did it? If everyone protected their updates Twitter would be much less useful as a networking platform. You would connect with people you already know, as on Facebook, but wouldn’t meet people with common interests who are tweeting about topics of interest to you.
- Protecting your Tweets is a barrier to connections. Given your business, I don’t think you can afford that. Ideally, you want people to find out about you and connect with you, which will lead to more speaking engagements and training opportunities. More business. If your tweets are protected, it will keep others from finding out about you, because they won’t discover your tweets.
- You can block the bad actors. In one of your messages to me you said “Have gotten requests from ‘less than splendid’ Didn’t want to be associated.” If an unsavory character starts following you on Twitter, and it really creeps you out, you can block him. (Most of the creepy ones would probably be “hims,” wouldn’t they?) But they won’t be around for long anyway. Spammers get identified and blocked by others, and if enough people block them the accounts are suspended.
- The solution to some unwanted followers is to get a LOT of followers. As my friend Andy Sernovitz says, “The solution to pollution is dilution.” Then if you have some “less than splendid” followers it won’t be a big deal.
- Why would you want all the burden of networking to fall on your shoulders? Why not make it a mutual thing? If your tweets are protected the only way you’re likely to make new connections is by initiating “follows.” But by practicing unprotected tweeting you will find that people who are interested in what you are saying will want to follow you. Many of these will likely be interesting people for you to follow. You may find this post interesting, because it has some data about protected tweeters, and particularly that they have fewer followers. That makes sense, that if people have to ask permission to follow you, fewer will.
- The Cocktail Party Analogy – This is a metaphor many have used to describe the right way to behave in social media. If you wouldn’t do it in person at a party, don’t act that way in social networking platforms. In these illustrations, most often the undesirable example is Ed the Egomaniac. He comes in and just talks incessantly about himself. But there is another type that’s just as likely to kill the conversation. Eva the Eavesdropper. She doesn’t talk at all. She just listens in on others’ conversations without contributing (and often without their knowledge.) It’s unwelcome behavior in real life, so don’t do it in Twitter.
- You’re in a tiny minority. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong, of course. But the default for Twitter is to not protect, and if everyone else is interacting freely you are not going to be as fully connected, which will put you at a disadvantage.
- Be smart. For your own safety, you might not want to tweet a message like, “Home all alone. Locks on my front door don’t work. Sure hope that $25K in cash under mattress is safe until I can call the locksmith Monday.” But if you’re just tweeting conversationally and sharing links to interesting reading, you won’t have much cause for concern about personal safety or privacy violations.