Wrestling With Twitter

Over the years, my Hodges colleagues have written quite a bit about Twitter on this blog.

From explaining how Twitter works in 2009 and “Twitter is Dead” back in 2011 to building brand loyalty for your CEO on Twitter in 2016 and tips for increasing organic engagement last year, we’ve covered a lot of ground.

Personally, I’m at a Twitter crossroads, and not just because Twitter may be making some changes to the like button and The Atlantic says it should kill the retweet.

What started for me nearly 10 years ago in January 2009 as an enjoyable place to track the news, people and topics I wanted (when I wanted) has devolved into a toxic, turbulent torrent of trolls and threats. Every so often, I say “That’s it,” and think about pulling the plug. And I reminisce about the fail whale that used to appear when glitchy Twitter was in its infancy.

But breaking up is hard to do. It’s been nearly 10 years, and I am the proud owner of three accounts: one for work, one for the high school baseball team I coach and one for college baseball/sports.

Why do I keep coming back?

For starters, I still use Twitter to keep up with the day’s news through the people I follow. My “work” Twitter follows largely are reporters, editors and producers – both national and local – with some clients, past clients, local businesses and friends mixed in. The platform has enabled me to make new key contacts and even some friends, far better than any of the other social platforms. I’ve used it to donate to causes and fundraise for causes of my own.

And it’s fun. No, not the same, tired memes that people (even me on rare occasion) have overused to the tune of yada, yada, yada. It’s the sarcasm, the humor, the conversation and the information. Heck, one of my tweets even was used alongside big-name political pundits by the CBS affiliate in New York City (that was pretty cool).

But the constant snark, the trolls with anonymous handles hiding behind their keyboards (maybe even that infamous 400-pound hacker), the blatant misinformation and ever-present indecency gives me pause. What if I tweet something and it goes viral for all the wrong reasons? What if I come off as sounding like the know-it-all loudmouth I bemoan? What if I say the wrong thing about the wrong pop star, sports website or politician and find myself inundated with hateful and vile tweets from their legion of fans?

For now, I’ll continue what I’ve been doing of late – consuming information on Twitter more than contributing information. For my clients, I encourage them now more than ever to stick to key, relevant messaging that’s a fit for their followers and not stray into unfamiliar territory (unless you’re Wendy’s, and you can pretty much do whatever you want on Twitter).

We all should remember what our parents or grandparents told us when we were little: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.

Maybe that’s why, according to the Pew Research Center, only 14 percent of Americans over the age of 50 even bother with the platform.

Sean Ryan

A former print journalist, Sean joined The Hodges Partnership in 2003 and leads Hodges’ media relations team. He manages media relations strategy and helps place client subject matter experts on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and more. Sean regularly helps place op-eds in top-tier papers like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.

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