8 tips for PR pros to avoid being muted on Twitter

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With Twitter’s announcement this week of its “mute” feature, which enables people to temporarily hide tweets from Twitter accounts they follow, PR pros should rethink their Twitter strategies.

You may think that because your brand has thousands of followers that you are reaching thousands of people. No. It wasn’t so before (people aren’t watching their Twitter feeds 24/7), and it may be even less so with the new mute feature.

According to Twitter, users can expect the following results when muting a Twitter account:

• Muted users can follow you and interact with your content.

• You can follow a user you’ve muted. Muting a user will not cause you to unfollow them.

• @ replies and @ mentions from muted users you follow will still appear in your Notifications tab.

• Muted users you follow can still send you a direct message.

• When you mute a user, their previous Tweets will still be displayed; only Tweets from the point you muted them will be hidden.

From the receiving end of managing brand Twitter accounts, this feature could be useful. You can silence someone tweeting in a manner you don’t like while still leaving communication lines open. They can still message you (unlike blocking), and they can still send you a direct message (unlike unfollow).

The situation is not so appealing from the other end. People could mute your brand and simply forget about you. You’ll think you have a lot of followers listening, but you might be wasting resources better spent elsewhere.

So how can you prevent your brand from being muted—or even unfollowed?

It occurred to me that I should ask the PR Newswire audience what would drive them to hit mute, so I posted the following question on Twitter and Facebook:

Here are the responses I got most often:

1. High frequency: Don’t tweet excessively. Too many tweets, too often, or in a short span of time is very annoying to people.

2. Too promotional: Mind your manners. All brand managers should strike a balance in content that is simply useful to their audience and what is simply self-promotional.

3. No engagement: Talk to people. If all you’re doing is broadcasting your messages and not engaging your audience you are missing the point of social media, and your Twitter account won’t be very interesting to follow. Of course there are exceptions. Newsfeeds like @AP, for example.

4. Non-relevant tweets: If you manage a fashion brand and frequently post about football or politics, you will probably lose audience. That goes the other way around, too.

5. Too personal: This is business. Having some human/personal touch to a brand Twitter account can be very useful to connecting with people, but you have to know your boundaries.

6. Too many @’s and #’s: Overused, they can make reading a chore. There are times when you are going have a lot of mentions and hashtags, like during a Twitter chat, but it shouldn’t be a daily thing.

7. Boring! I don’t think this needs any explanation. You don’t have to be entertaining, but you do have to hold people’s attention.

8. Too much automation: Some automated tweets mixed with human curation and engagement can work fine, but again, we have to mind the frequency.

These responses are a clear reminder to all of us about what people expect and what people will tolerate. In general, people appreciate useful content and don’t mind the occasional promotional message, but we must strike the right balance. We have to know and understand our audience.

One concern with the new mute feature is that people may hit mute during a Twitter chat when you are posting a lot, intending to un-mute you later—but what if they forget?

In that case, you’d better be unforgettable. As PR pros we all should make sure that people would miss us if we were silenced.

At least one respondent on Twitter stated she wouldn’t bother with the mute. She would just unfollow:

Victoria Harres is vice president of audience development and social media at PR Newswire, where she leads the media relations team that provides customer service for members of its PR Newswire for Journalists service. She is also the original voice behind @PRNewswire. A version of this story originally appeared on the company’s blog, Beyond PR.

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