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Simon Pitt | Internet | Monday 28th May 2012

I was idly browsing Twitter the other day. To be honest, I'm not sure there is any other way of browsing Twitter. But as I was clicking around I came across this tweet:


It's a bit strange that someone is tweeting at themselves, but other than that, it didn't strike me very much. It is, after all, a very bland tweet.

To be honest, what struck me most is that despite that tweet being so bland, @BBC London 94.9 won an award for the best use of social media. At least, according to their twitter background they did, and who am I to argue with an unverified free uploaded jpeg file?

Social Media Awards, eh

The fact that they have that title and still tweet at themselves is a bit strange. It's like someone winning letter-writer of the year for posting messages to themselves.

Actually, I'm pretending to be blase about this, but I was bothered enough to visit the Online Media Awards webpage, and lookup the winners.

And, yes, true to their word, BBC London did win the award for best use of social media. Although, I'm not entirely clear what BBC London actually is. Is it @BBCLondon, rather than the BBC London local radio, @BBCLondon949? Or maybe it's @BBCLondonOnline or @BBCLondonNews. Man, the BBC have a lot of Twitter feeds.

But while I was flicking through the BBC twitter feeds, I noticed something odd. BBC London Online had posted this tweet on 19th May at 4.20 too.

Thanks for the good times 2day Croydon. @BBCLondon949 bus will be at the Mela in Tower Hamlets 2mrw with Sunny & Shay. Sun keep shinning :-)

- BBC London Online (@BBCLondonOnline) May 19, 2012

Now, I'll be honest, I don't know what a BBCLondon949 bus is, and I don't know who Sunny and Shay are either. I guess a bus is quite a large thing, so maybe there were two people on it, and both decided to say thanks at the same time.

But a bit later on, I spotted that Danny Baker had got in on the act too:

Thanks for the good times 2day Croydon. @BBCLondon949 bus will be at the Mela in Tower Hamlets 2mrw with Sunny & Shay. Sun keep shinning :-)

- Danny Baker (@greennowhere) May 19, 2012

And when I did a search, I found they weren't the only ones:

Save time tweeting, re-use old tweets for profit and pleasure

And just in case you were thinking that they might all have had the same thought at the same time, if you look at the metadata, each tweet was published at exactly the same time to the microsecond:


To misquote Lady Bracknell: To tweet the same tweet twice is unfortunate, but to tweet it fourteen times smacks of carelessness.

Of course, what we have here is someone in BBC central using a tool to post to multiple BBC accounts at once.. It's particularly strange since some accounts, like @ihateanchovies seem to be the personal accounts of BBC Journalists. But obviously, they must have signed up to this too.

Now, whether or not this breaks Twitter's terms of use is a different (and more boring) question. But it does raise the question of how companies should use Twitter. A while back, I complained HBO's Girls hadn't created a spoof twitter feed for its main character after showing it on air. Journalists too have struggled to keep up with the speed of Twitter, resorting to interviewing the landlord of their local at one point.

The problem is, many companies don't know how to use Twitter. Right now, somewhere, a suited business executive is sitting in a board meeting, suggesting that they get one of these twitterbook things that he's heard about recently.

Every company seems to think it needs a Twitter feed these days. I went to a pub the other day in Ealing and a board behind the bar suggested I follow them on Twitter. Why? Are they going to tweet last orders at me? Are they going to hashtag some peanuts, or retweet a round of beers?

Companies seem to confuse twitter accounts with free advertising. Create a hashtag for your product and let everyone else market it for you. They seem not to know what to do with Twitter. I'm not even talking about making hilarious Twitter gaffes, I mean fundamentally not understanding what Twitter is for.

Twitter needs content. A different type of content than created elsewhere (you're unlikely to have a film based on a tweet), but content nonetheless. And your Twitter feed needs to be relevant. Not every business needs a Twitter feed in the same way that not every dog needs a TV channel. There could be FidoTV (and FidoTV+1) but no one is going to watch someone weeing up a post for ninety minutes. Especially not when The Only Way is Essex is on.

I can imagine a pub that could make good use of a Twitter feed. Maybe if they have a strong, technologically savvy group of regulars, and they organise events through it or have information or entertainment to offer. But most pub's don't need a Twitter feed. I'm not going to follow a pub on Twitter. Similarly, if I buy a flat packed table, I'm not going to subscribe to a Twitter feed about it. That's just not the way I interact with it.

Of course, there are ways around this. Take everyone's favourite Online Betting Site, BetFair Poker. Its feed has nothing to do with poker at all:

Oh God. I've just found out that it's not pronounced pooker.

- Betfair Poker (@Betfairpoker) May 28, 2012

And yet it is the most followed online gambling account on Twitter. Now, obviously, not every product or service can have a surreal and hugely time intensive twitter account. But if you don't have a service that offers regular information, you don't have a brand that could benefit from a subversive and surreal twitter presence or you don't have the resources to regularly tweet, maybe you don't need a twitter account.



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