Millions of tweets, but which ones should we listen to?

Twitter petesmith web

I’ve been guilty of an angry tweet in my time. Usually in relation to a late train, a grumpy cashier or on one occasion, the absence of bacon sandwiches in my local supermarket on a Monday morning. However, I haven’t yet gone as far as Hasan Syed did this week after a debacle involving British Airways, his suitcase and some luggage gremlins.

While I usually direct my angry tweets in the direction of my own followers (an eclectic mix of social media types, gamers and beer enthusiasts), Mr Syed decided to broaden his audience and bought one of Twitter’s promoted tweets. Directed at both UK and New York markets, the promoted tweet had garnered views, replies and retweets from thousands of tweeps by the time social media news website Mashable picked up on it six hours in.

Traditionally scooped up by advertisers, promoted tweets can reach various audiences based on gender, location, topics, devices or even followers of specific accounts. Want to target followers of @JustinBieber with a tweet saying “Who is this Jason Beeber guy anyway?” Well, you can now. Though you may get a horde of angry pre-teens sending angry misspelled tweets your way.

To buy a promoted tweet you only actually need to be spending a couple of dollars. You can run a campaign for very little as you only pay when someone interacts with your tweet. If no-one favourited, replied or retweeted you could tell everyone in Lincolnshire your favourite sandwich filling for pocket change.

Sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr are giving the masses a voice, one which the smallest of businesses could never have had before without spending a fortune. Business owners can do their own PR simply from their smartphones now, but the lack of training is still often evident. You can tweet and Facebook about what you’re doing but if you don’t market your activities well or engage with your customers then it could be a massive waste of your time.

On the other side you’ve got businesses failing dramatically at social media. Mr Syed pointed out on Twitter how bizarre it was that BA runs a 24/7 service and yet their Twitter customer service is only active from nine till five – especially odd when you remember that BA’s planes regularly cross timelines.

There was also an incident a few weeks back when a pizza lover posted a picture of the “best pizza ever” on Domino’s Facebook page. An automated response generated by the pizzeria quickly apologised for the pizza and offered up a customer helpline number. It says something for a company when your automatic response is expecting a complaint.

The internet is making it easy for anyone to get online and promote their business, but that doesn’t stop them from simply doing it wrong. Just like bloggers in the world of journalism, having a Twitter account doesn’t automatically make you a public relations guru whether you run a tiny cake shop or a multi million pound corporation.

And you, stop using hashtags badly. Yes, you. You know who I’m talking to. SA