Just about each and every morning, business strategist Liz Strauss (@lizstrauss) goes over to her window overlooking the Lake Michigan shoreline of Chicago and takes a photograph. She then posts the photo to Instagram and Twitter, often with a message bidding her followers a good morning. She’s even got a different hash tag for different views, such as “#lizharbor3.”
While Liz’s approach to saying “good morning” goes beyond a simple “good morning, Twitter,” it might still fall into a category of tweets that a recent academic paper described as Presence Maintenance, that is, a tweet that has the underlying intent of letting people know that the writer is currently present on Twitter.
According to that paper, and the May 2012 Harvard Business Review article based on that paper, such tweets are the most strongly disliked, with 45% of the users saying that those tweets were “not worth it.”
In the study, over 1,400 users were asked to rate the quality of 43,738 tweets with the assigned values of “Worth Reading,” “Just OK,” and “Not Worth It.” According to the HBR article, “What Makes a Great Tweet,” the best types of tweets are:
- Random Thought – cleverly worded thoughts or opinions
- Self-Promotion – particularly if useful
- Questions to Followers
- Information Sharing
Tweets acting as a virtual clearing-of-the-throat — the “ahem, I’m here” tweets — were clearly not liked. Of course, people aren’t normally asked to weigh-in on each and every tweet in their stream. Perhaps outside of the testing environment, people simply ignore those tweets in their stream. Or do they?
Blogger Lisa Barone (@lisabarone) thinks the “good morning” tweet is often overdone and not a memorable way to engage. She wrote, “Waking up to see “Good Morning” or “Good Morning, Twitter” trending every day makes me seriously fear for us as humans. Why are you doing this? I want you to ask yourself….Why on Earth do you feel the need to say good morning to Twitter? STOP!”
Others see real value in the matinal salutation. In a conversation on the topic with Jodi Sonoda (@KarmicEvolution), she said, “It’s nice for friends and gives new folks an ‘in’ to start a conversation and connecting. Being friendly doesn’t have to be ‘useful’ per say. Like smiling at strangers on the street, it’s just nice.”
Marketer Mimi Ortega (@MimiOrtega) concurred, “… it’s a good social media manner. Don’t you say good morning when you walk into your office?” Lily Zajc (@dixieLil) described it as a “familial social pleasantry.”
Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver), the founder of #140Conf, said “every day when it is morning and I can be online for at least 15 minutes, there is a Good Morning from me.” He went on to say that sometimes those greetings get extended in conversations lasting up to a couple of hours.
Twitter Under The Microscope
If yours is a major brand, it isn’t feasible to sort through the thousands, or hundreds of thousands of posts to determine if there are problems afoot. By using sentiment analysis tools, marketers can see instantly if there are grumblings afoot.
And meanwhile, locked away in some Manhattan office high-rise, analysts are wielding big data views of tweets to determine whether they should sell short on their stock holdings.
Conversation Analysis (CA), in which the patterns in conversation are analyzed, got its start in the early 1960’s, when sociologist Harvey Sacks embarked on studying the transcripts of a suicide hotline. Like tweets, those conversations tended to have constraints that made them ideal for study.
In CA, one person saying “good morning,” and another answering “good morning” is called an adjacency pair — meaning a couple of turns in a conversation that follow a ritualistic pattern. “Good morning” is also an “opening — an expression of the pleasure of meeting someone, and infers an invitation to a reply — it isn’t just a statement put out there.
With its 140 character limitation, you’d think that there really couldn’t be a better environment for studying conversation (although one famous study was performed on air traffic controllers’ conversations with pilots). One of the first tasks that the scientists take on is the categorization of tweets. It makes sense — wouldn’t it be simple?
A problem with tweet categorization, however, is that a post can have a completely different tone based on the underlying intent of the writer.
A person can share a piece of news because it really is exciting, or they can do so to bring attention to themselves. A person can say, “good morning, world” as a means to warm people up to their next self-promotion, or really as a means of heartfelt greeting and invitation to conversation.
There’s also the problem of different people using Twitter in utterly different ways. There is a vast population that is using it for a bit of brief entertainment every day, others use it for self-promotion, and yet others for real meetings-of-the-mind.
One person’s wasted words can be another’s verbal treasure. Some people read their entire Twitter stream (presumably people following fewer users) while others skim and pop in and out. The first group might mind a certain type of post, while the latter might simply whiz by as though they were flying down a water park slide.
As a constrained system, Twitter can be the ideal environment for studying social interaction. Marketers, however, shouldn’t just assume the results as gospel, implementing their content strategies in response.
I can imagine that next week, in some marketing department somewhere, a CMO will declare, “no more tweets saying ‘howdy or good morning’ — there’s a new study out…” Instead, we have to test out interactions, and find out for ourselves, in our own communities, what’s effective, and what isn’t.
As Lisa Barone suggests, just posting an automated greeting to the world isn’t going to do a lot for you. But when you make a heartfelt hello to the world, and are there to pick up the conversation, it can have a big impact.
Blogger Diane Brogan (@DianeBrogan) says of Liz Strauss’ photos that she starts each day by checking them, and usually responds to Liz’s greeting with her own reply.
At the most recent #140Conf, Tifanny LaBanca (@TiffanyLaBanca) spoke of a difficult time in her own life in which those very photos and morning greetings help to sustain her: “I found this unexpected comfort on Twitter (…) each day I would start my day on Twitter by seeking out Liz Strauss’s photo of the sunrise on Lake Michigan. The message that I got from those images was that life goes on, no matter how painful, that sun is going to continue to rise.”
If you get up in the morning, and are feeling your oats, feel free to visit me on Twitter and say Good Morning! If you have your own thoughts on these types of tweets, let’s talk about them here.
Feature image and accompanying images from iStockPhoto used under license.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.