Twitter Best Practices: Lessons for Website Owners and Users

This week the free social media monitoring site suddenly disappeared. I first noticed when I tried to demonstrate it to a class I was teaching at the IAE Aix Graduate School of Management near Aix en Provence, but later I noticed that the problem persisted for several days. This is very unusual. Most glitches last a few hours so for a website to disappear for several days is an interesting event.

Like most users I did the obvious thing and tweeted an "is it just me" message. There was no answer so I searched for news and found many users asking what had happened but there were no replies. Both the @socialmention account and the founder Jon Cianciullo's personal @jonnyjon account were silent. In the end I sent Jon Cianciullo's a mail and he answered very quickly that the site was down while they moved hosting company but that it would be back up that day. And it did come back, he replied to all the tweets and now everyone is happy.

But there are some lessons from this little episode that I would like to share with you today:

1. PEOPLE EXPECT TO FIND NEWS ON TWITTER. Whether you are a train operator with trains stuck in an undersea tunnel or a website owner, when there are problems people expect to find at least a tweet acknowledging the problem. Ideally they would like replies to their tweets but when you have a small company people will understand that this is hard and be content with just one tweet saying that there is a known issue. This is also one of the cases -- very few -- where I would even condone the use of autoreply bots.

2. USERS NEED TO LEARN TO USE TWITTER SEARCH. Most people having trouble with a website will start by tweeting a question and wait for a reply. This doesn't always come. I realize now that the best practice would be to first search for the keyword -- in this case "socialmention" -- which will tell you immediately that you are not the only person with the problem, and then tweet that you have the same problem. In many cases the first search will also give you the answer. In fact in this case after I had tweeted the news about the imminent return people were still asking for news.

3. EVERYONE NEEDS TO LEARN ABOUT "WHO IS".  One little detail I haven't mentioned yet is how I was able to mail socialmention founder Jon Cianciullo.  All I did was look up the contact information for the domain on Network Solutions "Who Is" page at  This amazingly useful resource is also invaluable when you need to deal with some content that causes you problems, but that can wait until I write about the secrets of online reputation management.

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