The etiquette of Twitter – That would be Twittiquette then!

I tweet therefore I am, but I listen too.
I tweet therefore I am, but I listen too.

Twitter isn’t that new to many people, but its scarily new to others and as such, the etiquette of how to use it is only now beginning to emerge.

But to understand the etiquette, I think you first need to understand its purpose – or at least what I believe to be it purpose.

I believe Twitter is for building likeminded communities. Groups of people from around the world who share some form of common interests. Those communities can be in many or any different areas.

1. In its most high profile form, this can be for celebrity watching. The likes of Britney and Ashton Kutcher, send out inane insights into their daily lives, that few but the most committed fans could possibly care about. The fact that these two have millions of fans between them, that hang off their every tweet, shows that some people must care. I’m not one of them.

2. For campaigning it works amazingly well. Barak Obama famously built his campaign and campaign coffers on the back of his connections he built through Twitter. No election anywhere in the world will ever be the same again. The people of Iran displayed their dissatisfaction with the voting system and twitter stayed open for them to give them a voice to the outside world.

When anyone first saw Twitter, I would suspect that there were VERY few people who would have believed that it could have such a huge impact on the workings of world politics.

3. Finding and learning from likeminded peers has to me, proved the most valuable way to engage with Twitter. My work is based on the subject of branding, innovation, marketing and business psychology, so I am actively looking for people who talk about these subjects anywhere in the world on the Twitter network.

I have open searches on Tweetdeck for these words (as well as Nottingham and Margate for other reasons) and can refer to anything that is written in these areas. It beeps at me every minute and can be hugely distracting, but eqally informative.

If I see something that I think is valuable or leads me towards an article I find useful, then I will follow the person who posted it and begin to build some dialogue with them, by Retweeting their good bits and trying to read as many of their thoughts as they care to share.

But what if they don’t follow me back?

Well, for me, this is the wrong way to use the system.

It isn’t saying you want to build a community, it’s saying ‘I am very wise and you must listen to me. I don’t actually care what you have to say though, as I am far too important and time poor to waste my time with your worthless tweets

Maybe everyone isn’t saying this, but certainly those who choose deliberately to not follow you back, are.

It’s like big business sending out emails from ‘donotreply email addresses’ They are effectively saying that they don’t care what you say, but are asking you to click through and buy from them. I covered this in more detail in the piece last week about Social media.

So, if after a week or two, people are still choosing to not follow me back, I stop following them. If they don’t care what I am saying, why should I care about what they are saying? Are they really so wise, that they have nothing to learn at all?

Not following is probably okay, or at least understandable for celebrities. I do think that it is a bit arrogant for them to only follow their fellow celebs, just to show how well connected they are, and to reinforce the fact that we are not in their ‘A’ list of friends.

So it comes back to the purpose of Twitter for the masses. Is it to build communities or relationships or just to shout about the fact you are on a train or eating your lunch?

If it is about relationships, then speaking without listening won’t keep you in a relationship for long. See how you get along for a day at work ignoring everything your colleagues say to you.

As Innocent Smoothies taught me in their book. If you’re talking you’re not listening.

So, do the right thing. Listen as well as speak.

Is this the end of the road for Harley Davidson?

Harley Davidson -  A brand that really shouldn't appeal to me
Harley Davidson - A brand that really shouldn't appeal to me

Harley Davidson is one of those brands you just have to have a bit of respect for. Kevin Roberts listed it as one of his Lovemarks brands, which are those brands that are apparently loved beyond all reason.

But then I started thinking about it and looking for more background reading. This great article here in the Central Penn Business Journal gives a lot more facts, of which the most fascinating to me is that the average age of their audience has gone from 38 to 46 in the last ten years.

And that’s the whole root of the problem. The reason I have got a bit of respect for it is that I have grown up at about the same rate. Ten years ago I was 33 and now I’ve got older too. They shouldn’t be targeting me as their core, they should be aiming at people ten years younger, so I feel slightly more uncomfortable with it.

Unless a brand manages to constantly innovate and find new reasons for new people to fall in love with it, it will just get continually staler and staler until the day that it eventually dies. There will always be the die-hard fans who love it beyond all reason, but as they age and die too, they get fewer and fewer.

So Harley Davidson needs to act fast and act very boldly or it is facing disaster. It needs to make itself cool for a younger audience again.

One way they could do this is by embracing social media, so I thought I would have a look at what was available on YouTube. The first video that Google threw up is here.

Great idea Harley Davidson, but when you get comments like this, you know your problems are more deep rooted.

‘WTF is this? A video showing ASIANS riding a HARLEY!? LOL! WTF! Well, this is a commercial video. BUT REALITY is: ASIANS don’t care about harley davidson motorcycles! ASIANS ride scooters and JAPANESE sportbikes! I am ASIAN, i personally ride sportbikes and dislikes american made harleys! Only old and fat ass americans ride those ugly cruisers! LOL!’

Backing Buell as their ‘new cool’ brand won’t be the answer either. For me, all this will do is split their marketing budget across two brands. Ultimately, this just makes your marketing more expensive. Buell isn’t a minor sub-brand, it’s a whole new name with a different set of differentiators and a different target audience.

So how should they do it?

For me, there are three simple ways, all of which use some form of social media channelling.

1. Get cool people riding them
Whilst not my cup of tea, getting a youth hero like Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher or even Britney to get photographed riding one. Zac Effron is a bit of a nipple, in my opinion, but if you can buy ‘High School musical’ spectacles now, there has to be some huge youth power in their branding.

2. Get cool people Twittering and blogging about Harley
Ashton Kutcher is the most followed person on twitter, Britney is third, when they tweet, 5.65 million people listen. A little bit of their coolness would have to rub off.

A blogger outreach programme to find the most influential people in the blogosphere would pay massive dividends too and create a huge stir amongst the new younger target audience.

3. Stop fat old Americans riding them
Any of the previous role models need to be ditched. There must be a slash and burn policy for fat old and unhip people to get off their bikes. Start rumours they are too powerful for old people and make them feel like they are dad dancing with the wrong brand.

And then they have to get people like they have already, away from managing their brand. They have to get a young team to advise them on how to take it forward – even if it makes them feel very uncomfortable. There are certain things that 40+ year old men shouldn’t do. Try and be overtly cool is one of them. Harley Davidson is well into its 105th year and needs to start acting like an excited teenager again.

Good luck.


It would appear that Harley Davidson are indeed trying to capture a younger market by allowing their brand to be used in some fake ads in the youth Series True Blood. As has been reported by Rippin Kitten here. The great thing for me is that I was told about this article by Tony Long at Cultural Exception via Twitter. You can see his work here. This is what i love about Twitter. We can all learn from each other.

Not knowing the series, its hard to comment too specifically, but the look and feel is very Twilight and I know how much my 13 year old daughter loves this! Good work Harley, all you need to do now is get the fat blokes off your bikes.