A METS FAN’S GUIDE TO TWITTER.

Twitter can be a fantastic way to get news updates, connect with your friends, connect with people you don’t know but share similar interests with, and a great time waster. I personally love Twitter (I have two accounts – one for baseball and one for everything else) and have a great time as a baseball fan, and a Mets fan, using the service. I thought I would share some hints and tips with you, in case you were curious. And with the advent of BASEBALL 2010, with tons of info coming out of Spring Training, there’s no better time to get a handle on it.

Disclaimer: the list below is meant to be a guide, a selection, not a definitive list. If you are not on it, I apologize. If your favorite person is not on there, well, tell us about them in the comments. Everyone has their own strategy, this is just what works for me. I work in social media so I’m more invested in this than yer average folks, and think about it more than most people ever do.

FOLLOW THE BEAT WRITERS

Almost all of the beat writers for every team are on Twitter, and almost all of them use the service and engage with their followers – they’ll answer questions, make jokes, and waste time during a 14 inning game with just regular folks. Some of them are better at it than others, and some of them have gotten markedly better as they get a sense of how this thing works. However, now that more people are on Twitter – or at least more than there were last year during the season – this may change the type and quality of the interaction, since if you’re dealing with a firehose of responses coming at you, it’s hard to give thoughtful responses.

If you follow more than one beat writer, you will have to deal with all of them tweeting the exact same information at just about the exact same time. I do it because I run the blog and I like the information – I even follow beat writers for other teams. Your mileage may vary, of course; my advice would be to follow them all, and then unfollow the ones that don’t interest you.

My recommendations are based on quality of content, willingness to engage, and quality of engagement.

[Yes. I know there are other beat writers covering the Mets. These are the ones I choose to follow. Also, waiting for Ben Shpiegel’s replacement to get on Twitter and use it, or not. Bart Hubbuch used to be behind @NYPost_Mets and he was super active, but now he’s moved on to the football beat. Right now that account only tweets links to stories. They might as well not bother.]

They’re not beat writers per se but you are dead wrong if you are not following

OTHER PROFESSIONALS:

You have your ESPN types, you have your MLBAM types, your Baseball Prospectus folks, etc. I recommend the following for funny or interesting or insightful folks that epitomize why Twitter is great:

There are others. Find your own!

Note: Yes. @sportsguy33 is on Twitter but there’s no point in following him. It’s like following Ashton Kutcher or Oprah. His feed is him being cranky, and a bunch of guys insulting him to try to get him to respond.

FOLLOW THE BLOGGERS

A lot of us blog folk got in on the Twitter act, and, like the beat writers, some of us are better at it than others. Some people just post links to their blog posts, others just talk to their friends, some will talk to everybody. I don’t follow anyone who uses their Twitter account to talk about everything – if I’m following you because you write a baseball blog, unless you’re a personal friend, I only care about what you have to say about baseball. I have unfollowed some people pretty fast when their feeds turned into diatribes against roommates, girlfriends or employers. My suggestion would be follow those bloggers that you like and pare down (or add) from there. Not everyone who’s a good blogger is good on Twitter. These are the people I think who are.

Some recommendations out of the many active blog-colleagues on Twitter:

[I trust I do not need to tell you to follow Matt Cerrone or MetsBlog. Personally, I read MetsBlog but follow Matt’s personal account.]

I also follow bloggers of other teams, with an unnatural prevalence of Cubs, Twins and Red Sox fans – probably because those teams have an unnatural quantity of blogs. I will spare you that list, because it’s intensely personal, but you can always go to my Twitter page and see who I follow if you’re interested.

Watching the playoffs on Twitter was like sitting in a sports bar with your friends – except it was people all over the country (and world). Maybe you’ll say “so why didn’t you just go to a sports bar” and I get that, but I like online community, and so do a lot of other people.

NOT BLOGGING, BUT…

Ah, the “fake” accounts. I think they’re terrible, with one exception: @FakeFredWilpon. It’s hard, really hard, to be funny on a consistent basis, and you have to work at it. I don’t know who it is (if it is anyone already active in the blogging scene) but they’re damn funny.

FOLLOW THE PLAYERS

There are MLB players on Twitter. MLB has these lame pages called “Connect” – for example, mets.com/connect – where you can find the ‘official’ MLB Twitter accounts. The beat writers for each team have been very good in running down rumored ‘official’ accounts and it’s generally known on Twitter before that page gets updated, but to their credit, they keep it up to date.

Most players, however, are not that engaging. There are exceptions, and then of course there are the stories about the people who are TOO engaging (Brian *cough* Wilson, aka (the now defunct)@BrianWilson38, who was very active, until he blew a save and then was tweeting about eating room service later that night and got called out on it by the media).

While there is a @CarlosBeltran15 official Twitter account, it mostly posts things about his charity work and doesn’t seem to be him (unlike, say, @hyphen18 (Ryan Rowland-Smith) or @thisisdspan (Denard Span) or @str8edgeracer (C.J. WIlson) or even – yes! – @TonyLaRussa. (More on Official Mets stuff below.)

JUST PLAIN FOLKS

Mets fans! We have a lot to say, and we have a lot to say on Twitter, too. The best way to find cool and interesting folks is to look who other people follow. If I find someone cool, the first thing I do (after following them) is look to see who they follow, and check out their Twitter pages. I do not wish to cause offense to any of the fine individuals I talk with every day, so I would prefer to not single anyone out. You get the idea. Find cool people. Talk to them. Lather, rinse, repeat.

WAIT, HAVEN’T YOU FORGOTTEN SOMETHING?

Update: When I wrote this, there was one official Mets twitter account – @Mets – and all it did (and all it does) is push out the RSS feed of press releases. No one, but no one, cares about that, and I’m shocked that there are 8k followers – *I* don’t subscribe to it.

Starting on or about April 25, another account – @NewYorkMets – began sending out little tidbits of actual information. At first I was super-enthused, but now I find the tone to be bland, boring, safe, and have zero personality whatsoever. They don’t reply to people, even if you ask a question, and they don’t follow any fans – which quite frankly is the right approach, given that people were writing blog posts how they were one of the 19 accounts that the Official Mets Twitter Account originally followed, as though the Mets had said “Anyone we follow is THE BEST METS FAN EVER. A+++”. Other team accounts will respond to questions, or provide some level of customer service – I realize it’s a black hole, especially for a team that has zero social media chops, and while it’s better than nothing, it’s still not that interesting.

There ARE teams doing cool things with Twitter – the Yankees, for example, use Twitter to communicate about rain delays, the A’s use Twitter to communicate about ticket specials, and a few teams have their mascots on Twitter (Southpaw from the White Sox, @wally97 from the Red Sox, and @screechtheeagle from the Nationals). But it is cool to check out what other teams are doing, and if you’re crazy like me, it’s fun to hunt the stuff down. You can see examples of all of this by looking at who I follow on my Twitter page.

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TWITTER:

  • The letters RT mean “retweet” – it means that that person is forwarding someone else’s Twitter post. It’s bad form to remove the attribution on a post and send it around as though it was your own. Be careful about retweeting – it makes no sense to retweet MetsBlog or Adam Rubin, because everyone is following them, and if they’re not, it’s because they don’t want to. RT’ing is good for information about other teams you think people would be interested in, funny posts from a blogger, or other unique and not-commonly-known content.
  • The hash tag! if you see someone post a word (or series of words) prefaced by a #, that’s what Twitter calls a “trending topic”. When you do that, Twitter turns it into a search term, so you can see what everyone else talking about that topic has to say. For example, one of the most popular hashtags during the playoffs was #fisted. My other favorite baseball-related hashtag is #nakedgrady. You get the idea.
  • #FF – stands for Follow Friday. Back when no one was on Twitter, you would send out a list of cool people you followed with the hashtag #FF so other people could find out about them. Now it’s become a mix between a popularity contest and I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you’ll-scratch-mine. And the beat writers mostly just #FF themselves, which is stupid, and we yell every Friday – except that they can’t ‘hear’ us because most of them don’t follow the great unwashed.
  • You do NOT have to follow someone just because they follow you. In the early days of Twitter, it was considered ‘bad manners’ to not follow someone if they followed you. But we’ve gotten over that now, especially as Twitter has become more and more commercial. My advice? Follow who you want to follow. If someone makes following you conditional on you following them, you probably don’t want to follow them anyway.
  • If someone obnoxious follows you, block them. If someone starts to harass you, block them. You can report them to Twitter, and they’ll try, but it’s a free service, and it’s just easier to block them.
  • You can make your Twitter account protected, which means no one can see what you’re posting. It makes it hard for other people to decide whether or not you’re worth following, but if you’re uncomfortable or uncertain, you can always do that.

Finally: I know. Twitter is Stupid. [tm] You don’t care about what anyone ate for breakfast. If you hate social media and aren’t at all interested in it, I can’t convince you, and this article wasn’t written for you. But if you’re at all interested in it, hopefully this gave you a starting point.

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