Take a rummage around the Twitter profiles of people in politics and you will quickly discover a rarely talked about species of Twitterer – the lurker.
They sign up to Twitter, follow various people but never send a tweet themselves. The logic is that if you want to keep an eye on what is being said on Twitter (and it is the rare public affairs person who can honestly say no useful information for their job ever originates on Twitter), then creating an account and following people often is a much better way of doing it than relying on monitoring tools or manually visiting people’s profile pages.
But how to lurk well? Step one is to remember that other people at times will be searching around to see if you are on Twitter. Have too obscure a profile page and they will not know if they have really found you, wasting their time looking further. Instead, be polite and be a good virtual neighbour – make it easy for people to know if they have indeed found you, by filling in your real name and penning a sentence or two of biography.
Step two is the photograph. Colleagues in my office were recently bemused by why I appeared to be attempting to unscrew my head from its neck as I contorted back and forth. In fact, I was trying to compare a photo on Twitter (taken apparently by someone lying flat and angling a camera up) with a photo on LinkedIn (taken apparently by someone floating 10 feet up in the air and angling a camera down). Were the two photos of the same person? Had I tracked down an elusive Twitter account or not? I still do not know (and my neck has not yet forgiven me).
Take pity on future versions of me: upload a good, clear photo.
With a decently populated profile you not only help people know if it is really you, you also make your profile stand out from the simply incompetent. You want someone looking at the profile to think “Ah, this person has thought about it and decided their time is best used by only lurking” rather than “Pah! This person is a fool who can’t even be bothered to half-configure their Twitter account”.
Step three then helps complete this process: send one tweet along the lines of “I’m not currently active on Twitter but email me at Bayreuth@ConcreteFlooringTiles.com to get in touch”. That leaves a far better impression that just one tweet from nine months ago about a TV non-celebrity.
And one final tip for the lurker – once you have got your lurking going well, why not think again and try a bit of non-lurking on Twitter?
This post first appeared on the Total Politics website.