How To: Use the Twitter Favorites Button

THE BSA GOLD STAR. CLASSIC CAFE-RACER.

Image by ronsaunders47 via Flickr

One of the least used features of Twitter is the “Favorites” button. Here are some reasons I’ve heard for why it doesn’t get used:

  • Twitter favorites duplicate a bookmark function
  • Twitter favorites displace the many tools for reading later
  • Twitter favorites becomes a mishmash of random stuff that becomes a chore to wade through
  • Twitter favorites become yet another in-box and no one needs more of those

Add to all of that the fact that all of the other features of Twitter are way more engaging because they involve real people doing and saying things in real time. Favorites becomes a sort of icebox where tweets go to become forgotten.

But here’s something I do that you can do too.

Twitter favorites: a technique

Whenever someone says anything positive about me or my business, I favorite the tweet.

That’s it. Very simple, very easy, very quick.

You’re going to get a few benefits from using this technique.

Learning about sentiment analysis

Sentiment analysis is a hot topic among social media wonks. I suspect many public relations firms are using it as a stand in for the old “placements” metric–how many times was a client mentioned in the media.

By manually adding tweets to your favorites you’re going to gain direct experience with sentiment analysis.

The most challenging thing about this technique is determining whether something is positive enough for me to give it the favorite. If you undertake this process you’ll start to realize how challenging sentiment analysis really is–and why it’s probably not worth trusting what anyone is telling you about sentiment analysis.

Do you favorite a simple retweet? Do you favorite a simple smiley? How about a #FF? How about something that has a positive bit and a criticism bit?

If you aren’t sure where to start with this, here’s how I do it:

    • Any tweet by anyone that has anything vaguely positive gets favorited.
    • RT without positive commentary isn’t favorited.
    • #FF in which I’m just one in a long string is not likely to get favorited.
    • Anything that includes the word “thanks” gets favorited.

You’ll have to decide for yourself. And what you consider positive sentiment might be different from what I consider positive sentiment.

The payoff for doing all this deep thinking is that you end up with a metric for how much satisfaction you’re generating on Twitter. You can count the number of favorites and know if you’re making people happy or not.

You’ll start being more helpful on Twitter

The payoff mentioned above can be a powerful motivator to use Twitter in a way that is helpful. We all like gold stars, right? Well whenever you get to favorite something on Twitter you basically are giving yourself a gold star. The icon is even a gold star. Genius!

But seriously, if one of the quick, simple actions you take regularly is to hit the favorite button whenever someone says “thanks” you’re more likely to look for opportunities to generate satisfaction.

The outcome is that you’ll be more helpful on Twitter.

Twitter as social proof

By using this technique you will be building up a mass of positive content that is about you. Unlike the testimonials on a website that you own, tweets are more likely to be viewed as authentic.

You can’t control someone else’s Twitter account so all those favorited tweets are a little more meaningful. Sure, you could astroturf it and make tons of fake Twitter accounts to say nice things about you. But it’s pretty easy to detect this that it’s probably easier to simply be helpful to real people.

When I link to my Twitter account (from this site, for example) instead of linking to my current stream, I link to my favorites list. That way when people get there they can see a lot of nice things about me from a variety of people. I think that says enough about whether I’m worth following or not.

Decrease of self-congratulatory retweeting

As noted above, people like praise. So when someone says something nice about us it’s tempting to retweet it to show everyone that someone said something nice about us.

That practice can get irritating and maybe be non-helpful. By simply favoriting such tweets, you keep the social proof without having to be overly self-congratulatory. The person whose tweet you favorited also gets a notice from Twitter–so they feel nice too.

Archive the good stuff

As you may know, Tweets have a sort of expiration date. They aren’t always available forever. But at the same time they don’t go away. It’s just that you can’t find them in your regular timeline or through search.

Favorites stick around a lot longer.

So by favoriting you are creating something that will stick around a little longer. You still won’t be able to scroll through all of the favorites, there’s a limit. But they will stick around longer.

Twitter favorites, strategic considerations

This technique should be altered and adjusted depending on your own strategy. There are many subtle ways to use this that can help or hinder what you’re really trying to do.

For example, I explained this method to a friend and he really thought it was great. In his business he has a desire to be perceived as an industry leader and influential person. So he chooses to only favorite positive tweets from other influential people in his industry.

I was tempted to follow suit because I do have some real gems in there:

No Doubt! Awesome hair day everyday RT @: @ but @ doesn't need a cape on account of the samurai hair ;-)
@DisasterManSC
Scott Clemetson
Thanks to everyone on #TFCT, hope you enjoyed the conversation. I Did!
@justincutroni
Justin Cutroni
@ Beautiful point! You're so right!!
@beastoftraal
Karthik Srinivasan
@ Gahlord -- it was such a gift to hang with you and get to know you at #midyear! Like everyone says...you are extraordinary.
@krisstinawise
Krisstina Wise

But for my own purposes and strategy, limiting to just the known influencers isn’t a good fit. Again, it was very very tempting. Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment presentation was one of the things that helped me stay the course with my own approach.

The point being, what works for me may work better for you if you alter it a bit. Take the time to play with it and find what feels right for your practice.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    As someone who has been favorited by you in the past, I get a sense of appreciation in knowing that:

    1. You actually read my tweet.
    2. You appreciated what I had to say.
    3. You took the time to mark it as something special.

    Tweetdeck used to notify you when someone marked your tweet as a favorite & I loved when I would get those notifications. Not sure if it still does that or not.

  2. Posted November 5, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I don’t favorite as many as I should. In fact I never really thought too much about favoriting as an engagement tool but rather as a bookmark tool. Which led me on the trail to find a good tool for seeing what I have tweeted which resulted in a “favoriting”. Which, of course, I’ll be writing about and maybe talking about on the show.

    The Thought Faucet has ignited my mind … or send me down yet another shining path of rabbits …

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