Hitting the Mute Button

Fourth blog post for my social media course, originally posted on the program's Wordpress blog

Two months ago, Twitter added a new feature that further allows you to control what appears in your feed. The magic "mute" button now allows you to remove certain tweeters from your home feed while still allowing you to visit their page, favourite their tweets, retweet and all the rest. You just don't have to deal with all of their commentary clogging up your feed - we all know at least one Twitter hog, after all.

The mute feature is comparable to "un-following" friends on Facebook where you maintain the virtual "friendship" but you don't see their activity on your home screen. And accounts can be un-muted at any time. Shortly after its introduction, @chelseahartling from The Digital Royalty wrote an open love letter to Twitter's new feature:
We all have friends or family that we follow on Twitter who annoy the living daylight out of us – but what can you do? You can’t unfollow your brother for tweeting too much about his love for a sports team you disdain. You can’t tell your best friend to shut up because her relentless tweets with cryptic Marilyn Monroe quotes overlaid on top of sunset pictures are driving you up a wall.
You just have to take a deep breath and silently scroll past these posts without making a scene in order to preserve friendship and family ties. It’s a hard knock life for a Twitter addict. But then you come to the rescue with a Mute button." @chelseahartling
Chelsea describes the mute button as the answer to all the superfluous content that you don't need to see, coming from people you don't want to delete. But there is a kicker - what if people are muting Twitter accounts that are meant to draw in a clientele? And what if important messages aren't being heard?

Susan Solovic poses that question in her article on business2community.com. Solovic points out that the mute button is like a trial separation that will likely lead to a divorce - in this particular case, absence may not make the heart grow fonder. She provides a couple of suggestions to avoid being muted, and it all boils down to frequency and behaviour. Polovic acknowledges that some companies require frequent tweets in order to remain relevant, but she cautions the over-use of tweets when there isn't enough valuable content in each one.  She suggests avoiding the step-by-step tweets (unless it's awfully interesting)  and avoid drawn-out conversations that should be taken offline.

On that note, Chelsea's open letter mentions that brands might be affected by the mute feature, but argues that as long as the social media strategy is approached in the right manner, then they shouldn't have to worry about losing the interest of their followers.

As her boss, Amy Jo Martin, says in an interview on Fox Business: "The golden rule of social communication is 'delivering value when where and how your audience wants to receive it.'" So while there might have been a sense of panic among certain companies, organizations, celebrities and industry leaders when the mute button was implemented, perhaps the best approach is to re-examine your social media strategy and decide if what you do, is against the values of your followers. The mute button can be taken as an opportunity to re-invent and improve on your current strategy.

I can certainly see the benefits of a mute button, but as an individual who has a Twitter account for personal use only, I would likely be more inclined to unfollow the people I don't want to hear from every day instead of simply muting and forgetting.

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