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How to be a tax Twit

10 May 2011 / Daniel Selwood
Categories: James McBrearty , Twitter
A ten-point guide to bungling 140 characters or fewer

Twitter has been making nuisance of itself lately, causing a lot over hoo-ha by claiming that [CELEBRITY’S NAME REDACTED] has been [MORALLY REPUGNANT ACT REDACTED] with [WANNABE’S NAME REDACTED] and what have you.

Of course, it wasn’t really the planet’s most popular micro-blogging site that was mischievously ignoring nuclear-powered gagging orders; it was its users. As @btocher tweeted, ‘I just heard a journalist on BBC News mention “Twitter's disregard for the law”. What next - the *telephone's* disregard for the law?’.

Indeed. The site – as Taxation has suggested in the past in articles including Like a Bird… and Tweet Treat – can be a brilliant tool when individuals choose to share useful and interesting information and engage one another.

However, the preference of trendsetting tweeters this week is for confirming the prejudices of luminously intellectual naysayers; Liam Gallagher and Janet Street-Porter being among them.

Given that maintaining online hipster credentials is the second most prominent concern of any tax professional (after keeping up to date with what work of Russian literature Tolley’s handbooks most closely resemble), it would be remiss of this column to not immediately provide a ten-point guide to making a fashionable foul-up of one’s Twitter account…

1. Have no sure idea about why you’re on Twitter in the first place.

2. Tweet as infrequently as possible – and when you do, make it old hat. Real-time sharing of news and advice is sooo last week, particularly in the tax sector where all rules and guidance are basically interchangeable.

3. Make sure your content is dry and impersonal. (If people chose to follow an agent, they obviously prefer their tweets to be about as witty as tonnage tax). Adding character to your 140 characters will cause people to notice and follow you. Humour must be avoided at all times. If you feel a joke coming on, you’re advised to take the Social Media Sobriety Test.

4. Stay on-message: you are pushing your services. Your followers aren’t interested in you as a person. If you have an interesting non-tax thought that you believe others might enjoy, repress it until it goes away.

5. Don’t include hashtags – like, say, #TaxationUK. Doing so will make it too easy for other users to find you.

6. Never, ever engage with other users, be they fellow tax advisers or laypeople. You don’t have the time to thank people for retweeting you; joining in discussions is way too much hassle. And, as any fule no, relationships with clients and peers are a massive pain and best avoided.

7. If people reply to one of your tweets or direct message you, ignore them – especially if they’re asking for tax advice.

8. If you must retweet users or and reply to them, make sure they’re high-profile (like Taxation or Jedward). Remember: if they’re not famous, they shouldn’t be on Twitter, whereas everything celebs think is relevant and interesting and deserving of retweeting. Replying should be done in an overly formal, or even creepy, manner.

9. Automate all your tweets using CoTweet or a similar application. This offers two advantages: you’ll never have to engage personally with your followers, and you can arrange for your comments to be published at times when your target audience is offline or thinking about things other than tax. (Try 3am or Christmas Day.)

10. Links: never check that yours actually work, and enhance follower disappointment by neglecting the http:// protocol. Not only will that ensure an inactive URL, it’ll also create room for more vapid self-promotion (see above).

By the time you read this, the chic approach to Twitter might be something different. Nevertheless, the advice presented above, while not always trendy, is timeless and will always ensure the worst results.

With thanks to James McBrearty, the self-styled Twittering tax man.


Categories: James McBrearty , Twitter
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