Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
July 1, 2009

Social Media Writing: Pass the ‘Who Cares?’ Test

At 85, Charlotte Nushy, my favorite aunt, is “starting to get old.” The other day she was telling my sister and me that, though she’s not bedridden, she does spend a lot of time in bed because her back aches when she sits up for too long.

Then she interrupted herself to exclaim, “Shut up, whiner! Who cares?”

“Shut up, whiner! Who cares?” is my new tweeting motto. Tweeting about your late flight, awful dinner or bad service? Shut up, whiner! Who cares?

Pass the ‘Who cares?’ test

Before you hit “update” again, make sure your tweet passes the “Who cares?” test.

  • Would the collection of strangers and friends following you find this information relevant, valuable and interesting? 
  • Would you pick up the phone to share this info? 
  • Would you invest a stamp on spreading the news?

If not, cancel the tweet. Then, instead of answering, “What are you doing?” recommend a great article or blog posting or share an insight others can use.

“To be honest,” Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson told Business Week, “I prefer news and blog sites to being told when someone is going to the loo or making a cup of tea. ”

It’s hard to blame him.

Sadly, Twitter rewards twits. The more often you tweet, the more followers you have and the higher your profile. But what are you saying to these followers when you send tweets like “Off to yoga” on the half hour?

Add to the marketplace of ideas

Twitter has been called “The Seinfeld of the Internet — a site about nothing.” But it has also been compared to the Agora, or Greek marketplace, a place of open assembly and information sharing.

Just make sure your tweets contribute to the marketplace of ideas instead of generating more words about nothing.

Write for Social Media

Would you like to learn more techniques for writing copy for Twitter, blogs and other social media sites? If so, please join me at PRSA’s July 23 teleseminar, “Writing for Social Media.” You’ll learn how to how to make your tweets, blog postings and nanocontent more relevant, valuable and interesting.

“Wylie couldn’t be any more on target about Tweeting if she used GPS.”

- Ted Vinzani, Milwaukee-based marketing and sales pro

Ann Wylie, president, Ann Wylie CommunicationsBy Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications. Ann works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. She travels from Hollywood to Helsinki, helping communicators at such organizations as NASA, AT&T and H&R Block polish their skills and find new inspiration for their work. For PRSA, she presents programs like “Writing That Sells — Products, Ideas, and Services” in on-site sessions across the country. Ann is the author of more than a dozen learning tools, including, a toolbox for writers. In addition to writing and editing, Ann helps organizations launch or revitalize their Web sites and publications. She has served as a public relations professional in an agency, corporate communicator for Hallmark Cards, editor of an executive magazine and consultant in her own firm. Her work has earned more than 60 communication awards, including two IABC Gold Quills.

Join Ann for her seminar “Get the Word Out Online: How to Write Blog Postings, Tweets and Web Pages That Engage” on Friday, June 18 in San Francisco, CA!

  • Michael Henry Starks

    Ann, you (and Aunt Charlotte!) make a great point. For some remminders of how not to tweet, cruise through Doonesubry strips on the Slate site and read the ones about newsman Roland Hedley ( They’re hilarious.


  • olivia

    Who cares? Well, the question is a lot deeper than even you, wise Ann, give it credence. Because … social media is about building relationships. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. If you only post news updates that you find interesting/relevant (and don’t get me wrong, these are very important) than you are in essence having a one-way conversation. If, however, you share a little bit about who you are (going to yoga, having a bad day, etc.) you say to your followers, “I trust you. I like you. I’m sharing.”

    Do you want a another soapbox or do you want a person? We are inundated with faceless news and information, but who is it coming from? This is what new media is all about. Do we trust the source?

  • EricWilbanks

    The “Who Cares?” question is a good one, but this article seems to make the false assumption that “no one cares about your whining.” The old saying “misery loves company” is what makes complaint-tweets a permanent part of the process. Not to mention all the folks who are rubber-neckers, which road experience tells me outnumber the rest of us about 100:1.

    Don’t get me wrong, if Twitter is part of a marketing/PR strategy, those things are not gonna help you. But for the rest of the world, there will always be whiners and more than enough people who will listen. I’m not one of ‘em, but that’s beside the point.

  • awylie

    Oh, those are hilarious, Michael! Did you know you could follow “Hedley” Thanks for the resource … and the laugh!

  • awylie

    Eric and Olivia, thanks for commenting.

    I don’t mean to suggest that we take the “social” out of social media. I do trust my followers with my yoga schedule; I just don’t trust that they care about it. As for whining, tweet me if you’ve lost your job. I’ll commiserate and try to help. But if you’ve lost your parking space, I really don’t want to know (unless your update is very, very funny, indeed!)

    So, what do you think? What’s the fine line between building relationships via social media and overwhelming friends and followers with TMTI (too much tedious information)?