Earlier this summer, I was asked by my friend, Dr. Julie Smith David of the Arizona State University Center for Advancing Business through Information Technology (CABIT) to present on Twitter Applications for Business. I will be speaking there on Tuesday September 8th. If you read this in time and would like to attend, the contact information is provided below. Best of all it's free.
I was incredibly honored to be asked, but I had to wonder... why would they want ME?
I am not a social media expert let alone a twitter expert. I'm simply a business executive and corporate strategist trying to figure out where all this stuff fits.
I have yet to find all the answers, but one thing has become very clear.
Social media is simply a tool.
Think about your social media tool kit like a set of screw drivers. You have different types of screw drivers for different needs. Sometimes you use them alone or sometimes you use them together. We use screw drivers as tools to help us...
- Build things
- Take things apart
- Make adjustments
- Fix what's broken socket or to build a nuclear power plant. It all depends on the the goal you set, the plan you develop, and how you go about executing.
The same can be said about social media. Websites, Video like YouTube and Vimeo, Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are simply tools we use to create conversations, build communities, listen to our customers, and deliver our message. These tools can help us as business people to do the very same things that the handy screwdriver can do - Build, Disassemble, Adjust, and Fix what's broken.
Just remember - the tool is NOT the strategy. It's simply something you can use to achieve the goals you set. Your message however IS a key component in any strategy. It's how you share what you are trying to accomplish. That's where social media fits for business - as a community building messaging tool.
You simply need to choose the right combination of tools to drive your message home.
Since Tuesday's talk will be focused on Twitter - here are some tips for using Twitter as a tool for what it is best at: Community Building, Customer/Audience Interaction, and Message Delivery.
In any good strategy you start with a goal, develop specific tactics, choose your tools and people resources, establish metrics or milestones, and execute while adjusting as needed.
Twitter, like the screw driver, works best when combined with other tools for more complex projects. Here is a listing of tools and tips you can use with Twitter to make it more effective.
Twellow is a great tool for finding people with shared interests. You can search by key words like Information Technology, CEO, Entrepreneur, Leadership...you get the picture. You can also search by locations (City, State, etc) if you are trying to build community in a specific region. You can find people you want to follow and if you are offering good content in return, many will follow you back.
Conversely, for the people you might want to avoid - TwitChuck is a good resource. In a matter of minutes, it can scan your friends and followers to identify known spammers and other inappropriate tweeters like porn sites and bots. (You can also check your own reputation to ensure that you are considered a 'Good" person to follow.
As you are getting started, and even after you are well established, Twitter imposes follow limits. These are important to know and understand. You can read them here.
Be Friendly! When someone follows you, I believe it is common courtesy to give them a follow back. If they then abuse the courtesy with spam or inappropriate content - you can unfollow them or even block them so they can not come back later. To save time you can automate this process using SocialOomph (formerly known as TweetLater.) This service will automatically follow people that follow you - a BIG time saver. The service also has a feature for auto replies when people follow you. This I highly recommend NOT doing. It is a common practice of spammers and by veteran twitter users is considered very uncool!
And whatever you do - DO NOT SPAM your followers. The point is to offer helpful information, share ideas, and create value to your followers. If all you do is talk about your products, your blog, your ideas and never interact with others - people will stop reading your posts very quickly! Even worse, people can block you - ruining your online reputation.
Also, unless you are intentionally forming a closed group - DO NOT protect your tweets. This is counter to the whole principle of building a community. Plus for many third party tools, they will not be able to see them and people will not find or follow you!
OK - you may be thinking - I am looking at this as a BUSINESS tool. What do you mean it's not all about me and my product or service!
Think about twitter as a giant focus group. As you build a community you have an opportunity to listen to what current or potential customers are tweeting/talking about. People who follow you have shown some level of interest - their opinions count!
You can even use Twitter Search to find people who are talking about your company or your product - or your competitors. Talk about a great market research tool! Then you can choose to follow them and join the conversation.
Interacting with customers means listening, starting a conversation, and engaging them. To do this - think about what you want your Twitter brand to be before you start. It may be that you need multiple profiles for different customer groups, products, or for you corporate message as opposed to that of your CEO for instance. That was appropriate for me over time and in the end I developed FIVE different Twitter profiles based on the type of information I choose to share. This post helps explain it.
The first rule of interaction is always - You get what you give. Follow people, share interesting content, and offer value, and that's what you will get in return.
Now we get to the important part - message delivery. The point of Twitter for business is that you want to START a conversation that can be continued. Sometimes you can do that exclusively in the twitterverse, but more often that not, you want to be more expansive - that's where your website, blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn Group, or other social media tools come into play. You can use Twitter to invite people to view your other content platforms. Does it work - Absolutely. Here is an example.
I have two blog sites for my company. One on TypePad and one on WordPress. They have exactly the same content and have been around for the same amount of time. The TypePad Blog gets promoted on Twitter. The WordPress blog using simple SEO. Now the real test. Does Twitter make a difference? YES! The TypePad blog has 100 times more RSS subscribers and 500 times more visitors after only 9 months! Oh and my website - CorePurpose.com gets more traffic today that it ever did with managed SEO alone.
How much time does all this take? I can't be on Twitter ALL day!
This sounds like a lot of work and a lot of time. But after you get things set up efficiently, it does not have to be. Personally - my 'Twitter Time - is less than 2 hours total each day - and that includes all of the reading of the articles and other tidbits I share that I would be accessing anyway.
Here are some of the tools that help me be more efficient.
Twitter itself is not the most user friendly interface for day to day management of large communities. If you are managing multiple profiles - Seesmic is my tool of choice. For single profile users, TweetDeck is also a popular alternative.
Going to be away from the computer and want to schedule tweets for a different date or time? Both SocialOomph and my favorite HootSuite can allow you to put your tweets on autopilot cleanly and professionally.
It's up to you to determine how much time you give to Twitter. Just remember you get back what you put into it.
Lastly - if it turns out that Twitter is a key tool for executing your strategy, there are lots of professional out there that can be hired as in house community managers or outside consultants. These people can help you fast track your Twitter experience and in the long run save you time and hopefully get you towards your goal faster - plus they can help you stay on top of the latest developments.
This may be one of the longest posts I have written to date- but now you have what you need to get started. If you want to learn more about my personal journey in trying to figure out how all this stuff fits, visit the category section of this blog. You will find a section on social media and more musings there.
So does this work for business? You decide.
For me, my community - between my five Twitter profiles is over 22,000 after 9 months. My followers are focused on the areas I want to focus on. My website and blog traffic is up and so is my business. And, I have made new partnering contacts I could only have dreamed of before. So for me - It's been worth the ride.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned...