I’m learning to be social, Twitter Style

Somewhere in between the “everybody’s doing it” and “what the heck do I do with it” stand me and a very nonplussed Labrador, trying to unravel social media and work out ways to make a benefit platform for my customers.

There are cries of absolute horror at the thought of any business in the modern age not using social media to promote themselves to very attractive and completely out of reach invitations to spend thousands of dollars for the privilege to stand in front of a guru to hear how you can crack the market with this sensationally “free” tool.

They echo everywhere I go in the industry- but I have to ask myself again and again- who is doing this correctly? I have broken down what I have learnt (sometimes the hard way!) and put together some points to help others trying to cut their teeth on the piranha that is Twitter.

Everybody’s doing It

Oh my goodness, if I hear this again as a reason to justify social media, I think I may very well hurdle over a giraffe whilst eating a lamington and call it a purple steeplechase day! Did that make any sense? Good- because doing Twitter “just because” doesn’t either.

Any social media needs planning, and in Twitter’s case, needs to be treated like a conversation with your audience. Think about what you are doing! You can approach it from a “story” point of view, or from a channel marketing point of view but put something behind it that matters. Think of it this way- if you walked into a store to buy a camera and the salesman said a string of unrelated topics to you and then finished with several sentences on his hernia, you’d think him unfocussed and not someone you would want to give any amount of money to.

Do you really wish to give that impression to your clients? You need to think about what you want to share and share it on a way that is attractive. It is marketing after all!

Making up the numbers

The issue is with social media your “fans” and “followers” are not as dedicated as the name sounds. They could come from something as trivial as doing a keyword search and your name coming up, through to once off purchases, curiosity or even pity. How you speak to people using social media really helps them not just skip you and pass you by. Treat it like a first date or a dinner party- if the person you imagine in those circumstances would rather thumb tack their childhood goldfish to the table than hear another line of your dialogue, don’t put that sentence out there.

You also don’t have to go and join 900 different Twitter feeds that may not interest you to get things started. This in fact will just weaken your ability to enjoy Twitter as a user of the service and find things that actually capture your imagination. Beyond making a few choice selections on like-minded products and places, brands and products you admire, use what you already have such as your website, blog, Facebook, email list and also your email signature to promote your Twitter.

You may find that the numbers of initial followers take a while to build, but they will be of much higher quality and more interested in you than simply spamming everyone else in “Australia” or “Sydney” with a follow in the hope of reciprocation.

Don’t be so enamoured with the sound of your own voice

I am yet to see anyone on Twitter or Facebook who’s every word I cling to because they are so interesting, life changing, relevant or funny. Guess what? Unless someone is a gagging fan of Justin Beiber or following financial trends as a matter of their workday, chances are you fall into this category with most people, and maybe even 90% of your followers.

Yes, you make think everyone wants a piece of you and what you have to say, or you may think you are such an awesome brand that people are chomping at the bit to hear about your Blacktown store discount but the reality is it is called SOCIAL media for a very important reason.

Social implies it isn’t just an endless conversation about you, it’s a conversation you participate in with others. If a Twitter does catch your eye, make sure you take some time to study why and note what you respond to. Chances are, it isn’t their narcissism that grabs you.

Follow those you like, and nick an idea or two

Take a look at who you like to follow on Twitter and what gets you responding back and see what you can learn. In my case, I follow 2 particular feeds not just for the relevance to what I do, but also for their personality- Kate Toon and Paul Gray – and I would like to take the time to walk you through why they work for me as a demonstration of how to design a Twitter that engages someone like me.

You can apply the same scrutiny to your own personal favourites.

First of all, each of them has a distinct personality and voice to how they share their information and I like the sound of that voice. There is a little bit of comedy, a little bit of irony and sarcasm, but also a whole lot of genuine interest in the subjects they cover. They sound passionate, alive and really into the things they talk about. This gives them credibility.

Secondly, it’s not always all about them. Shared articles, retweets, putting up things that have caught their imagination or helping other people out are all part of their Twitter mix and in katetoon and paulalexgray’s cases, taken further into their respective blogs.

They also share stuff about their lives, their jobs and their creative work, so I gain a well rounded portrait of the person I am dealing with. However in doing that, even though they might share frustrations from time to time, it’s not about having a rant or a whinge, which is incredibly refreshing to see.

This also sets them apart from the Facebook syndrome of negativity garnering more interest than genuine passion. Whilst they are confident and open in what they share, they also have their eyes pointed towards something more than their own glory. In short, it makes them more appealing and well rounded and this makes them seem more down to earth and approachable. I respond to them because they are aligned with my values and how I like to discuss topics that interest me. This invites me and their other followers to want to tweet directly to them and be “social”.

Thirdly, they in turn value this communication and return the favour. They ask questions, invite commentary, comment on other people’s comments, respond back to people who tweet to them or about them, make a point of handing out admiration to people have caught their imagination, debate, query and converse with their followers and highlight the people who they are getting a lot from.

Kate uses Twitter as a tool to give the overflow of jobs she may have, Paul uses it to help train in product management, do call outs for participants in projects he is working on and both are plugged in and alive to what people have to say to them.

This adds the extra dimension of feeling as though communication is genuinely occurring, social moments are being shared! Community is created too as this approach widens the net to find other people to follow and communicate with by exposing their followers more readily.  They are being social with their social media and it welcomes more and more interaction.

These key points are what makes these Twitter feeds interesting to me, but have also taught me ways in which I can in turn put a stronger voice out into Twitter for myself and my clients. To be honest, Twitter has also become much less confusing and more enjoyable as a result. So take the time to read the ones you like and ask yourself- how can their approach work for me?

Last but not least, keeping Twitter cheap

Remember there is indeed a labour cost to social media of any kind, and due to Twitter’s rapid nature, its labour cost can be higher than most. In order to cut down the cost of your use of Twitter, do take some time out to plan some tweets, setup your notifications properly so you know when people are talking about or to you so you can respond in a timely fashion without being welded to it.

As the conversation with your followers is more “live”, try to avoid the common mistake of giving your social media to one junior employee or intern who doesn’t have a sound plan to work from otherwise a lot of time could be spent going completely off course. Or to someone who loves what they say but doesn’t understand the concept of an audience.

Add extra voices to the mix if you wish to add an extra level to the conversation, but make sure each person with access knows to check what the day’s tweets were so things don’t become repetitive, fragmented or contradictory. Choose keywords to search for on relevant topics on a daily basis so any research you do isn’t just scatter shot and keep learning from what you do and from those around you excel at.

Twitter is not hard. It is simply like anything else you use for marketing- something that contains its own set of ways to maximise its impact whilst avoiding the clutter of being yet another voice singing the same old tired song.

How’s my Tweets? Follow me @noshamecreative