Thursday, July 29, 2010

10 Tips for Better Business Tweeting

As more and more businesses look for ways to engage in social media, many are turning to Twitter. And it’s fair to say most are wasting their time.

How can you more effectively operate in Twitter on behalf of, or for, a business? Let’s look at 10 tips:

1. Be transparent: If the purpose of your Twitter account is to help spread the word about your business, products or service then your bio, your profile background and either your account name or web site URL should make it clear that the account is tied to a business. Any deception here will be obvious.

2. Be attractive: Start with an interesting avatar image (not your company logo – except if your logo is recognized worldwide – Ford, Pepsi etc). It’s best to have a human face. Also, make sure your bio explains something about the people behind the account, not just the business and its interests.

3. Be patient: Think of your Twitter followers as acquaintances you’ve met once at a party; it’s likely they’re people you want to think well of you. So, if you’re too pushy or desperate for friends you’ll scare people away. How will they know you’re desperate? You will be following a lot more people than are following you. Need a guideline? Manage your Following/Follower ratio and try to keep the number of people you follow no higher than 10 percent above the number of followers you have.

4. Be selfless: Talk about something other than yourself, your products, your services or your business (at least most of the time). Just as you run from the self-promoting bore at a party you won’t stick around on Twitter to listen to someone who talks incessantly about themselves and their interests.

5. Be strategic: Do this by following appropriate accounts and not just anybody. If you follow random people on Twitter it sends a message that you’re more desperate for friends than you are for worthwhile relationships. (See No. 1 above.)

6. Be engaging: Join in conversations, answer questions and be helpful. This group of activities will separate your business Twitter account from the other 90 percent who are so busy being all about “pushing” their messages that they have forgotten that Twitter is a social medium.

7. Be interesting: This can be “easier said than done.” What is interesting? We all know uninteresting when we see it, but interesting can be harder to define. A good barometer is how your follower numbers grow and how often your tweets get retweeted. If you’re not getting new followers organically and few, if any, RTs it’s likely you are not very interesting to many people and you should reconsider what you’re saying on Twitter.

8. Be different: If you’re the 57th Twitter account to talk about search engine optimization tips, for example, you’re wasting your time. Use a Google search to see who else is tweeting on and around topics that interest you and then try to find your own niche and/or angle.

9. Be reliable: Tweet regularly. This can be on your own schedule as long as you can provide good content on some kind of schedule. Why? A Twitter account that is inactive for long periods of time sends the message that any activity is self-serving and only done when it serves the business exclusively.

10. Be human: This can be the hardest thing to do when you’re trying very hard to serve a business purpose on Twitter. One principle that should guide you: If you don’t feel you can be yourself and talk candidly you’re likely wasting your time on Twitter. Accounts that sound like the corporate PR department wrote each tweet will not get a following and will waste everyone’s time.

So, there you have it: 10 ideas for better use of Twitter for business purposes. Like all social media there really are no hard and fast rules, but these guidelines may prove useful. Now it’s your turn: What did I forget to include?

Possibly related posts:
10 Social Media Nos-Nos
Twetiquette: 10 basics for Twitter politeness

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to Sniff Out Social Media Snake Oil

In my recent post Social Media Snake Oil I touched on some simple clues that your potential social media services provider is a snake oil salesman. Now I’d like to show you how you can confirm any suspicions.

Step 1: You need a list of questions for the “expert.” I’m a big fan of Ian Lurie’s Conversation Marketing blog and his 10 Questions to Evaluate a Social Media ‘Expert’. Between the original list and the great comments left by others there’s a ton of great fodder for questions.

Step 2: You will want to discover all their social media names so you can do research on them. Google and Yahoo searches should turn up most, if not all, of them. If a search on their name or their company name does not reveal very many social presences, run the other way.

Step 3: Try to visit their pages on the most-popular social platforms – in no particular order: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Fickr. Also find their blog (they do have a blog don’t they?). To do this go to one of these sites and enter their name and use the “refine search” function to narrow your search: Google blog search or Technorati blog search (at the top of the page).

Step 4: Based on what you see on all of these pages and social media sites you will want to look for:

  • Frequency of posting and engaging with others

  • The tone of their conversations

  • How they use these tools: Do they share valuable content and help people or … well, that’s what they should be doing

  • The numbers of people who follow, friend or connect with them (while not the most-important measure, it is part of what counts)

If anything in your research here just doesn’t seem like the work of an expert – run the other way.

Step 5: Use specific tools to assess their social media standing. For example on Twitter you can use Klout where you should pay attention to the True Reach. Influencer Of and overall score numbers. Other influence tools on Twitter can be found in my previous blog post 7 Tools to Find Who’s Big on Twitter.

And just for a laugh (and this video is not for the easily offended) you should watch The Social Media Guru – and if your potential vendor starts talking like this guy – you guessed it: Run the other way!

So what other tools would you recommend for digging into a “social media expert’s” credentials?

Related Post:
Social Media Snake Oil

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Social Media Snake Oil

Social media is a bit like the Wild West in many ways. One of the less-than-desirable ways is that it has its share of snake oil salesmen (there are a few women, but most of the unscrupulous characters are men).

Get-rich-quick offers and wild claims of expertise abound. So if you’re new to social media, or just looking at new opportunities in this fast-moving environment, how can you tell who’s selling snake oil and who has real expertise? Can you tell, just by looking at someone’s social media messages, status updates or tweets that they’re probably pitching snake oil? Maybe. Here are a few signs that may mean snake oil is the lubricant your “expert” prefers:

1. Makes claims that clearly over-promise: For example, a recent tweet on Twitter (of the type you’ll see hourly): “Wow! Whatever online business your (sic) in: Learn how to get positioned to at least semi-retire in 8-12 months."

2. Capitalized words in their messages: In Instant Messaging (IM) and email capitalized words represent shouting. The same is true in social media messages. And if they’re “shouting” it’s likely they’re selling to anyone who will listen. For example, from a Facebook status update: “WOW! This Is Addictive!! My Sites Are On PAGE ONE Of Google In 20 Minutes For FREE!!

3. Claims that seem too good to be true: This is where that old saying about instincts comes into play: “Your instinct is your accumulated life experiences trying to tell you something.” Would you click through using the link in this LinkedIn update? “This SHOCKING Underground Method That Generated $25956 In 1 Day After Just Seven Days Using The Secrets - http://www.xxxxxxxxxx.”

4. Constant talk of “selling,” “pushing” or “marketing”: Think about the way most people use social media – to be social. Now contrast that to this sales pitch on Twitter: “It has never been easier to get customers into your sales funnel. Check out my website for THE ANSWERS: http://www.xxxxxx”

5. They talk about social media as the new best way to make money: They’ll often reference a well-known platform and make a statement that links it to increased profitability (without a clear explanation of how the two things are related). This is from a site offering social media training for sales people: “Facebook offers you the opportunity to build and develop a following and have your followers engage in conversations to increase sales.”

6. Anyone who says social media is easy: Once you check out some of the websites of these trainers and service providers you are likely to find reassurances that all this social media stuff really doesn't take a lot of actual time and commitment. For example, from the website of someone offering social media as a “sales solution”: “We will share some ‘secrets’ to make your social media updates easy. (15 minutes a week)”

7. Anyone who says Social Media is mandatory: Yes, two-thirds of the world’s Internet users visit a social media site weekly (according to the 2009 – the most-recent – Nielsen report
Global Faces-Networked Places report), but that number is still dwarfed by the numbers of people using traditional media, texting on their cell phones or seeing messages on billboards, buses and trains. Should social media be a part of your marketing mix? Most likely, yes. But put all your eggs in the social media basket? Probably not.

8. Only providing well-known (and tired) national examples of social media success and not being able to show examples of their own success: Anyone can talk about the successes of online shoe retailer Zappos or Dell or JetBlue. But it’s unlikely you represent a comparably sized company. What has the individual achieved on their own?

9. Someone who won’t share references: You’d check references with any other service provider, so why not in social media? If they do good work and have happy clients they should be happy to refer you to this clients for a reference. Be sure to check the legitimacy of the references too: Are they people or companies you know or have heard of?

10. Someone who talks a lot/plans a lot without asking a lot of questions: For social media to work it has to fit into your overall goals and that likely won’t happen if you hire someone who doesn’t ask a lot of questions about your goals and other plans. Be wary if they simply want to ”teach” you some social media tricks before quickly saddling up and riding away before any results, good or otherwise, show up.

11. Someone whose own social media presences are underwhelming: If the supposed expert has relatively few friends on Facebook and does not interact there very much, that’s a warning sign. Another: The person who promises to teach you the ”Insider Secrets of Twitter Power!”—but who has barely been on Twitter except for the two weeks leading up to his training session.

12. Someone whose social media presences seem to be on autopilot. This can be a little harder to detect, but easier to check up on. Send the “expert” a message via a social media platform they’re on and see how long it takes for them to respond.

So now you have a few ways to detect snake-oil. What other signs tip you off to someone selling social media snake oil?

My next post will offer more comprehensive tips and tools to assess your “social media expert” before you spend a lot of money with them.

Possibly related posts
Social Media Expertise is Hard to Find
Twitter ‘Twit’ or Twitter ‘Expert’?

- With special thanks to Mark Frisk for his help on this topic.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why Twitter Should Be In Focus For Marketers

Twitter can be a marketer’s best friend. In 140 characters or less and across multiple tweets marketers have the opportunity to build relationships with customers, potential customers and new business partners. These relationships have the potential to be more genuine and worthwhile … and therefore more profitable.

Twitter is a marketing tool worth focusing on because it’s a place to:

1. Learn (about customers, and their needs and wants)

It doesn’t take a lot of time (although more is always better) to notice what your customers and potential customers need or want or what they are talking about.

When you’re on Twitter with the intention of marketing a good rule of thumb in the early days is to spend 80 percent of your time simply watching and listening.

These three free tools can help:

Twitter Search - Advanced: Here you can run highly refined searches on your brand, your products, your customers and then further refine that search by time and geography.

Topsy - Advanced Search: Here you select “Tweets only” under “Search a Specific Type.” You can get all results or trending topics. Perhaps the most useful features are being able to search within a specific internet domain or by a specific Twitter user (useful for competitive intelligence).

Twilert: Here you set up alerts that come via email whenever your brand, product, service or key people get mentioned on Twitter. Your Twilerts can be aggregated and sent via email at a time of your choosing. You can even turn individual Twilerts on and off as your needs change (helpful if you have a lot of them).

2. Add value (share great content)

In social media and especially Twitter: It is always better to give than to receive.

Therefore find a way to gather and share great content on Twitter. Be sure that the content you share is relevant to you and your business niche.

Places to find great content worth sharing include:

Google News: This was always a great place to search on your industry relevant keywords, but the recent changes to Google News that make it kick back results that are increasingly relevant based on your search history raise it to a whole new level.

Yahoo News: It’s an OK news feed that’s searchable. Perhaps more interesting and timely might be the new Yahoo News blog The Upshot where news is determined by the popularity of search queries. In other words you get a sense of what a lot of other people are interested in.

Another great source of good tweetable material is blogs. Two great places to find blogs in the areas you’re interested in are:

Blog Search Engine: This site uses Google custom search to index the blogosphere and has a helpful Categories list on the lower left side.

Technorati: The granddaddy of blog aggregators still finds and indexes hundreds of blogs per day. Here you’re bound to almost be overwhelmed by the number of good blogs on a given topic.

3. Show your personality

What you tweet, how you phrase your tweets and how you interact on Twitter tells the world a lot about your personality. As a marketer this transparency is invaluable and can show people who you are. This likely will lead to more people wanting to follow you on Twitter. Of course, if you’re a jerk in real life, showing off your personality may not be such a good idea!

4. Provide customer service

If you take a little time to respond to questions and concerns about your brand, goods and services you’ll quickly find the power of Twitter: one to one conversation. In these conversations you can solve customer problems, thank your fans and reach out to future customers to meet their needs.

So, how do you track who is talking about you and your company? See Twilert above or try these two free services:

Tweetbeep: This service is like Google alerts for Twitter and can send you an email summary of mentions of your brand, products and people.

Monitter: This service allows you to monitor, track and search tweets in real-time. You can enter up to three keywords and watch as the tweets roll in.

5. Promote sales

Last, but not least, marketers can use Twitter to alert customers and potential customers to special deals, new products and changes to products, and other customer-centric information.

A big caution here is to be sure that the information you’re sharing on Twitter will be seen as valuable by your followers. That means offering real value and making genuinely newsworthy announcements and not, to quote the saying, just “putting lipstick on the pig.”

So, are you convinced Twitter can be a great marketing tool? What other ways can it be used for building viable relationships between marketers and consumers?

Possibly related posts:

Twetiquette: 10 Basics for Twitter Politeness

10 Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter