Feeding Time at the TwitterZoo

Piece Written for the Marketing Institute of Ireland blog

The say build it and they will come. I say, if you feed it, it will grow.

I have been using Twitter for a period of time now for a client, and the evidence is clear. If you make an effort to constantly post on a series of topics, provide information of value and genuinely make an attempt to build contacts and interact with people your contacts will grow exponentially. This in turn can add value to your business. Quickly, you can build a channel of contacts and routes to market that you can take advantage of. It takes time, patience and a little ingenuity but it is worth persevering #IMO!

The value of communication using new media always appealed to me. The interesting thing is you didn’t always know how it would work but it was interesting when it did. Plus you didn’t have the problems of hundreds and thousands of brochures sitting with no place to go.

In my previous life, we developed an e-zine that pulled together news sources from across different platforms and pumped this information out on a frequent basis. It was basically a digest of what was going on. At the time, because it was an information source that people had opted in to, rather than being something they just received, it was the one source of news that we knew was of value. People liked it; quickly it became a valued vehicle for those who likes that sort of thing. And there were a lot of them.

My boss hated it. He didn’t get the fact that people signed up for it. Or that it drew together information published in different places. Or that it was essentially an online and therefore ephemeral communications tool. He would ask his secretary to print it off so he could read it and then would give us grief for wasting time re publishing information from its original source. He would focus on typos caused by the originator, or scowl at a name of an author he disliked. Basically he just didn’t get it. I haven’t spoken to him in years but I would safely predict that ten years on, social media would not be his forte! #oldschool

Other forms of information dissemination: the clippings service, assembled and distributed vie the web at great cost; the internal staff newsletter; the swathe of moronic and mundane information notices (‘The Toilet Block in Corridor 4 will be closed until Tuesday 13th’). All of these were instances of what I christened institutional spam. At one stage we discovered that the media clipping services posted online was being viewed by one member of the senior management team. To compound matters he had moved on to a new position in a different institution. All that time and effort, discussed at a senior level, an essential service. Unused. Unviewed. Ignored.

What I like about Twitter is the ability to multiply information virally round a series of contacts. Via ReTweets, Repostings, links to article, and the upsurge in the Dailies – online newspaper digests – your information is being pumped out to an entirely new audience. The single most important currency is the currency of your information. I ReTweeted recently a piece of interesting news that elicited about thirty new followers in a one-hour period.

On another occasion I attracted one high value follower by virtue of the fact she knew I was able to give her a contact for a television programme she was doing but in order to exchange the details confidentially she needed to Follow Me. This is a foible of Twitter, but it also safeguards people from unsolicited private messages. Contact duly delivered we are now in contact and my new media follower knows that I am a reliable source of information.

If you multiply that on to business, how easy is it for you to generate thirty new leads in a one-hour period without having to get up from your seat? If you had new offers, a new product, new premises – Twitter is there to pump out the information to your audience. In real time, easily and effectively. Bolt on further detail via your website, blog or current news reports and you quickly add value.

Key to this is to understand using of #hashtags. The hashtag or # is put in front of the important words in your tweet so that these will appear more easily in Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets in that category. Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet and hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics.

You can have a bit of fun too with your hashtags, they may never appear in a search but may be able to make a subtle or not to subtle point in your message. #longwinded

One other aspect of Twitter and indeed Facebook to bear in mind is ‘When to feed the animals?’

There is no point pushing out information of value at times during the day when people quite simply aren’t paying attention. By observing the behaviour of your followers you will know the best time to fire out a piece of information.

If you are targeting US followers remember they will be active when you’re not. Also the Tweet can be quite an ephemeral communication so you may try the same piece of information in a different way. Hopefully your followers will think enough of your content to send it on to their own contacts. The links within your tweet will hopefully attract in people keen to learn more.

Also, remember, when it’s out there, it’s out there. If you disseminate information it can be hard to put the Twitter genie back in its bottle. That’s a lesson for another day. #oncebitten

Not About The Bike 5

After last week’s outing, was pretty disillusioned with the whole bike thing.

Didn’t get out during the week and hadn’t really the heart for it to be honest. Besides, had other things to worry about that are more important than pedalling around like a moron.

I intended to go to one of the bike shops today and see about a new seat. Consequently I didn’t get out with the 8:30 peloton, I had dropped Leo to his bus for a tournament in the arse end of Fermanagh – Kinawley to exact. When I was a student there was a fellow from Kinawley kicked ball at Queen’s. Tommy McManus you called him. Dunno where Tommy is now, he was a good lad and he spoke with an accent you could cut with a turf spade. I digress.

Anyhow, I returned to my bed and slept in, and looking out at the pissing rain I had no regrets. As the weather cleared I decided to force myself out on the road for a two hour spin. Save the seat shopping for again. I slipped into my skin tight cycling shorts, fitted the banana and other fruit into position, assisted with as much lube as I could muster and set off down the road, my helmet a-gleaming in the afternoon sun.

Numerous women couldn’t keep their eyes of me as I swooshed past in a blur of vaseline and banana-and-other-fresh-fruit-a-wobbling. As one fainted I heard her sigh ‘It’s not about the bike’ and another leaning on a post groaned: ‘I wish I could ride like that’.

Really in the groove now I changed my gear strategy, no longer viewing them as adversaries that needed to be worn down at every wheel turn, today my gears were my friends, helping me up valley and down hill.

As I headed up roads that caused me pain last Sunday I struck out for the home of the world’s most famous whiskey and also the home of more inbreds per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. Bushmills.

Bushmills makes you feel glad to be British, if you are British. If you are a Fenian cyclist, it makes you want to cycle through the place as quickly as you can. Some might view the open and aggressive displays of loyalist, unionist, royalist and paramilitary insignia and flags as quaint in an Ulster Scots ‘this is the only culture we have’ sort of way. It doesn’t bother me – I just think these folks need to grow up and move on.

Anyhow, after an uneventful trip, other than the fainting women, I made it home in one hour and three quarters. Dunno the mileage, probably about 18 miles or so.

But what a trail of destruction I left in my wake.

The Fountain of Knowledge

The Irish Times & Powers Whiskey recently ran a short story competition. This is one of my two entries. Neither won but I like them anyway. The subject was to write 450 words on ‘What Really Matters.’

McCool, man-big-boy, arrives by the Pool. Surrounded by nine hazel bushes, leanto under overhangy rock, little fire wisps smoke thonder.

From the undergrowth emerges a dishevelled figure. Old, craggy, birdsnest of a beard home to flora and fauna galore, and more. Torn britches, baggy woollen jerkin. Behind trails a shaggy dog.

McCool, by the pool, observes the scene unfold. The oul boy calls the dog, sounds like Endamine, sits down by the pool and flicks a spinner off the end of a rod into the blue water.

Eyes gleaming, he fixes his gaze on McCool.  “I saw you arrive with yer iPhone, yer sneakers and yer shades. If ye wanna stay, ye can help.’

“That’s cool.” replies McCool. “Help what?”

“Catch fish. Salmon. I catch, you cook, we eat.”

McCool the fool, says “As a rule, don’t eat fish, only dolphin-friendly tuna.”

Whatever. Beady eyed, the oul fella glares, ignores, continues:

“Been after it this years. Gold with a red triangle. What a fish, some dish.’

Suddenly the line yanks, yaws and pullies – huge, the golden Salmon arcs out of the water. Golden, beautiful, knowledgeable. Gleams in the evening sun.

“Holy Mackerel’ says McCool, falling off his stool, “Can we catch it.”

“Yes we can” replies the oul fella, knee deep in the drink. “we will fight and we’ll be alright.”

Struggle continues, line-pulls and calms. “Hasn’t gone away you know” says the  oul boy. Authoritatively.

McCool, no longer cool, reaches for the net, salmon-leaps again.

“It’s got magic Powers.”

“Something like that” mutters the oul boy, salmon-steering to the net.

Ashore. Despatched. Fishgutted. Washed.

Spit speared searing sitting above smoking fire. McCool receives his barked instructions:

“Cook, don’t taste. Understand, the fish is mine. Whomsoever tastes firsts sees the light.”

McCool intrigued: “You what?”

“I’m first, you’re second. That’s the way it is. Now, I’m for the yard”

Spit-turning, McCool, still a fool, drops shades in the flames. Reaching firewards, dripping Salmon sauce scalds his hand.

McCool, definitely not cool leaps himself. Salmon-like, handsucks, yowling in pain.

Old fella bolts from the bogs alarmed, distraught, crestfallen, severely peeved.

“You taste the fish?”

McCool, mouth-a-drool: “Just a soupcon…” Eyes a-bright, no more the fool.

“You may have the rest, now you’ve a taste for it.” And, with that he roaded McCool.

Sad perhaps, seat-settled by the fire, beside the pool. A single salmon soars from the water.

Dogwards says he: “Well Endamine, canine friendamine…”

Cap-snaps the golden bottletop, laughs aloud.

“Plenty more fish in the uisce eh….? It’s not what you know that really matters. But how you use it.”

Jug dips a little poolwater diluting slightly his Powers Gold Label. The real Fountain of Knowledge.

The Founding Fathers

The Irish Times & Powers Whiskey recently ran a short story competition. This is one of my two entries. Neither won but I like them. The subject was to write 450 words on ‘What Really Matters.’

Waiting for the others, Davin and O’Ryan leisurely potted a few billiard balls across the plush baize. It was unexpectedly cold for the first day of November. But clear blue skies gave an unexpected brightness and air of hope to the day.

Next arriving was John Wyse Power, a pessimist by nature, his opening gambit reflected his propensity for the half-empty glass. “Is this all that’s here?” he declared under furrowed brow, and made as if to leave.

Davin laid down his cue, diverting the new arrival’s attention to a platter of Mrs Hayes best ham sandwiches and a generous glass of Power’s finest namesake.

Bracken and the Ulsterman McKay entered in jovial mood, discussing an on-pitch disagreement the previous evening. The scrap concerned more the honour of a desirable young lady from Templemore than the vagaries of the rulebook. Inspector McCarthy expressed relief the constabulary had not been required on this occasion.

The room quietened when Cusack appeared. Hawthorn stick in hand, leather booted, suited in fustian, voluminous beard obscured his collar and tie.

The Clareman was a persuasive character, a bon vivant, and infectiously enthusiastic about the plans they were about to discuss. Seriously dogmatic, he had made several specific requests to Mrs Hayes the hotel proprietor.

Firstly, that the room be discreet but comfortable. Secondly that she provide a generous repast for attendees, some of whom like Power and Davin had travelled some distance. He asked for a generous supply of pipe tobacco. Finally, he insisted on a particular brand of whiskey to ‘lubricate’ their discussions.

“We want our fellow gaels to tell us what is really important,” he advised Davin. “In my experience” he said, toking on his pipe, “that is best achieved in the presence of the golden liquid of which we are both so fond.”

As the participants began deliberations, chaired by Davin, Mrs Hayes busied herself about the room, dispensing platters heaped with bread and ham. She  generously refilled each exquisite cut crystal glass from a gold-labelled bottle. Through the warmth and the unmistakable fugue of pipe and peat smoke, discussion continued apace with much agreement.

Several hours later, Cusack settled back in his seat. The others had retired for a nap before dinner. All had gone to plan. The creation of an association Gaelic and Athletic that would sweep the land like none other before.

He snapped the cap, glancing at the familiar bottle, and allowed himself a further glass. Relaxed, he sipped and smiled. Powers’ Gold Label.

As he expected, twas easier to find out what really mattered, when his friend John Power was in attendance.

Truly, one of the founding fathers and Powers of the Association.