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

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