I had a problem with my Twitter account today… and it was right then and there, as I scanned the help pages to try and find an answer that I came face-to-face with the truth. I like Twitter… its become a part of my morning ritual. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, it snuck right in there.
Today everyone’s talking about Twitter… and despite my best intentions I admit to becoming accustomed to seeing those 140-character bits of information from the people and organizations I follow. As a communicator by trade, I’m absolutely amazed at the ability to join in on a conversation with anyone, anywhere in the world. To follow events as they happen. When in history have we EVER had such access?
A recent study by a team out of Penn State has found that 20% of tweets are brand specific. Someone either asking about a product or providing feedback and giving companies a rich source of information.
Businesses of all sizes are coming around to giving Twitter its due… though it remains a scary, sometimes confusing place. Which is why there are “social media experts” aplenty who will tell you how to make the most of the newest arrival to the online scene. Truth is, just a bit of common sense and good manners will do you just as well as all the high-priced advice. Maybe better.
Having used Twitter almost every day for at least a year, here are my observations and suggestions for making the most of the service…
- Anybody can see what you tweet… that includes those from your personal AND business lives, as well as people you haven’t even met yet. It sounds so obvious… but people seem to forget they’re sharing their innermost thoughts and observations with the whole world. Have a care for what you put out there — my suggestion is this — if you’d squirm as it was read back to you in a court of law, or if you saw it as a headline on the front of the morning paper — refrain from tweeting it.
- Is there any value, besides to yourself, of the tweet you’re about to share? And we’re not talking value to YOU and your own personal network of friends — we all like to hear ourselves talk, brag about our kids, tout our latest accomplishment. By far, the more critical thing to look at when it comes to tweeting for business — will your tweet add to the discussion, support something crucial, inform and educate? Would you, as a customer, be glad to receive it? If your answer to any of these questions is “no” than resist the urge. If you must share, email or text contacts privately instead.
- Only upload photos you wouldn’t mind showing to your grandmother at a family reunion. Otherwise, keep the more intimate, more outrageous snaps for private showings. It’s not just what’s happening in the photo… but also the fact that you saw fit to post it that speaks volumes. Your digital reputation, like the old fashioned kind, is precious. Once it’s gone… it’s gone for good.
Lastly, and perhaps most important of all…
- How you conduct yourself on Twitter reflects on your business. Recently there have been reports in some pretty major media outlets about employers googling candidates or looking at Facebook pages as a screening tool before an interview. In fact, a recent Harris Interactive poll for CareerBuilder.com found 45% of employers (almost doubled from a year ago) using social networks this way. Most people are absolutely amazed at what is accessible online, and the digital presence they’re creating. If you share things that are just too personal… about your kids, political views, religious practices… this can make you look like you have too much time on your hands — why aren’t you busy attending to business?
To be sure Twitter has lots of applications for businesses of all sizes. You can reach customers (and prospective ones), you can keep up with what others are saying about you and your industry… you can get valuable feedback and new product ideas. Most of all, you can build a lasting relationship with a loyal group of followers… if you remember to give more than you receive, and always, always keep your business tweets courteous, professional and engaging.
Sharing opinions on Twitter is fine… exchanging ideas is great. It’s the reason social media has caught on. When it comes to using this social networking tool for your business however, think of tweeting just as you might talking face-to-face to a prospective customer. Hold the rhetoric, name calling and the pre-conceived notions of the other side — address your online audience just as you would any person standing before you.
Respect differences just as you demand respect. Watch your language (and spelling) and realize that unless you’re careful about what you tweet, you may unintentionally offend someone… a potential customer or associate you could end up needing one day.
Moving forward, if any other business tweeting suggestions come to mind, I’ll add them here, so check back if you like. After all, it’s the only place where you can find solid, common-sense social media advice at absolutely no cost.
I’m hoping you’ve come away with more than you paid for.