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02.04.09

Businesses Need To Approach And Use Twitter

By Eva Lyford

There are a few different ways that corporations are approaching twitter. If you haven't decided which way you should go, consider a few paths that are being trod already. Or, blaze your own trail and tell me about it! And be wary: don't be trapped into a reactive position.

Two recommended approaches:

The Personal Approach. Take one motivated executive/employee, add two parts interestingness, with a modicum of humility and restraint, and mix to achieve desired consistency. This isn't right for everyone, as few executives are motivated to participate or understand the medium well enough to be comfortable in it or to approve budget for the staff (your mileage may vary). But the combination of personhood with engagement is an attractive proposition-one that leads to a true following, a following that will occasionally respond to your offers, because they are familiar with your product/service and engaged with your brand. Note that responding to and interacting with fellow Twitterers via @ (public replies) and direct messages (private replies) is critical to this approach. Check out http://twitter.com/zappos, http://twitter.com/Starbucks, http://twitter.com/StarbucksV2V, http://twitter.com/scottmonty.

The Committee Model. Launch a half dozen Twitterstreams, potentially having each managed by multiple persons, and potentially require that they coordinate their posts with one another to present a unified front to readers. As a bonus, let the individual personalities peek through using "I" language and replying to people who send a message. Use of the "we" language can be confusing to readers, but is a side effect of the committee approach. This can work with a single Twitterstream too; the key is to make sure that the authenticity of the communication isn't lost when it becomes a committee assignment. Check out or http://twitter.com/SouthwestAir or http://twitter.com/hrblock or http://twitter.com/TheHomeDepot.

Two approaches to avoid:

The Corporate Bot. Automate announcements of Web site changes, sales, and specials via Twitter. And that's it. Decline to engage with anyone who messages you, don't devote time towards following anyone and don't seek out anyone discussing your product, service or organization to engage them in conversation. If something goes awry in your automation, don't backtrack to fix it or apologize to any followers you have, just trundle on as if nothing happened. http://twitter.com/top_gear or http://twitter.com/caterpillarinc are examples.

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The Corporate Hack. Speak in the first person of the corporation as though it were an individual, hide behind the corporate facade and refuse to answer any customer inquiries because that's not what you're there for. Generally, this approach represents a little-thought out strategy to corporate marketing or a defensive position, neither of which is well regarded, as shown by http://twitter.com/ATTNews. Sad alternative: park your name and just hang out aimlessly http://twitter.com/pepsi

And one approach you should absolutely not be forced into:

The Reactive Apologizer. Pop up in a crisis and vanish without a trace. As an example, in November of last year, Motrin offended some moms with ads that popped up on the Internet. Heated discussion ensued on Twitter regarding these ads. Motrin's response was to sign up for Twitter and join the conversation (see the first post in response), which was pretty brave, considering the backlash. By the end of the day, http://twitter.com/Motrinmoms had put the baby to bedů and then vanished from Twitter, not heard from since. On the other hand, the #motrinmoms tag has enjoyed a healthy life since, becoming apart of the cultural fabric of twitter as a reference to how far and how fast a movement could go. One can only speculate as to how things would have gone for Motrin with their ad had they been part of the social marketing mix from the beginning, and able to reach before the outrage reached maximum velocity.

Where does your company stand with Twitter? Did you recognize yourself in one of these approaches or are you still waiting to get into the game? Twitter's not for everyone, but approached correctly it can humanize your company and get people rooting for you.

Comments


About the Author:
Eva has over 13 years of experience with corporate marketing and sales programs in a variety of industries including telecommunications, education, new home construction and household products. Presently, she is a business analyst/project manager with Delta Faucet Company in Indianapolis. She holds a Master's degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan's Ford School and a Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute. Eva is a contributing author on the Biznology Blog.

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