Thursday, July 31, 2008

Using Twitter in your Social Media Outreach

Update: "Janet" brand jacked Exxon on Twitter, see Jeremiah's update post for details.

At @BarbaraKB's prompting, I responded to Jeremiah Owyang's post on Exxon Mobil's plunge into using Twitter in their social media outreach plan. I'm going to broaden up my original comment here:

In any form of communication, there's a difference between an individual responding as an individual and an individual responding as a company's representative. In social media, the socnet nuances are there and the community will help you course correct. For your benefit, please go in eyes wide open with a baseline understanding. There are several blogs that give great advice on social media outreach.

And here's my thoughts on Twitter, please add your thoughts as well:

First and foremost, if you are going extend your Social Media Outreach to Twitter please remember it's a medium for conversation. No shouting or you will only hear your own echo or if you truly mess up, lots of flogging. It's a conversation that needs commmitment, forethought and a long term game plan. And most importantly, it's a conversation that can not begin until you listen. Listen for awhile before you start talking.

I know I know, that goes for all social media conversations, as does my next point:

People want to talk with a person on Twitter. We really don’t have any interest in getting into a shouting match with “the man.” Well, at least most of us don’t have any interest. Anyway, I suggest following the Zappos or Dell “response through individual conversation” model:

1) Twitter handle = companyname_yourname or yourname@companyname. For instance, @LionelatDell or @Zappos_Hope, ExxonMobilCorp screams corporate speak, yelling out, “I am the Eggman”, watching your every post kinda handle. I think it's the "Corp" more than anything.

2) Nada corp speak, keep it personal and helpful.

3) Acknowledge the person’s POV that you’re responding to, we all want to be part of the conversation not talked down to, preached to, or lectured to.

4) Before you follow people, as a company representative @ tweeters first, to let them know why you are following them so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot with the “big brother” issue. There are exceptions here, like if they have followed you first. If you don't understand the "creepy" factor on this one, roam around Twitter for awhile and pick up the vibe.

5) Consider responding with your email address in your @s or DMs to take the conversation offline and show tweeters you are an individual wanting to help.

So if there's one thing to take from this post, it's listen first, tweet later. You are probably wondering how you can listen first if you aren't actually following people. You can always sign up for a personal account with Twitter first to get your own sea legs. I would suggest that you just be yourself with your personal handle, not your company's customer service team. You can also start with Twitter's search Search for people that are already identified influencers in your market or just track your company's name, your product interest, etc. to get the rhythm of the conversation.

Also, follow other companies that are out there chatting it up every day on Twitter such as: @RichardatDell, @Zappos_tid, @JetBlue, @HRBlock, SouthWestAir, and @evernote.

Looking forward to hearing what suggestions you have as well. Barbara, thanks for giving me the nudge!


Warren said...


As you know, many companies are dipping their toes in the social media and twitter pond. I think your advice is very timely and will prove to be helpful guidance for companies just getting their feet wet. The most important thing companies can do is listen first before they jump in. As Joe Jaffe writes, companies must first listen to the conversation, before they can join the conversation!

Erin QueenofSpain said...

Great post Zena!

Bryan Person, LiveWorld said...

Great post, Zena. I actually led an impromptu discussion called "Should brands be Twittering" at Social Media Camp Boston and we talked about many of the same issues you covered in your post.

One of the participants in my session brought up the "creepiness factor" of big brands following her. She was most disturbed when brands were following her and not engaging in conversations.

My take? It really depends. I'm happy to get a personal response from @ComcastCares or @RichardAtDell, but I don't mind a lick that @ESPN only includes links to latest headlines from its site. I'm not really looking to interact with ESPN; instead like the convenience of being able to click on interesting links of the headlines that catch my eye.