Corporate Twitter Use – Our 2 (well, 4) cents

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The following is a point/counterpoint article written by PRBC-ers Jeff Esposito and Kate Ottavio with their thoughts on Tom Humbarger’s Best Practices for Corporate Twittering.

Jeff:

While Tom Humbarger makes some good points for guidelines for corporate Tweeting under getting started and being honest, human, responsive and nice, I do think he misses the boat in his section on getting the message out.

For starters, you shouldn’t set a set number of Tweets that you post each day. This limits you and if you have a plethora of relative information one day it’s OK to have Twitterrhea once in a while. Limiting also cuts into your time communicating with existing customers and potential new ones. While I agree that you should set time aside for Tweeting – you also need to strike while the iron is hot. Didn’t Ben Franklin say that the early bird catches the worm?

Monitoring the social presence for a company, I always get bothered when I see things like, “Use HootSuite’s to schedule your tweets,” especially when it’s a post that also touts being human.  No matter how busy you are, really care and make time to Tweet. Automating things might be good once and a while, but to me automation is cold, dry and robotic. Social media is conversational, so have a conversation. While it doesn’t always have to be about you, it does have to be about your customers and how you give back to them.

So to close, I’d like to offer three tips for businesses looking to get into social media.

Listen – it’s OK, social media may not be for your business. Before you engage see what’s being said. Is there an audience? How can you help customers? How can you fill a void in the space? Once you have answers…

Think – about how you are positioning yourself. Don’t be the creepy guy at the cocktail party. Ease your way into conversations. Offer insight and converse first – sell second. Be sure when you do that it is a soft sell. Something that we use for this soft sell is: Hello @jeffespo, if you want to give us a try, please visit www.vistaprint.com/twitter for great deals.

Engage – it’s all about building a community. Your customers will tell you when you are doing well and when you, well suck. Listen to them, take the feedback and put it into action. Customers appreciate you taking their suggestions into action.

Now all that is left to do is rinse and repeat.

Kate:

Agreed that there is no perfect number of tweets per day, but Tom begins his post talking about how many companies debuting their social media presence don’t even know where to begin. So when those who don’t even know a RT vs. an @, a numeric measurement is probably something they need to slow their pulse when nervous.

And side note…this is so true: “most users will ignore you if you have few tweets or haven’t been tweeting for very long).” Too often accounts with very little action look like spammers to me.

Not a fan of scheduling tweets myself (never have and most likely couldn’t do it if you asked me), but we need to remember that we have our existing day jobs. The client status report can’t wait because you were finding an article to tweet according to your methodical schedule requirements. Plus, I’ve seen one too many companies overreact and think they are “striking while the iron is hot” when they are prematurely responding to unhappy or dissatisfied customers without any communications plan in place ultimately sticking their corporate foot in their social-media-happy mouth.

Lastly, social media is all about community, but to add to my previous point about reacting to fellow SM users, you can’t take every last person’s complaint about your company or tactics to heart. Some people just like to hear themselves talk (erm…watch themselves type). Remember what your company’s mission statement is and enforce your social media policies all the while keeping an open ear/eye to legitimate, constructive feedback.

Now you can rinse and repeat. :)

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  • http://twitter.com/transpr Darrel W. Cole

    Good debate folks. I am not sure I agree about the soft sell being OK. I think it turns more people off. People should pay attention to YOU, and if you are doing a good enough job for your company or product engaging relevant followers et al, they will pay attention and find you themselves. That's my experience anyway. As far as scheduled posts, it's OK for a company or a product, just be careful it's not obvious. Some posts are what's called “evergreens” and are good anytime. I think Tom Humbarger’s Best Practices for Corporate Twittering is a good start not necessarily for social media world, but surely for the company or product. Once you get in it, then it's a whole new ball game and the rules laid out can change as the company/product etc will see the benefits.

  • jeffespo

    Darrel,
    Thanks for the comment. In terms of the soft sell, it should be truly soft and something expected coming from a brand. In full disclosure, I am anti adding a person's name to a corporate Twitter profile. Sure it adds some personality, but from a business perspective it also opens cans of worms in terms of personal interactions that are non-company related.

    For example, I tweet for the @vistaprint account, but also for myself. Sure folks know me as the guy from Vistaprint, but customers looking for assistance can get it much easier from the corporate account.

    Also if you are interacting with a company, you should know that some time or another there will be some kind of sales messaging if appropriate.

  • mikeschaffer

    You know I heart both of you bunches and whatnot. So kudos for another awesome one. You're both right :-)

    I do have one question: What medicine should I take for Twitterrhea??

  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    As someone who acts as corporate tweeter for like a bajillion accounts, I gotta say I agree with most of y'all's points. But as I've said in the past, I gotta schedule tweets. If I didn't, no action would happen while I was working on projects, in meetings, out sick, or run over by a bus. I temper the scheduled messages with actual conversation, so I don't think I'm sinning as far as absentee tweeting goes, but let's face it. I can't sit in front of the Hootsuite screen 24/7. That's just impossible.

  • jeffespo

    Do you note the hours that the pages will be manned?

  • jeffespo

    For that I suggest a camping trip

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