Top Twitter Tips for Business: #5 & #6

Two new Tips! New to this? Read Top Ten Twitter Tips and #1 & #2 or #3 & #4 Twitter Tips for Business…and you’ll be up to speed.

Two more tips for building conversations, community and momentum on Twitter.

5. One voice only. Choose one person to be in charge of your Twitter presence, agree to rules, and let them—and them alone—be the Tweeter. If more than one person is Tweeting for a business profile, things are going to get messy. Repetition, inconsistency will ensue; it will feel spammy and the messages will step on each other…and on followers. This is a one-person job.

As for WHO? Well…depends. CEO Tweeting rocks, but it has to be authentic and engaging, and the CEO has to be willing to listen as well as to talk. Product people will learn a great deal about the marketplace and products in it; Customer Support experts will establish great exchanges with customers.

Choosing who Tweets depends largely on your overall Twitter goals, but once you’ve decided: make sure it’s someone who is excited to do this (the passion and enjoyment will show), who can write correctly and well, and who is comfortable with the tech, naturally. And encourage others in the company to Tweet on their own, to follow and engage in conversation. It builds momentum, really.

Worried about time? Fear not: this can be managed. Although you can spend tons of time on Twitter (and may feel like you do when you first start) as you get to know the system you can visit in interstitial moments, much as you might with email. Most people say that they can manage a lot of Twittering in 30 minutes/day.

To help build value and understanding, have the Tweet-er capture relevant content and share Twitter progress with team on a regular basis.

5. Tweet often. If you’re going to do this, take it seriously. Show up. Daily, at least, but I recommend more than once daily. Since there’s some “serendipity” to Twitter—meaning you don’t know exactly who and what will be shaping the conversation when you show up—you broaden your exposure by dropping in frequently.

To start, plan on Tweeting several times each day. Post an update or two each time: links to on-site information, reports from the office, questions you’d like to see discussed. Wine guy Gary V has elevated this to art, while Work.com, even with a quieter voice, also succeeds in conversing. Spend a moment looking at the dialog (and Tweet) frequency; these are good guides.

Be sure to check and respond to your replies (“@”) and direct messages (see basic Twitter Tips) whenever you sign on.

Although you can set your preferences (under “Settings”) to have Twitter tell you when messages come in, and to remind you to update, my advice is that if you’re going to rely on this you’re not going to maximize the benefit of being on Twitter

OK. I hesitate to mention Tweetlater because it’s no proxy for live Tweeting…but it can be very handy for travel days, big announcements, time zone issues, etc. Tweetlater lets you pre-schedule Tweets so that they post to your Twitter profile at specific times. Do not use this to replace an ongoing Twitter presence…that’s spammy. You will learn much from checking in and listening to what’s going on; be sure that’s part of your plan. But Tweetlater (and others; Google “schedule Twitter”) will help you remain consistent and current when timing isn’t your friend.

Stay tuned: Tips #7 & #8 on their way.

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MicroPost: Data Portability…what’s in it for me?

Am I the only one that’s not jumping up and down with excitement over the recent data portability announcements from MySpace, Facebook and Google?

I mean, I can understand why opening up the data on these platforms is good for them, but I’m still waiting for an innovation that feels like it’s good for me—the person who uses these platforms.

Sure, being able to share with, invite, and find new friends serves their business model. They have my data, and now they’re going to make it easy for my friends to know what I’m doing, buying, saying…but all, it seems, with a mind to promoting more products and pushing more media.

But what part of these innovations helps me do what I want to do socially? What part helps the picture I upload to BrightKite find its way over to Flickr or my Facebook albums…to let the stats I upload on Concept2 show up on my Twitter feed, or better yet to a place that I choose within Facebook…to let a link to my latest blog post automatically show up on my LinkedIn profile? MySpace may be doing some of this…but it feels more “MySpace-centric” rather than “what people really want-centric.” If that makes sense.

Mento.com—from Berlin, natch—gives me a whiff of this value. When one of my friends opens a link I’ve sent the, I get a direct message in Twitter, if I’d like. There’s value for me in that (thanks, Mento!).

I do so many “thin” things on different social networks these days. Real utility for me would be about bringing some of these things together in a way that made it more fun, social and valuable (hey, relevant) for me to put my data up on these networks. I’d rather do that than see more ads and automatically blast my friends with updates on what I’m buying and doing.

It seems that all of this data portability has been shaped by the platform provider’s business plan, and the need to keep up with all things open, than by any real sense of what people might want to really do socially, or by providing a service that delivers real utility and satisfaction.

Am I missing something? What do you think?

Top Twitter Tips for Business: #3 & #4

Taking up from the first Two Top Twitter Tips…here are Tips #3 and #4.

3. Begin with the end in mind. Before you even Tweet your first “hello!!” consider what you want to accomplish on Twitter. Establishing a Twitter presence is as important as voicing your business over any media platform. Before you get started, brainstorm on objectives and decide what you want to achieve. Do you want to:

  • Identify and engage in conversation with a community of, say, developers? Or other partners?
  • Open up a dialog about how people are using products like yours (be sure to provide plenty of insight and info in return)?
  • Shout out to potential customers?
  • Be open, transparent and collaborative about the business you are building.
  • Or???

Each of these possibilities is achievable on Twitter, but each would require a unique approach and very different actions.

To attract customers, developers or other partners, search Twitter and TweetScan for key words, then check out some profiles, “Follow” and send requests to be followed back (see Ten Top Twitter Tips). Then, you might start sharing updates on what’s happening in-house: your dev process, insights to your platform or roadmap, links to related media or products. Put a passionate technical person, support team member, or exec (but only one, or it will get spammy!) out there and have them build a dialog. Look at how JetBlue does this. It’s awesome.

JetBlue\'s Twitter Profile Page

Business-to-business can work, too. Ribbit.com (disclosure: I’ve done some work for them) Tweets well. So do big bloggers. Visit Mashable, TechCrunch, Technorati, VentureBeat, and SocialTimes and see how they do it. You’ll note different styles, but you’ll get a sense of what might work for you.

If you’re looking to build buzz and energy around a persona or product, keep your content fresh and lively: good enough that people wanted to share it—and they won’t with spam. Highlight milestones, meetings, news and ask your community to submit their own. Tell people how things are going with your work. Highlight use cases and showcase PR. Put an exec out there and build some buzz around that.

MCHammer does this well, working his celebrity, staying in touch with tech glitterati, and keeping DanceJam in the limelight while he’s at it.

Shouting out to potential customers would probably require you to offer online promotions and incentives, along with a call to share them virally. Zappos showcases this Twitter style.

Open, transparent, collaborative sharing? Go on with a slow, steady build in mind, and lots of ideas, question-asking, dialog about things related to your business objectives. I was looking for a good example of this, but then it hit me—this is how most people use Twitter. See for yourself: here’s my Twitter profile. Hang out for a while, ask questions, follow up on updates. You’ll get the feeling. It’s a great place for open dialog.

In summary: think about how you would want to talk with potential customers—and non-customers—if you showed up in a room full of users and prospects and had time to talk. What would you want to ask them, tell them, learn from them about how they would, or would not, use your product? Imagine that scenario shaping over time and use that as your objective as you step out on Twitter.

4. Integrating. If you’re committing to Twitter, treat it as you would a phone number or email address. Integrate it into whatever online and offline activities involve customer connection. Add your Twitter profile URL to your email signatures and put the URL on social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn; ask others who work with you to do the same. Integrate Twitter as a badge, a feed, or even to suggest a viral Tweet on your Web site in a way that lets your community know you’re there, and “Follow” if they wish.

Remember, you probably won’t get a huge following at first—but you’ll begin a process that will go with time, that might align you with some good partners and that will probably become a source of good information. Mention Twitter if you’re visiting customers or speaking at conferences; better yet, live Tweet from your mobile, as appropriate, when you’re in the spotlight, and ask others in the room to Tweet on your behalf. Add your Twitter profile URL to handouts or presentations and ask people to follow.

If you’re going to be on Twitter, use it to differentiate and to add value to your exchange with customers, partners, and the expanded community. With time, you’ll get the traction you’re looking for.

Next: Tips #5 & #6: “One Voice Only” and “Tweet Often.”

MicroPost: Mento.com Twitter Feed

Just signed up to Beta Mento.com, which promises to “publish your links where friends will see them” and integrates with Facebook, Twitter, more…

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…and after I’d submitted my email it asked me to “Help us Spread the Word by posting an Update on Twitter.”

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Easy. Of course I clicked the “update on Twitter” part, and popped right over to my Twitter page, where this update was ready and waiting in my Update box:

Just signed up for @mento > http://www.mento.info

Of course I just pressed “Update”…but I added some kudos, too:

Kudos for Mento.com

Great stuff, Mento. Easy integration and you thought of something I wanted and made it easy for me. Thanks!

Top Twitter Tips for Business: #1 & #2

Tweeting–using Twitter–for business is really different than just plain Tweeting. Here’s why.

When I Tweet as me, I’m off duty. I’m in a room full of hand-picked, interesting people and we talk about everything—the multi-dimensional threads that build Twitter community. Example: Thomas. We met through work, but now connect on family, politics and personal interests, as well as what’s happening in the industry, when we cross paths on Twitter. Our Tweets have helped us become friends.

But when I Tweet for business, or guide clients to Twitter, it’s with a very different intention. The focus is on sharing information that matters—that’s relevant—to the person on the other side of the Tweet. “Relevant” is the key word. It’s all about them. For business, you have to Tweet the stuff that matters to your audience—that makes a difference in their lives, work, minds, or, ultimately, wallets.

The CEO of Zappos.com is a much-cited example of corporate Tweeting. But I also think that Ribbit.com, a voice-to-Web startup (disclosure: I do some consulting for them) does a good job engaging in a Twitter-based business conversation. (Follow, if you’d like, to see it in action.)

IMHO, Tweeting for business only works you give more than you take. And if you’re patient. That can be hard for start-ups, because often, early-stage companies are limited in what they can openly communicate. It takes some creative thinking, and a real commitment, to engage in conversation, especially in a setting like Twitter.

To help businesses understand Twitter, I wrote Ten Top Twitter Tips for Business, building from the Ten “Regular” Twitter Tips also on this blog. But those Ten turned into Twelve, each with detail, and then into Fourteen…way too much information.

So I’m starting with Two Tips, designed to get you started exploring the potential Twitter offers to businesses to start open, transparent, collaborative conversations.

Take a look, and come back tomorrow. I’ll post two more. But starting things off:

1. Practice first. Set up a personal Twitter account and learn your way around. Invite friends. Gather a few followers and get to know the basics with them. Be sure to know what you’re doing before you connect with customers. You would be doing your business a disservice to build a following and not have your act together when you start Tweeting them. And continue Tweeting as “you,” even once your business Twitter plan is underway. You will learn so much. Master the tools, see how the conversation grows, and be Twitter-savvy before you start Tweeting for business.

2. COMMIT before you TWIT. As you know, every action you take as a business affects how your customers and community see you, experience you. Like any other business decision, your outcome on Twitter can only be as good as the process behind it. Building community on Twitter requires an investment of content, frequency and time.

If you’re looking at Twitter as a platform for business conversations, go in with a long-term commitment. I don’t think that anyone would tell you that the ROI will be predictable, conventionally measurable, or immediate. Blogger Nick O’Neill reports that there are on average 200,000 active daily users on Twitter … I have friends whose Facebook apps get more traffic than that.”

One pundit aptly described Twitter as “Web serendipity”…well said. You don’t go to Twitter for the raw numbers…at least not yet. You go for chance that you run into someone, pick up a story, learn of an opportunity that makes a difference…and that you would have missed otherwise. Keep this in mind as you plan how you will use Twitter, how you will define success, and how you will modify your plan as your Twitter presence evolves.

Work.com’s Guide to Twitter for Business is worthwhile if you’re thinking of adding Twitter to your business mix. Read it, and click links to explore what’s possible in the Twittosphere. You’ll learn more about the surprising complexity (I mean that in a good way) on simple-seeming Twitter—and of the value of building a presence there.

Read the next two tips—on goal-oriented Tweeting and integrating Twitter online and offline—here.

Ten Top Twitter Tips

I’ve been Tweeting (making posts on Twitter) for some time now, both for personal learning/enjoyment and to engage in community conversation on behalf of several clients.

Twitter is a micro-blogging service, allowing users to send little 140-character messages out to “Followers,” exchanging tidbits of conversation and potentially exposing that conversation to a larger grid.

Here are some hands-on tips to help you get started on Twitter, or add some insights if you’re already there. To really understand this, reg for Twitter and toggle between your profile page and this post…but you’ll get the general idea by just reading it.

1. Play with a friend. To get to know Twitter a bit, encourage a friend or two to sign on when you do. Then play. Post Tweets, poke around, get the feeling for how it works.

2. Meet your neighbors. There are a few ways to do this…

  • Use the “Search” box (just right of big Twitter logo; top of page) and key in topics/tags that interest you. When names show up, check the profile, and if it feels like an appropriate connection, press “Follow” beneath the profile pic.
  • If you find a profile you like on Twitter, and you “Follow” them, you have access to a mosaic of the people they follow (the pictures in the column toward the right of the Twitter page). Hover over those pics to see names; click on them to see profiles. Again, if there’s affinity, you can choose to follow.
  • Watch your Facebook (and other social network) friend statuses. If if reads “(Name) is twittering:“ then that person is using Twitter. Click through to their name, scan their profile for the Twitter application, and follow. Or just search for them on Twitter (but note: many people use a “handle” on Twitter that differs from their real name—I’m “ chep2m ”—so you don’t always get a direct hit).

Remember that as you “Follow” people the larger Twitter community will have access to you through the “Twit Grid,” so follow where you want to be found. And use discretion. Follow only when there is some sort of click; build slowly and you’ll find the right people.

3. Crack the code. Two simple Twitter tools to start with:

  • The “at sign” (this guy: “ @ “). Use it when you want to send a public message (called a “reply”) to a specific person. For example, if you sent “@chep2m : testing Twitter” it would reach me (even if I don’t follow you) AND it would show up in my “Replies” tab (near the top of your profile page…see it? Be sure to check this whenever you sign in to Twitter; it’s where people send replies or public messages specifically to you. (Note: if you send a reply message, make sure that you don’t add punctuation right after the name. “ @cheptum “ will reach me. “ @cheptum: “ (note colon) will not.
  • Direct messages. The letter “ d “ allows you to send a direct, private message to anyone you follow who also follows you. Access these direct messages through the narrow column to the right of your Twitter profile, following the phrase “Direct Messages.” Note that this will only work for mutual followers (when both parties follow each other). Practice this with one of your Twitter friends.

4. Read the Twitter blog. Just book an hour and do it. And check back now and again. It feels like the people at Twitter can’t keep up with all of the noise and growth (love that problem) but they bring some good info together here. It’s worth a wander; enjoy…subscribe if you like it.

5. Keep a list of Twitter enhancements, or bookmark mine (coming soon). The list is growing every day; some of them are quite useful. If you come up with a new one, add it to the list.

6. Make noise beyond the Twittosphere. Only way to build a following is for people to know you’re there. Add your Twitter address to your email sig, your online profiles, even your business cards. Add a Twitter RSS feed to your Web page or Blog (details in my Business Twitter Tips). Here’s how I added a Twitter “friend stream” to my WordPress blog.

7. Tweet early, Tweet often. Show up. Post Tweets. Ask questions. Join conversations about things that interest you. Comment (using the “ @ “, of course) on smart things your Twitter friends say. Say “thanks!” when others share good info. Just engage in the whole Twitter thing and you will figure each other out.

8. Go mobile. Tons of Twitter apps for the iPhone and Blackberry… and beyond. Set your preferences to dial up/down on what actually hits your phone (almost nothing hits mine) but send updates even when you’re remote. I use PocketTweets but Twitter mobile clients abound.

9. Don’t be a stranger. Say hi on the weekends. Tweet in the evening. Bring a bit of your self into your Tweeting, even if you’re using it primarily for business connections and learning. You check in with your colleagues about their outside lives and interests, right? Same applies to Twitter.

10. Enjoy. Twitter delivers a cool world of conversation, chat, social currency, and great information to one fun, active place. Work and play with it. Twitter is a cool landmark in the growing social ecosystem and I believe it has an ongoing part to play in the growing business conversation that all of are a part of. Have fun!

One more thing. Eleven is such a random number, but I had to share one more: use Tweetburner if you are posting URLs in Tweets. It shortens them (remember: 140 characters max) and makes them trackable, plus you can post to your Twitter account directly from the Tweetburner window. Be sure to add a bit of (con)text before you post the URL. Try it…easy.

Want more? Read Tara Hunt’s excellent post on Twitter and these good insights from WebGuild.

Stay tuned. I’ll do a Top Ten Twitter Tips for businesses very soon.

Creating Infectious Engagement: Social Marketing at the Stanford d-School

Huge props to the Stanford d-School team for opening their doors for “Creating Infectious Engagement,” a community discussion on virality, engagement, and “getting the word out,” whatever that word might be.

This conference featured case studies and speakers illuminating different ways to gain critical mass through grassroots, process-oriented and innovative methods. I appreciated how the various speakers shared diverse angles, engaging unique ways of thinking and “cross training” our neurons to fire in multiple ways around engagement.

CASE STUDY: LIGHTS OUT SAN FRANCISCO. Former Google PR guy Nathan Tyler (Google him. Entertaining) shared clear, actionable tips on “To-and-Not-To-Do” when building grassroots momentum. In his case, it was a groundbreaking 10/07 (03/08, too) event that inspired individuals, offices, and organizations around San Francisco to turn off their lights for one hour. He influenced city officials to power down the lights on the Golden Gate Bridge, and sparked “me-too” events in LA, Sydney and beyond.

Nathan’s key points:

– Connect with real people and be relentless, enthusiastic and authentic (Funny how the A-word continues to pop up).

– Keep it simple. Force yourself to limit ideas and do one thing well. Resist overdesign from the start. And keep that focus local and small for as long as possible.

– Start with your own community (online and real world) and let it grow from there.

– Remain honest, humble and open throughout.

– Make everything replicable (especially Web tools) and share widely.

– Little gifts, reminders, promotions outvalued posters and printed materials (my take on this was that people valued identity and connection more than words. They wanted the affinity more than they wanted facts).

Nathan emphasized that organic/grassroots momentum out-valued the ROI on relationship-building with established organizations, institutions and associations. He implied that their investment was diluted relative to the more “core” drive of impassioned visionaries, but conceded that there is a hand-off (when you reach a certain scale) were these partnerships assume more value.

SPEAKER: DAVID MAXFIELD OF VITALSMARTS. As the author of “Influencer: the Power to Change Anything,” David is no stranger to persuasion. His points on multiple sources of influence, and his movie about “learning will” (featuring a 6th grader running a marshmallow-based behavioral modification experiment with hungry 4-year-olds), were memorable, but his pitch felt disjointed.

I would have been more persuaded (I assume to attend one of his workshops, buy his book, or have him speak at my place of business) had he been more generous with what he offered and delivered real value instead of the “tease” he presented. Interesting lesson on conversion and uptake, right there real time.

CASE STUDY: COOLIRIS AND THE STANFORD PARTY TEAM. This was the one that blew me away. Not only is CTO Austin Shoemaker a fellow Apple Alum (and rower!), he and CEO Soujanya Bhumkar have created two amazing innovations. The first is a visual “wall” that grabs content from the Web, photo sites, social networks and even online catalogs to create a stunning “in the round” visual search engine that truly moves (in their words) beyond the browser. Second, and even better, IMHO, is a breakthrough program that puts marketing, product design, bd, testing, and all forms of innovation directly into the hands of the Party Team, a band of 37 Stanford students that assume responsibility for building buzz and integrity around the Cooliris experience.

With a student:”grown-up” ratio of 3:1, the kids definitely run the place, and they do it well. The “official” team supports their needs and innovations and guides decision-making to move with their initiatives.

I’ve long been an advocate for user-permeable organizations and customer/community proximity, and have even guided a few clients to form “student boards” for ongoing brainstorm sessions, but Cooliris’ work takes active user engagement to a whole new level. This is a company I will watch and learn more from and I encourage you to do the same.

SPEAKER: HAYAGREEVA RAO OF THE STANFORD GSB. “Huggy” introduced a simple mantra for creating engagement: “Hot Causes + Cool (as in “Cool”) Solutions.” The combination of an impassioned, emotionally-infused call—Change something! Think for yourself! Do it better!—and a bit of swagger in the implementation comprised Huggy’s suggested formula for inspiring a movement.

Citing microbrewing as a cultural movement, defined by a Hot Cause (“Wake up! You have tastebuds! Don’t let Big Beer tell you what to drink…especially if it’s their lousy brew) meeting a Cool Solution (the community, collective and culture of homebrewing) transformed the notion of “beer” in our culture and dramatically shifted the market concentration of artisanal beer (such that the US now outpaces Germany in artisanal beer production by some market ratio that I needed a brew to understand) over a very short period of time.

Huggy has a book in the works exploring the cultural causes of organizational change, and based on his research it’s one I would at least scan. The case studies would provide good inspiration applicable to a variety of products and markets.

All in all: time very well spent. I valued the various angles from which the four presenters (and the engaged, insightful d-School faculty) explored the nature of change and movement, and I found much of the content directly applicable to client scenarios I’m addressing now and thinking about for the future.

Gracias to my friend John Zeisler (who coaches at the d-School) for inviting me to take part.