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March 15, 2010
Is Twitter a Waste of Time?

People have been asking this question since Day Two A.T. (After Twitter), but it has come up again recently in several business networking groups -- including one founded specifically to interact about all things Twitter -- and many still don’t understand why you and your organization should do it. 

For those who hate the task of having to write a blog, Twitter puts you on the social media grid with a microblog, and by the way, arguably the hottest interactive venue on the planet right now. It is low effort and high potential for massive visibility.

About a year ago, Twitter itself recognized the service had crossed over from a forum for mundane status updates to a venue for more informative, synergistic sharing and interaction. Think of it as a vehicle to share useful info, interact with other interesting Twitter personas, make new business contacts and friends, and interest followers in learning more about you by clicking to your core site and other places. Twitter is great of its own accord and can be the ultimate gateway to the rest of your Web presence.

Twitter can be a great free news-distribution service, not as your sole news release channel but as a capable complement to wherever else you distribute news. Post a 140-character item about your news with a link to the expanded news item.

Here are some research data points around interactivity in general, some specifically about Twitter, to back up what many instinctively know we should do. U.S. Internet usage has now climbed to nearly 75 percent. Interactive marketing is not about sending more e-mails; only 28 percent of respondents say the commercial e-mail they receive is relevant.

More than two-thirds visit social networks and blogs, and the two have now combined to overtake e-mail usage. More than 80 percent of Web users post product reviews and/or blog about brands they love (or hate), and about 20 percent have downloaded a podcast.*

HubSpot, which has given us those great Grader apps such as Website, Twitter, and Facebook graders, just put out a report indicating social media is not just for brand awareness; it can be used to directly generate leads that translate into customers. For example:

  • Businesses that spend 50 percent or more of their marketing budget on inbound (read: interactive) marketing are spending 60 percent less per lead than those who spend 50 percent or more on outbound (traditional/push) marketing, e.g., “All of you had better keep pounding those phones or else.”
  • Over 40 percent of those using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, and company blogs for marketing have acquired a customer through each of those channels.
  • Social media/blogs taken together constitute the fastest-growing category in lead generation budgets and continue to rank as the lowest-cost lead generation channel.

If you’re still not convinced, think of Twitter as the 2010 equivalent of handing out your business card to make sure everyone knows you and/or your firm are still relevant -- or in today’s harrowing economic times, that you’re still around/alive.

Those are some of the why's. Here are just a few of the basic how to's:

  • Make your Twitter bio informative and keyword rich. Help like-minded fellow users find you by inserting keywords that effectively describe you. Some like to use phrases; I have a parade of functional and topical keywords that function like tags on a blog entry.
  • Use YFrog, TwitPic, or a similar service to post more media-rich tweets, if you haven’t posted photos/graphics/files on Twitter. If you’re wondering how to fit long URLs into your tweets, “there’s an app for that." Actually there are many but for my money (OK, it's free) bit.ly is the best.
  • Automate your Twitter experience with SocialOomph (formerly known as TweetLater). It has many capabilities, including auto-following (and unfollowing) those who follow (unfollow) you. You can, of course, go back at any time and either follow or unfollow anyone. That’s important especially for corporate Twitter personas, because Twitter, like any online venue, draws its share of scammers/spammers and those who launch normal-looking Twitter personas that are actually fronts for porn sites and other unsavory locales. Not to worry, Twitter does an outstanding job of cleansing the ranks of these.
  • Look into apps like HootSuite, CoTweet, and TweetDeck. They offer a multitude of capabilities such as not following those whose follower-to-following ratio dips below a certain percentage -- the idea being that maybe they are great followers but as a valuable information hub, not so much -- and provisions so multiple corporate users can post to the same Twitter persona. Much more is under the hood with these, but those are a couple of high points.
  • Use hashtags. Insert the hash/pound sign [#] before certain words, either company names or popular keywords, to ensure that your tweet is found by human eyes or automated apps that are searching Twitter for those names/terms. For example, “ADTRAN (copper, fiber and wireless solutions for enterprise and carrier networks) 4Q09 year-over-year revenues up 11% to >$124M” is fine, but @ADTRAN (#copper #fiber #wireless solutions for #enterprise + #carrier #networks) 4Q09 yr-over-yr rev$ up 11% to >$124M http://bit.ly/9LYYl  opens with a link to the company’s Twitter site, closes with a link to the news and ensures that my tweet just got picked up in multiple clickstreams: Copper, fiber, wireless, enterprise, carrier, and networks.
  • Play it smart. Armed with the knowledge that Twitter users (or their automated apps) are viewing you partly with an eye toward follower ratios, don’t follow the world in hopes they’ll follow you. Many, especially superstars with tens of thousands of followers, won’t, and if other personas check out your page only to find “following: 2,000 – followers: 200,” that will affect how they respond. Focus on finding those with similar interests and/or who are in the same business as you, and build your follower base organically.
  • Dialogue with other interesting Twitter personas and retweet interesting items they post, or use the new retweet tool on Twitter. It's fine to retweet as is, but I normally rewrite when I retweet to bring out a different angle or say it a different way.
  • Be aware of the get-followers-quick schemes that are in abundant supply (“Check out our Twitter train below. Just pop your Twitter user name in the blank at the top of the train, hit Enter and you’ll have 2,000 new followers in a week”). Have at it if you like, but I’m going to echo what some pretty sharp people, such as those at Center of Influence, say about business networking: It’s not about quantity -- thrusting your business card at 50 unwitting (unwilling) recipients at a social business mixer. It’s about quality or building quality relationships. It’s the same reasoning that leads LinkedIN to restrict your account if you invite too many people to connect who don’t know you, and why Google dings your PageRank if it catches you engaging in “black hat” techniques such as link exchange farms. It’s not a capital offense, but it devalues the dollar, so to speak, for everyone else in the market or the Twitter ecosystem.

One of the great things about Twitter is that for every point I’ve shared with you, many other great tips and ideas are waiting to be discovered. Put some work into Twitter, and you just might make Twitter work for you.

* Sources: American Marketing Association (AMA); Bureau of the Census/POPClock; Burson-Marsteller; Compete Inc.; Internet WorldStats; Inside Facebook; MarketPOWER, LLC; Merkel Inc./Harris Interactive; Nielsen Media Research; Pew Internet & American Life Project; Technorati



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For years Jeff Cotrupe was the analyst who "named Stratecast but never joined the firm." Those days are over: He has now joined Stratecast, a division of Frost & Sullivan, as Program Director, OSS/BSS Global Competitive Strategies. If you compete in the global communications market, Stratecast offers the critical strategic insights you need to WIN. You can connect with Jeff on all social media sites at XeeSM and follow StratecastF&S and Jeff on Twitter.

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