The loud-mouthed monster
Alan Devereux, Communications Officer for the British Business Group, Dubai and Northern Emirates, discusses the dynamics of Twitter and how to influence your audience through it.
Social media didn’t exist until very recently. Just a few years ago it was called social networking (remember that?). Twitter turned social networking sites into social media sites; it changed the rules of the game.
Whether or not you are active on it, you would have heard of Twitter, the Website that allows people to update others in 140 characters or less (the medium on which NASA chose to tell the world it found ice on Mars and on which the US government announced the death of Osama Bin Laden).
I have found that a good way to describe Twitter is to compare it to a room full of people, all shouting and all wanting to be heard. The more followers an account has, the louder it can shout. The more someone “tweets” the stronger that voice will grow. Not being heard above the crowd? Make friends with someone who has a really loud voice and get them to shout on your behalf. Twitter highlights the influence of people (or in some cases, the perceived influence). Whether your influence is real or perceived, what you say is important.
If you have a customer service type company you would do well to sign up to Twitter. Instant access to a company when my new purchase has failed me seems almost gift-like. Having to drive back to the shop or wait for thirty minutes on the telephone is a chore. A customer service agent on Twitter can deal with multiple queries at once; the same agent on a phone line can only help one customer at a time. If you have a small business, perhaps ten employees, maximising time is essential. Twitter is useful.
Twitter is, however, a very dangerous place. Once you enter the “Twittersphere”, there is no turning back. Customers and clients will expect instant access to you; they will expect instant and informed replies. Potential customers will be keen to hear what you have to say, you will need to deliver a steady stream of updates. Remember, the rest of the room is shouting. If you sit quietly, you will be ignored – and apathy is the greatest threat of all.
Twitter can also be very time consuming. To overcome this you can schedule messages using free applications. If you do chose to schedule tweets you must also remember to partake in an equal amount of real conversations. You would not watch an hour of television advertising but you tolerate some because it accompanies the show you want to watch.
TV is a balance between adverts and content, your Twitter feed should be the same. I use five different scheduling applications to help manage our account, a simple Internet search will help you find the one (or five) that suits you best – but please remember the balance, you must balance adverts and promotion with real conversations.
We now know that Twitter can be useful, is definitely dangerous, and it can take a lot of time. It appears to be two-thirds negative. What is the payoff? How do we measure return on investment? Well, you are reading this article because of Twitter. The good people at SME Advisor ME have a Twitter account. I saw their messages and offered to write a column. Knowing they will promote my article online, I have immediately increased my company’s exposure.
Also knowing that this fine magazine is delivered to thousands of ADCB and du customers in print form, I know my article will be read by our target demographic, which is business people. If it were not for Twitter I might not know the magazine existed, because of Twitter I write regularly for it. If you do not have a Twitter account and are reading this in the magazine, I have reached you. At the BBG we measure ROI from social media usage in different ways – brand exposure is one of them.
Alan Devereux is a husband, a father, and Communications Officer for the British Business Group, Dubai and Northern Emirates, and can be found here: http://ae.linkedin.com/in/alandevereux He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org