Here’s a shameful admission: it took me a long time to ‘get’ Twitter, and I’m not an evangelical convert even now. Long used to thinking in terms of blog posts, be they a list of links or a more thought-out series of paragraphs, an SMS-style blurt (or tweet) seemed both reductive and redundant, and for everything else there was Facebook. Reassuringly, it seems I am not alone in questioning what Twitter can do for me. However, if you are in business you can be sure that your customers are tweeting about you. And, if your customer has a huge following, you need to be engaged in the conversation: yes, Southwest Airlines, the world is looking at you.
One major fail for Twitter is that the site does not offer a user manual or guidelines for newbies about how to get the most out of the site, resulting in disaffection and disengagement, as much for businesses as individuals. As SMT has it, “Once they arrive at Twitter, there’s very little instruction or incentive to take the steps to not only create an account, but also adopt it as a form of daily or even weekly communication.” That daily or weekly factor is vital, since frequency of use is as a good a way as any to get value from Twitter: “the stream moves [so] fast that the more often you check Twitter, the more likely you are to see something of interest.” Essentially, just like a gambling addict, you need an early win to get hooked on Twitter.
So, what’s the winning strategy for Twitter? Here’s my bullet-point summary:
- Be there. There are no shortcuts.
- For businesses, a Twitter strategy involves listening as much, or more, than talking.
- This is a new and rapidly changing environment, ask questions and be open to the answers you receive – they might well surprise you.
- Don’t mistake the platform for the message. Social media is a tool, not an outcome. You will be judged on how well you use the tool, not the tool itself.