Strategic tweets: lots of little things, joined up

May 16, 2011

Okay, they can make tea. But is their Twitter strategy joined up?

I’ve been reading a lot today, and only some of it’s been on Twitter. And talking to various people, and only some of it’s been about Twitter. (There were also some ancient boilers that looked like a family of very sweet robots; see above. They’re kind of following me.) But it’s the Twitter that’s sticking in my mind. Not just fun Twitter, but work Twitter. Corporate Twitter. What is it, how does it work, how can companies best use it? what can they get from it?

Is it a marketing, communications or customer relations tool? Or all three? How tightly controlled should it be? How many different Twitter accounts can an organisation run and not be confusing? Fewer than the Guardian, one rather thinks; but then, it can be confusing if lots of people are tweeting from one acccount, too. As a follower you never know who you’re getting. Does it matter? Does it matter in your organisation, I mean?

As with any other activity that involves communication, it’s not really about  the tweets; it’s about how well you all understand each other, deep inside. It’s about mission statements and company ethos, but it’s also just about culture and – get this – happiness. Happy people are people who get along. I’ve worked in so many organisations, and no two were the same; but two teams tweeting against each other with conflicting narratives or messages just isn’t pretty.

How does your organisation see itself? How does it talk inside itself? What does it – not just you, but the entity that is the whole shebang – think Twitter is for? How flexible, or not, is its brand? (This question contains the other one, about a firm core of recognisability at the centre of the brand. This stuff used to be the domain of brand experts; now anyone with a stake in a twibbon needs to think about it too. How much can you stretch it before it snaps?) Who can best drive it?

It’s easy to be a bit afraid of Twitter: brave new world and all that. but it’s just a tool,  like a typewriter or a telephone was once a new tool. It’s a thing for getting things done. So what are you trying to do, and how do you want to do it? You need a Twitter strategy. Or at least a policy. (Or some guidelines…)

As with any other strategy, a social media strategy depends on being clear about what you want to achieve. Once you get that, you can work out how you want to get there. I heard a story about someone who filled in a marketing materials commissioning form:

Material being prepared: leaflet

Outcome: leaflet

Well, that isn’t a bad start… But the tweets, they are like leaves on a tree, they are many and small, and together they must drift into the ether to make…

…what? What will they make? Over to you.

Here are my five starting tips for corporate Twitter (more like starting thoughts, really):

  1. Make sure everyone on your Twitter feed knows how to spell and use grammar. This sounds rudimentary, doesn’t it.
  2. Make sure everyone understands where there’s some give and where there isn’t. Singers, songsheets…
  3. Get your people talking to each other. Have a party. Have a meeting. Have lunch. Have fun.
  4.  Don’t forget your audience, they are people too and want to be informed and entertained. What are you giving them? Don’t just talk about yourself the whole time. This really is basic Twitter stuff, but you’d be surprised. Don’t be afraid to make a joke. Don’t be afraid to reply to negative comments. Don’t worry that if you talk about something else for a minute, everyone will forget to come to your website.
  5. Don’t script the tweets. Let your staff adopt natural voices – let them show that you have real people working in your organisation! Not just robots. (Or indeed Twitter bots, but that’s another post.)

Hmm, robots. There they are again. Time for a cup of tea…


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