by Mel Brooks
Social media has been a hot topic for a few years now leaving many businesses, large and small, feeling the need to have a presence on social media platforms. And there is a bewildering array of these. To feed this desire, a large phalanx of self-proclaimed “Gurus” has emerged. They use their tweet-scheduling applications to bombard on Twitter to all who follow them –
relentlessly. The links in their tweets go to articles they have written, while many of them have the books they have for sale advertised somewhere on the article page. Some also offer training in the use of social media platforms.
But what is Business doing in the Social Media arena?
Many of the large companies have clearly spent a considerable sum developing their presence on the various platforms. Some of them make very good use of this form of media. I do, however, wonder about those large companies that merely use, for example, Twitter as an extension of their call centres. Twitter allows instant communication with followers and conversely allows their
followers to communicate with them. For a follower to then receive a (probably) bot asking the follower to call the call centre number provided somehow takes the “social” out of social media. People want to be heard – not brushed off to some multi-choice menu when they call.
Some small businesses fare no better. I have come across many which last tweeted months earlier, which seem to suggest that they have given up on Twitter.
The point of Twitter is to communicate – but communication needs to be a two-way process, so real interaction is required. It is not sufficient to continuously tweet about how great a business’s products are, nor to fob the Twitterati off with pre-configured, automated responses. People are using Twitter as a means to connect with people, not bots.
For businesses, Twitter content should be managed like a radio station.
Who would listen to a radio station that broadcasts only commercials? I suspect that nobody would: content is paramount. What is needed is a series of tweets that inform, entertain and educate followers. These can be interspersed with “commercial” type tweets.
So clearly there is a need for the production of good content – and that’s the problem for most businesses.
In February 2013, when I took over the Twitter account of one of my clients, part of an international education organisation based in South Africa, the followers had been hovering in the region of 600. Today they have over 44,000 followers, leaving competitors in the dust (at least one account is managed by one the largest advertising agencies in the world) and now exceeding all institutions operating in this space. Why? A major reason lies in the content.
Many agencies are engaged to run social media campaigns because they understand the medium, rather than because they understand the business. But this means that content generation is left to someone who does not have the capacity or the knowledge to produce it, let alone to interact with client or potential clients. The result is often a string of commercial messages, leading to follower fatigue.
Clearly, the number of followers is not an exclusive measure of a successful Twitter account. It is, nevertheless, a measure. While it is impossible to gauge the quality of followers (from a business perspective), I have learned from experience that behind off-beat noms de plume and cartoon profile pictures, there are real people. And if they are having fun on Twitter, it does not rule them out as potential customers. Just think how many of the people who listen to a radio station advertisement are likely to be good prospects for sales. It’s the classic “numbers game”
I have another client who had 246 followers when I took over the account. In 73 days, I built this following to over 2,000. There is no secret recipe – it’s all about content and interaction.
Blogging, another valuable medium for communicating with customers and potential customers, is also service that I offer. Screeds have been written about the importance of blogs in driving traffic to websites as well as establishing credibility as an industry player. But, once again, it is the content that makes all the difference.
In a blog it is possible to write content that in such a way does not comprise commercial messages but rather give the reader the understanding that the business understands the problems customers experience and suggests solutions – without plugging actual products. If well written, they will generate enquiries for a business. I call this “selling without trying to sell”. It works.
There are a number of tweet scheduling applications available. All you have to do is compose the tweets and enter instructions as to when they should be tweeted. Isn’t that great? All you have to do is set it up and you can get on with other things.
I don’t use them.
This goes to interaction and timing. Imagine your scheduler tweeting away and some major disaster occurs. How many people will even read your tweets, let alone follow any links in them? You will probably irritate a lot of people.
You’ll also be amazed at the extent to which Twitter has transcended “working hours”. Late last Saturday night, I wondered whether there was anyone actually out there reading the tweets. A look at the “interactions” page showed me that there were – 90% of the tweets had been retweeted – including some of the “commercials”.
Running a client’s Twitter account is an 18-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week activity. Sure, this does limit the number of clients I can take on, but it gives me the ability to constantly monitor, interact and retweet any good comments that are relevant to a client’s business. And in this era of absolute mobility, I remain connected wherever I am.
I am on Twitter @Mel_BrooksSA
From the desk of Gillian Findlay
Economist, data translator, communicator and fascinated by the world around us.