I heard you. You want to know if Twitter is that important for you to restructure your marketing around? Well, if Clive Thompson’s article in The Times Magazine is anything to go by, then my answer is…yes. It is.
If Clive’s article proves anything at least from a marketer’s standpoint, it is that we humans are still very much socially curious beings.
Microblogging tools like Twitter thrive on this natural impulse of ours. Inquisitiveness as a natural impulse is what we humans use to justify our unnatural obsession for celebrities. Perez Hilton got to where he is today by creating his own locus classicus of celebrity gossip to satisfy a microcosm of this need of ours. Somebody had to right?
For many of us, this is our first introduction to terms like “ambient awareness” and “ambient intimacy” — terms that social scientists are freely bandying around to make sense of this phenomenon called — lifestreaming.
However, “ambient awareness” and “ambient intimacy” are admittedly, the lovechild of curiosity. Clive Thompson writes:
In an age of awareness, perhaps the person you see most clearly is yourself. 1
Probably so, and in the process of discovering more about ourselves, it begs the question, “What does this have to do with my marketing?” Simple.
Your marketing shouldn’t try to paint a canted picture of your business in a way that it’s not. You’ve heard that curiosity killed the kitty.
Ok, maybe not that kitty, but my point is that in this case, ambient intimacy will expose any marketing inauthenticity cowering within your campaigns. Editor in Chief and publisher of Technology Review, Jason Pontin writes:
In Sincerity and Authenticity, a lovely collection of lectures delivered at Harvard by Lionel Trilling in the spring of 1970, the literary critic made a profound case for the importance of authenticity, and for its newness and fragility in our culture: “If sincerity is the avoidance of being false to any man through being true to one’s own self, we can see that this state of personal existence is not to be attained without the most arduous effort.” What, Trilling asks, is the enemy of authenticity? “No one has much difficulty with the answer to this question. From Rousseau we learned that what destroys our authenticity is society–our sentiment of being depends upon the opinion of other people.“2
Rousseau had his opinions, but so does Chris Anderson:
When you recognize that with transparency comes airing some of your dirty laundry and with that dirty laundry comes people’s perception that you’re being open and honest, then you have to be comfortable in saying things in public that may be misinterpreted or misunderstood or used by your enemies. And that’s a scary process but that’s how you get to authenticity.
And that’s exactly what business mavericks who understand this paradigm of authenticity are doing on Twitter. Since writing about Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh and his prolific use of Twitter to engage with his customers, BusinessWeek then released a report on How Companies Use Twitter to Bolster Their Brands:
A growing number of companies are keeping track of what’s said about their brands on Twitter. Comcast (CMCSA), Dell (DELL), General Motors (GM), H&R Block (HRB), Kodak (EK), and Whole Foods Market (WFMI) are among a handful of companies haunting Twitter to do everything from burnish brands to provide customer service. The attention to Twitter reflects the power of new social media tools in letting consumers shape public discussion over brands.
Back in 2006, Charlene Li, had this to say to marketers:
All too often, I talk with marketers who see blogs as yet another channel through which they can foist their existing marketing messages. So Gen Yer marketers, I encourage you to tap into the power of blogs but beware as this group can sniff insincerity out in a nanosecond.
The seismic shift from blogging to microblogging is quite the leap, but her advice still applies regardless. Your marketing needs to be transparent in today’s convivial atmosphere of ambient awareness. Anything less than transparent and trigger-happy tweeters will chew you up and spit you out before you can say, “But, I really do care about your…”. This is the reality of today’s B2C environment. And don’t count on The Fed to bail you out on this one.
Serial Entrepreneurs Are Dangerous. Learn From Them
One serial entrepreneur that has caught my attention and who I personally believe is pressing all the right social marketing buttons is Guy Kawasaki. I mean, the man is a marketing legend in his own right. He literally invented tech evangelism even before evangelism had any inkling that it could be associated with tech.
Guy has one of the most read blogs in the business circle. But, with Twitter in hand, Guy’s marketing prowess is showcased in full display for all to witness. His Twitter following at the time of this posting is 23,114.
This is the thing, though. It’s not his huge fanbase I’m trying to impress upon you. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s the number of people Guy himself is following. Currently standing at 26,114 people on Twitter.
What does this prove? That Guy has not only read The Cluetrain Manifesto, he lives it. Guy’s acknowledgment that markets are conversations grants him the privilege of tuning into both the Twittersphere and the blogosphere to cover all the bases for online customer engagement. Little wonder than that his latest venture Alltop is on fire.
I’ve watched Guy work his magic on Twitter. Not only is he prolific in interacting with the Twitter community, he has no qualms about fielding questions to the community he needs answers to, freely sharing his life’s journey in text and visual formats. Inadvertently, those who follow him can’t help but feel like they’ve known Guy all their lives. His marketing is transparent, if, you could even call what Guy does marketing. Customers don’t see Guy as a marketer anymore. He has become a friend. A friend the Twitter community can freely trust.
Guy’s swami-like status is well-deserved, but I’m going to let you in on a secret — Guy’s mystic hold over his followers wasn’t sent from above. His power of influence comes from just being himself — authentic, honest, humble and genuinely interested in every person he deals with. It’s the blue-collar raffish approach that trumps snobbish, high-pedestal marketing everytime.
Tell me seriously, where else have you witnessed the relationship dynamics of customer and business metamorphically transform into something so remarkably intimate?
I still remember during the heady days of Web 2.0, when phrases like user-generated content sent businesses scrambling to rewrite their marketing plans. Apparently Pete Blackshaw got it right. User-centrism is still very much the pivot around which all elements of marketing spin around. Or, at least it should. Which is why social media tools like Twitter are rendered worthless to businesses if the consumer fails to become the focal point of the conversation.
If you had to twist my arm to reveal another entrepreneur for you to study, I would have no hesitation in squealing, Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary has nailed what it takes to market in the 21st century and has undoubtedly become one of the most sought after speakers on marketing with social media. Two things that immediately strike you when you watch Gary work. His passion for what he does, and the transparency of how he does what he does.
BusinessWeek’s compilation of a list of CEOs currently using Twitter to market their businesses should also prove useful.
So, You Want To Be A Marketing Demagogue, Eh?
“Well, now you can with the all-you-can-use Twitter application for the onetime cost of…FREE!”
You could probably just ignore that. It was my feeble attempt at impersonating an infomercial voiceover (a lifelong dream of mine), though you ought to know that Twitter is free to use, but costly to your business if ignored like Bouillabaisse at Oktoberfest.
PC World did a fine job of demonstrating how Microblogging Goes To Work, but it could be surmised by Amy Worley of H&R Block, who poignantly revealed:
I went in thinking Twitter was a free way to push our message out. Big mistake. We learned to listen. We started winning once we let people decide on their own about our services.3
Mitch Joel calls this Selling 2.0 and Twitter lends to this conversational intimacy because with a limit of only 140 characters, one can’t help but become engaged in small talk. And if there is one thing that small talk can always be depended on to lead to is — the formation of relationships. Apply some Guy Kawasaki pixie dust and you might just turn these relationships into exceptionally valuable ones.
Jim Kukral however, isn’t satisfied with just making small talk on Twitter. He wants a call-to-action every time he posts something on Twitter. If you’ve been using Twitter for any length of time, you’d probably come to realize that you don’t always get a response when you tweet something. What if you could change this with a simple marketing twist? Well, Jim Kukral is doing just that with Twittermethis — a marketing experiment that pays the first person to respond to a question Kukral were to ask.
Paying for a call-to-action isn’t something new and by applying this concept to Twitter, Jim Kukral is probably on to something. You could add your own twists to his idea and spruce up your Twitter marketing with approaches unique only to your business.
How, you ask?
I’ll let Steve Mulder tell you that. Steve has probably written the best 5 tips on restructuring your marketing around Twitter that I’m aware of. I will list the 5 here, but I urge you to read his article for all the intricate details. You’d be hard-pressed to go wrong if you were to only stick to these 5 tips:
- Listen and learn
- Publish valuable news and information
- Distribute promotions
- Create or extend your brand personality
- Engage in conversations and customer service
Let me draw your attention to tip No. 1 — listen and learn.
It is hard to listen if you aren’t sure where the conversation is taking place, right? This is why companies like Radian6 and Buzzlogic specialize in monitoring conversations surrounding your business. Dell hires such companies to be its ears on the ground. It’s how Dell manages to keep track of everyone who’s talking about them, regardless of the platform being used.
Now, I understand that you might not own pants with deep pockets like Dell, but that’s no excuse for not launching your own listening campaign. If you’d read Steve’s article, you’d have noticed he mentioned http://search.twitter.com/. But, I figured you should also know about Tweet Scan. And just so you’ll never have to miss a single conversation taking place around your subject of interest, I urge you to signup with TweetBeep. It will simply make your listening campaigns a breeze to manage. What’s more, these tools are free to boot.
Every Business Is In The Business of Marketing, But…
…a smarter business will play their marketing to the tune of openness. It is a connected world that we live in today. And as Peter Fisk says, “connections lie at the heart of marketing.” If we are to engage customers in a connected world, we have to meet our customers on their terms. Social media allows us to do just that.
However, don’t take my word for it. Sarah Perez brings to light some rather, shocking evidence — 85% of Americans using social media think companies should have an active presence in the social media environment. I personally wouldn’t argue with a figure like that. Give the people what they want, even if they don’t know what’s good for them. However in this case, I think they do.
Social media is reaching critical mass at an even faster rate. So why then, won’t more companies adopt social marketing and tap into the collective consciousness of social media users everywhere? If I’m being honest, I don’t know.
But, here’s what I do know — that if you harness technology better than your competitors, then you have in your possession a very powerful competitive differentiator. And what do you know, restructuring your marketing around Twitter is a competitive differentiator.
This competitive differentiation will separate the real players from the wannabees and with so much uncertainty transpiring in today’s global economy, I want you to have a head-start on your competition. So, this is what I want you to do. Take a look at your business’s sales process. No matter the size of your business, we can simplify the sales process to just four stages:
- Identify prospects
- Identify potential customer’s problem
- Create the solution
- Close the deal
It’s that simple. When you throw social media into the mix, all you’re doing is spinning the turbines of this process a little faster, simultaneously driving your business’s value engines. But, the beauty about this is that your sales process (the 4 stages above) always remains the same. It’s what you throw into the mix that determines how efficient your sales process will be. Understand this and you’ll already be way ahead of those who haven’t figured out what their sales process is to begin with.
Now tie in some of the following concetto to your sales process:
- If you manage a large company, consider training your employees to use Twitter for customer engagement. You could even encourage microblogging for “internal use only”. Tools like Yammer and Present.ly were created for this purpose and are potential groundbreakers for employees new to microblogging.
- Promote your Twitter profile by displaying it on your blog, email, forum sigs, and social networks that you’re involved in, like LinkedIn for instance.
- Participate in your customers’ conversations. But here’s a caveat. Participate in conversations that have a valuable impact on your business. Otherwise, the noise can be overwhelming. By all means, listen to everything your customers have to say. But participate in those that can lead to gain, whatever that gain might be. Peter Kim recommends some tools to help with filtering the noise from all that tweeting.
- Capitalize on applications that make your use of Twitter much more efficient. Applications like Twittertise, Twittad, Tweet Later and Tweet Pro afford you certain advantages which Twitter on its own doesn’t provide. You can schedule your tweets to be sent on a certain date, advertise on Twitter and brand your communication with these applications. If validating time and effort is of utmost importance to your business, then applications like these are like manna from above.
And by all means, share your Twitter profiles below. You know we can never connect enough. I’ll get the ball rolling by giving you mine: http://twitter.com/kevinsingarayar
P.S. Watch the video above for more Twitter tips.
Update: Brian Solis has just published his latest blog post, Twitter Tools for Community and Communications Professionals. It’s a must read. The best compilation of Twitter tools with commentary I’ve seen to date.