How To Restructure Your Marketing Around Twitter

by Kevin Singarayar on October 30, 2008

in Business Strategy,Social Media

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. 

Trans­parency.

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:

  1. Lis­ten and learn
  2. Pub­lish valu­able news and information
  3. Dis­trib­ute promotions
  4. Cre­ate or extend your brand personality
  5. 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:

  1. Iden­tify prospects
  2. Iden­tify poten­tial customer’s problem
  3. Cre­ate the solution
  4. 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, Twit­tadTweet 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.

Footnotes:
  1. Brave New World of Dig­i­tal Inti­macy []
  2. Authen­tic­ity in the Age of Its Tech­no­log­i­cal Repro­ducibil­ity []
  3. Get­ting Inti­mate With Cus­tomers on Twit­ter []

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcel LeBrun October 30, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Great comprehensive overview of Twitter and its value for businesses. Thanks for mentioning Radian6 – we always appreciate that. Twitter is an interesting thing, because the value isn’t immediately obvious, but once companies figure it out the benefits are tremendous.
Marcel

Kevin Singarayar October 30, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Thank you for taking the time to comment Marcel. I truly appreciate the feedback. And if companies aren’t using Radian6 for their social media needs, they’re truly missing out on the secret sauce.

Ari Herzog October 31, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Useful stuff here, though I’d suggest not to overburden people and organizations with version numbers. Forget about Web 2.0 and Selling 2.0 and everything else 2.0; for the moment you mention it, a hand will raise and a voice will ask, “What is 1.0 and why do 2.0 if there will be a 3.0?”

I call the web just what it is: the web. People seem to get that.

Kevin Singarayar October 31, 2008 at 6:26 pm

Thanks for stopping by Ari.

Point noted about version numbers. Personally, I have no problems with it, though I see your point about how it can get confounding for the uninitiated.

However, I can understand why the digerati would want classifications of the Web. A look at Tim O’ Reilly’s writings can be enlightening, like this article he wrote in 2005 for example:

http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

What I do take issue with is when it is used out of context and that’s where it gets out of hand. Used in context however, I think version numbers adds some semblance of comprehension as we cross each stage of the Web’s evolution. It’s very much like how scientists have named each stage of the human evolutionary process, or stages of the formation of planets. Only, we are simplifying it with numbers.

But as you mentioned, the average online shopper won’t be losing sleep over these classifications. It’s just not worth their time to grapple with such gobbledegook. If this is your target market, calling the Web, the Web, is perfect.

Robin Good November 2, 2008 at 10:39 am

hi Kevin,
first time I am reading you and I must compliment you for the quality post here above. Focused, conversational, direct, easy to read, rich in references and examples. I couldn’t ask for more.

My only perplexity remains with the equation that makes someone following a huge number of people a better listener than someone who listens to a smaller but highly selected circle. I resist strongly that idea that the more people you listen to the more knowledgeable or aware you become of what is happening. I think it is in the “variety” and not in the “number” the real juice.

If would ever consider doing a guest post on social media, with the value you have been placing in this one, consider yourself invited to MasterNewMedia.

Keep it uP!

Kevin Singarayar November 2, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Thank you Robin for such kind words and may I say, it is my utmost pleasure to have you here, sharing your thoughts.

I absolutely concur with you that a person following a larger group of people does not necessarily make him or her, a better listener, or the wiser. The “real juice” of the conversation as you correctly pointed out comes down to the “variety” of people involved. Absolutely! And this can occur in a setting of 1 to 1, 1 to many, or many to many.

In my example about Guy Kawasaki, I guess what I was trying to drive across was more from a marketer’s standpoint. Particularly towards connecting with customers. Where every customer, or potential customer – whether they demand the attention or not – deserves it. And Guy is able to pull this off with the help of social media tools like Twitter.

However, I am absolutely certain that if we are to use Dunbar’s number, then Guy’s interaction with the people he follows is reduced to merely satisfying the needs of customers, and not so much, the solidification of relationships. The metamorphosis I mentioned in the post I believe, will still continue to occur, but it will be experienced more on the part by the people Guy interacts with, rather than by Guy himself.

And talking about metamorphosis, having you share your thoughts on my blog has altered the dynamics and made me an even bigger admirer. I have been an avid follower of your work for some time, but now, I’m a Robin Good groupie! Which leads me to your offer, it’s a fantastic opportunity that I simply cannot refuse.

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