This is one of those hissy fit posts I sometimes write in frustration when I see my friends at B2B or technology companies struggling with new marketing technologies when they shouldn’t be struggling at all. There isn’t a CEO, COO, CMO et al friend of mine who has not said to me recently; “I don’t get Twitter/ We don’t do Twitter”. URRGGGHHHH!!! This gets me going because using Twitter (or not) should be an informed choice not a result of ignorance. Yet, the lack of Twitter savvy spanning companies of every size, often reflects a lack of marketing leadership from internal marketing folks and more often than not, the agencies that serve them. Sorry – agency people, but nearly all of my corporate side colleagues express a near universal lack of confidence in their agency’s depth in newer marketing tactics.
So, here my dear friends who are CEOs, COOs, CMO, CIOs, CTOs and directors of companies of all sorts, is the definitive guide to why Twitter matters for B2B and technology businesses. Feel free to share it with your agencies – gratis.
A deeper dive – who really uses Twitter anyway?
First it helps to put Twitter usage in perspective. A recent report from Edison Research gives us an excellent reference point (here is a PDF – http://trenchwars.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/twitter_usage_in_america_2010.pdf )
Most importantly, it helps to understand that, despite the hyper buzz, at most only about 7% of US population actually uses Twitter despite an astonishing, almost universal 85% level of awareness.
So who are these “7%’ers”? IMHO it happens to be those people who pushed Twitter into the face of “Judy Consumer” with such success – the media/ marketing/ PR world. These folks love Twitter because it is a digital, communal bulletin board, water cooler and late night hangout all in one place. It’s an efficient amalgam of interesting stuff, useless stuff, ego stuff and occasionally a real gem, like a source for a story. Hence media’s love affair with Twitter and the correspondingly high awareness among the Judy Consumers out there.
Now that we have framed the Twitter picture correctly and hung it on the wall, it’s time to make practical use of it in our marketing decorating scheme.
The secret of Twitter for B2B and technology companies.
At the most basic level, Twitter is mainly about;
1) Listening to what’s going on
2) Connecting with specific reporters, stakeholders and influencers and
3) Broadcasting to a large following
Let’s break this out in more detail (and for you impatient CEO friends of mine – I used as many bullets as I could for quick scanning
Why do it?
In this mode, Twitter offers three excellent strategic advantages:
- It is one of the best research/ early warning brand monitoring systems on the planet. With Twitter, you’ll learn of gathering negative corporate sentiment storms before they become too big or too hot to handle.
- It provides you with an easy way to identify key stakeholders for your brand within the industry, media and regulatory groups.
- Finally, if you become astute at listening, you can learn the hottest trending topics that can provide powerful platforms for your branding and any Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns/ programs you have in mind (more on this later).
How to execute:
- I’ll start with a “don’t”. Don’t just follow people who follow you otherwise you will have too much noise. Be very judicious in who you follow.
- To know who to follow at first, spend a week identifying well respected people, analysts, thought leaders who publish in leading trade journals and follow them. An agency can help you identify important tweeters in your space, but supplement that with your own research.
- At this stage, focus on quality of information not on quantity of who you follow or gathering Twitter followers. Also, at this stage, do not try and outreach. Give yourself time to get accustomed to the character of the Twitter-sphere.
Who should do it:
Set it up so that everyone in the company follows the same key people for a consistent flow of information. Specifically, though, here is who should be “listening in”:
- Everyone in the “C” suite:
- I hear you, my C level friends kvetching that you don’t have time. Nonsense. To check Twitter every day is at most a 15 minutes task spread through the day. The rewards can be tremendous as it can be amazingly energizing and motivating – like a decadent chocolate treat at 3:00 in the afternoon.
- Every marketing person in the company
- Key people at the agency.
Best used with:
Nothing in marketing should live in isolation and Twitter is no exception. For the listening side of the Twitter value equation, this is best used as part of the strategic process that determines corporate messaging platforms, as in for example, a corporate social responsibility program. This provides a powerful “real time” voice in the internal strategic corporate brand tracking processes.
Why do it?
Simply, Twitter gives you direct access to media and industry thought leaders: Think of Twitter as an extension of your PR machine since you get unmediated access to many reporters that are important to you. Focus on identifying analysts, trade journals and event organizers that are the gatekeeper for what the industry sees. You want to know what these folks think about.
How to execute Twitter for media/ industry outreach:
Strategically, it is wise to remember that Twitter provides the “public” with a very probing view into your company. I suggest you confine the connecting part of Twitter to people who have both intelligence and sensitivity to recognize that their personal brand will get attached to the corporate brand. It is something not easily outsourced to an agency TBH.
It’s therefore best to set up a formal program and a great example is Robert Scoble of Rackspace. He is one arguably one of the most respected tech Twitterers out there, yet his work is supportive of the Rackspace brand. The point is pick a person/ people with the temperament, passion and intelligence to do you proud.
Once your Twitter Dream team is in place, tactically, here’s how you do media outreach on the Twit-o-sphere. Respect the fact that Twitterers are etiquette sensitive so you want to give yourself time to learn the courtesies:
- Start by simply retweeting the articles of these influencers that interest you. Be sure you actually look at what you are retweeting and that it is of high quality. What you retweet reflects what interests YOU, so please please don’t just retweet something from important people you follow without looking at it first. If you like, the retweet can have a brief personal comment just to add a bit interest.
- After you get a feel, then directly respond to the tweets of key influencers with a thank you for sharing something interesting or a comment on their observation. You can even disagree with the Tweeter, but always keep the karma positive and always include their Tweet handle via the @ sign. Twitterers hate rudeness or snarky for the sake to impress. Keep it honest, simple and direct. BTW -don’t expect anyone to answer or acknowledge you. Just keep at it, over time it will pay off.
- Once you gain some confidence (and that is key), you are now in a position to use Twitter to promote your own agenda using the platform of these contacts. This is the real payoff and it works like this.From your listening stage, you may have identified a powerful positioning platform I call the “ignition point”. Then:
- Have a blog or article written about the ignition point.
- Then create a google search alert on the topic and/ or the people within the field who cover the topic.
- When an article comes up (and it won’t take long if you “listened well”), then comment on the article at the article’s website and point back to your article.
- Once you have commented, then tweet about the article and include a link to the article – not to your blog. Why? Because people are more likely to discover your article if it is introduced on a well known website rather than a directed link in a Twitter update you post.
Quality content and ideas will attract attention and recognition. Not every platform will work – but over time, you will have a consistent engine for getting your ideas out into the marketplace.
Who should do it?
I will start by suggesting who should NOT do it — an agency should not do this unless they are totally immersed in your business. Period. Otherwise, pick a trusted communicator within the business. They can be in any department: product management, technology, marketing – doesn’t matter as long as they have your trust.
Best used with:
Combining this aspect of Twitter with LinkedIn rocks. Specifically, you want to join LinkedIn Groups from media/ industry thought leaders and you should also start your own LinkedIn group where white papers, company news and updates can be shared. Continue to post/ share (they can be linked so it is easy to do once) regularly.
This one is easy because IMHO, as a B2B or technology company you need not worry about the broadcasting aspect of Twitter. Honest. The broadcast aspect of Twitter works best if you are a B2C company where you can REGULARLY pump out promo’s which is how you will build your Twitter following. Otherwise, it really is a waste of effort because in the B2B world, it’s not about scatter broadcasting but narrow casting in your segment. It’s better to have 600 well placed followers then 600,000 “whoever”. I know having a big Twitter following feels good – but that’s not a good enough reason to spend time building it. The only possible exception to this rule is if you are B2B company hell bent on becoming heavy duty content producer. If not, believe me when I tell you it is a waste of energy.
There you have it – the why and how of Twitter for business. But probably the uber power secret of Twitter is this — simply to show up every single day. Consistency pays off in dividends – but don’t despair because it will take months of steady, deliberate practice. But patience and persistence will pay off.
Now dear friends that you understand Twitter, let’s use this power for good – please.