Twit or Tweet

The June 15th cover of Time Magazine showed us all an iPhone with a Twitter Tweet from journalist Steven B. Johnson that read, “Twitter is changing the way we live-and showing us the future of innovation.”  But what does the future hold in store for us, business, and Twitter?  My guess is that unless some of the rules about “Tweets”, the text messages that user send out to their “followers” change, the future of Twitter for business is questionable.

During the research for my book, The Social Media Bible, by John Wiley & Sons, I had an amazing half hour conversation with Biz Stone, the cofounder of Twitter about why he invented Twitter and how Twitter is being used for business.  I learned a lot about the technology, its applications, and how Twitter really has changed the world of communication, news reporting, and business marketing ROI using free Tweets.  You can click to listen to our conversation.

In Chapter 15 – Thumbs Up For Microblogging, I referenced a Wall Street Journal article by Shira Ovide, about the miraculous landing of the U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River, “Twittering the USAirways Plane Crash” that showed how Twitter has already changed the face of journalism. “Notch another win for citizen journalism.  Janis Krums, a guy with a camera and a penchant for social media tools, posted one of the first and most remarkable photos today of US Airways Flight 1549 after it crash-landed in the Hudson River.” Twitter has changed journalism.

In my keynotes and consulting I am always asked “So, where’s the ROI (Rate Of Return On Investment) with social media?  If I put in ‘X’, what can I expect the ‘Y’ I get back?”  My response is, social media is very similar to conventional media it’s more of a long-term strategy, it builds brand recognition, it builds a following, it builds trust, and the tools are free.  While these outcomes are very desirable for all companies, they are at the same time intangible and often difficult to measure.

Like other conventional media, there are ways to test the ROI of social media; one of which is to embed a unique tracking code.  One of my favorite examples of social media ROI is Gary Vanerchuk, a Jersey boy with an uncommon grasp of social media marketing.

Gary “V” as he is known, performed a very interesting test on Twitter to measure its ROI, and the outcome was so astounding that it made the pages of The New York Times,  Here’s an excerpt from that article, “…seeking to enhance sales, he offered free shipping and promoted it three ways. As a result, he said, a direct marketing mailing cost $15,000 and brought in 200 new customers; a billboard ad cost $7,500 and won 300 new customers; and tweeting the promotion on Twitter attracted 1,800 new customers.” To listen to my conversation with Gary “V”, click  Twitter has changed marketing.

So, does Twitter have a down side?  Unfortunately it can; too much noise in the form of minutia and SPAM.  Unless you understand how to use Twitter and have an effective business strategy, Twitter can become a useless time vampire!

Besides breaking news, there are primarily two uses for Twitter, personal and business updates.  Time and again I hear business people complaining about the Tweets they receive from people they are following discussing the minutia of their mundane daily lives, such as; “Sitting in the airport waiting to board the plane”, or “I had bacon with my eggs this morning.” or “Going to bed now.”  Yikes!  What do I care about that!dunce

You might care.  If you are using Twitter for business, don’t subscribe to friends and family and expect to see extraordinary industry insights.  Most Twitter users who are expecting off-the-charts ROI from Tweets and read personal noise thinks that all Twitterers are Twits!  The Merriam – Webster dictionary defines a “twit” as “a silly annoying person”.  There is a place in the Twittersphere for these types of Twit Tweets.

If you use Twitter to follow your family and friends, this otherwise useless information can be fun updates from the people you care about.  A few months back, my brother ED who lives in Denver sent out one of his first Tweets, “Having Lunch With Singer / Songwriter Michael Murphy (Wildfire).  When I saw that I thought, cool!  Michael Murphy, Wildfire, my bro, so that what he’s doing right now this very second…  COOL!

This might be annoying and useless to his business followers expecting business insights about auto dealerships and car sales, but it was cool to me.  Hence, Twitter’s moniker “What Are You Doing?”  Not “What valuable business take-aways can you delivery to me right now?”

This leads to the use of personas.  Just as you use a different persona with your family, your mom, your business colleagues, your boss, and your buddies, you can also create different personas in all of your social networking accounts.  In Twitter, simply create one account that you use to Tweet about your bacon, your kitty, and your new shoes.  Create another account to Tweet what you did to win a new account, what your just learned at a conference you’re attending, or an prophetic epiphany from that new 3-pound social media book you’re reading.

If you create different personas are you guaranteed Twitter Nirvana?  Well, not so much.  We are once again cursed with SPAM, Twitter SPAM, or what I’ll call, Spitter.  We’ve all gotten them.  It’s seems lately every time you follow someone new, you get Spitter…  Recognize any of these “Welcome Tweets”:

  • “Thanks for the following! Are you interested in dramatically increasing your followers? – for free! Click here: http://etc.
  • “Don’t miss the easiest way to have BUYERS join your email list thru Twitter…. http://etc. Retweet PLZ”
  • “Thanks for the follow, Generate Huge Piles of Cash at Will Using Twitter! http://etc.”
  • “GUARANTEED Commissions of at Least $125 Within 24 Hours of Starting Your FREE Advertising! http://etc.”
  • “Thanks~Yeah~ Let’s trade Tweets! if you’re open here’s a treat- the best 100% FREE PPC Training EVER: http://etc.”
  • “How I Bought a Brand New $1.2 Million Home Using ONLY Aff Commissions Earned While I Was Unemployed. http://etc.”
  • “Hi and thanks for the follow. I would like to share this fantastic opportunity with you… http://etc.”
  • “Earn Up To $3250 In Your SPARE TIME A Week!! You Make Money Right Away It’s Awesome!! http://etc.”
  • “Affiliate Program Make between $62.10 to $804.60 per sale! http://etc.”

These Spitters are all real and ones I received while I wrote this blog.

Throughout the rest of social media and social networking there is a social repercussion of spamming or going all commercial on a network; it’s called “flaming”.  You get flamed or reprimanded for misusing the network and violating the members trust.  The purists agree, social networks are about building community, contacts, and trust.  Spamming does none of that.

Unfortunately, flaming someone on Twitter isn’t effective and there really aren’t any spam filters for Twitter as of yet.  There is; however, one effective way not to receive that persons spam again, unfollow or block them.  Unfortunately, this also requires additional time to manage and sort out all of your “true” followers from the many Spitters.  Although I continuously applaud the fact that most every social media tool is “free”, all of the tools do required an expenditure, you need to spend time to make the most out of every tool. If you want to use social media and Twitter effectively, I recommend that you spend more time on developing a sound business social media strategy rather than developing a large useless base of followers.

Lon Safko – Author of The Social Media Bible

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