Twitter for business: making it count

by Nick Richards
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The year is 2012 and business has finally jumped on the social media bandwagon. My Facebook wall and Twitter feed now looks like my letterbox before I put my “no junk mail” sign up. Incidentally, that mailbox got stolen – probably by aggrieved junk mailer peddlers.

Businesses are eagerly jumping on Twitter to remain close to customers and we’ve seen a few PR disasters explode in front of us from companies that should know better. Coles, Qantas and Coca Cola have all had glorious trainwrecks unfold in front of millions on the web –  but why? With the immense resources and expertise at their disposal, they would be running the smoothest, most effective Twitter campaigns of all timenot the marketing equivalent of trying to ask out the girl you like in Grade 8.

The main reason this is happening is that the game has changed. Marketing is no longer about coming up with the brightest, loudest or funniest thing in an animated cube and playing it in front of millions of people until they accidentally call their lover “Coca Cola”. It’s no longer a one-way street: consumers now have a link back to companies and can comment. Giving a company a Twitter account doesn’t give it personality and rapport with customers any more than putting a vending machine in a pub is going to make punters think it’s a real person. The key to business being effective on Twitter is make it personified, not corporatised.

The next step in the process of making a business completely integrated in the online world is to give your staff a voice. Chances are your staff actually have pretty interesting day jobs and probably meet interesting people. It’s also rather likely that they’re personally interested in the area where the business operates. Instead of creating an awkward corporate Twitter page, some organisations are giving their staff company Twitter accounts.

JB Hi-Fi is a great example of Twitter done right. JB have given all of their floor staff and management Twitter accounts where they can tweet about whatever they like and grow their follower base. Generally, most JB staff are into tech, so they act as advertisers, advocates and advisors all while writing about what they’re into. They can put specials or ads up if they like, but there’s no obligation. The company now has hundreds of advocates, with thousands of followers all interacting with potential customers in contrast to one account bombarding the internet with ads.

Although there is a risk of a rogue employee doing the brand damage, it isn’t really greater than with any other media source. The policy can be put in place in line with phone, email and general behaviour, with consequences for breaches. Just as if someone sends an abusive company email, any Twitter shenanigans can result in termination. It’s an exciting and scary time for companies trying to brave the social media frontier. Everyone is attempting strategies – some of which are working well and some are crashing spectacularly.

The crux of an online presence is personality. Due to the two-way nature of social media, it is no longer going to be about a faceless brand screaming a message across the world. Consumers want touch, banter and engagement. If the company doesn’t deliver, the internet trolls will always have the last say.

by Nick Richards
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