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10 Twitter Best Practices for Brands

24 06 2009 – Michael Brito is a social media strategist and community builder at Intel. You can catch him writing in his social media blog, Twitter or Facebook at all hours of the day/night. These are his thoughts and opinions and do not reflect that of his employer.

image Having a Twitter profile doesn’t mean you’re a social media master, but it is a great tool for conversations, building community and finding the latest industry news. That’s why Hollywood is on Twitter, athletes are on Twitter, your competitors are on Twitter, and hopefully you are on Twitter too.

But for brands, there’s an art to using Twitter, and the most successful at it follow an unwritten set of rules. The following are 10 important practices for brands to follow on Twitter; these are lessons that I have learned while working in the enterprise.


1. Do your research before engaging customers


Know how your customers use Twitter. It takes only a minute to go to Twitter Search and find out if there are any conversations happening about your brand, product, service or industry. Know what your customers are saying about you.

If your search yields zero results, don’t worry: there may still be an opportunity for you and your brand to establish a presence and start a conversation on the service. However, Twitter may or may not be the right tool for you to engage your consumers.


2. Determine organizational goals


Not all brands utilize Twitter in the same way. Some, like @ComcastCares, use Twitter to provide customers with support. Other branded Twitter accounts, such as @DellOutlet, have utilized the service to sell products.

It’s important to think about what you are trying to achieve using Twitter before devoting your time and resources to it. You’re likely to get more out of it that way.


3. Utilize either a branded or personal profile


You have two options: you can either use a branded profile with your company’s logo, or you can opt to create a more personal profile that unites your own personal brand with that of the company.

If employees are using Twitter to primarily engage with people on behalf of the company, they should have a branded profile. A branded profile is one that clearly identifies the user as an employee of the company; usually through a username (i.e. @Intel_Eric, @synopsys_roy, @MelfromSymantec, @AMDOpteronPhil, @RichardatDELL to name a few) or has a branded background picture and bio.

amdopteronphil twitter image

Whichever option you choose, there has to be a level of balance. Branded profiles are great for certain things – for example, industry news, contests, investor relations, etc. Personal profiles are more beneficial if your organization wants to leverage the employee’s personal micro-community or wants to have a more human presence.


4. Build your Twitter equity and credibility


To be a successful brand on Twitter, you have to build credibility and equity. That doesn’t necessarily refer to the number of followers, tweets, or retweets you may have, although these are important factors. Rather, it’s more about developing a reputation as a trusted source of information or being seen as an expert in a particular subject.

You won’t succeed in building your Twitter equity by pushing out one way marketing messages about your product. Instead ask questions, be personal, and engage people naturally within the Twitter community. Otherwise, customers won’t listen to what you have to say.

I usually follow the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of my tweets are conversational and personal, 20 percent are about the company I work for. I’ve found that this has really helped build customer engagement and link click-through rates.


5. Track metrics and conversation trends


richardatdell twitter imageAny enterprise or medium sized business should invest in a paid tracking service like Radian6 or Nielsen to better track Twitter conversations, identify trends, measure sentiment, and to get a quantifiable picture of what is going on in the social web.

One metric you absolutely must track: how much money Twitter has saved your brand. How many issues did you solve, leads did you create, and dollars did you save through Twitter engagement versus traditional resources?

If your goal is to handle customer support issues via Twitter, it’s wise to check if there is any decrease in the call volume to your support center. And if you are selling products via Twitter (as Dell is doing), you should of course measure your sales via that channel.


6. Don’t go overboard; less structure is better


Your Twitter use can appear disingenuous and inhuman if you’re too structured with your approach, to the point where your community may be turned off. Treat your Twitter relationships the same way you would any other relationship. Honestly, how much planning or structure is needed before spending the evening out with friends?

Your Twitter experience will change and evolve over time, because the community that follows you will help shape what you say and how you respond. Remember to always use the 80/20 rule, but be flexible with your approach.

I’m not saying that you should let your employees run wild on Twitter, though. Planning, training, coordination and integration with social tools is imperative — just don’t go overboard and create a social media policy that is too restrictive.


7. Listen and observe before engaging


Don’t just start tweeting assuming that the Twitter community is going to accept you with open arms. It’s important that you spend some time just listening and observing the behavior of those who are talking about you or your company. Understand how your customers behave and adjust accordingly.

You don’t have to follow everyone that mentions your company to listen in on the conversation. In fact, this may irritate some people. Instead, when you’re ready to start answering questions, @reply them. In my experience, nine times out of ten, they’ll end up following you. Let the relationship grow from there.


8. Be authentic & believable


Authenticity is the golden rule in social media. We’ve known this for years, but there is another, related rule that is just as important: you and your brand need to be believable. This means spending time listening to your community, observing it, and learning about the dynamics of that community.

Your will become believable only after you have established trust among those in your community. Because I am trusted by my followers, if I tweet that my new netbook is amazing and fits my mobile lifestyle, people will believe me and perhaps even buy one (it is amazing, by the way).


9. Track, measure, and iterate


If there’s one thing that bugs me about working in the corporate environment, it’s the amount of time needed to execute. Sometimes it’s better just to launch a product or initiative, track it, measure the results and then iterate.

I learned this concept working at Yahoo for Mike Speiser, who was the VP of Community Products (and founded ePinions and Bix). This was his philosophy at Yahoo, and it worked, especially in the competitive landscape of social networks.

The great thing about the social web is that it’s not difficult to track the results of Twitter engagement, assuming you have determined what your organization’s goals are. It’s even easier to change course if you find that your efforts aren’t working according to plan.


10. Don’t just strategize: execute!


meeting imageMultiple daily conference calls are the norm in corporate America. Strategy sessions and meetings to plan strategy sessions are also constants. While this may be fine when planning a new product launch or corporate initiative, it is the wrong approach to using Twitter.

We spend too much time strategizing with little to no execution. When you have too many ideas and not enough people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done, you are going to find yourself late to the game. Or, in the case of Twitter, late to the conversation.

By spending too much time trying to think of the best strategy, you are going to miss priceless opportunities to fix problems, answer questions, turn sour situations around, and create brand affinity with customers. With Twitter your mantra should be: just get out there and try it.

Source: mashable.com

EU: Wants Tighter Privacy on Social Networks

24 06 2009 – Are social networks such as Facebook and MySpace doing enough to protect their users’ privacy? In the European Union, they might need to do more. A panel of European regulators has laid out operating guidelines for social networks, which will ensure their compliance with strict – albeit sometimes vague – online privacy laws in the European Union.

image These laws mostly stem from the European Union Directive on Data Protection of 1995, which, among other regulations, prohibits collection of personal information without consumers’ permission, forbids employers to read workers’ private e-mail, and doesn’t allow companies to share personal information on users without their permission.

However, according to data-privacy lawyer Jan Dhont at Lorenz in Brussels, these regulations aren’t always very clear. For example, the companies that collect personal information must use it for “legitimate purposes,” which can be interpreted in many different ways.

Nevertheless, the guidelines that were laid out will require quite a bit of effort from sites such as Facebook and MySpace, who cannot neglect their European user base and will therefore surely at least try to comply to avoid clashing with the EU regulators.

According to the guidelines, social networks must set security settings to high by default; they must allow users to limit data disclosed to third parties, and they must limit the use of sensitive information (race, religion, political views) in behavioral advertising.

Furthermore, social networks must delete accounts that have been inactive for long periods, as well as discard users’ personal information after they delete their accounts; an interesting regulation in view of the recent Facebook scandal, in which Facebook claimed ownership of all the content you’ve ever uploaded even if you quit the service. Facebook later apologized and restored their previous Terms of Service, even letting users be part of the decision process in creating the new ToS. However, it must be noted that even if this sounds like democracy, it’s a frail one, as Facebook still sets up the stage and has the last word on every decision.

It is therefore good that there’s an overseer, looking over our online privacy and security. These latest guidelines from the European Union will definitely make life harder for social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, but will most likely have a positive impact on user privacy in the long run.

You can read the entire set of guidelines created by the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party in PDF format here.

Source: mashable.com

Video: Interview – Scott Goodstein, President & Founder, Revolution Messaging

18 06 2009 – Scott Goodstein, President & Founder, Revolution Messaging talks to Tony Poulos about keynoting at CommunicAsia 2009,

image working on the Obama online campaign and using new communications channels such as social networking sites to communicate personal and corporate messages to a new audience.

 View Video:

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Internet & Democracy study of the Arabic blogosphere

19 06 2009 – In light of what’s happening in Iran at the moment, and the role of social media in connecting people, a new report on the Arabic blogosphere makes for interesting reading.

image While Iran isn’t an Arab country, its location and influence in an area of the world constantly in the news makes the report all the more interesting.

The report, by the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard University analyzed some 35,000 active Arabic language blogs in 18 different countries.

A BBC report nicely summarizes key aspects from the report; highlights that caught my attention include:

  • "We found that the Arabic blogosphere is organised primarily around countries," said John Kelly of Morningside Analytics, which did statistical and network analysis on the project, noting that Egypt formed the largest cluster on the Arabic blogging map. The study also singled out Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Syria as having sizable blogging clusters.
  • "’Blogger,’"said Saad Ibrahim, a Harvard professor and well-known Egyptian dissident, "has become almost a revered term in Egypt. Groups that are otherwise completely disenfranchised, the only outlet for them is online." He noted that many Egyptian bloggers have paid dearly in recent years for voicing their opinions online. Bloggers have been imprisoned, and even tortured by the authorities. But that, Mr. Ibrahim said, has galvanized public opinion even more in the bloggers’ favour.
  • The report identified two large cross-national groups of what the authors call "bridge bloggers." One group is located in the countries of the eastern Mediterranean and frequently blogs in English in addition to, or instead of, Arabic. Another group of bloggers in North Africa does much the same thing, only in French and Arabic.
  • The authors found that Arabic bloggers mostly focus on local politics and local issues, and that, perhaps surprisingly, "the United States is not a dominant political topic in Arabic blogs; neither are the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan."
  • The one political topic that did cut across all the various clusters in the Arabic blogging world, however, was the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular the situation in Gaza. Berkman’s Bruce Etling noted that the authors were also surprised "that there was no cluster around extremism or jihad." In fact, the report notes, "When discussing terrorism, Arab bloggers are overwhelmingly critical of violent extremists."
  • Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi who writes a popular blog called Raed in the Middle, noted that many Iraqis are not blogging at all because the infrastructure in the country remains so bad. And those that are online, Mr. Jarrar said, "tend to participate in private group websites or bulletin boards, not public blogs. And so it’s skewed. It’s all about how gets to have access, who speaks English, and who gets linked to by the Western media."
  • The reports authors, though, did not shy away from criticism. They noted that the study was only designed to analyze publicly accessible blogs, and that it should not be considered a survey of the entire Arabic-speaking world. "We have no idea whether, or to what degree, these attitudes reflect broader public opinion," said Mr Kelly of Morningstar Analytics. Berkman’s Bruce Etling said that the report was just a first step in understanding what’s going on online in the Arabic-speaking world.

Mapping The Arabic Blogosphere: Politics, Culture and Dissent by The Internet and Democracy Project at Harvard University. PDF download.

Arabic blogosphere begins to bloom, BBC News.

Source: socialmediatoday.com

Video: CNN’s Response to #CNNFail

17 06 2009 – On Monday, live on CNN, Rick Sanchez responded to criticism from social media sites that CNN failed to adequately cover the Iranian election situation.

The video has now risen to the top of YouTube’s mysterious “most popular” list (which, unlike the “most viewed” list, uses some hidden algorithm or editorial picks to decide what’s important). Sanchez’s response pieces together CNN’s reports from the weekend to convince critics that CNN’s coverage was more extensive than users on social media sites claimed.

Not all YouTube’s commenters seem convinced, however, with responses including “You cover affairs of politicians 24 hours non-stop and other pop culture nonesense [sic] and this past weekend, you were busy replaying stupid Larry King interviews” and “The CNN Iranian Election Coverage was a joke”. Many argue, however, that CNN International did a good job of covering the events in Iran.

What’s your take? Does CNN make good counterpoints to the social media criticism? Let us know in the comments.

Source: mashable.com

Video: How Cellphones, Twitter, Facebook Can Make History

17 06 2009 – TED, host to some of the most informative talks in technology, released a particularly timely talk today from new media expert and NYU professor Clay Shirky on “How Cellphones, Twitter, Facebook Can Make History”.

image While filmed in May, his points are brought into sharp focus by recent developments in Iran (see #iranelection), as social media tools prove their power to change the world.

Shirky explains: “Media is increasingly less just a source of information; it’s increasingly more a site of co-ordination, because groups that see or hear or watch or listen to something can now gather around and talk to each other as well…members of the former audience can now also be producers and not consumers.”

Source: mashable.com

5 Ways to Share Your Social Media Identity

16 06 2009 – One of the great things about the current web landscape is that the barrier to entry for entrepreneurs to create great new social media sites is very low. Open source, falling hardware and bandwidth costs, and social media itself (which can be used as a viral marketing vehicle), mean that enterprising developers can more easily than ever create amazing new services.

That’s great for consumers because it facilitates a lot of competition that leads to the best possible products. But it also means that most people end up using more than just a couple of social sites. We might use one site for sharing photos, another for sharing videos, and a couple more for sharing links.

The content we create on those sites makes up our social media identity, and as we use more sites, it becomes increasingly difficult to share it all from one place. Yesterday, I received an email from a friend whose signature had links to no less than eight social media profiles. Thankfully, there are better ways to share your social media identity. Below are five sites that offer social media badges you can share and embed.

1. Retaggr

retaggr

Retaggr is a really well put together utility that lets users create a social media profile card, which not only displays links to your other social profiles, but includes a bio, picture, and other vital information. Most impressively, though, profile cards are interactive. Retaggr profile cards have built in widgets that let you display some of your social media content – blog posts, recent photos, tweets, etc. – directly inside your card. That means that not only can the profile cards point people toward all the pieces of your social media identity, but in many cases people can actually view your social media content without having to navigate away from wherever you’ve embedded the card.

Retaggr supports a very large number of websites, is embeddable, and can generate image-based cards for email and forum signatures. The company also operates the Add Me Button, which is a utility that allows users to create a single button linking visitors to all of their social media profiles.


2. Geek Chart

geekchart

Geek Chart offers a unique spin on social media identity sharing. Rather than just make it easy to display links to your various social profiles, Geek Chart puts your social media use in perspective by letting you show exactly where you are most active. The site lets you create a clickable pie chart of your social media profiles that depicts your use of each site over the past 30 days — if you haven’t used a site in 30 days, the chart will not include that profile.

Geek Chart currently supports eight services, including Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Digg. It gets bonus points for allowing users to create a chart without signing up — though you can only embed the chart if you do. Users also get a profile page with a simple lifestream. Here’s one for US President Barack Obama, for example.


3. DuckDuckGo Karma

duckduckgo-karma

The Karma badge from alternative search engine DuckDuckGo is easily the most simple widget on this list. Essentially, Karma only displays social media links for sites that have some sort of ranking system, such as followers, points, or friends. It requires no sign up to create and works with 15 different sites.

DuckDuckGo also offers a Profiles widget, which supports a bunch more sites, but doesn’t display any ranking information. It’s just as easy to create, but perhaps a bit less interesting.

 


4. DandyID

dandyid

If you want a profile badge service that supports that obscure, niche social network you’re active on, then DandyID is likely for you. DandyID offers a profile management service that is perhaps most impressive for the sheer number of services it supports: over 300. Once you’ve added your services – a process made less daunting by DandyID’s clever use of the Google Social Graph API, which finds and suggests your profile links after you’ve added the first couple – the site can generate JavaScript or image-based embeds to share your social profile links more easily, and also gives each user its own profile page, similar to Retaggr.

For developers, DandyID offers an API that lets web site owners push and pull profile and identity graph information, which has led to interesting mashups like this Firefox extension, which can automatically look up social profiles for people as you browse the web.


5. FriendFeed

friendfeed

Of course, being a full featured lifestreaming service and social network in its own right, FriendFeed offers a lot more than just the ability to create and embed social profile information – but they do offer that service, so they deserve a place on this list.

FriendFeed supports 58 social media services, and their embeddable “FriendFeed Badge” widget lets you share links to your profiles on all of them, as well as your activity on FriendFeed (which as you can tell from the screenshot above probably isn’t as much as it should be in my case). One of the great things about FriendFeed’s widget is that you can fully customize the CSS to make it match the look and feel of wherever you plan to embed it. Rival lifestreaming service Profilatic offers a similar badge widget, as do many other lifestreaming services.

Source: mashable.com

How organisations can use Twitter – some ideas

10 06 2009 – How organisations are using Twitter ? The best advice is just to try using Twitter and to see what happens.

As a rapidly growing site, Twitter is changing on a daily basis. New people are joining and using it for new reasons. As such it’s a great environment for brands to experiment and to see what works for them.

And if you are going to experiment, three ways that organisations are using Twitter are as follow:

1. To put a public face on your brand

This is what Ford, Southwest Airlines have done so well. Taking a large brand, that to many has seemed faceless, and putting people centre stage. Using Twitter as a way of putting a face to the brand and providing a route for people to engage. There are many benefits of putting a public face to your brand, overally it provides a personal connection and helps build the emotional relationship with your consumers that can be so useful, especially in the current economic climate.

2. Allowing you to segment and then target different groups

Dell is a great example of how to use social media, and how to experiment with it. It has a large range and variety of Twitter accounts that are used by different people to engage different audiences about different things. Twitter is a great search tool – you can monitor and analyse the different conversations people are having about your brand. Start to understand the segments and the give them different messages using different accounts. The marginal cost of another Twitter account is practically zero and so it’s a great way to engage different people in different ways.

3. Using Twitter as a gateway

The best use of Twitter can be as part of a hub-and-spoke model of social engagement. Use it to engage people in Twitter just as you might engage people in Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other social networks and online communities. Then provide your own site or online community that you can take people to. It is when they are on your own community that you can really work with them, share and discuss ideas with them, get a better understanding of who they are and what they think. And bringing them to your own space makes them feel special. You move from interrupting them where they are doing something else, to providing a direct line to engaging with you.

Source: socialmediatoday.com

Report: Social networking up 83 percent for U.S.

03 06 2009 – The explosion in social networking may be even greater than imagined. The time that people in the U.S. spend on social network sites is up 83 percent from a year ago, according to a report from market researcher Nielsen Online.

Facebook enjoys the top spot among social networks, with people having spent a total of 13.9 billion minutes on the service in April of this year, 700 percent more than in April 2008, Nielsen said. Minutes spent on Twitter soared a whopping 3,712 percent to almost 300 million, versus around 7.8 million from the same month a year ago.

Former top dog MySpace watched its usage drop nearly one-third to around 4.9 billion minutes, from 7.2 billion in April 2008. MySpace still scored the number one spot for online video among the top 10, thanks to its users streaming more than 120 million videos from the site for April of this year.

Top Social Networking Sites

"We have seen some major growth in Facebook during the past year, and a subsequent decline in MySpace," Jon Gibs, Nielsen’s vice president for online media and agency insights, said in a statement. "Twitter has come on the scene in an explosive way perhaps changing the outlook for the entire space."

But the report also offered a cautionary note: the social networking user can be fickle, quickly bouncing from one service to another. "Remember Friendster? Remember when MySpace was an unbeatable force? Neither Facebook nor Twitter are immune," said Gibs. "Consumers have shown that they are willing to pick up their networks and move them to another platform, seemingly at a moment’s notice."

Despite its growth and popularity, Twitter may be especially vulnerable to users who don’t stick around. Another Nielsen report from April found that 60 percent of Twitter users–dubbed Twitter Quitters by the media–abandon their tweets after only one month of use. Only about 30 percent of users on MySpace and Facebook jump ship.

Nielsen Online, part of the Nielsen Company, measures consumer use of online and mobile services and other related media.

Source: cnet.com

Should my company use Facebook, Twitter and social media?

25 05 2009 – If you’ve watched a newscast or the NBA playoffs in the last week, you’ve probably heard references to Facebook or Twitter. Social media has received a lot of coverage lately. Many business owners are asking, “Does my company need to be using social media?” Before we answer that question, let’s examine exactly what social media is.

Simply put, social media is people having conversations online. That’s it. This happens on thousands of sites every day. People talk about everything from environmental issues to what they ate for lunch. At first glance, it can seem overwhelming, but it can actually add tremendous value to your business and provide a hefty return on investment.

From a business standpoint, social media allows you and your company to be involved in these conversations online. Imagine your best sales person at the world’s biggest cocktail party. A good social media team can be just that – they know how to find all the right people in the room, to listen and to sell or simply share information. Sometimes all you need to do is listen and respond when necessary.

For example, I recently had an issue with some computer software. I tweeted my frustration on Twitter. Within an hour or two, I had a competing company offering help via Twitter. I’m now looking into that software for future projects, simply because they were listening.

So, where do you start? It’s important to remember that many of the same rules in traditional media still apply online. You still need to know your customers and public and have a solid marketing and public relations strategy. Twitter and Facebook are hot today, but there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. If you’re selling Medicare services, you aren’t likely to reach your audience via Twitter. But if you are an elected official and you want to rally your constituents behind a piece of legislation, Twitter may be the perfect tool for keeping them informed, minute by minute.

It may surprise you to know that the top demographic for Twitter is men age 45 to 54. Looking to reach a younger demographic? Dig deeper to find exactly where they live online. They may be Facebook addicts, gamers or spend all their time finding new music at imeem. Or, you may have an audience that prefers e-mail.

In fact, a recent survey by Forrester Research reported that the most trusted online information source among respondents was an e-mail from someone they know. The second most trusted source was online consumer product reviews. Not far behind at number three were search results via a service like Google. While e-mails and search results aren’t nearly as sexy as Twitter, they work and they are incredibly important. Some companies jump the gun and forget the basics. E-mail is a basic social media tool for reaching customers or other publics, and it’s a great place to start and get your feet wet.

It may also be important for your company to simply post well-organized information online, with the ability for visitors to leave feedback or ask questions.

It does your company no good to dive into social media without a solid strategy, with goals, guidelines and tactics. What is your ultimate goal? How are you going to achieve it? Who is going to run it? How are you going to respond to negative feedback? Do you have a crisis plan in place? These are all important questions to ask, and it’s important to find the right people help you navigate social media. In your search for social media experts, keep in mind that individuals and organizations that are already using social media will have a great head start over those that are not.

Back to the original question: Does my company need to be using social media? The answer is yes, in some way. Don’t think of social media as something reserved for the technophiles. The question could just as well be “Does my company need to be at the world’s biggest cocktail party filled with prospects?” I think the response for every company would be a resounding “Yes,” with the right salesperson in place and a strategy to come away from the party with more than a good buzz.

Source: fwbusinesspress.com