Much Ado About Twitter. And Why Everyone Needs to Calm Down

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So Advertising Age is all over agencies today for their use (or lack thereof) of Twitter. A destined to be classic quote from a Euro RSCG spokesperson reads, "We're developing our Twitter strategy and in the meantime want to hold onto the name. It's a Catch-22: You don't want your Twitter handle stolen, but you also don't want to start using it before you're really ready."

On the one hand, all well and good. No one wants to make a fool of themselves. On the other hand, this is not rocket science. Certainly it's easier for a random individual to join Twitter and use it any way they see fit. That, however, is not entirely the case for a brand, an agency or an agency representing a brand.

While the wonderful world of social media is, as everyone insists, supposed to be one gigantic, happy conversation, brands, because they are more than one person, need an agreed upon approach to using the medium. But that doesn't mean they have to over engineer it or have every last detail of that "strategy" in place before they dip their toe.

Why? Because you can't develop a "strategy" unless you know the medium and you can't know the medium unless you use it. Yes, it is a bit of a Catch-22 but the Catch-22, itself, is a Catch-22.

Twitter's biggest downfall is the question it asks, "What are you doing?" (now, "What's happening?") It's what prompts all the "just sat down on the toilet and realized there was no toilet paper" crap that turns away those who have yet to convert to Twitolicism - or to at least give it a chance - before labeling believers freaks akin to Tom Cruise hyping Scientology.

There is much Twitter can bring to individuals and brands. Though it is most certainly not the social (or any) media panacea many like to believe it to be. It is but one small element of a well thought out marketing strategy. As has always been the case, a thoughtful use of several different channels (hate that word) is always better than getting overly hyped about the latest medium du jour.

So what's an agency or a brand to do when an army of so-called "social media strategists" begin to scream, "MUST. BE. ON. TWITTER?" Easy. Use common sense and an analogy we've thrown out since, well, forever. Think of it as a cocktail party (though not one where you're the idiot drunk making a fool of yourself, of course).

Why a cocktail party? Think of cocktail party behavior:

1. You are usually on your best behavior. If not, you are avoided (unfollowed).

2. You are aware of those you know and those you don't (those you follow, those you don't).

3. You move from conversation circle to conversation circle joining and leaving various topics of discussions (@ing people, DMing people).

4. When in those conversations, you add your thoughts and commentary based on what others in the group have said. So, there is a bit of listening before you stand up and shout some sort of idiocy like "Adrants is the biggest ad blog in the world!" (Avoid the overuse of the self-serving "broadcast tweet").

5. When you introduce yourself (or get introduced) to a new person, you exchange pleasantries, ask a few identifying questions, seek a common ground and if things click, the conversation expands to include topics of interest to both people. If not, you move along to another person or conversation circle (decide who to follow, which keywords to monitor).

6. Out of the conversations that do click, relationships may form that lead to future activities together either on a personal level or on a business level.

It's really that simple. Twitter, and all so-called social media, is about the development of relationships. And we don't mean the icky, gooey, touchy feely kind of relationship. Just a functionally-defined, mutually-beneficial co-existence that benefits both parties. The kind that results in the exchange of information both (and all observers) can put to good use.

Don't over-engineer it. It's really not that big a deal.

Twitter is a unique combination of blogging, chat, IM, file sharing, SMS and a whole host of other forms of communication. It's not surprising many people have a tough time defining it and giving it a try. But one thing is for sure. If you don't use it, you will never understand it. So for those sitting on the sidelines developing a Twitter strategy, you might as well resign yourself to permanent bench warmer status.

by Steve Hall    Jul- 7-09   Click to Comment   
Topic: Opinion, Social   

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