Twitter, for members of my family and those other 4 people that read blogs and have not yet discovered it, is a microblogging service that has just hit the main stream media. By definition it is therefore passé, but in the meantime we may as well use it well.
Examples: How not to twitter.
@NZStuff (sorry) sends through groups of news, either at 530am or during the day. The 530am news is from when the news is posted to the Stuff.co.nz website in an overnight process. The news sits unreleased until the morning so that the newspapers are not scooped. I don’t agree with this approach as to me news fails to be news when I can read it somewhere else first.
The ones during the day are the ‘most popular’ (I think), and also released by a bot (I think). By definition they are already out of date when they are tweeted, and almost by definition the audience of active twitterers will have already read them.
Rather than @nzstuff’s automatically redundant articles, instead follow @NZStuffEditor, who is not very prolific but at least sends out news that is timely – and timeliness is a vital component of the definition of “news”.
Examples: How to Twitter
While the Wall Street Journal (@wsj) also twitters articles, it does so very rarely in groups of three, and most often the tweets are through the day. Almost invariably their tweets are before anybody else’s, and are therefore news in the truest sense. @NYTimes is not quite as quick, and will sometimes deliver in clumps, but they tend to beat the local alternatives and like the WSJ also link to longer articles on interesting and topical things.
What all so far are missing is the human element.
I’d really like to see @NZStuff reply to people’s twitters, and to give a bit of extra juice that we don’t get from the website. Stuff and others need to remember that their customers are not just people that read the news, but people that evanglise their services and want some inside scoop, people that want to send them news (but need to know it will be looked at) and, most of all in these times, people that are thinking about buying advertising,
Rather surprisingly the best corporations at Twittering in New Zealand are the telcos. I’ve had conversations in public and private with @TelecomNZ, @VodafoneNZ and ISP @orcon. They reach out to customers and help them – often walking down to the customer service folk and asking them to resolve an issue. Indeed they have each helped solve (or at least help me understand) a personal customer service issue, and their corporate reputations with me are all a lot better for it. Here they are earlier today each helping someone out:
I’d like to see them extend this beyond the corporate communication people – especially to Customer Service and also to the real tech-heads.
Trade Me has unleashed a few people – with twitter names like TradeMe_Ross , TradeMe_Jay, TradeMe_Jobs along with Trademe_NZ and Travelbug. The latter has a combination of background tweets and specials. Kudos for this topical tweet:
This stream from TradeMe_Jay is an exemplary example of how Twitter can extend your corporate PR reach well beyond what a PR team can do. In four tweets Jay helps a member (and ex Trade Me employee admittedly), personalizes the continuous development work that Trade Me does and links to an ‘expose’ video that most corporations would cringe to see appear on YouTube.
However Trade Me’s main twitter account is dormant, and we have yet to see Motors, Property or Customer Service make an appearance.
Google allows their staff (it seems) to twitter as they like – here’s Webstock speaker Pamela Fox announcing the release of Google’s new analytics Data Export API – something that I think has tremendous potential to change the advertising scene in NZ and elsewhere.
I’ll point to @powershop and @lingopal as two other examples, but to be fair I am involved as a supplier to the first and shareholder with the second. That shouldn’t stop you following them though :-).
Enough of the examples – what should you do if you are thinking of twittering?
How to take advantage of Twitter
The real power of Twitter is the 1-1 interactions, and yet there are only so many people that sit in corporate relations units. Moreover their job should not be to look after every tech nerd’s customer complaint, nor to understand every bizarre happening on the internet.
To me a great corporation would have three things on Twitter:
- A corporate voice – run by the corporate relations unit and staffed by a person. They would tweet press releases, reply to tweets that discuss the bigger picture (investor, employee relations, big stories) and generally have a slower beat but positive and official response.
- An active Customer Service voice – this would be staffed 24/7 but owned overall by a single person. That means that while a number of people will answer the tweets, the owner would make sure that there is consistency, speed and humanity behind it. The CS twitterer would continuously search for good and bad experiences from the organisation’s products and give thanks or help accordingly. They are the front line and so would have a very quick response time. They would deal with problems in public, take them to Twitter direct messages and ultimately call the customer directly.
- Unleashed individuals. Great companies would unleash everybody inside their organization to tweet about what they are doing, engage in conversations and show a genuine human face (warts and all) to the company’s customers and the public.This last one is scary.
However if you are concerned that some employees will somehow destroy your company and brand then perhaps instead you need to do some serous internal navel gazing – and ask yourself “why would they do that?”. Even if some employees do tweet negative things, then see it as a fine way to take the pulse of your staff – and also fix the underlying problems.
While I would put in place simple guidelines, most of those would already be in any employee contract. The main things not to tweet would be things like investor-level commercially sensitive information, competitively sensitive pricing and Apple product development news.
The progress made by the companies above is pleasing – and I hope we will see more of this as the use of Twitter and other tools expands.