In our first class of MI621 we learned about a woman who was in one of those “stuck in a plane on the tarmac for 11 hours” situations. In the past, passengers complained, probably got refunds, and the airlines just waited for the fuss to die down around the situation. But this woman had a tool at her disposal that she was able to leverage against the airlines, and she used it surprisingly well. What she did was find online news articles about the incident and use the comments section to spread her manifesto against the airlines. Through this, she was able to find enough people who were also on the flight, they started a website and an organization, and their efforts eventually got the law changed in New York State so that kind of thing would never happen again.
I mean think about it… the COMMENTS SECTION OF NEWS ARTICLES! That is the undisputed armpit of the internet. You could read an article about a poor rice harvest in China, and the conversation will devolve into “It’s Obama’s fault!” And that’s on the polite side. What does that have to do with marketing on Twitter? Well, what struck me is that if this woman was able to start a movement through the comments sections of news articles, just imagine your power to reach people through well organized social media. Professor Kane told us that only when a technology gets boring do its uses really get interesting. I think this is evidence that social media is at that moment. Social media isn’t just Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and Tumblr. All media now has a social aspect to it. There are comments sections, CNN Facebook chats, even the games on my iPhone allow me to chat with my friends or complete strangers in random games. Social media is ingrained pretty deeply into everything we do online, so the technology isn’t really the question anymore. The question is how to effectively reach people with it.
It’s not as easy as simple advertising (not that advertising is easy either). What makes a company’s social media “just work” and what makes it just weak? It’s hard to identify. In a space like Twitter, if you’re not looking out for it, you won’t even notice. A company who does it right will be just another good follow. If a company does it wrong, you’re probably not following them anyway. Here’s what I’ve observed:
Is Twitter even for you?
First off, who are you trying to reach? If you sell Depends, catheters, or 4:00 early bird buffet specials, your target market is not exactly blowing up the Twittersphere. Maybe they will be in 40 years.
On the other hand, some companies may say, “Why not give it try? What’s the harm?” On Twitter, if you’re not prepared to really put in the effort, you can do more harm than good. An unused or misused Twitter account makes a company look out of touch, and the kind of person who uses Twitter is the kind of person who notices things like that. To bring out my inner nerd and quote Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.” A decision to jump into any social media should include a dedicated social media strategist, who is constantly engaging with customers.
Give us a conversation
Don’t just talk at us, talk with us. Respond to people. This doesn’t mean everyone (you couldn’t possibly) but just seeing a company respond to an individual request makes me think that they’re listening, and that I could reach them if I needed to be heard.
That being said, don’t let your conversation stray too far off message. There’s enough inanity on Twitter already, and being asked about the latest sporting contest by a toilet paper company comes off as just a bit disingenuous.
Social Media isn’t the same as advertising. If all you do is try to sell us, only your biggest fans will care (and you’ve already got them). What do we get for following you? Special offers, available only to those of us in the know? An outlet for actually reaching the company, and getting answers? Your social media outreach should offer us something new, something that we can’t get through our other interactions with your company. Otherwise, why are we here?
Try not to forget, you’re still a company with a reputation to uphold. If you dive into social media haphazardly, you do so at your own risk. It is well worth finding an experienced professional to manage your social media outreach, as the road is littered with Twitter feeds that were passed off to the nearest intern with… mixed results.
What do you guys think? Any others that I didn’t hit?