Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Should Our Business Tweet in the Cloud? Social Twittering for Business

The jury’s still out for most businesses on whether or not significant effort is made in “tweeting” information via Twitter.com – but the evidence is IN regarding whether or not to simply sign up and prepare to do so.

Your company’s online popularity, reputation and ultimately success is derived from two core things – what you say, and what others say about you. Let’s address these communication elements as “attributed source information” (ASI). “Attributed” from the perspective that there is in fact a known source (though it may be an anonymous ID), “source” from the perspective that it’s the very first sincere representation of the communication or concept actually published online, and “information” in that it’s not just some data or graphic fragments, it’s actually a message or concept with enough context to drive interest.

If it’s non-attributed, non-source or just bits n’ pieces (i.e. not “information”), there’s not much you can do about it as “evidence” – but, just like any good lawyer or PR consultant, you can shape, evolve, dispute, share or otherwise react to the material to meet any of your agendas.

Back to Twitter (or any other social media channel), it’s a simple prospect – the more ASI you post about yourself, the more you’re likely to get posted about you. It’s common practice these days, and basic SEO “block and tackling”, to post as many “billboards” about your company as possible around reputable Internet sites and directories, with short marketing messages and direct backlinks. In fact, most businesses should take every opportunity to create a standard billboard, profile or directory entry among all popular social platforms that allow it – this also helps preserve and protect the core “brand”. Therefore, most companies should establish an “unprotected” (i.e. publicly viewable) Twitter ID, create a basic profile, and establish a minimally-acceptable, germane and objective list of followers and regular corporate news updates (ASI). Re-tweets and requests to follow, and engage with you online, will be a typical “community-managed” affair, and be likely kept to a minimum with few “incidents”. This is truly no different than online press releases, many of which these days include and syndicate the press release ASI across multiple social media channels, including Twitter.

Some may see this sort of bland, generic Twitter land-grab as contrary to the “spirit” of the medium, and therefore a “poser” action – but Twitter use is ubiquitous enough now in the business and marketing community where this may no longer be the majority vocal opinion. It simply must be done, and is expected. All professional Internet Marketing and Social Media Consultants should recommend this.

Beyond this generic use of Twitter is where the potholes are. If your company is prepared to engage, across multiple agendas and subjects, with the online community that WILL develop as you post additional ASI – then you’ll need to develop your policies and procedures for Twitter, as a part of your broader “public discourse” strategy and risk-management framework. These include addressing what you post (i.e. who the authors will be, the backlink strategy, the recurrence and subject-area focus, the degree of personalization, etc.), and how you proactively and/or reactively deal with ASI that others post, in response to your own. Apply some method to the madness.

Otherwise, don’t count on a lot of ROI from your Twitter account, though there are simple benefits from just being at the game. Also don’t be too worried that your Twitter presence, albeit somewhat passive and conformist, will create any significant PR issues. Don’t be surprised, though, if your competitors end up driving and shaping the online conversation (and collecting the customers) with their own risk-managed ASI, in your absence.

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