Twitter for Manufacturers, Part 1 – What Twitter is NOT
Of all the major social media sites, I find Twitter to be the most misunderstood. I even have to admit that as recently as a year ago, I was one of the “unenlightened” ones. I had a Twitter account, but I really couldn’t see how it was going to enrich my life or benefit my business. During the past year I became motivated to unlock Twitter’s secrets, and determine once and for all if it did or did not provide opportunities for the industrial marketer.
Today, I have a much better grasp of how powerful Twitter is and the ways it can help individuals, both personally and professionally. I see how it can be a communications tool for manufacturers and industry, just as it is a tool for other types of businesses. I love to have conversations about Twitter with my industrial business associates. The misconceptions about what Twitter IS – and is NOT, abound. I had many of them myself, at one time!
In my next blog post I’ll write about what Twitter IS; but sometimes I find that explaining a complex subject in the context of what it is NOT helps to make things more clear. So following is what Twitter is NOT.
Twitter isn’t the new email or cell phone. You can only send 140 character messages on Twitter, which is obviously limiting. Twitter will never replace email or the phone. Twitter can only be used for rapid-fire, short communications and is just one more tool in a marketer’s toolkit.
Twitter isn’t a form of instant messaging. Twitter shares some of the same characteristics as instant messenger and chat applications, but it operates with completely different technology, functions differently, and serves a different purpose. One huge difference is that Instant messages and chats are PRIVATE. Which leads me to . . .
Twitter isn’t private (by any means.) You may have read stories about Twitter accounts being hacked. Even the admin accounts of the people who run Twitter have been broken into more than once. Twitter is a web service that provides great flexibility and openness, and with openness comes vulnerability. Unless you lock them down, be prepared for your tweets to be read, responded to and retweeted to anyone and everyone. There’s no point in having a Twitter account if you’re going to lock it down, so if you can’t accept this level of transparency, Twitter isn’t for you.
Twitter isn’t a replacement for Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social networks. You might ask, they’re all social networks, right? They’re all built around the idea of connecting with people and streaming updates, aren’t they? Well . . . yes. Except that on Facebook you generally want to say things to friends that take more than 140 characters. On LinkedIn, you’re communicating with others through special interest groups and engaging in sometimes lengthy and complicated discussions. Twitter is a standalone tool that is a complement to other social networks.
Twitter isn’t a mini version of your blog. A constant flow of teasers that link to someone’s blog gets old, fast. Self promotion is OK within limits, but a steady stream of self promotion is considered poor practice on Twitter (and I would probably unfollow you, as would many others.) Your tweets should be varied, with original content and links to items that aren’t on your website. There should be some personal tweets thrown in with the professional. There should be some retweets (tweeting what another person tweeted first.) There should be actual responses to others’ tweets. You can promote your blog on Twitter; but if you really want to benefit from Twitter, don’t use it exclusively as a micro version of your blog.
Twitter isn’t a competition. Don’t fool yourself. Having more followers on Twitter does NOT equate to having more authority, expertise, popularity, or influence. You learn quickly that there are all kinds of people on Twitter seeking personal gain who will be more than happy to follow you. I look for quality, not quantity. If a person can somehow increase my knowledge (this includes competitors!) inspire me, entertain me, or is a potential business collaborator or possibly even customer, I’m happy to have them follow me. Those are also, by the way, the people I choose to follow.
Twitter isn’t a celebrity communication device. Yes, most celebrities these days are on Twitter. However, the truth is that celebrities started popping up on Twitter once they heard it was getting popular. They didn’t make it popular in the first place. It got popular because it was useful and they (or their publicists) recognized its usefulness.
Twitter isn’t a service that answers the question “what are you doing?” Unfortunately, this misunderstanding originates with Twitter itself, who still asks “What are you doing?” at the top of every page. Have you ever read the tweets of somebody who genuinely answers this question all the time? “Eating blueberry pancakes for breakfast,” “on my way to a meeting,” “having lunch with a client,” “ready for bed.” Yawn. Although I’m sure I’ve lowered myself to this level of boring tweet at times out of desperation for something to say, this is a terrible way to use Twitter if it’s the ONLY way you tweet. Twitter is not a way to communicate what you are doing. Rather, Twitter is a way to communicate what you are thinking.
Don’t stay confused
The most important thing that Twitter is NOT is . . . anything else. Twitter is not “the new” anything. It’s not really “like” anything. From a business perspective, Twitter is a unique, one of a kind, way to communicate that is revolutionizing the way businesses interact with their customers and affecting how consumers view service providers, products and brands. If you’re still confused by Twitter, don’t stay confused. It’s EASY to open a Twitter account. Do it today and be a spectator for awhile. Get one of the many books out there that teach Twitter marketing basics and learn something new. You never know, you might even have fun in the process!