Business and Twitter: The Top 5 Ways to Damage Your Business on Twitter
There are many businesses working hard to figure out Social Media, and Twitter appears to be the latest nut to crack. Companies are entering Twitter in droves, and more often than not, they are making some big mistakes. For those of you who are considering opening a Twitter account and would like to avoid some of the most common mistakes, I hope the list below will help. Warning: You can do serious damage to your business if you attempt any of the following activities on Twitter.
#1 – Turn your Twitter account into a shout-board.
Washington Mutual (WaMu) entered Twitterdom earlier this year with its WaMuWhooHoo account. Every tweet (Twitter post) began with a pithy factoid about WaMu’s services, ending with the phrase, “WhooHoo!!!” WaMu was blasted by the Twitter community and made fun of in many different ways. The WaMu approach failed for two big reasons: People don’t want company slogans shouted at them through Twitter, and many of us don’t like it when companies follow us for the sole purpose of getting attention for their brand (see #5 below).
WaMu deleted their Twitter account, but the failure didn’t end there. Someone else picked up the account and started parodying the original WaMuWhooHoo. Now, you can enjoy the fake WaMuWhooHoo with equally inane slogans: “WaMu. We don’t nickle and dime you, we overdraft you. Whoo-hoo!!!.”
Certainly it’s okay to make announcements about your company through Twitter, but that can’t be your only purpose for creating the account.
#2 – Use your company’s name as your Twitter screen name.
A lot of people will disagree with me on this one because there are ways to use your company name on Twitter and still be successful. The problem is that most businesses aren’t able to properly execute that tactic. In general, people don’t want to talk with the marketing arm of a company. Customer service is a different story, and we’ve seen accounts like ComcastCares become very useful. However, if your goal is more than customer service and you want to engage in conversation about your brand, you’ll need to join as a person, not a company.
Twitter accounts with a company name are immediately suspect. Users will not look at your profile and will often block your account without even reviewing your bio. It’s okay to include the name of your company in your screen name (i.e. JaneAtNissan), although you’ll also want to keep in mind that longer screen names will make it more difficult for people to reply to you within the 140-character limit.
#3 – Pretend to be someone else.
I’m not sure if this has happened that much on Twitter yet, but these tactics have had huge repercussions in the blogging world, and the same will happen on Twitter (or worse because of Twitter’s immediacy). Do not create fake Twitter accounts in order to talk up your brand. You will be discovered and you will be embarrassed.
#4 – Prove your expertise by entering Twitter as the “know-it-all.”
It may be tempting to come onboard in a flurry of self-promotion. You are probably an expert in your area, why wouldn’t someone hang on your every word? Here’s the thing about Twitter: there is an equalizing effect across its members. Junior-level employees are able to converse on Twitter alongside thirty-year-veterans. It’s common and quite acceptable to have your views challenged, sometimes by people who have no knowledge of your field at all. This provides you with an opportunity to show your talents through thoughtful dialogue. Acting like a know-it-all, citing your credentials, and refusing to engage, will get you laughed out of the Twitterverse.
The best advice that I can give you is to do a lot of listening first. Interject when appropriate and your expertise will become known. This approach takes more time, but, if you come on too strong, people may tend to ignore you, or even worse, see you as the know-it-all who is ripe for being put in his or her place.
#5 – Follow massive numbers of people to gain an instant following.
Do not follow as many people as you can just to increase your own following. This tactic is known as Twitter Spam. People, like me, absolutely hate this practice. I look at the profiles of the people who follow me. I’m always interested to see if I can learn something new from a profile. If you follow me as a company, and I didn’t initiate the relationship, you’re usually wasting my time. If you come onto Twitter as a person (because you read #2 above) then it is less likely to be a problem.
People also pay attention to your Follow-to-Follower ratio. Try to keep the number of people you follow close to the number of people who follow you, especially when just getting started. If you are following 2,918 people and you have one person following you, it’s very likely that you’ll be blocked.
If you found any of the points above confusing and you still have questions, I really recommend that you contact a PR agency to help you make your Twitter debut. I’m following a number of people who work for great firms. If you don’t have an agency already, you can look through the list of people who I follow for a good start.
Who’s Doing It Right?
ComcastCares is a great example of how customer service can be done well on Twitter. I’ve had a conversation with @ComcastCares and I was very pleased with the dialogue. They didn’t have to follow me to get my attention and I’m not following them, but I know they’re there if I need them.
StackSafe, a provider of pre-production staging and testing solutions for IT operations teams, has a presence on Twitter, but don’t look for @StackSafe; it doesn’t exist. Jonah Paransky and Joe Pendry of StackSafe are both active on Twitter as @jonahparansky and @joependry, respectively. They are engaging users on Twitter using the same approach that they use on their blog; they offer their expertise and talk with people on a human level. Instead of focusing constantly on their brand, the folks at StackSafe aim to provide useful information first. If you happen to find a need for their software along the way, fantastic, but they are not out their beating you over the head with a sales pitch.
There’s no way to really tell anyone how to be completely successful with Social Media. You can have a great coach, but at some point you just have to try it on your own. I always suggest that business users get their feet wet first by creating a personal account that isn’t affiliated with their brand. That way you can learn, make mistakes, and come back later as an experienced representative of your company.
data-text=”Business and Twitter: The Top 5 Ways to Damage Your Business on Twitter (Shannon Whitley)”