Where I live, you can go into a local coffee shop pretty much any morning and find a table full of older gentlemen. They come in whenever they feel like it, sit down at their unofficial home base, and solve the problems of the world while drinking coffee. You might find a similar group in the commons at a university or among the regulars at happy hour.
Imagine Twitter as this same kind of social event, without the drinks.
There are rules. They may not be obvious. It seems like the group has its own existence and people can easily jump in and out. You don’t have to be there at a particular time, or on a regular basis. People can talk about any topic, and there’s some friendly give and take.
But imagine walking into the mom’s hangout group at your local juice bar and handing out your business cards. Leave. Come back the following week and do the same. You’re not going to be popular.
It’s the same at Twitter. To make friends and influence people, your company account has to be a good Twitizen — a good citizen of Twitter.
Take off the sandwich board
You can share your products and your services. That’s the equivalent of telling the other guys at the coffee shop about your experiences. But obvious promotions, discount offers, and blatant business announcements should be about 20% of your tweets. You can do more company news and offers at LinkedIn, but Twitter expects friendlier, newsier stuff.
When you have a strong blog, you can share your own posts as entertainment and education, but it’s also good to share other curated content. Your followers know that your business account represents a business. They don’t imagine that you’re planning to invite them to dinner. But Twitter is not a place people go to read ads.
Be sweet, retweet!
That is, listen to what other people have to say and share the good stuff. You wouldn’t drop into the happy hour group and hold forth on your own ideas, letting your attention wander when someone else spoke up. You wouldn’t make an announcement and wander off without hearing what other people had to say.
Or, if you did, you wouldn’t be accepted as a real member of the group.
On Twitter, retweets show that you’re listening.
Likes are great, but we all know how easy that is. A thoughtful response to your tweet’s statement means a lot more.
We sometimes see identical responses over and over from the same Twitter account. One of the most memorable is, “What is it going to cost me?” A real person might say that once, but they won’t say it every few days. That Twitter account looks like a bot, no matter who owns it.
Schedule a coffee break time to listen to your followers with the goal of making a response that adds to the discussion.
When someone responds to your tweets, take the time to answer. If the numbers of responses are large and your followers seem to be enjoying their conversation without you, then you don’t have to answer every time. Just as you wouldn’t feel you had to answer each person in the large coffee shop group. But you should stay engaged and avoid letting anyone feel ignored.
Is this necessary?
“We’re not going to do social media just to do social media,” a client told us once. She meant that she wasn’t out to make friends. She was out to sell her goods and services, and if social media didn’t do that, she didn’t need it.
If you seem to be getting plenty of engagement with your social media but you can’t see proof that you’re getting results, you might need to dig deeper in your web analytics. Potential patients and clients are likely to check you out at Twitter, and your organization’s Twitter account should present you well. That means being a good Twitizen even if you don’t think engagement is an important goal.
But we have seen, for some organizations, that tweeting the title and link to blog posts gets results with or without other involvement. Let your data and your business goals be your guide.