Twitter is a powerful tool for building relationships, if used properly. Used improperly, it can wreak havoc, destroy perception of your brand, and even open you up to litigation.Read more...
As a community builder for Refresh Events, I use Twitter almost exclusively (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google are also part of our toolbox) to reach out to the community and generate awareness of our organization and its events. However for today, I would like to focus on how to use Twitter to build a community.
Is it secret?
Protecting your Twitter updates is akin to telling everyone about your amazing product/service/company, but then introducing a barrier to entry. Seems counter-productive, doesn't it? Imagine if you will someone (let's call him Joe) tweets about how much they love your product. One of Joe's friends, Michael sees his tweet, and is immediately intrigued. When Michael clicks on your name, he is presented with:
Twitter is an excellent tool for building relationships; protecting your updates prevents you from building those relationships and gaining visibility. It also discourages people from following you.
Rule of thumb? Don't protect your updates if you want to build a community on Twitter to complement your offline community.
Sign on the dotted line
Now that you've opened your Twitter account to the world, you'll want to make sure people know you're on Twitter. This doesn't mean you should put your Twitter account on a billboard (unless you have the budget for it!). But you should put your Twitter account on:
- Your website
- Your business card
- Your email signature
Rule of thumb? Twitter is a tool - use it like you would use any other tool to drive awareness, create relationships, and if done correctly, build reputation.
Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi
Many companies use Twitter as a customer contact vehicle. Among these are JetBlue, Comcast and many others (Brands, take note of how they service their customers). I would like to focus on two particular companies and how their use of Twitter has gained them popularity, increased awareness and improved their brand reputation.
I was recently made aware of Hyatt Concierge (hat tip to @jaygoldman), a Twitter-based customer contact account dedicated to helping their customers with hotel reservations, locating tourist attractions, restaurants (outside the hotel, no less), and is monitored 24/7 by Hyatt staff. While this is nothing new, what's unique about their use of Twitter is they don't promote their brand. Instead, they actively support their customers through listening to their questions and providing assistance. Post-sales support is also provided via their Twitter account.
Freshbooks is another example of an amazing company who provides stellar service to their customers through Twitter. They actively listen to their customers, provide support, gather feedback and frequently give back to the community. I recently had a question about their service and within minutes, I received 2 responses from Andrew Peek (@drupeek) and Rayanne Langdon (@rlangdon) with working solutions. Rayanne also made herself available to answer any questions I had by way of a phone call.
Rule of thumb? Make yourself available to people, answer their questions, don't shout about your brand 24/7, and you'll build an army of advocates.
Sharing = caring
Like most people in tech community, I read a number of blogs and RSS feeds. If I read something I feel is interesting, valuable, and important, I have a personal and professional responsibility to share that content with others. Why? Because it shows you're keeping up to date with technology and you're building a reputation as someone who gives back to the community.
That's not to say you should tweet about EVERYTHING you read; doing so will get you unfollowed rather quickly by a large number of people. Instead, pick and choose carefully what you want to share. If you think people in your network would find it relevant to what THEY do (not what you do), it's well written, or it tackles an important business/social/etc issue, I would encourage you to send it out. More often than not, it will fuel discussion between yourself and others.
The wonderful people at RedWire (of whom I am a big fan) do this quite frequently. Their target market is entrepreneurs, and so they often tweet entrepreneur-related content (how to start a business, budget planning, and so on).
Rule of thumb? Share. It's good for your karma, it shows people you care and you never know who you're helping!
Mind your P's and Q's (aka learning how to say "Thanks!")
Thank your new followers. I don't really need to explain why this is important, do I? It's just plain ol' good common sense, and people love to be recognized! Do it as often as possible.
Similarly, thank people for helping you. Again, it's common sense. If someone does something to help you in real life, you should always say thank you. The same law applies in the online world.
Rule of thumb? A simple "Thank you!" goes a long way.
These are but a few of the ways you can start building a community on Twitter. Next Monday, I will have more tips for you in the ongoing "Community Building 101" series.
Agree? Disagree? Hit me up on Twitter, and let's talk.