The key, according to Ogilvy’s digital influence expert Brian Giesen, is this: If you want to use Twitter, the newest of the new media, for public relations or business then it is imperative that you follow the rules.
And just what are those rules? Well, it’s all pretty simple. After setting up a Twitter account (the essence here is to be completely transparent in identifying yourself or your brand) there are basically three steps to engaging with and through Twitter: 1) Follow, 2) Create and 3) Engage.
Giesen, speaking to a 100-strong crowd at a Frocomm breakfast conference held on Wednesday at Ogilvy House, said the first stage, follow, meant that a business searched Twitter to discover what people were saying about their brand or their market.
After a time, the business could then enter the create phase, Twittering interesting messages relevant to the conversation and gathering followers.
Only after going through those steps, Giesen stressed, should a company starting engaging with other tweeters, responding to people who mention the brand, offering advice and assistance where necessary so that people who may have been critical may be turned into brand evangelists through the positive contact.
Twitter’s growth in Australia this year has been extraordinary. Traffic has surged more than sixfold, the fastest growth in the world, while there are almost 4 million registered users, rating us fifth behind the US, Japan, the UK and Canada.
Giesen said businesses could use Twitter to meet real business objectives in a number of ways: customer relations; product promotion and sales; crisis and reputation management; event coverage; issues advocacy; and, internal communications. All, however, utilise the three steps: follow, create and engage. And, he stressed, all must use the code of ethics for social media which includes being transparent, respecting other Twitterers by knowing when to participate and when to listen, thinking before messaging (will it be seen as helpful or intrusive), making sure your message is relevant, and providing value to your followers.
Another of the speakers, Strath Gordon, the Director of Public Affairs at NSW Police, related how he had to deal with a company which was Twittering under the name NSW Police. After trying unsuccessfully to contact the through Twitter Gordon was forced to go to the media. A prominent newspaper story and subsequent radio interviews soon had the company coming forward (It was a marketing company trying to build the NSW Police Twitter profile so they could go to the police and show what a powerful tool it was).
The police have now taken over the name, together with 2000 followers, and are using it to Twitter information. At times the responses from the public regarding matters such as speeding fines were ‘’in language not usually used’’ in communication with the police. Gordon said the police see Twitter, and other social media, as valuable tools to help report crime, issue general warnings and to inform people of the real level of crime.
Gordon also said that there was no doubt terrorists and criminals were using social media to communicate with each other, using codes words, and revealed the ‘’secret’’ parts of the force were developing ways to counter that.
Giesen provided a list of do’s and dont’s for Twitter users.
• See what other businesses are doing on Twitter;
• Use Twitter search engines for keyword searches around brands, products and topics of interest;
• Follow Twitterers with similar interests to establish a brand presence;
• Use twitter to start a conversation;
• Be dedicated to Twitter, with more than one employee on Twitter to ensure an ongoing presence;
• Ask questions and get feedback from followers;
• Engage consumers in co-creation and get constructive insights for future products etc;
• Follow the blogger code of ethics;
• Spread the word about your participation by including your Twitter handle in your email signature.
• Push ads or brand messaging;
• Talk about your everyday tasks. Make your Tweets entertaining and/or valuable;
• Tweet anything about clients, co-workers friends etc that you would not want them to read.