Friday, June 26, 2009

Twitter is the Ultimate Cocktail Party

I like to use analogies when teaching. It helps me get a point across in a way that might otherwise get lost in jargon and unneeded explanations.

So, today, I’d like to talk about some dos and don’ts when it comes to taking the risk of putting your brand on Twitter. I’d like to ask you to think of Twitter as the ultimate cocktail party, with you and your brand coming in as a guest. Whether you’ve been invited or not is beside the point. It’s the party you keep hearing about, and you want to see what all the hubbub is about.

Picture yourself walking into the cocktail party everyone’s been talking about. You’re all dressed up and ready to mingle. You know one or two people, but as you look around the room, you realize you are very much a stranger. How you act at the party will largely determine your success at being able to connect with people in a positive and memorable way, but you’re not quite sure how to act.

You’d really like to talk about your business. You want to have people ask you about your brand, and talk in positive ways about it. You want to be the talk of the party.

But remember, you’re a stranger. How do you accomplish this?

Do you grab your drink from the bar, find a small cluster of people engaged in conversation and loudly interrupt them with your sale of the week? Do you pull out a bullhorn to get everyone’s attention and start blaring about how great your brand is? Do you shut off the music and shout that you’re holding a party, too, and everyone should follow you to it?

No, of course you don’t. That would garner you some attention, but I think you’ll agree it’s the wrong kind.

You wouldn’t last very long as a guest, and you can be sure nobody would want to go to your party.

Nobody likes a boorish guest.

I think I’ve stated the obvious, but there are some brands that come on Twitter (and onto other social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook) and do very much the same thing. So, with that in mind, here are 6 dos and 4 don’ts to keep in mind when you bring your brand to Twitter cocktail party.


1. When posting to Twitter on behalf of your brand, sit back and listen to what’s going on. Find other brands to follow and see how they handle things. Watch how others respond to those brands and emulate the ones that seem to get positive responses.

2. Follow conversations to see what people are talking about. Then, gracefully join the conversation. Stay on topic or at least a similar topic of what others are talking about. Engage others and they will engage you in return.

3. Offer something to serve the community. On Twitter you should always be willing to give before you get. It could be a link to a blog post or to a video that teaches your community of followers how to do something other than to sign up for your newsletter or buy your widget. You might tweet out a coupon for your followers. Be creative.

4. Ask questions. There’s nothing wrong with letting the community know there’s a human behind the brand. In fact, there’s everything right with it. We all realize nobody knows everything, so if you want to know how others perceive you (or your brand), ask.

5. Address complaints as promptly as possible. Ignoring a complaint about a brand on Twitter is like setting fire to a single dry weed in a field and then turning your back. The fire won’t go out just because you turn away. It will spread. Quickly. Address the complaint and apologize in public and give the person a way to contact you off the public stage. Resolve it and then address them on Twitter again, reassuring them you care.

6. Listen for talk about your brand, your industry and your competition. People will likely tweet about you, but they won’t always address their comments to you. There are great third-party tools that will help you monitor for mentions of your brand. Use them.


1. While its fine (and actually expected) that many brands will use Twitter to market, don’t make every message you send out a marketing message. That’s not engaging the community. That’s broadcasting and it strongly resembles spam. If you want to broadcast, buy airtime on the radio. A good ratio is about 80/20. 80% community engagement; 20% marketing.

2. Don’t send automatic direct messages to new followers. This really turns off many people and they will unfollow you as soon as they see your message. Set yourself apart from the spammers and send a sincere, personal note.

3. Don’t think that Twitter is a competition, that the person or brand with the most followers wins. Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and Oprah (@oprah) notwithstanding, numbers can be a great thing, or they could mean little. Which would you rather have, 10,000 followers, with 150 of them who know your brand? Or, 3000 followers, with 350 of them who are targeted potential clients and who would advocate for your brand?

4. Don’t burst into every conversation, even if someone is talking about your brand. There’s a fine line between monitoring and responding appropriately and stalking. You’ll want to find that line and tread it carefully at first. Soon enough, it will be almost second nature, and you’ll know when to respond. But be warned, even the most tenured brands on Twitter find that not everyone wants to be contacted by the brand they’ve tweeted about. They realize the technology is available, but they still find it creepy.

There they are. Ten suggestions to help you be yourself and make a positive impression on Twitter, the ultimate cocktail party.

I’d love to hear your comments. Please click the “Comments” link below and add yours.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Putting Twitter to Work for your Brand

Here are my 5 top things any brand should keep in mind when using Twitter:

1. Keep it personal. In almost every case, I recommend against auto direct messages, for example. They are getting a bad reputation on Twitter – users see them as spammy and many will unfollow a brand (business or personal) for a single auto direct message, no matter how carefully crafted.

2. Engage. Interact with people. Don’t just send marketing tweets all day. See what those you follow are saying and reply to them, even if it has nothing to do with your brand. Be funny. Be clever. Be human. People like to buy from people – not logos with a constantly looping marketing message.

3. Give before you get. I’ve worked with brands who offer up something free – usually information. Is your brand an auto mechanic? Tell your followers how to save gas by having tires properly inflated. Selling healthy foods? How about a link to a calorie counter for fast foods? The more you give, the more you’re trusted when it’s time to get.

4. Stay in tune. See a tweet complaining about your brand? Address it. If it comes via an @ message or as just a mention with your brand, it’s on the public stage. That’s where you first want to address the complaint. You can offer to take it off the public stage and solve it offline, but you first need to address it in the venue where it popped up. If it came via direct message, then of course, you can address the complaint via direct message, too.

5. Keep track. Use a hashtag (pound sign - #) specifically for your brand. Use it with every tweet you send (or at least the marketing tweets). For example, if your company is Bob’s Floral, use #bobsfloral. This is a very easy way to keep track of what you’ve tweeted, and if your followers use it, too, then it’s a bonus.

Those are just 5 things I would focus on.

James Hofheins

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is Social Media Worth Your Time?

Is Social Media Worth Your Time?

Here are three things to consider:

1. Are your customers using Social Media?

If so, chances are, they mention your brand. This could be a good thing or bad thing, obviously depending on what they say and how they say it. You may think you’re home free if your customers are older baby boomers, but you’re really not. My parents belong to AARP and don’t even know what a blog is. But, they have seven children who are younger baby boomers, and most of us are on Facebook. Some of our children are on MySpace, and a couple of us are on twitter. We care deeply about the way our elderly kin are treated, and believe me, if a brand that caters to them treats them badly, our social media group will hear about it. It’s the same for millions of others.

2. Is there someone social-media savvy in your organization who also is focused on the needs of both the business and your customer base?
Many organizations have social media teams or individuals who can do the tweeting, the Facebook and MySpace updates, but do they also have a firm commitment to treat your customers as you would? If so, you can free up your time for other tasks that are just as important, and know your customers are in good hands.

3. What’s your return of investment (ROI) with Traditional Media and how does that compare to your ROI for Social Media?

Traditional media blitzes can cost thousands or even millions of dollars. Social media campaigns, if done correctly, require a minimal cost. How much does it cost to tweet a coupon?

Those are just three questions you want to ask yourself and your staff, or your PR agency. I know there are more – feel free to leave comments with your questions or ideas.


Monday, June 15, 2009

You Ruined Timmy's Birthday - Now What?

Imagine you’re sitting in your office, not really paying attention to the noise about the office. You have a window that faces the street, but you’re so busy getting next month’s invoices ready to print and mail, you don’t even bother looking outside.

But then, as you’re staring at your monitor, you see movement from the corner of your eye. Something red just danced by the window. You try to ignore it and keep working (gotta get those bills paid!) but it reappears. You half-notice that it moves from your left to your right and out of view, and then returns the other way. Again and again it appears.

Finally, you can’t stand it anymore and look out the window.

There, parading right in front of your firm’s front door, is a man carrying a big red sign. Back and forth he marches. You wait until he turns and read the sign. In big, bold, black letters, you read your firm’s name with the tagline “RUINED TIMMY’S BIRTHDAY!”

What would you do?

Would you close your blinds and hope the man with the sign didn’t see you peering out your window at him?

Would you call your admin assistant and ask her to go out and demand the man leave?

Would you open the window and toss out some money, hoping that will make him go away?

No, of course not.

Now, let’s change the scenario a little bit.

Imagine that while you’re working on your invoices, you get an email from a friend. The email is from someone you know, like and trust, so you set aside those burdensome invoices and read the message. It says:

“Hey, just a heads up. I was on Twitter today and saw someone complaining that your company screwed up their order. Something about ruining little Timmy’s birthday or something.

“Free for golf Sunday?”

Now what would you do?

Would you shoot off a nasty email telling your friend that you never screw up orders?

Would you close the email and try and find time later in the week to investigate and try to get more information?

Would you accept your friend’s golf date and ignore the first part of his message?

If you don’t know what you’d do, it’s okay. You’re not alone.

There are companies big and little who don’t really know what to do when confronted by an angry customer on the public stage of social media. In fact, there are two pretty recent examples of very large companies who, perhaps not understanding the implications of inaction, didn’t do much at all. let their outraged authors and customers speak for them when their computers apparently made a mistake in rating several hundred books. Much of this was played out on blogs and especially on Twitter, where the keyword or hashtag #amazonfail became a trending topic for several days.

In the end, all Amazon did was issue an explanation that many considered to be little more than a weak excuse. And they never stepped foot on the public stage where the angry authors and customers were waiting for an apology.

They never even drove past the theater.

Dominos Pizza almost waited too long when they learned of two idiotic franchise employees had uploaded a video to YouTube showing some incredibly gross and crass behavior. The video became viral and spread quickly on the Internet. I was monitoring Twitter that day and watched as person after person retweeted (forwarded) the link to the nasty video.

It took a day or two before Dominoes Pizza corporate office created an account on Twitter, where there was much speculation about the sanitary conditions of franchises nationwide. In Internet time, a full business day can seem like an eternity when you have a public relations crisis to handle.

In the end, they did the right thing. They addressed the issue, head on. They apologized. They assured their customers and potential customers that the two employees involved in making the video had been found and fired. Further, they made sure to point out that the unfortunate franchise had been closed for the day and sanitized from top to bottom.

In both cases, the brands suffered. But, what makes these two cases so different?

As in most such cases, hindsight is always going to be 20/20. No matter how quickly or correctly a company reacts to protect and reclaims their brand’s honor, there’s almost always going to be someone, internal or external to the company process who can see where they might have done something just a little better or faster.

So it is in these two very public challenges to and Dominoes Pizza.

Here’s what made the difference to me (and to many others, from what I’ve read).

Amazon shut the blinds and hoped the problem would go away.

Dominoes Pizza put a plan together, and though some would have preferred a quicker response, addressed the issue square on. They even put up their own YouTube video with an executive face, and apologized.

There’s the difference, right there.

It should be noted that Amazon may have told the truth. Perhaps there was some computer glitch that caused an error in classifications and reviews of some small percentage of their enormous inventory.

It should also be noted that what happened at Dominoes Pizza happened at a franchise location, without the knowledge of either the franchisee or the corporate offices.

See the difference here?

Amazon was at fault, but didn’t accept responsibility.

Dominoes Pizza was certainly not at fault, but accepted full responsibility.

They apologized and addressed the issue. That’s the difference.

So, what would you do with that email your friend sent you?

Well, here’s what I would do.

1. I would, for the time being, put away the invoices. I would pick up the phone and call my friend, not to accept the golf date, but to ask for all the information he has about Timmy and his ruined birthday.

2. If I wasn’t already on Twitter, I would ask my friend to help me sign up, and then I would find the message containing the complaint.

3. I would reach out to the person who posted the message. I would apologize in advance and provide a way for them to contact me.

4. Finally, I would fix the problem to the mutual satisfaction of the customer and the company, and do all I could to see that I never again ruined another child’s birthday.

What would you do?

Please use the comments section below to tell how you would address the issue.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, June 12, 2009

What Are The Masses Saying About Your Brand?

Have you ever wanted to get your brand on a popular social media site like Twitter? If you haven’t thought about it, you should. It gives you and your company exposure to an untold number of past, present and prospective customers. Depending on how you engage these subsets of clientele, taking your message to them on Twitter can pay off in great ways.

Here are 5 things you need to know about getting your brand on Twitter:

1 Listen. People are probably already talking about your company. What are they saying? Is it positive or negative? Use Twitter search or third party applications like TweetDeck to watch for your company name.

2 Engage. When your company name is mentioned, acknowledge it. If it’s a compliment or even just a casual comment, send a public @ message thanking them for the shout-out. If it’s a complaint, tell them you’re sorry and you’d like to help them resolve the problem. Give them a way to contact you directly and ask them to do so. Then resolve the problem off of the public stage. In many cases, if the issue is solved in a mutually satisfactory way, they will go back and give you a public kudos. Also, if they’ve pointed out a mistake that you’ve made, don’t be afraid to admit it. People in the twitterhood like to deal with people – not with brand names that people hide behind.

3 Give. Here’s something I can’t stress enough. Sometimes companies are tempted to take first and give back. That may work in some online sales transactions, but in the twitterverse, you want to establish trust and gain a relationship with other users. You want to be genuine and give them value just for having read your tweets. Offer a tip that will save them time, money or sanity at least three times a week. If you’re a mechanic, tell them how to save gasoline on short trips. If you’re a mortgage broker, offer a tip on how to get their credit score to where it needs to be for a better deal. You get the idea. Be open to suggestions. If someone asks a question, answer it as honestly and as quickly as you can.

4 Be nice. You most likely have competitors on Twitter. Don’t bash them. They may have made some big mistakes, and you may see them unfold before your eyes if the groundswell catches on. You will lose respect in the eyes of your followers if you engage in mudslinging, especially at a time when a competitor is fighting a real or perceived battle with their customers.

5 Be real. As I mentioned in number 2, above, people like dealing with people. Don’t be afraid to inject personality, humor and fun into your tweets. Whether your business is booking clowns for children’s parties or you sell real estate for a living, let your followers see the man or woman behind the brand account.

6 Be balanced. Not every tweet should be a marketing ploy aimed to make a sale. It’s okay to shoot out a message about your current promotion, send out a coupon or tell your followers how they can get to your website, but don’t overdo it. Five or six well-spaced out tweets about your sale or site are fine in one day, but also send out other tweets in between. Send a link to an industry article or some other non-sales link. If all you do is spew marketing and sales, you will be seen as a spammer and your followers won’t appreciate it. They also won’t buy.

7 Be human. There are ways to set up your twitter account, using third-party tools that allow you to follow everyone who follows you. Some think this is good, others don’t. That’s for you to decide. But, along with autofollowing, there are tools that allow you to send an automated direct message to everyone when they follow you. While these “auto dms” may save time, you should avoid them. Avoid the very appearance of an auto dm or auto welcome. Take time to send a personalized direct message to each new follower. Even if you get behind and it takes a day or two to get to everyone, it’s worth it. Find something witty or clever they’ve said in a recent tweet or in their bio. Check out their blog. Note their cool background picture. Comment on one of these things and you will have made a friend, rather than have alienated them.

These are just some of the “Best Practices” for businesses on twitter that I came up with. If you have more, please use the comments section below. If you have specific questions, you can email me at or call me at (801) 835-9715. You can also find me on twitter: @jwhof


There are many more "Best Practices". Use the comments section below to post yours. I'll pick the best one and the winner will recieve a $10.00 (USD) gift card. To where, you ask? We'll decide where YOU want it to be. Also, if you've read this far, and you retweet this message: "Would you share your ideas with me? RT this, read the post and then comment. Best one wins $10!"

Thanks for reading!

James Hofheins

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Can Help You with Social Media

I specialize in social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook. I can:

* Maintain and protect your business or personal brand in Social Media
* Provide on-site support as well as email or phone support
* Monitor your brand for you
* Monitor, send and reply to messages from your account
* Teach you and your employees how to use Social Media without wasting time and resources
* Help you keep your brand on message
* Work with any level of your company

To see how I can help you, email me at or call (801) 835-9715.