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.


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