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Social Media Best Practices

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“How to use Social Media to close more business” Part 2: Twitter

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If Rip van Winkle woke up today to discover Twitter, I’d be pressed to say he’d be amazed at how boring people are. Do you really care that someone is “grabbing a cup of coffee” or “stuck in traffic”? Besides all the noise (Forrester Research in September 2010 estimated 72% of posts are not even viewed), what’s the relevancy? Beyond the pointless posts, Twitter is game-changer and something a business development professional should pay attention to. At no time in human history has there been a platform that conveys human thoughts and shared knowledge in real time. You’re probably thinking while it’s great that millions of people are expressing their thoughts, how does this increase sales? In this post I will examine further.

I find the more information you have about a client, the more fruitful the conversation. I suggest using Twitter to listen to what your prospect is saying as well as how others perceive the prospect’s company. Think of it as your ability to listen to what’s important to them both personally and professionally. While a company’s website might give you insights into their objectives, tweets from executives can give you valuable information into what’s important to them. Company tweets bring major projects directly to your attention, giving you a reason to engage in a conversation.

Follow

So how do you begin?

I find the best way to start is by following the company as well as key executives employed there. Almost all major corporations and even a great number of small and medium size businesses have official Twitter feeds. This is a great resource to gain understanding of what products they’re developing, offers in market or major news items. A simple way to keep up with what’s happening is the “follow” tab directly on their Twitter page.

Besides the official company voice there are numerous people talking about your prospects in real time (crowdsourcing effect). Try using a hashtag (#) in the search bar to find out what discussions are happening. This should give you trends that you can share with the customer as well as understand some of the challenges they face.

While there’s tons of noise on Twitter, if it’s the right chatter you’d be interested, correct?    If you have a robust LinkedIn Network (100+ connections) and are connected to your customers on this platform, I suggest following your already established network on Twitter. Alex Blom, a social media strategist has some great tips on exporting your LinkedIn contacts to Twitter.

Finally you should consider following relevant thought leaders and major industry publications. For example, I follow thought leaders such as Chris Anderson, Kara Swisher, and Bill Gates as well as publications  Ad Age, Brandweek, Harvard Business Review.This helps me keep up to date on what’s happening so I can have intelligent conversations with my customers.

Listen

Now that you have a robust database of hundreds of people you’re following, what are the best ways to listen to what they’re saying? While Twitter might be adequate if there isn’t a great deal of conversation in your network, it can be laborious if you have a large one.

A few months back the New York Enterprise Report had an excellent post “New Ways to Surf the Social Media Wave”. This should give you some great ideas on ways to manage your social graph. Here are some additional suggestions:

Tweetdeck – The industry standard for managing one’s social graph

Hootsuite – Web based application

If you’re an executive on the go, options really depend on the device you carry. I have a Blackberry, so I find the Twitter Blackberry application works effectively for me. If you have Android or iPhone devices, TweetDeck has created applications that work with these systems.

Engage

You’re following the connections most important to you and listening to what they have to say, so what’s next? Once you’ve established your presence, it’s time to engage with your network through tweets. A few years ago I was at a social media summit and the speaker was asked how best to approach Twitter, what he said stuck with me. He mentioned you need to tailor your content to the audience you’re looking to reach. Think it about it from their perspective. Will they be interested in reading your post? What irks you about other posts probably is ditto for your network, so it’s best to keep those traffic jams and cups of coffee at Starbucks to yourself. Focus on information that’s relevant. So what’s relevant? Keeping in mind that Twitter is public forum, I find it’s topical issues, news/information, or any information from your company that can be released externally.

For best practices, check out these guidelines from Kodak, Coca-Cola and IBM.

While it’s great to post relevant information to your community, I don’t find the “if you build it they will come strategy” to be most effective. You need to interact directly with your customers.

Re-tweet their posts, mention them directly in your tweets (ie @billgates stated Technology is important in schools, here’s a study). MOST IMPORTANTLY you now have reasons to connect with your customers directly. If your prospect is talking about Topic X and you have a solution for that problem, then you have a reason to fire off an e-mail or make a call since the issue is relevant to them. Make sure you reference their Twitter post. You’ll be surprised at how many people aren’t doing this. Think about it. Twitter can be your golden goose by giving you real time information on what your prospects are thinking. They’re telling you directly what’s important to them. Take advantage of this information.

Stayed tuned for my next post on Facebook best practices.

If you have any direct questions, please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.

Derek Reese

Written by Derek Reese

January 1, 2011 at 12:36 am