I wanted to see what the commotion was all about and decided to give Twitter a go. Being an avid user of other social networking services such as Facebook and LinkedIn, I figured that using Twitter would be a natural next step. So, I created an account, chose a few users to follow and… nothing. I simply did not know what to say!
The silence was not because I was short of things to talk about – indeed, those who know me might say that I am rarely short of something to say. It is just that I found it really difficult to communicate meaningfully with an unidentified audience – not only are tweets, by default, open access but I never personally met any of my (admittedly small group of) followers (If you are new to Twitter, how it works and the associated terminology you may wish to take a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter).
Not that I should be surprised, really, given that any good communications plan needs to start with the specification of the target segment, followed by the definition of the objectives, before consideration is given to the particular communications mix (i.e., type and media). Yet, how many organisations are jumping on the social media wagon without a clear strategy?
Just like, not so long ago, many companies rushed to set up a website because they thought that they could not afford not having one, so now many companies are rushing to create pages on social networks only to be faced with major PR disasters. In such an interactive, fast-paced environment, where a simple mistake may attract intense attention – see how Bento Yum attracted the wrath of an online community – it is crucial that organisations develop a social media strategy where technology becomes the enabling tool, not the driver. One very simple approach to developing a social media strategy is outlined in Groundswell’s blog (and associated book) and may be summarised this way:
– the first step is to understand your customers and their social activities;
– the second consists in establishing clear, measurable objectives;
– the third stage refers to the assessment of the long-term consequences of your actions in the relationships with your customers;
– and the final move is to decide on the specific technological platform.
As for my own experience with Twitter, for the time being, I am mostly observing and learning from others.