By Amy Mullins, icon.pr PR Account Coordinator (social media)

In this era of increasing digitisation of communication, consumer behaviour and information transfer it is highly uncommon to discover a major company or business that does not have a Twitter and/or Facebook account.

Yet, the potential for micro-blogging tools to connect people and inform and influence opinion measures far beyond their current use. There is a great opportunity for organisations to grow their brand and reputation through an authentic engagement with potential consumers. And when I say authentic engagement, I mean to use the platform for its intended function. Many businesses in Australia still lack a complete understanding of how to effectively use these platforms, so should you engage, in most industries you will set your business apart and become a socially digital pioneer.

One of the most common examples of an inappropriately applied strategy is to solely broadcast media releases and company-related news on Twitter and/or Facebook. When this is done a business is guaranteed to discover a disengaged, diminishing and often mildly hostile list of followers. This is simply because Twitter was not designed for that purpose nor is it generally utilised by users for that reason.

Twitter and micro-blogging was designed to enable peers to instantly share brief ideas, memes, images, information and experiences that they subjectively believe to be important. As the information is transferred, the receiver will judge the importance of the information for themselves and read, share or dismiss the content.

Thus, in order for a business to transplant their ideas into this forum and build a favourable and widespread reputation, they need to have a conversation with users. This can understandably appear daunting in a fairly un-moderated new media environment where criticism and praise are both easily broadcast, but the benefits of effective micro-blogging, with few exceptions, outweigh the negatives.

So how can businesses overcome their Twitter timidity and harness its power to communicate with the ever-expanding and engaged online community?

1. Tailor the style, type and content of your information to each particular platform’s purpose. For success, Twitter requires businesses to tweet with brevity and wit or in a friendly tone, and for the information being broadcast to have potential sharing value. Users can perceive when an account is only interested in engagement that will lead to a direct outcome for the company - and it’s not a good look.

2. Encourage and support those who tweet relevant, useful and interesting content in your field of business by re-tweeting their tweets and perhaps by adding a comment before the RT. The beauty of Twitter is that it often provides you with access to unique web pages otherwise undiscovered and can expand your own business approach.  

3. Respond to questions, comments and recognition in a humble, honest and good-humoured way. The only time when it is best to not respond to tweets is when they are spam or deliberately attempt to provoke a negative response for its own sake.

4. Follow back users who follow you (some discretion can be applied) and in addition always be on the lookout for other valuable and interesting users that are mentioned in your feed.

5. Remember that social media is not a one-way street. It is a discussion that requires personal investment and a reciprocal relationship between users. There is no halfway. To have a Twitter or Facebook account for appearances- or promotion-only will signal to the user that you are not socially engaged, technologically savvy or customer-focused, whether this is true or not.

6. After you have engaged in this way, we at icon.pr would love to hear of your progress and wish you all the best. Business micro-blogging can be a genuinely rewarding experience, personally and professionally.

 

Further reading at the very informative Harvard Business Review blog:

Separate Social Media From Marketing. Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald 

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/11/separate_social_media_from_mar.html

Social Strategies That Work Mikołaj Jan Piskorski

http://hbr.org/2011/11/social-strategies-that-work/ar/1

Social Media Success Is About Purpose (Not Technology) Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/11/social_media_success_is_about.html

Social Media versus Knowledge Management Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/10/social_media_versus_knowledge.html

How Social Digital Is Your Company? David Armano

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/10/how_social-digital_is_your_com.html

 

And for inspiration here are Australian Twitter accounts that are of successful business and organisation micro-bloggers:

@ReadingsBooks

http://twitter.com/readingsbooks

@EARLCanteen

http://twitter.com/earlcanteen

@headspace_aus

http://twitter.com/headspace_aus

@lamadrebakery

http://twitter.com/lamadrebakery

@library_vic

http://twitter.com/library_vic

@penguinbooksaus

http://twitter.com/penguinbooksaus

@madeinthenow

http://twitter.com/madeinthenow