What’s with Twitter? Why use it?
If you’re not in to social media, then Twitter may seem like it’s from some alien planet. People conversing in 140 character snippets. Why would you bother?
It’s all about engagement, getting the consumers of your websites – your audiences to start a conversation with you. Your webite will have different audience groups for example customers, suppliers maybe, the public, your competition etc etc. Generally speaking, small business websites will be broadcast only, that is, you talk to your audiences, you publish – they read. Twitter allows you to have a conversation, more or less in real time, for example you could give service updates – EasyJet does this very effectively with two Twitter feeds.
How does it work?
Let’s take a step back. You need to know about Blogging. A Blog (or weblog) is an online journal – a ‘dear diary’ written by someone about a specific subject. You’re reading a blog now, mine – I write for small business owners about web related subjects. A individual blog post can be a small or more lengthy article or as in this case, a series of linked articles. Twitter however, is known as micro-blogging because unlike this article, on Twitter, you only have 140 characters (inclduing spaces) per message. Brevity is everything!
If you just go to Twitter.com you’ll see a login page and little else. have a look at http://twitter.com/easyJet
So what benefit is it?
You may be thinking, and rightly so, that what can you do with 140 characters?, well, a surprising amount.
Slightly technical stuff: Lets take a tweet apart.
Here’s a mythical post
@freddo You can #buy the new mycompany #energysaving product at all good shops. It will #save you #money see it here http://bit.ly/abcde
There is a simple message here but it is in a sort of code and to save you counting, with spaces is 136 characters
freddo is another twitter user. The @ is a way of ensuring that you reply to a message he sent us or question he asked. Its called a mention.
#buy, #energysaving, #save, #money
These are known as hashtags and are keywords (tags) that you can use to ensure that your post will appear to anybody who is searching for whatever is in the hash tag.
To create a hashtag, you simply add a leading has character # to a word which will then become a searchable term.
If I’m interested in searching for who is talking about energysaving, I could easily put this in the searchbox and all those tweets that use this hashtag will appear. This is hugely useful because you can ensure that you appear in other peoples’ searches. Try not to overdo hashtags – it can make a tweet difficult to read. Inthe example above, I’ve probably used one too many. 1 great, 2 ok, 3 acceptable, 4 or more, probably a bad idea. If you spend any amount of time on Twitter you’ll probably see hash-spam, tweets that consist of nothing but hashtags
This is a shortened link. As you only have 140 characters to playwith, then long web page addresses could in themselves be 140 characters or more, this wouldn’t work. So http://bit.ly, www.tinyurl.com and others provide url shortening services.
You go to the bit.ly website, paste in your long url and it will create a shortened version called a redirect which you can use in your twitter post.
This means that you can paste long links efficiently into your tweets.
This page that homes a semi live webcam looking at the US volcano Mount St Helens http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volcanocams/msh/views/java-highdef.php is 64 characters long – almost 1/2 a tweet!
It shortens to
http://bit.ly/s113I which is 19 characters long – must more usable.
When the weather is good, you get a great view but Mount St Helens is 8 hours behind the UK time.
So back to our mythical tweet, we’re telling somebody directly that they can find our product in all good shops, some benefits and what it looks like – which is on our website.
But you say, I’m only talking to one person – there’s no return on investment!
Wrong. By using hashtags, you’re actually tweeting to hundreds if not thousands of people. If you pick them carefully then anybody who searches for that subject will see you.
Twitter is not about quantity of people, but quality. Effective advertising is all about targetting, the more effectively you target your audience, the more effective your adverts will be.
Simply matching your offer to their needs just like any other form of advertising. Nothing changes on Twitter.
The example so far has been about talking about ‘my product’. Think of all the ways that you talk to your customers
Expressing interest in what your customers are doing
One word we haven’t discussed so far, ‘social’ as in ‘social media’ If you watch Twitter for a while, you’ll notice that it’s quite sociable even on business topics, people ask questions, give you a bit of banter, have fun. This may sound alien in a business context, but just think, when you talk with your regular customers you do this anyway, talk about the football game last night, what they did at the weekend etc etc, Twitter, again is no different.
Twitter is a good way of communicating with people interested in your interests or business type or products. You have 140 characters per message and you can build quite a powerful short message by use of shortened web addresses and hashtags. It is useful in passing on snippets of information or drawing people to your website. Twitter is done in real time, you need to be present on a regular basis.
In the next in this series, we’ll have a look at Followers and Following – building a community.
How can Facebook benefit business? Facebook is a social phenomenon and volumes have been written about it, including recently the feature film. For good or ill it is a major presence in the web world. I’m not going to repeat all that here. If you want to read the background, try the Wikipedia article.
So, what’s it all about?
At its simplest, Facebook allows groups of people to communicate with each other online, whether those people are part of a shared interest group such as wheelchair users or a school year group or whether it is an individual keeping up with their friends, it is all about communities of people.
I have heard it said “If I want to talk with my firends, I’ll call them on the phone” fair enough, but do you? I know I don’t, I’m really busy with my work, both the day job and private work, my family and at weekends, being a taxi driver for my children! So do I have time to keep up with what my friends are doing? No. And I guess you may not either. Facebook allows this.
The analogy here is like working in a big office. I do and I have lots of friendships, some strong and some more ad-hoc but no less friendly. I see the people I work with variously many times per day, a couple of times per day, week, month or less so for those who work abroad or who are field sales staff. When I pass somebody in the corridor I’ll say hello, ask how they are, share a joke or whatever, the normal pattern of social interraction.
Put that online and in effect you have Facebook. You can keep up with the minutiae of your friends lives in the way that you would if you saw them everyday. There is a couple of people I worked with for a few years who moved to Thailand for a year or so and are now in Mexico. It’s good to keep in touch and there is no way I could do that over the phone.
It’s not that simple however, Facebook has lots of applications built in, games, photo albums and so on to make what is an entertaining experience. In order to experience all of this, you need to sign up and to see what your friends are doing, you have to send them a ‘friend request’, which is a request to allow you to see what they are doing. Once this is allowed, you’ll see everything they post.
How can it be used to benefit business?
What do you want for your business? More customers, more sales, more profit, however you express it, your organisation exists to achieve something. In order to achieve that something, you need exposure to more people. Take a look at these Facebook statistics, I think you’ll find them interesting. They key one is users. 624 million unique users worldwide. 151million in the USA and 28 Million in the UK. The demographics show the largest user group to be 18-25 and then declining by age group upwards. The fastest growing user group is middle aged women.
To me lots of users says lots of customers and lots of potential. I am aware that I haven’t actually answered the question.
There are loads of ways to use Facebook to benefit your business.
1. Paid for advertising. Facebooks advertising tools allow you to quite accurately target particular groups of users. This is especially useful if your products or services are aimed at particular groups. I know of one company that recruited a new worked using Facebook alone. They targetted 18-25 year old university graduates in marketing living in the Leicester (UK) area with an advert that directed them to a web page that had a YouTube video on of the girl who was leaving, talking about how great her job was. It cost them about £100 and they got loads of candidates inthe right target group with the right skills in no time at all.
2. Building a community. One of my case study clients – the restaurant, has a Facebook page to create a buzz about their business. They get parties of people in all having a good time, take photo’s and post them on Facebook where their friends can see them having a great meal. This is good publicity and spreads the word reinforcing the association of people having a good time at this restaurant.
Meryl. K. Evans on the Gigacom website has identified 32 ways to use Facebook in your business. The article was written in 2009
In this series of articles I will be explaining all about social media and its implications for business as well as how you can start taking advantage of it if it is appropriate for your business. Before I get into the detail, lets take a few steps back and understand how it came about.
The first generation of the internet in broad terms was broadcast. I create a website and you look at it. You can send me an email or fill in a form which will do something. You could towards the end of this generation buy things through e-commerce.
You can see the previous generation of webmozaic here
This is where a lot of websites still are and probably will be for the foreseeable future. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The second generation of the internet or ‘web 2.0′ as it has been known is where website visitors can interact with websites. That is where this site is. For example. if you wish to comment on this article or ask me a question, you can and other people can comment on your comments. You do this directly on the page you’re looking at.
The ultimate example of this social aspect to the web is probably Facebook which for good or ill is about as social as you can get on the web. We’ll talk about Facebook in later articles.
Can business use social media?
Yes. There are many area where social media can help a business both in terms of sales, support as well as helping companies to interract with their customers in a way that has never been possible before. One issue that many businesses have is with engagement, the customers just don’t get excited about the products. Social media can help. Your customers may not get excited about the products, but how about what the products allow them to do?
Should every business use social media?
No. It isn’t appropriate for everyone. To do it ‘properly’ takes commitment, and resources, some cash and certainly time. It maybe that you just don’t have enough to say, or that you are very much business-to-business.