This first appeared on Social Matters April 11 2010
The reality of the situation is that most corporations and government bodies can’t go jumping head first into social media. Generally they have to be risk averse to the degree that it appears that there is no movement at all. It’s a frustration that social media professionals working in those environments struggle with on a daily basis and of course the only answer is education.
Part of that education is an easing in approach that can be summed up by a simple three stage approach to getting onto Twitter.
Stage One – Observe
The best idea for any larger organisation* that is thinking of stepping into the wonderful world of Twitter is to find out what Twitter is in the first place. There may be some people in your organisation who are already on there and they are great resources to chat to about the tone of Twitter, what they like and don’t like from corporate accounts etc. But like the Matrix, no one can tell you what Twitter is, you need to find out for yourself by having a look.
See what people are saying about you, Twitter search is a great tool to get immediate live updates on any keywords. Find out what people are saying RIGHT NOW about you or your industry.
But resist the temptation to respond to them immediately without planning out your approach to the service. Once you’ve gotten an idea of what Twitter is about and how others are using it then formulate a plan.
- What kind of information do you want to give people?
- Who can authorise ‘tweets’ to go live?
- What tone will you use?
- What type of tweets will you answer and what types shouldn’t you?
- Plus about a million more questions that relate to your organisation
*anyone considering going on Twitter might benefit from this even if it only a day or two
Stage Two – Broadcast
Remember this is the safety first deployment so let’s not go rushing in and start trying to @ comment people left right and centre. Let people know that you are now on Twitter via your website or newsletter or even signs up in the office. Get your organisation excited about the new communication channel and get them to promote it.
Register your account (which is completely free to do), change your background to reflect your organisation, maybe link back to a disclaimer explaining how your organisation will using Twitter. Then start broadcasting.
What do you mean by broadcasting?
Well if you have a website, especially if you are a government body you probably update it on a regular basis, you probably (I know there are assumptions here!) have an RSS feed. Use those updates or your RSS feed to put news and links back to your website on Twitter. To put it another way you’re basically using Twitter so that people can follow you just to get updates.
It’s another good way to ease into using the service because no doubt all material going on to the official website is authorised and checked off to go public. You are minimising your risk, as you get closer to stage three maybe start tweeting Twitter unique messages.
Stage Three – Interact
This is going to be your ultimate goal and I think the best use of Twitter for an organisation. Now if someone talks to you or mentions you you’ll be responding according to the guidelines you’ve set yourself as an organisation. Depending upon your approach you might treat Twitter like any communication channel like email or the phone. Let people ask questions and answer them so everyone can see, turn complaints into success stories, use your customer service skills to their full.
This is when exciting stuff can happen!
Of course this is also when horrible things can happen if you haven’t prepared yourselves.
Lets face it, no one is going to love you all the time and some people just won’t listen to reason, whatever you do don’t get into public slinging matches. You only hurt the image of your organisation, your frontline customer relations people are your best tool here. They already know how to deal with difficult customers, use that resource!
Also remember that your people are just that, people, if they make a mistake it’s not the end of the world just keep your head up and roll with it. I’m specifically thinking of the Westpac bank who had an employee accidentally tweet that they ‘were so over today’ from the main corporate account. Rather than just ignore it the bank tweeted a follow up about how everyone is human and hopefully their day will be better tomorrow and the general Twitter’verse thought that was pretty good. They even gained some followers out of it.
Where to now?
I’ve just tried to give you a couple of very simple stages to consider in your approach to Twitter. Each of these stages require a lot more detail and planning but I really just wanted to give you somewhere to start thinking. The same goes with where to go from here. There are no rules you need to follow or direction to go. In fact if it suits your audience and your organisation you can stop in stage two and only broadcast, it’s what suits you and the people who follow your account.