(Note: This is my post from smbplans.com, where I posted it yesterday. I was asked to repost it here.)
Here’s another good question I received from my Ask-me form on my Timberry.com website:
If I’m trying to build my Twitter presence to support my [omitted] business, who should I follow? How do I find them? How to decide?
I’m happy to answer that one because I think it could be useful to a lot of people starting to look at real-world business use of Twitter. Following in Twitter is important for several reasons:
Who you follow determines what you see. Your Twitter stream is the collection of tweets from the accounts you follow.
Who you follow is who you are. Other people can see how you follow. That means they see what you like, believe in, care about, listen to, and so forth. c
Who you follow is who’s likely to follow you back. For most businesses, following is the best way to be followed. About a third of your follows will follow you back — more if your tweets are interesting, less if they aren’t.
So, with that as background, here’s who I think you should follow for your business twitter account, in order of strategy value:
Leaders. The influencers you respect, want, and need. The people, businesses, and organizations you’d like to have knowing and liking and trusting you. It’s hard to generalize so think strategically for your specific business. For example, a restaurant would want local media, local organizations, hotels, food blogs, night out blogs, restaurant guides, travel guides, reviewers, and local people who comment on restaurants and have followings. The chamber of commerce, restaurant association, chefs’ schools, local university groups might be good targets too.
Media, writers, bloggers, and experts in your field. Authors whose work you like and respect. People who you’d like to see writing about you. Our sample restaurant would look for food, dining, restaurant, travel media.
Social media stars who turn up in keyword searches. Search the web, search Twitter, using important keywords. The restaurant example might search for #dining, #gourmet, #organic, #vegetarian, #chefs, #fastfood, #slowfood, #meals, for example. And if it is located in Eugene, OR then it would search for #eugene and #oregon too. See who tweets with those hashtags. See what content they tweet. Decide whether you are compatible with them.
Local organizations, groups, and institutions. The schools, universities, community colleges, public theater, development groups.
Some general news and bloggers and information sources on idea, places, topics, and people that interest you. This is just because you want to see what they’re offering. They’re not strategic.
Friends, family, and compatible business associates.
It must be awfully hard to be a Gen Y person and have to deal with all the discussion about Gen Y and Gen Y stereotypes. At least with my generation, the baby boomers, we were all just one big vague hippy-long-hair-freedom stereotype and we didn’t mind it. But with Gen Y, all this stuff about entitlement and selfishness, jeez, what a drag.
One random though here about age vs. experience, that I think works into the Gen Y stereotype and what’s often wrong with it: social media. Specifically, Facebook.
Here’s what I suggest: go back in time to Fall of 2005. Imagine the typical 18-year-old college freshman of that year. She was by definition one of the first fluent users of Facebook. It seemed like second nature to her.
Flash forward to 2012. Seven years later. She’s 25 now, classic Gen Y, and might seem impatient with managers who don’t understand Facebook and Twitter. She’s been working with Facebook from the very beginning, and adapted Twitter in 2007. She’s taken social media as instinct, commonplace, something obvious.
But the world around her thinks she’s demanding too much too soon.
You can read here on Mashable how a guy named Noah Kravitz worked at a company named PhoneDog, tweeting while he did as “@phonedog_noah,” and then left the company and took — or tried to — his 17,000 Twitter followers with him when he left.
“Tried to” because PhoneDog is suing him for $2.50 per follower.
Google “phonedog Noah Kravitz” and you’ll see what a mess. Lots of different opinions. And there are clearly two sides — or more — to the story. Evil establishment claiming the life and identity of poor wage slave? Unscrupulous employee running off with company assets as he leaves? Take your choice.
What I see is one huge mistake: the account name: “@phonedog_noah.” It’s half company, half personal. If he’d been tweeting as “@NoahKravitz” then his ownership would have been clear: his name, his followers, his account. Or if he’d been tweeting as “@PhoneDog” then it would have been equally clear: company name, company account, company followers. Unfortunately, “@phonedog_noah” is a bit of both. Ambiguity, here we come.
I took a quick look at my business, Palo Alto Software, which has a @bplans twitter account and a bplans facebook page. Those are the company’s, no doubt. I post on them, Sabrina posts, Noah posts, Monique posts, and others do too. Some people who are no longer employees have posted to those in the past. But @timberry is mine, not the company’s; and @mommyceo is Sabrina’s, and so on. These are easy distinctions to make.
What about your business? Whose brand are you building?
I engage happily with people at companies. Shashi Bellamkonda., for example, who works with Network Solutions, or Richard Duffy, with SAP. These are people. I’ve met them on Twitter, and then in one case in person and the other by phone. This is actually social, amplified by technology. It’s cool.
I think it was inevitable. First, the web, then blogs. Content is king. Then Facebook, and then Twitter, and social media is real. Long live the king. The king is dead. We’re gagging on all the content. We need curation. We need to gather and collect — call that curate — our favorite content. The new collection of content is content.
Damn, I don’t need another social media platform. I love Twitter, tolerate Facebook, dabble with Google+, keep up with LinkedIn. I like the ones that let me sign in with Twitter or Facebook. But who needs another one?
But those are all so last year. Now it’s the curation and collection functions driving content. Collect all those tweets, those updates, the links you like, the pictures you like. You put them up on your new curated content site.
Small wonder that Tumblr, Pinterest, Paper.li and others like them are taking off like crazy. For now and 2012, we’re generating so much content everywhere that we’re driving ourselves crazy. I don’t want to estimate how much of my time I spend clipping and linking and gathering and collecting. And everybody’s doing it. Collect and post.
2012’s going to be the year of content collection, and curating.
Brian Solis, author of Engage, expert on social media for business, posted The End of Social Media 1.0 last week on his blog. Not that there is a 2.0 or 3.0 exactly, he explains, but he says we’re at an inflection point.
… the end of an era of social media that will force the industry to mature. It won’t happen on its own however. Evolution will occur because consumers demand it.
The key point, Brian seems to suggest, is listening. Keep the social in social media, don’t turn it into one-way media. Corporate social media campaigns – twitter streams, Facebook fan pages, and so on – tend to be one-way communication, Brian suggests, talking without listening:
… there’s more to social media than clever campaigns and rudimentary conversations. Talking isn’t the only thing that makes social media social. Just like adding Facebook, Twitter and other sharing buttons will not magically transform static content into shareable experiences. Listening, learning and adapting is where the real value of social media will show its true colors. Listening leads to a more informed business. Engagement unlocks empathy and innovation. But it is action and adaptation that leads to relevance. And, it never ends.
I see that as an interesting challenge. It’s not entirely up to the company whether you communicate with it or not; it’s up to you. Do you engage with logos as people? Do you expect a logo to listen? Does it care what you think about issues, topics, or anything but its brand? Do you care what it thinks about issues and topics outside its specific brand focus?
This is the complete unedited text of an email I received last week. It’s just the latest one. I get a lot of them.
I was wondering if you took paid guest posts on your site? Not a traditional “guest post” but one you’d be compensated for and have complete editorial control over.
I’m part of a business that does high-end brand placements worked into guest posts on a variety of subjects. The posts don’t advocate or review our clients, they are informational and/or newsy. We include a reference link to our clients amongst other topical links inside the content. We’d provide the article, written by a domain expert, and money for you to review and post it upon your approval.
(If you don’t take guest posts, we also have arrangements where we discuss your upcoming post and find one in which a link makes sense and pay you to include it.)
Is that something that you would be interested in?
I always say no. Do you?
Back in the dinosaur days (1970-71), when I studied Journalism in grad school, they taught ethics in journalism. There was a code of conduct. And It’s still around, if you’re interested. Here’s a quote from the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics:
—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.
I say all non-advertising writing, not just all journalism, should follow that code of ethics. Not just blogs, but all of social media too. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+: if you get paid to endorse something, say so, or you’re sleazy. Social media is also publishing. And this is just simple right and wrong.
Besides which, if sell yourself like that, then you have no credibility.
I’m troubled. Some of the smartest, most successful people I know say marketing is dead. It doesn’t matter, they say. It’s a waste of time. Instead…
… just build great product. Disrupt a big market. The buzz will follow.
And it makes some sense. Did Facebook care about marketing, or product? What about Twitter? Amazon.com? You could say their product was their marketing.
Which, however, is something like saying higher education is useless because Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of college.
No doubt marketing is all mixed up and turned inside out these days. It’s still a strong force in big businesses with multi-million-dollar advertising budgets, but there’s this new world in which thought, content, effort and authenticity make up for money. You don’t necessarily buy attention in this new world – you can earn it instead.
But a lot of the core concepts — like understanding your target markets, and developing your main messages, and pricing as message, and managing channels – are as important as ever.
Because there are the brilliant exceptions to the rule, and then there’s the rule.
It was more than two years ago that I first saw a business plan for a social media cleaning service, meaning a company that would clean up all those dumb and embarrassing things college kids posted on Facebook, when they wake up to the job market and the implications. (Aside: that one was done by Kai Davis, who is now doing marketing for Palo Alto Software).
My favorite comment in this context:
What part of the word publishing don’t you understand?
I’m traveling as I write this, waiting for my car to get new brakes while on a driving trip to California. While I was driving this morning I heard a major radio station commercial for a social media cleaning service. Sorry, I forget its name, I’d like to mention it.
So the contest is on: the social media scraping service, telling your next employer every dumb comment and picture you posted online; vs. the social media cleaning service, helping you get all of that off of the web.