by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Certified Non-Celebrity…
You could blame the inane trending topics, like these…
Each trend is based on hundreds of tweets. Kind of makes your cerebrum cringe, doesn’t it?
That said, lobotomizing trends aren’t the primary reason people become Qwitters — in fact, they’re part of the social network’s attraction. (Tell me again how social media will advance civilization.)
No, people quit because they see NO VALUE in tweeting. They attempt “best practices” preached by social media gurus, then realize they’re wasting hours reading and tweeting messages that get near-zero response. They might as well walk around Grand Central Station talking to themselves and eavesdropping on conversations. At least they’d get some exercise.
Even celebrity Megan Fox doesn’t see value in Twitter — here’s her last Tweet, posted January 9, 2013:
Yet her now-inactive account still has 880,000 followers.
And there’s the problem: most Twitter “best practices” are based on celebrities…
By celebrities, I include people, organizations, and brands that consumers love, from Ashton Kutcher to the Dallas Cowboys. (If the Supreme Court can claim that corporations are people, so can I.) These “celebrated” brands already had the necessary qualities to attract fans, so what works for them won’t necessarily work for the rest of us.
That’s true even of Kogi BBQ: very few food trucks have replicated Kogi’s success despite copying their practices. Yet millions of Twitter newbies expect that simply tweeting will bestow unto them celebrity-like followings and responses.
So ask yourself this:
- Are you a Hollywood actor, rock star, or comedian who’s C-list or higher?
- Are you a trendy and critically acclaimed gourmet food truck that runs from L.A. hotspot to hotspot?
- Are you a known journalist, news outlet, or prominent member of the techie community?
- Are you a professional sports team, band, political party, or religion with a cult following?
If you answered “no” to all the above, then Twitter might not work for you as hyped by the gurus. Odds are, your tweeting alone won’t attract many legitimate (non-spammer) followers — most people attract fewer than 100. You likely won’t get many responses — one study found that 71% of tweets are ignored.
But don’t despair, oh fellow non-celebs — there’s still value in Twitter for the rest of us, and it entails just 3 elements. In typical marketer fashion, I started them all with the same letter. (Little things like that keep us writers happy.)
The 3R’s Of Twitter…
Yes, you’ll find many uses of Twitter not covered below, but these fundamentals apply to most people and organizations just starting to tweet — or wondering whether they should tweet at all.
When starting out, don’t worry about responses to your individual tweets. Rather, treat your profile as a representative body of work. Just like a collection of sentences makes up a novel, your collective tweets provide a verbal snapshot of you, composed 140 characters at a time.
So before you issue a single tweet, consider how you want people to perceive you if they read your entire profile. Would they see you as an expert, or someone who just makes random trivial observations (such as comments about the weather, check-ins of your current location, and anything about Klout)? Would they see you as someone they’d want to hire or do business with, or just another clone who shares famous quotations and article after article without comments?
This R matters most for those concerned about their brands online — which should be everyone. Your Twitter profile ranks highly on Google when people search for you, and it’s a result you can control. So start with 20 tweets that show all those curious recruiters/customers/journalists/investors/potential spouses etc. that you’re clever, conscientious, and completely trustworthy.
In addition to enlightening people researching you, use Twitter to research others. If you have an interview or investor pitch coming, know what the company (and, if possible, the person you’re meeting) has been tweeting. In addition, know the journalists, bloggers, and other influencers covering your industry. And, of course, know the potential clients or customers who fall within your target market — what interests them besides your product?
And don’t forget to check out the competition. What are they hyping? Who are their followers? Tip: your competitor’s customers — list of followers — are handy to know. At the least, monitor your competitors so you can differentiate from them.
In addition, use Twitter search to learn what people might be saying about your industry, your product category, even yourself. (You may be more of a celebrity than you think.) That research might give you ideas for your business, or involve you in a worthwhile conversation.
Do keep in mind that Twitter is not representative of the U.S. population (and definitely not the world) in terms of age, race, education, values, tech savvy, and other factors, and what people talk about on Twitter does not reflect what they actually do (like vote or watch Sharknado), so take whatever you learn on Twitter as suggestions only.
Ideally, Twitter will help you meet people who will make you rich and famous, or at least buy whatever you’re selling.
Don’t hold your breath.
Sure, you’ve read Twitter success stories, but notice how few there are out of Twitter’s 200 million users. (Actually, given all the spammers and dead accounts, I’m guessing it’s only 100 million users, but that’s another story.)
Instead, use Twitter to meet colleagues in your industry (or collaborators and complements, if you’re a business). Use it to develop a rapport with influencers — members of the community who can significantly affect you or your industry: journalists/bloggers, politicians, and select celebrities.
By the way, building a relationship with someone on Twitter involves much more than following them. Just following is not marketing — it’s stalking.
Obviously and ultimately, use Twitter to establish relationships with potential employers/clients/customers, but first determine if and why they’d want a relationship with you (hint to brands: most customers aren’t that into you). If you already have customers or fans, then use Twitter to provide interaction and service — but monitor how much time you’re investing and what you’re getting out of it. You should try to enhance your relationships, not perfect your chitchat skills.
So where’s the fourth R — ROI?
Certainly, getting financial value out of social media is what marketers want, right? Well, yes, they’re talking about it but very few are actually doing it. So start with the 3R’s, then think financial returns.
What about followers and engagement? At this point in your Twitter career, they’re mostly distractions. First, “following” is Twitter’s biggest lie — and the basis of a thriving sweatshop industry in fake followers. So don’t sweat the numbers. You’ll attract the most legitimate and worthwhile followers with your activities in the real world: networking, speaking, publishing, teaching, consulting, singing, dancing, slamdunking, wining, dining, etc.
As for “engagement,” it’s a meaningless term. The ideal responses to your tweets are clickthroughs and business results… which most Twitter users never get enough of to even count. For the time being, your ideal “engagement” is establishing true relationships with valuable connections.
But Wait, There’s Not More…
Some of you might think that reputation, relationships, and research alone aren’t worth your time — and you’re right if you already have a solid reputation in the real world, many strong and valuable relationships, and a team to do your research for you. Interestingly, that’s the case with most celebrities.
Yes, most celebrities are wasting their time on Twitter, too.
Even with these 3R’s, Twitter isn’t for everyone. In his article “Three Reasons Why Your CEO Should Stay The Hell Away From Twitter.” , Ron Shevlin lists 3 key reasons for abstinence:
- S/he has nothing to say.
- Your customers aren’t on Twitter.
- S/he has better things to do with his/her time.
Amen to that. And I would add that, like celebrities, most CEO’s already have strong reputations, relationships, and researchers. Indeed, a CEO can hurt her reputation by spending too much time on Twitter (shouldn’t she be running her company?) or saying the wrong thing (do famous people say stupid things on Twitter that come back to bite them? can you say “Chick-fil-a”?).
No wonder 60% of Twitter users quit within their first month — and 82% of American adults don’t tweet at all.
But perhaps you have no choice. Your boss or client is making you tweet on their behalf. Or, if you’re looking for a marketing job and you’re younger than 30, employers will expect you to tweet. A former student of mine who’s smart, talented, friendly, and experienced recently lost out on a job when she confessed during a second-round interview that she didn’t tweet. Now she’s on Twitter and exasperated at how vapid it all seems. I agreed with her: vapidity is the norm on Twitter. But for the sake of her career, I told her to focus on the 3R’s, then spend her spare time reading The Economist or Wired to restore any brain cells numbed by things that are #ShorterThanBeyoncesHair.