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Tweet, Twitter, Twat; PR Pros Twisted Over Twitter

In From the Social Media War Room on April 7, 2009 at 12:45 am

To Tweet or Not to Tweet, that has been the question and topic of endless discussions on blogs, news articles, talkshow conversations and media rants over the past two months.  I knew Twitter had hit the mainstream when my mother called to tell me she heard Barbara Walters discussing Twitter with her gal pals over at “The View.”  I immediately wished we could bring back Gilda Radner to do Baba Wawa on Twittah. 

The next day, I tuned in to the “Today Show,” and Stephen Colbert was interviewing with Meredith Viera, attempting to educate Viera on Twitter and discussing how he “Twatted.”  Next up,  it was Ellen DeGeneres on “Leno” debating whether she Tweets or Twitters; although nothing seemed to really matter more to her than to have a zillion people following her on Twitter, very few of whom she follows back. 

“Nightline,” the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal…with all the media saturation, PR pros are twisted up over Twitter now more than ever.  Over the past month, I’ve been consulting with folks who generally begin the conversation with a sense of bewilderment and desperation, along the lines of:  “We have to get on Twitter…We need to be Tweeting…All the cool kids are on Twitter.”  As a PR pro, if your CEO or any member of your senior management team is telling you “We have to be on Twitter because everyone else is,” your social media efforts may be doomed right out of the gate.

Blogger B.L. Ochman wrote a terrific post last week titled the Top 10 Reasons Your Company Should Not Tweet.  If your brand can identify with any of the 10 reasons B.L. mentions, no need to read any further, because Twitter ain’t for you.

Twitter, like all social media including Facebook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, MySpace, etc., is about connecting and sharing.  Most critical, Twitter should compliment your PR efforts and be used as a tool to assist you in your outreach and engagement with consumers, reporters and analysts; Twitter is not meant to replace traditional PR.  The value of Twitter is building a community around your brand to engage in real-time interaction with your customers/users/fans and assist them in any way you can.  Your followers then become evangelists for your brand, helping you to spread news and drive buzz.   But you have to be willing to interact and that means taking the good with the bad and the ugly. 

Real-time interactions/conversations with your customers is a good reason to be on Twitter.  Some brands do a terrific job of engaging on Twitter, while others do not.   PR pros are also very eager to pitch via Twitter.   We all know reporters hang out on Twitter.  But caution: test the Twitter waters before jumping in head first. 

Helpful hints:

  1. Determine which person or very small team of in-house folks will manage your Twitter account or accounts.  If you have several products under one corporate brand, you should have separate Twitter accounts for each product.  But who will drive the bus for your social media efforts: PR, Corp Comm, Marketing, Customer Service?  Here’s a great post from blogger Adam Kmiec  on the importance of Community Managers.
  2. Set up Twilerts for your brand and see what others are saying about your product. 
  3. Determine your voice.  Here’s a clue: Corp Comm, Marketing and Advertising speak won’t fly on Twitter.  Your CEO, CMO, PR and Corp Comm Execs may not be the ideal candidates to Tweet.  Some PR pros are strong supporters of why CEOs need to be on Twitter.  But if your CEO is not already active in social media, this could be a disaster.  
  4. Build relationships first.  Begin following people who add value to your community.  I follow folks who are tech bloggers, news-breakers and pop culture junkies.  I also follow reporters, bloggers and analysts who cover my brand and my competitors. 
  5. Twitter is not a one-way Tweet.  Be a valuable contributor to the community and don’t make your Tweets all about you or your brand all the time.  No one will care and you will bore everyone to death.  I follow the 22 to 2 rule: 22 updates of information-sharing and 2 updates about me or my brand. 
  6. Participate in #journchat each Monday night from 7-10pm on Twitter and get some valuable  tips/feedback from other PR pros and reporters on Twitter.  #journchat is the creation of Sarah Evans.  Follow Sarah @prsarahevans.
  7. Most PR pros are familiar with Profnet leads but have you ever heard of Help a Reporter Out? HARO is terrific free service of media leads from Peter Shankman, a.k.a. @skydiver on Twitter.  Follow Peter or sign up for his free newsletter and jump on media leads via Twitter.  Most important, if you see a lead that’s not appropriate for your brand/client, but you have a relevant source to help with the story, send it and develop valuable media relationships via Twitter.
  8. Follow MediaOnTwitter @micropr and check out MicroPR.com, a community powered Wiki, featuring a list of journalists, bloggers and analysts on Twitter and their Twitter IDs.  The site also provides links to helpful discussions on ways of improving PR.
  9. Retweet early and often.  Think of a Retweet (RT) as the sincerest form of flattery.  When you find helpful tips and valuable information others have Tweeted, Retweet the posts to your followers. 
  10. Participate in #followfriday.  Each Friday, folks recommend others to follow.  Here’s a very helpful tutorial on how #followfriday works.

So you’ve got Marketing, PR and Corporate behind you and you’re ready to take a chance on Twitter. Now what??? Coming up: The Do’s and Don’ts of Tweeting and helpful tips to make Twitter work for you.