Twitter Turns Eight

Twitter Turns EightTwitter is officially eight-years-old. In the time since its launch, the platform has been adopted by more than 200 million people around the world for news, communication, networking, customer service, research and more.

Twitter is a channel in its own right. It has its own dynamic, etiquette and culture. Any organization that is considering adopting Twitter as a channel must start with a firm purpose and objective in mind.

Here are some of the other issues that they should consider.

Start by listening

A good place to start before you register an account is to search Twitter and listen to the conversations about your organization and its market. You’ll almost certainly be able to add value by participating in these conversations as well.

Governance

You should have policies in place for ownership of your Twitter handle. Who is going to be the keeper of the username and password? Who is responsible for managing the account? All of these questions must be answered prior to the launch of your new Twitter account.

Twitter is a social network. Organizations don’t tweet, people do. You need to decide upon a tone of voice and style of language that is appropriate to your organization first and foremost, but also the network.

Workflow

Twitter is increasingly being integrated alongside other communication activities and is being managed as part of an enterprise workflow. A third-party market has emerged to enable multiple people to manage an account and integrate Twitter alongside other activities, such as customer service.

You need a firm plan for managing the always-on nature of Twitter. What will you do when you receive a “@” mention from an irate customer after hours? A mild-manner tweet in the evening can turn into a reputational issue by morning.

There are two clear distinct approaches. The first and most popular approach is clear hours of use, or opening hours, set out in the account biography. The second is “follow-the-sun management,” where the account is passed from office-to-office and region-to-region over a 24-hour period.

Network and promotion

Your organization has multiple stakeholders. We’d recommend building a network (following) of your key publics, or audiences, as a starting point. This will differ from organization to organization and market-to-market and may include staff, customers, suppliers, media and others.

Increasingly, there is a trend towards organizations creating multiple Twitter accounts for different activities, often separating communication from customer service. This fragments your audience, often for good reason, and is critical to providing clear signposts for your customers.

Twitter has a developing portfolio of ad products to enable you to promote an account and content. The question is though: How much are you willing to invest to build your Twitter profile?

Engagement

Corporate Twitter feeds typically follow a lifecycle that starts with pushing out corporate information. Very quickly afterwards, stakeholders find the feed and start to engage by asking questions, and in the case of retail facing organizations, raising customer service issues.

Organizations tend to be polarized between those that never engage and those that respond to every mention. Your organization needs to have a clear policy and the resources to engage. Additionally, you need to understand how to proactively engage in conversations with other Twitter users, and when to favorite or retweet (RT) a certain tweet.

Twitter is always-on. The network is a dynamic all of its own with peak periods around 8 to 9am, midday and 4 to 6pm. You will need to develop a content calendar that is aligned to your other communication activities in order to keep messaging consistent across your online channels.

Before you start your Twitter profile and become active on it, make sure you complete this checklist first:

1. What’s your objective?

2. How will you measure success?

3. Who are you seeking to network with?

4. Who will be the keeper of the keys to your Twitter account?

5. Define a tone of voice

6. How will you manage/staff your account?

7. How and when will you engage on Twitter with other users?

8. Develop a content plan

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too.

Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds