What Twitter is good for and not
– Amplification and Acceleration, Not Influence
By Thomas B. Cross @techtionary
This is written for people who don’t get Twitter, don’t know what it is good for either but also good for anyone who gets it who want to get more from it – less than 3 minute read.
Nearly every d- day I get asked or rather people ask me, “what is Twitter good for?” Nary do I have a snappy answer that really satisfies them or myself. Most think Twitter is really annoying and following people back is even more annoying as they don’t understand why people are following them at all and they don’t like who does. After five minutes I generally give up because they really don’t want to learn about Twitter nor use it effectively. Unlike Facebook which turns viewers into addicted voyeurs, Linkedin for job seekers, Pinterest for compulsive shoppers, Instagram/Snapchat for selfie fanatics, and other platforms, Twitter doesn’t seem to have a one-word answer for what it is good for. People have tried to explain what Twitter is all about like it’s a newsfeed or something like that. There are even hashtags like #TwitterVersusFacebook where people post their attempts at explaining Twitter in comparison to Facebook to little or no avail. Even having you know who in the White House doesn’t help as both sides of the aisle think he tweets far too much on random subjects that infuriates nearly all of them depending on the issue. Twitter gets grouped in with all the other social media services but doesn’t really help give it a function or role in society. With all the fake and hate news, Twitter is also seen as some form of social cyberbullying or people in need of a social intervention for social media addiction. A recent example is small town Police Chief in a recent newscast rant added some more colorful language about the perils of social media.
B2C and B2B
Getting back to the point of this article, what is the role of social media and specifically Twitter in business. Let’s start with B2C-business-to-consumer. While many try, in my opinion, Twitter isn’t really the ideal platform for B2C. Here’s my two cents. It’s easy to say that Facebook is, rather was, (too many privacy violation breaches in my opinion to be trusted ever again) great for B2C. But my recommendation going forward is not to trust them or any other media. Instead of using Twitter for B2C, you should build your own platform rather than be dependent on any one else ever again. Does this mean that you can’t trust anyone? Certainly not, if you prefer traditional old school B2B advertising, there are still plenty of great places to spend your marketing dollars. Start by finding your audience and support that whether it be the NFL, NRA, NYT, WSJ or the Sierra Club. Carefully target your audience and let them amplify your efforts.
But Wait – What about Search?
There is long held legacy thinking that search is the best way customers can find you. For example, type in SDWAN, IoT, AI or whatever you are looking for and you will not only get a mouthful but a mountain of information with paid advertising leading the way. In the research phase search does work but when you start asking questions on scalability, security, compatibility, integration, API, disaster recovery and all the other key issues you really need to know about whether the solution will fit your situation, search falls on its face. Is social the answer? Maybe but not solely, Twitter lets you dig deeper in to the topics rather easily you can easily look at what the thought leaders, experts, competitors are saying. Does that give you all the answers? No, social media is not a panacea but after helping small to large, multi-nationals and global companies, social media in the form of Twitter skips to the head of the class or shortens your search for the solution. Rather than start with search, start with social and you will gain more knowledge about what you are trying to do that ever before. If you want to stick with social media, here is where Twitter can really do to accelerate your messaging. Begin by find Twitter leaders in the key fields who can amplify your efforts. I prefer the term amplify rather than influence because in B2B-business-to-business it is a much harder task to influence buyers. Of course, depending on your budget, you can hire consulting firms, get research and reports (Gartner, F&S, etc.), review news publications and even ask others. Any of them may say they are not biased but in reality they have their own biases because the research is done by people and your position in a quadrant chart is really an opinion, not a fact.
Advice for Solutions Providers
If you want to shorten the sales cycle, build a stronger competitive position, lead the industry, start with building your own unbiased content, hire as many experts and thought leaders as you can and let them write what they think about you. Publish their views and let viewers “fact check” and decide who to believe. You can even moderate this “user-generated content” (think of them as user-generated case studies) allowing you to cut out the rants and even have your gang of experts and staff available to respond to legitimate questions. By being open and transparent, you aren’t really trying to influence customers, you are trying to educate them on the issues facing them. You and your experts can write on topics from all kinds of angles, such as viewpoints of the CFO, CIO, CEO and others. Even more important you can write from the customer perspective how they plan to and/or has used your product in their situation. Potential and current customers love customer case studies. Most companies realize their importance but really hate doing them because they are afraid to find out what customers really think about them. When they do find out what customers think, they often don’t want to publish them because being transparent isn’t really in their sales model. However, if you are brave enough to get what people really think of you not just corporate blather you think people want to know, then get outsiders to write their opinions. Afterward, you can take the next step to get them and others to amplify these thoughts or thought leadership. Not as influencers but as commentators and educators. If you educate viewers and see what others say about them, tell them the truth about you then they will believe what you have to say about your products.
Twitter Amplifier & Accelerator
If you want real amplification, this is where Twitter really excels. Once you have your ongoing (daily articles being the goal) content underway, then you can really use Twitter to amplify your messaging. The point about Twitter amplification rather than influence is that it is nice to have great content on your website, but you need a lot of amplifiers to “rip it off the shelf” for others to see. The more amplifiers the merrier as the saying goes. You can find them by doing a search of #hashtags for your topic or industry. In the end, people don’t want to be influenced they want to know on their own what they should do because their jobs will likely dependent on what they buy. No influencer will help them when stuff happens and they get that call from the CEO who wants to know why the company was breached by hackers, the company product was breached by hackers, someone ate something that made many of them sick or something else that is really bad. Saying your decision was based on an influencer is not the right answer to the CEO and the result is often a RGE-resume generating event as you get walked out the door.
Accelerating via Twitter Farther – Faster
In retail business, it is location, location, and location. In SMB and enterprise business it is all about networking, networking and networking. Learning from colleagues about their experiences, vendors, leadership challenges, hiring and more. Twitter can also be a networking platform but discussing that is for another article. In the meantime, Twitter is an engaging social platform for connecting with experts, content and new ideas. Drilling into the details, you can find anything you want via Twitter more than any search process because you can actually connect with the experts and thought leaders directly. Search only gives you links back to website content, Twitter puts you directly in front of real thought leaders as you can see what they really know and say. You can connect with them and ask them questions. In other words, Twitter is a global networking meetup group where you can find great people on any subject. From that vantage you can engage with people you need to help you solve the problems you have. Of course, you can connect with Linkedin, but Twitter is, frankly, much more engaging than Linkedin groups. You can have real-time, right now interactions with anyone anywhere and even connect with great leaders. This is the secret sauce as social selling increases. Most companies are lagging behind in their real-time Twitter presence thinking it is just one-way means of broadcasting their corporate blather. This is not what Twitter is good for. I started this article with the fact that people don’t understand Twitter, it is not surprising people don’t understand how to use it effectively. However, think of it as what you do in your live business events you talk, engage, sell and build new friendships. While live events are more popular than ever, not everyone can be at the tradeshow or event but they are vitally and critically interested in the topics and people. And, to that point, I will leave you with one last thought. Twitter is an effective online networking and growing social selling system that really works. If you prefer a sports metaphor prepared yourself, train and train again, get the “golf pro” and like golf play as if you were playing the PGA Pro Tour to win!
My thanks for taking the time to read this and if you want help in gaining-retaining followers connect with @evankirstel or myself. We really do help people and not just about Twitter but with social selling, chatbots and other innovative ways to capitalize on the next wave in sales and marketing.