Twitter for dummies

Over the past month we’ve rolled out our Colmar Brunton nzgirl Women’s Tracker presentation to agencies and clients and one of the key discussions from the preso has been around Twitter. While the most commonly bandied-around, unlikely-to-be-grounded-in-fact number of participators in New Zealand is around nice percent I suspect the reality is much smaller.  And in an industry more likely to be exposed to new communication tools, I found only a very small number of people actively participating. In some agency meetings, often in a room of twenty media buyers, not one of them was tweeting.

Even more surprising was the sheer number of times I heard the old tune of “who has time?” or “why would you want to?” #sigh.

For those who Tweet, like me, I’m sure you’ll join me in an impassioned retort of “because it’s the fastest, most useful way to pass and receive information” and with 21 percent of nzgirls telling us they tweet, we know we’re not alone.

We’re not all geeks and self-promoters (shhh, you in the cheap seats). A quick poll of my followers returned an eclectic mix of occupations: doctor, brand manager, builder, writer, engineer, athlete, developer and ad-man (phew, represent!). When asked why they tweet, mostly they said because they could. So are they just a bunch of extroverts looking to puff themselves up? Nope. Most of them stated they were introverts. They contend that Twitter is a great way to be a little more extroverted than they normally are. This is a common response we get in nzgirl surveys around what benefit the audience get out of online interaction with peers. They feel they can ‘expand upon’ their personalities.

Your individual personality is your choice, of course, and like any environment you’ll turn-on and turn-off people for different reasons. Don’t over analyse it. The point is to be yourself and let that shine through. My theory is that people will help people. They support a person behind a brand, not just the brand. So if your goal for Twitter is to get information passed along quickly, first of all you need to build a community of followers who actually like you and your brand and the best way to do that is to be yourself. Build a personal connection. Humanise your brand. I think this is why we see so many corporate Tweeters state who is tweeting. They’ve understood this concept.

I realise there’s a mountain of information out there on the ins and outs of Twitter (and I wouldn’t dare suggest that I’m an expert) but these are my personal rules of conduct. If you’re new to the habit or looking for a new addiction, you might find these useful.

1. GET STARTED: Use it personally before jumping in as brand. Make your mistakes on your own time, then lend your expertise.

2. PERSONALITY: Tweet with spunk. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

3. GIVE & TAKE: Twitter is a community. You give and receive. It can’t be used just when you have something to share. Build up a trust and relationship with your community by having conversations with them. Then when you have news to share, they’ll happily help you spread it.

4. MANNERS: Remember to thank people who do things for you, with retweets and replies. Retweet for other people where appropriate.

5. HONESTY: Online tends to give voices to over-opinionated people, but as long as you’re honest you’ll be sweet with the people that count.

6. SURPRISE & DELIGHT: Tweeter’s love getting things for free (even little things). Don’t make it disingenuous by being a stickler for rules though.

7. BE PICKY: It’s okay to not follow everyone who follows you. Also don’t get hung up on who “unfollows” you (whatever you do, don’t download the app that tells you, it will just drive you mad).

8. AUTO DM: Don’t send automatic DM messages to people when they follow you. It’s not meaningful, or authentic. It’s a little creepy.

9. NO INSTANT FACEBOOK: Just because they’re your Twitter friend doesn’t mean they want to be your Facebook buddy too.

10. FEEDS: Twitter feeds can be good but watch the appropriateness of matching your environments. Personally I turned off my Twitter to Linked:In feed. It was just not the right place for it.

11. DECORUM: Swearing isn’t generally accepted unless really warranted.

12. NO PREACHING: Don’t bang on about something. Allow people to have their point of view. This is just like a dinner party.

13. NO SWITTERING: Impose a drinks limit and then put the phone away. Step away before you make a tit of yourself publicly. Everything on Twitter is a permanent record.

14. MUM’S WATCHING: Don’t say anything on Twitter that you wouldn’t say to your mum.

15. TWITTER STALK: Don’t just follow people who talk about your brand. Unless they’re talking about you in a way that begs your involvement, it’s considered creepy if the brand starts ‘watching’ you. Sometimes being grateful is considered polite. Simply thank them and if they respond or follow you, then following is appropriate.

Finally, it pays to remember that Twitter is a participation sport. The more you play, the more comfortable you will feel. It’s not for fence sitters. You have to be involved to truly appreciate how valuable it is.

What are your rules? I’d love you to add your additions below.

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