So I’ve finally given in and opened a Twitter account. But I remain ambivalent. And many of my contacts, including some seasoned digital professionals, share my doubts - as do some high-profile commentators. Why am I bitter about Twitter? Here’s a handy bullet-point list of my issues with it.
As a copywriter, I dislike the telegraphic, SMS-like brevity of the Tweet, and the incomprehensible stuff that sometimes gets Tweeted. As a tired thirtysomething, I’m wearied by its jittery fragmentation and grating, self-conscious ‘Hey there!’ chirpiness. As an SEO, I resent its ‘nofollow’ links, particularly when LinkedIn (a PR7 site) grants me backlinks with editable anchor text. As a business person, I’m irritated by its founders’ arrogant ‘not for sale’ posturing, despite the manifest lack of a business model (unless we count making TV shows). And finally, as a human, I question whether we should be measuring our worth by all this virtual interaction.
‘Forget that,’ you say. ‘How can I make money from Twitter?’ Future ways to profit directly from Twitter might include charging for your content, pimping it out to third-party advertisers or using it to promote exclusive special offers. Indirectly, it’s all about getting yourself noticed, building credibility and educating potential customers about your offering, which should drive interest and therefore sales. For those who have a large base of users or contacts they need to keep updated, it’s indispensable. But for marketing, it remains to be seen whether you really do reach potential customers, or just other Twitterers who are looking to sell rather than buy, or to Tweet rather than read. For example, a survey reported in Marketing Week (print only) found that just six out of 2600 followers responded to a Tweet saying 'has anyone seen this tweet, please answer yes'. Is anyone listening? Even so, sheer weight of numbers means the risks of being left out outweigh the hassle of getting involved. But I still suspect that many businesses are just following (as it were), without being 100% sure why. And I include myself in that. Will Twitter itself make money? It’s a truth universally acknowledged that anyone with tons of users will cash in, and Twitter certainly is a big hitter. But a large user base is no guarantee – look at Facebook’s spiralling costs (storage alone is $100m pa), funding worries and struggles to generate clickthrough from its advertising. It's a victim of its own success: people visit Facebook to socialise, not to buy things. With 60% of Twitterers drifting away within a month, it could be a challenge to get advertisers to do more than fling some content at Twitter in hope rather than expectation. (Twitter Search could be part of the answer.) It all reminds me of that other flash-in-the-pan site that appeared a few years ago. Very plain interface, childish colours and a silly name - something like ‘Google’…
Recently I have become utterly obsessive about ecommerce and business site design. This began after I spent a few hours reviewing a friend’s Pay Per Click (PPC) invoice. Apart from rivalling the deficit of a national bank his campaign was providing little success. Delving a little deeper, his problem turned out not to be traffic, rather his site has all the basics wrong. While there are many techniques for running lean and successful PPC campaigns I want to take a step back to look at these fundamentals. It’s easy to spend a bucket load of cash on PPC (trust me, I have done it). However, the very first objective for any site owner should be to create a site that achieves its aims. Using ecommerce as an example, this is about converting browsers into buyers. If you can get the principles right, driving traffic should be a secondary and relatively easy objective. Anyone that’s played the popular 90’s computer game Lemmings will know that leaving these suicidal creatures to meander as they please will result in disaster, usually of the dead Lemming kind. The problem isn’t the lack of Lemmings -- there are enough for everyone -- the problem is the route you have devised for them generally ends up in the spiky pit of doom. Business websites sites have the same tendency, but we just call it ‘goal conversion’. Ask yourself, what are the goals of your site? They could be anything from a sale, contact form submission, lead creation or a click somewhere. These goals are the foundations of your site -- the routes for the Lemmings -- and anything else is secondary. Once you have identified these goals you need to optimise for them. It’s an essential and often painful process, but one where you need to be ruthless. Anything detracting from a goal conversion needs stripping away without mercy. Conversely, the message for any areas that need strengthening, is fix them now! It’s only when you are happy that your site meets its goals that spending on PPC makes sense. Just press that button and let the Lemmings jump!
This may seem an unusual subject to be chosen by someone who works in Online PR but I though it important to address it nonetheless. As we have seen over the last year the world of social media has exploded impacting personal lives as well as businesses. An online campaign can be very valuable asset to small business owners but not at the detriment of 'good old-fashioned' phone conversation, meeting or event.
Even before social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook businesses were heavily reliant on email. However, wherever possible the personal touch of meeting someone face-to-face can make all the difference. Organising some sort of event is still a good way of engaging customers to your product. While using social media and internet tools can be a useful cost-effective method to reach large numbers of people; meeting people face-to-face means you can understand them on a more interpersonal level.
It can be all to easy to set up business online strategies and get so sidetracked that you lose perspective. This is especially difficult with the mass of information online and the distraction it can create. The ideal scenario is create a strategy that retains some perspective and mixes online with conventional business methods to give you the best of both worlds. How you mix these will depend on your particular business and your campaign objectives.
There’s been a lot of discussion about “business networking” versus “personal networking” in social media for quite some time. This is something that a lot of people feel strongly about - particularly where a community has developed with one ethos and then someone joins and starts communicating with quite different intentions.
So how do you know where to draw the line? When does your networking stop being social, and start being a sales pitch? Is it really that clear-cut? Does it need to be? What's best for your business?
In Dan Schawbel’s latest book he explores the idea of personal branding and explains how businesses can truly succeed when they realise the importance of using social media to market their business. Sometimes, as simple a change as using a real person in a profile picture (rather than the brand's logo) or using a real name (rather than a business name) can make all the difference to the response you will get online. As social media is increasingly being used by businesses, the need for real connections and a ‘human touch’ is meaning that ignoring the social element of social networking is hurting companies’ online presence.
Schawbel’s take on personal branding is quite simple really: if you give people a reason to be interested, show a bit of personality and engage in a real, genuine relationship online, people will tend to meet you half way – and business opportunities will start to come to you.
Penny Power who founded online business network Ecademy.com well over 10 years ago reinforces Schawbel's recommendations in her many interviews on yourBusinessChannel. In the interview below, Power urges that you need to be a "magnet" within the community, and that making your intentions clear will be critical to your success.
Putting more time into asking questions and attracting like-minded contacts will mean that the connections you make will be truly valuable further down the track. Companies who encourage their employees to build online networks intelligently can see some radical improvements to the opportunities which come their way.
To read a more about Schawbel’s latest book, take a look at an interview with David Meerman Scott here.
As with most things, I came to the party late, but I’m delighted I finally got a TomTom. It was a Christmas present, but I should have got one years ago. It’s made my life so much better. In-car arguments with my better half have slumped to an all-time low, my time-keeping’s improved and I now get to where I want to go much quicker because I don’t make so many mistakes. And even on the odd occasion I take the wrong road, immediately John Cleese (well, his voice, at least), tells me how to how get back on track. TomToms and marketing plans are remarkably similar… I suppose I’ve always been hopeless at directions. Before I got the TomTom, for years I relied on trying to follow road signs. Most of the time I ended up stopping to ask directions (which I often forgot just seconds later). I’m just as useless as a passenger. My inability to interpret maps is legendary. Putting a location or postcode into a TomTom is similar to having marketing objectives. If you don’t know where you’re trying to get to, you’ll never get there. While a TomTom plans your route automatically by assessing the road network and finding the best route between A and B, when developing a marketing strategy, you must assess your market and plan your own journey. Before I set off in my car, now I can look at my TomTom to see which roads I’ll take at different stages (I’ve learnt many shortcuts as a result). A marketing plan also contains important milestones by which a business must have achieved a specific target before the next can be tackled. And where a TomTom automatically lets you know what to do when you’ve take the wrong road, referring back to a marketing plan can also enable you to keep your business heading in the right direction at the desired speed. Only then can you get to where you want to go, when you want to be there. The businesses that succeed are the ones that plan. The Marketing Donut has many resources that will help you with planning and various other aspects of marketing your business. Our forum allows you to share knowledge and experiences with other businesses. You can also learn from our experts’ latest posts and other content. The old saying remains true. Planning without action is futile, while action without planning is fatal. Let’s be thankful for marketing plans – and TomToms.
Have you ever noticed how it’s often the controversial blog posts which spread like wildfire online?
Recently, I stumbled accross a blogger Lisa Borone who wrote a post entitled - “it’s not the recession, you just suck!”. As the title suggests, this is the kind of blog which is straight-talking, non-apologetic and hugely opinionated. It's her specially crafted wake up call for those suffering from the recession.
“... For the past few months you’ve had an excuse for when life didn’t go your way. Every time you borked something that you were maybe never qualified to do in the first place, you had THE perfect excuse just waiting to be pulled out. It was like the economy dug its own hole just so it could bail you out in your time of need. W00t!
You couldn’t pay your mortgage and your house was foreclosed on? Don’t worry, it wasn’t you, it was the recession. You lost your job and now you’re stuck at home cruising Twitter ‘looking for a new one’ all day? Don’t fret. It wasn’t you, it’s the recession. Can’t find new clients so you’re left bitterly blogging that clients suck and the frauds in the industry are stealing your dollars? Calm down, pretty, have a cookie and take a nap. It’s the recession.
Actually, it’s probably not the recession. It’s probably you.”
As mainstream media continues to talk about the recession, to forecast the loss of jobs and analyse why and how businesses are failing, there comes a point when we need to make a choice. That choice is quite simple - we can choose to listen, tolerate and be absorbed by this discussion. Or, quite simply, we can choose to switch off the flow of woe, front up and get on with it. And this is what the blogger in questions suggests you do.
What's interesting about Lisa's post is that as well as being hard-hitting and blunt (probably a little too blunt for some), she does actually offer words of advice: a list of actions/steps you should take to weather the recession, and get ahead. So she achieves an interesting balance by having a strong and clear opinion, and offering some solid advice to those who want it.
If her aim was to get lots of attention, it worked. At the time of writing this post (about her post - oh how circular!), 130 people had commented on her article. Now that's a discussion! Read the article in full here.
So, what are you going to do to generate discussion?