I had a fascinating conversation with a colleague the other week that started off when she asked the following question: Which social media services should [our organization] jump into first? Although answering a question with a question is a bit cagey, my response was Why start with more than one? Following the latest Orchestra Website Review, it was hard not to notice that a number of orchestras included links to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, etc. but the reality is most of those companion sites weren’t being used efficiently…
Conversations with colleagues indicate this isn’t due to a lack of trying, but more from a lack of scheduling and focus. Generally, most social media platforms require a certain level of cultivation before you begin to see quantifiable results. More importantly, they need a plan and this is where most folks get lost. When combined with unfamiliarity about social media mediums, the results are usually increased apathy and frustration.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to avoid these pitfalls.
Since most professionals I know are more overworked than ever, let’s assume most people will have less than two hours per week to devote to a social media project. As such, platforms like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube are not going to be a good place to begin. Instead, opt for using Twitter.
- Make sure your username (which is what others will see and associate with your account) is something directly related to your organization’s name, is easy to spell, and not too long (the current max is 15 characters).
- Skip any invitation pages asking for friend’s emails, etc.
- Make sure you’re signed in, go to the Twitter homepage, and then click on the “Settings” link located in the top, right corner of the page.
- Make sure all of the info in the “Account” tab is accurate.
- Select the options you want in the “Notifications” tab; at the very least, make sure “New Follower Emails” and “Direct Text Emails” are selected.
- In the picture tab, upload your organization’s logo. If the logo isn’t designed to look good at a 50px x 50px dimensions, think about uploading something else. TIP: a larger version of your website’s fav icon is a good option here.
- In the design option, select a background picture or color that matches your organization’s current color palette. Although the hip thing to do is create a custom background, that isn’t necessary if you don’t have the time, knowledge, and/or resources just yet. But when you do, here is one of the best Twitter Templates I’ve ever seen. You’ll need Adobe Photoshop Elements or the full version to use the template; if you don’t have those programs, do a Google search and you’ll find several options, some of which are designed to work online.
- At this point, you’re ready to begin Tweeting but resist the urge to post something. Instead, take a look around and locate other organizations and individuals. This used to be an odious chore until Marc van Bree came out with his list of cultural Twitterers, which condenses the process into a few minutes. Search for individuals and/or organizations and while you’re at Marc’s page, don’t forget to add your group to his list.
- Sign up to follow as many groups and individuals as possible by clicking the “Follow” button located immediately under a Twitterer’s profile image.
- At this step, you can assign accounts you are following into lists. Lists aren’t necessary but they do make it easier to keep track of things down the road when you have hundreds or even thousands of followers.
- Track the groups you are following for a few days before posting anything. Make a quick list of what you like and dislike about how others use Twitter and use this as a guide to shape your Tweets.
- At this point, you have resisted the urge to start Tweeting on day one and you’re better for it. Consequently, you’re finally ready to Tweet, now all you have to do is figure out what to say. In general, Tweets inform and/or inspire action:
- Inform: These are static in nature, meaning they don’t include links. They can use statistics, We beat our ticket sales goals this quarter – woo hoo!; facts, Last season, our orchestra provided free concerts for more than 60,000 local school children; or trivia, Did you know Richard Wagner liked to wear women’s underwear? (BTW, he did).
- Inspire Action: Here’s where your professional instincts should kick in. If you aren’t already tracking your website traffic, start. What you want to do is post a Tweet that includes a link directing followers to your website and inspires an actionable event, such as purchasing a ticket, send an email, leave a comment, etc. Depending on the number and type of followers you have, you should notice a spike in website traffic following the actionable Tweet. You can use this data to begin refining your efforts and even include it in marketing reports. Another option is to inspire interaction between followers by asking questions and encouraging answers via replies.
Achieving Twitter Zen in only 20 minutes per day.
Here are some guidelines on how to achieve gangbuster results by Tweeting 20 minutes per day (or 100 minutes per week):
- Following individuals/groups and responding to direct messages: 5 minutes per day.
- Posting updates: 10 minutes per day (gathering links, crafting the Tweet to fit in 140 characters, etc.).
- Generating new followers and researching results: 5 minutes per day.
After time, you’ll become comfortable and efficient enough to begin incorporating Tweeting into monthly marketing plans and if responses are positive, you can expand your time allocated to Twitter as needed. Ultimately, professionals who learn how to use Twitter (and other social media platforms) without the need for extensive outside help only increase their value to the organization and improve their position in the greater marketplace. So what are you waiting for?
Tips and Tricks.
Take some of the frustration out of Tweeting and accelerate the benefits by incorporating the following tips:
- Don’t spam Tweet. I have yet to encounter a group that is so interesting and has so much going on that they need to post dozens of Tweets per day and/or several in the space of a few minutes. At worst, you’ll start losing followers because people will get sick of seeing so many useless posts.
- Don’t always make it about you. Social media isn’t a one-way street so remember to post reply Tweets to items of interest or link out to items such as newspaper articles and blog posts (like Adaptistration J – just use the handy Twitter sociable link at the bottom of each blog post).
- Give followers a reason to follow. One good trick is to offer special promotions that are only announced via Twitter. Nothing helps build interest like exclusivity.
- Figure out what you want followers to do before crafting a Tweet (inform or inspire action).
- Pay attention to your followers. Like all good things, there are those out there intent on ruining it. Keep an eye out on bogus followers, they are easy to spot and just as easy to block (don’t worry, you’ll know one when you see one).
- Consider using some third party apps, like TweetDeck, to help keep track of followers and organize your Twitter efforts.
- Spread the word. Include links to your Twitter account in the organization’s website, email blasts, print newsletters, and even business cards.
- Stay on top of Twitter trends by doing a Google search for “Twitter Trends” every now and then.