Tuesday, June 16, 2009

notes from twitter boot camp

Had the pleasure yesterday of speaking at Twitter Boot Camp, a crash course in Twitter for execs who don't have time to learn it the hard way. (Surprising how much there is to absorb about using a medium limited to a mere 140 characters.)

Representatives from companies doing it right offered tips and best practices to a crowd of a few hundred newbies who'd shelled out $399 (or convinced their travel depts to do so) and come from far away as Rejivak, Iceland.

Tim O'Reilly, who hosted the event, coined a phrase for disorder afflicting many of us with multiple accounts and followers: "stream fatigue." (No OTC remedies available yet.)

Corporate approaches to dealing with twitter reflected various company cultures. David Puner said Dunkin Donuts issues a social media guidelines policy for franchisees, designed to maintain cohesiveness of brand in digital space. As might be expected, Zappos' approach is more freewheeling. According to Tony Hsieh, its CEO, corporate social media policy consists of a single statement: Just be real and use your best judgement. (His standard interview question for prospective employees: Whether they feel lucky or not.) He added that Zappos twitter accounts are considered property of employees who are free to take them, should they leave the company. It's their lives, he shrugged when I expressed amazement at this hands-off approach later at an after-party his company sponsored at the Hudson Hotel. Clearly my old-school expectations needed loosening up. "Here," he said, kindly handing me another free-drink ticket.

Eric Peterson, creator of analytics machine Twitalyzer, used his metrics expertise to burst the bubble being floated by blue-sky marketers touting Dell's report last week of $3 million generated by Twitter. He pointed out that this number amounts to a mere .005 of the company's annual revenue. (Still. In this market, who's to sniff at an uptick of $3 million?)

Ted Murphy made a surprisingly persuasive case for his service Izea which is stirring up controversy among twitterati by introducing pay-per-post to twitter. (His premise: it ain't nothin new.)

I began my advice by pointing out the Four Stages of Twitter, as recently diagnosed by Jason Hiner.

Other tweet-sized insights:
The perfect corporate tweet is a trinity containing: 1. content of interest to the target, 2. a link 3. a call for a response (Marla Erwin, Whole Foods)

Marketers shouldn't overlook the most valuable thing about twitter (and other Social media): it's a 24/7 focus group (Reggie Bradford, Virtrue)

Don't forget your 8th grade grammar. Use abbreviations and lingo sparingly, as many in your target may not understand.  (Carri Bugbee, Big Deal PR)

To pump your company brand on twitter, seek out people who can become corporate all stars. Who best to do this may surprise you. Social media expertise doesn't respect traditional hierarchies. Your best spokesperson may not be your CEO, it could be your janitor. (Steve Rubel, Edelman Digital)
Off to put on my Betty Draper persona to speak at the Twitter Conference today.


Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Thanks for the read, Thom. I posted some tips on using twitter to break into the business in an earlier post at http://adbroad.blogspot.com/2009/05/on-breaking-into-business.html. Hope they're of use to you. Best of luck!

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