Twitter – join the conversation

twitterTwitter for Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants have realised that if they want to target online clients, they need to speak to them via social media… and of course, that includes Twitter.  It’s been dismissed as a waste of time, wittering about cheese sandwiches and what you had for lunch.  Advocates defend it saying they get all their business from it.  So who is right, and would it work for your business?

People describe Twitter as a conversation – but for the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going to ask you to imagine a High Street, full of different vendors and people shopping.  Because ultimately, the bottom line is, we’re wanting to make money from it, not have a nice conversation about what you’re wearing today…

Firstly the thing to understand is that Twitter has grown rapidly since its inception.  The books written even 18 months ago are now out of date in terms of what they recommend as a strategy and Twitter will continue to evolve, much like search engine optimisation does.  In other words, as people catch on to how to play the game, the advantage that those tips gave you no longer work and you have to develop new strategies to get ahead of the crowd.  For example, one strategy used to be following back everyone who followed you – today this would mean you would be talking to masses and masses of spammers since they use this strategy to grow their influence and use automated tools to target masses of people.

Okay, we’re getting into technicalities here: and I promised I’d make this simple for the novices!  In essence, Twitter is a social media platform where users Tweet mini-blog-posts of 140 characters or less about what they are doing, sharing links, news, conversations and topics with one another.  It has various tools you can use to facilitate that, but in order to keep it really simple, I’m going to just talk to you about the mythical Twitter High Street:

Del Boy & Rodney: The Buy Me Tweets

Imagine Del Boy and Rodney Trotter, their fold up suitcase set up beside their 3-wheeler van.  “Aw right darlin’ – fancy a nice bit o’ cushty?”  Be honest, would you ever buy anything off these guys?  What I call “Buy me” tweets fall into this category and it’s the biggest mistake people make when using Twitter as a novice, they dive in expecting someone to buy from them immediately without building a relationship first.  Once you’ve established yourself, “buy me” tweets can work really well, but no one is going to buy from a fly-by-night operator on Twitter.  Would you really stand on your High Street and shout “Oi! You – yes, you random person walking past – I’m the greatest virtual assistant ever.  Buy my services!”?  I think not.  All those tweets which don’t build a relationship or target randomly are rather like doing that.  Not only is it ineffective and a waste of your time, it also makes you look a novice in the online world – not the greatest impression about a professional business.

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The Hairdresser:  Recommended – or Retweeting in Twitter-language!

Think about how you found your hairdresser – I bet someone recommended them.  Why is that?  Well, because if you’re anything like me, your hair is too precious to leave to chance.  Likewise, people are not going to hand over their business to someone they don’t trust.  I know people who would leave their firstborn child rather than their business in someone else’s hands… Myself included!

Okay, so we want to be the recommended hairdresser, the one everyone says “I have a great hairdresser, here’s her number…”  Twitter’s retweeting is rather like this.  So if you post something and someone thinks it’s really useful and wants to share it with their contacts they can retweet it – e.g. “RT @VirtualAssistant Here’s a top tip on mail merging: www.link.com“  It will have “RT” and the “@username” to show it is not them saying this, it’s someone else’s tweet which they are repeating.  Their contacts would then click on your link, thus visiting your website or they might even think that your tweet sounded interesting and useful and that they’d like to hear more from you, and choose to follow you directly.

Depending on who their contacts are, your audience will differ.  So for example, let’s say the hairdresser’s client is my mum – she’d get recommended to yoga ladies, dogwalkers and my dad.  If the hairdresser wants to do cutting edge colours and whacky designs, getting recommended by my mum probably won’t get her any business, but might mean she has 47 enquiries in one day clogging up her phone line… So not all retweets are useful – something a lot of VAs don’t understand.

On the other hand, if my best mate who is a music manager recommended the hairdresser, she’d get loads of really relevant work from the musicians, artists and media people that she knows.  As with all marketing, you need to make sure your message appeals to your target market.

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Network King – AKA Following & Joining the conversation

My next trader is one you might not find directly on your High Street, but I’m willing to bet there is one in every town.  The Network King – you know him well because he’s been at every single business event you’ve ever been to.  He has a folder-full of business cards, knows everyone who is anyone and is generally quite a useful person to know because he has over 500 people on his radar at any given time.  If he recommends you, you’ll get massive exposure.  So you hang around the periphery of his group, hoping to be invited in…

Because Twitter has over 250 million tweets being posted at any given time, it’s a bit like being stuck in a noisy room full of networkers talking loudly (usually about themselves – LOL!).  In order to hear what the Network King is saying and try to join in the conversation, you need to “Follow” him.  In other words when you log into Twitter, his tweets will be streamed to you so you can read them without having to filter all the other “noise” on Twitter.

Replying to his tweets and adding comments is exactly like joining a conversation at a networking event – you want to make it relevant and you want to make them know, like and trust you.

You wouldn’t barge into a conversation or harp back to a subject dismissed half an hour ago, so why would you do it on Twitter?   Twitter only keeps about a week’s worth of tweets in its searches – you don’t want to be the year-old magazine in the doctor’s surgery so keep up to date!

The Tech Guys – noise

Next on the High Street is a shop which it’s not entirely sure what it does from the outside – it certainly looks interesting, but it’s not altogether apparent what it sells.  It’s not sending “Buy me” tweets and it’s promoting all sorts of stuff under its banner – there’s a tweet about world peace, another recommending a dogwalker, and another one about Apple new ipad…  They all seem a bit pointless – there’s no personality in there and you still aren’t very sure what they do!

With 250 million tweets each day, there’s a lot of noise on the High Street of Twitter.  These guys have gone for a strategy of just making noise to keep themselves in the stream of consciousness, but in reality people will switch off from them unless they are providing good content.  It’s rather like having an annoying little sister wittering constantly with no purpose just to fill the silence.

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This is the mistake that intermediate users make:  tweeting without purpose.

If your fans have lots of people they are following, chances are if you post just once a day, your tweet will get buried underneath 100 other tweets and they won’t see it.  Or perhaps one of your fans only checks Twitter once a day in the evening, and you only ever post in the early morning – your tweet appears in chronological order, so it’ll be way down the list of tweets they need to read.  It used to be that people would read all the tweets generated by the people they followed, now it’s more likely that the fan will scan the tweets and only read the ones which catch their eye.  Thus reposting the same information 2-3 times a day is sometimes quite useful and can be done using an automated programme to post like www.hootsuite.com or www.socialoomph.com etc.    But posting for posting’s sake just annoys people.

In summary, keep your tweets relevant, eye-catching and post at different times of day to generate the best response.

Art Shop – a specialist store – AKA Using The Hash Tag #

The Art Shop demonstrates a specialist store, where people who are particularly looking for art supplies all go rather than a generalist store like a supermarket or a department store.  This introduces the hash tag (#) concept to our mythical Twitter High Street.

Hash tags are used to signpost particular subjects – whether that’s an industry, a topic or an event (e.g.#virtualassistant, #fail,  #VAconf2012).  People can set up an alert on their Twitter account to flag posts with this hash tag and filter them into a list for easy reference.  Therefore if you want to grab all the people interested in art on the High Street, go to the art shop – or use a hash tag #art in your Tweet.

In summary: The Cardinal Sins of Twitter

  1. Buy Me Tweets
  2. Talking to the wrong people
  3. Irrelevant or old tweets
  4. Generating off topic noise
  5. Not joining the right conversations

For more tricks on how you can effectively manage your Twitter Campaigns, click here for more social media posts.

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