BrainTrust Query: The Enigma That is Twitter

Discussion
Sep 30, 2011
Bill Hanifin

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Hanifin Loyalty blog.

Of all the social media communications channels I invest time in, Twitter is the most enigmatic to me.

I use it and find value in posts from both followers and those I follow. At the same time, I encounter quizzical looks from friends who think I am somehow child-like and time-wasting to be spending time writing updates that are always compressed, sometimes cryptic and on occasion in-decipherable.

I’ll admit to a few things:

Twitter presents the constant temptation to become a one-way broadcaster of self-promotional messages. All I can say is resist, resist, resist! In real life, people don’t fall in love with others who talk about themselves constantly. Why should it be any different online?

I don’t always engage in conversations. Because there is such a thing as "real business" to attend to, I can’t sit and watch the stream all day, responding promptly to replies, DM’s (direct messages), and other comments. Thankfully, there are some really great tools to help you manage your social medial channels and I use one of the best, Sprnklr. I do respond to just about everyone, but with timeliness that is often suspect.

I’m not consistent. Social Media muse @TheDudeDean told me long ago to tweet consistently. I do my best, but there are gaps. This week is an example, with cross country air travel and day-long meetings cramping my Twitter style. I acknowledge this but don’t necessarily apologize. We’ve got to have priorities and Twitter should not rule your life.

I read an article this week, which mused that Twitter could be destined to "occupy a niche as addiction to few and irritant to many." I’m quite comfortable with this reality and take it into account when recommending communication strategies for clients.

It is not mandatory that every customer-facing marketing strategy incorporate Twitter, Foursquare, or even Facebook. While it is absolutely right for some, others will find it a waste of time and resources.

If your customers are all online, talk to them through that medium. If they are sitting at the kitchen table reading their mail, you better find your way to that venue. Usually it is through a mix of several channels that you can create customer engagement. The big challenge is to identify which ones matter and to prioritize their importance.

To sum it up, there is wisdom in discerning between "everyone is doing it" and "I need to do it."

Sounds like Twitter material to me!

Discussion Questions: What do you think of Twitter as a business and personal tool? How, if at all, do you use it? Do you see it evolving as a retail communication tool?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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21 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: The Enigma That is Twitter"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

At David Biernbaum & Associates LLC we use Twitter in a number of ways, all which are effective:

1 – To provide links for news about the brands we manage and “master-broker.”

2 – To provide links to RetailWire and other trade industry news and events on a professional basis, and also to keep consumers interested too!

3 – To encourage fast response and feedback from consumers, trade, and associates, on any given topic.

4 – To stay in touch and to read and track news and links posted by others.

Twitter posts are restricted to only a few words so its best deployment is for posting links to more detail.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
9 years 7 months ago

Like other social media tools, Twitter is dominated by a relatively small group of tireless self-promoters (aka “social media experts”). Organizationally, we use Twitter to post important updates; these updates are then part of the Twitter feed on the homepage. So to us, Twitter is a news feed; important yes but certainly not irreplaceable. Twitter does play a role in the social ecosystem; it is a great barometer of social interest (by evaluating how many times a link is retweeted).

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 7 months ago

I use twitter to connect my blog at wordpress to Facebook although I don’t know why I do that. I just want to be cool like every other consultant out there. As for retailers, sure why not. Anything that gets the name out there in some way shape or form has gotta have some ROI attached to it.

Marge Laney
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I use Twitter to learn, mostly. I follow people who provide content that I find interesting and I try to post content that I think adds to the conversation.

As for using it to self promote, I try to keep that to a dull roar.

Dave Wendland
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Like any social media/networking tool, Twitter may be an effective connection point for retailers. The caution is that the management of the activity is VERY time-consuming and not only requires an ongoing commitment, but also ability to generate “buzz.”

I agree with David Biernbaum’s comment that the word limitation of Twitter is actually a benefit to lead interested readers to more in-depth content via a link.

As you may tell from my posts on RetailWire, keeping comments to a few words is difficult for me. Twitter is definitely not for everyone.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Social media drives social media and the world is being sucked in to the myth. Do we really feel warm, loved and connected when we wouldn’t be able to pick 80% of our “friends” or “links” out of a line-up? We are so sad.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Twitter is a great way for a retailer to communicate with its customers. It may be used to listen to customer concerns and comments, and to talk to customers through promotions. Twitter can also be a gigantic time suck. Use it judiciously.

Zel Bianco
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I have just started to use Twitter as every conference I’ve attended, whether on social media or not, have had speakers who threaten that “if you are not using it, you will be sorry.” Although I am being a little extreme here, that is basically the sentiment. I do agree that it could be a useful tool to extend a conversation about an interesting article or trend, especially if it is related to the Consumer Goods/Retail business, but sometimes I feel that the more connected we are the more dis-connected we become.

Nonetheless, I am going to continue to use it as well as LinkedIn and where appropriate, Facebook, but it does become chaotic at times.

Anne Howe
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I use Twitter as a news feed and a networking tool, also to connect my blog to an audience. Over time I’ve become lass involved in social chatter and more involved in business tool usage. I think retailers can use twitter effectively if they understand the social marketing undercurrent of the community.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
9 years 7 months ago

I agree with Bill. Great summary!

I’ve become a big fan of twitter. It is brilliant for getting access to news and current affairs that are highly relevant and timely (assuming you follow the right people/businesses). It is also great for sharing things I think are useful and relevant. As Bill writes, broadcasted self-promotion gets very dull very quickly. For me it is a great time maximizer and enricher of my life and knowledge … especially when traveling.

I have found I use it less for personal life. I prefer facebook right now for that.

I see businesses use it in different ways. We have begun to use it at dunnhumby a little, and I see businesses like P&G using it for things like employee messages too.

It will evolve, although how may depend on the commercialization model twitter pursues….

Mel Kleiman
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Am I on Twitter, YES. Do I spend time on it? NO. Is my blog automatically posted to it? YES. Can I live without it? Most days I do.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I use twitter strictly as an announcement tool. Whenever I post on RetailWire, I send a Tweet to my followers. Whenever I publish something on my web page, I Tweet that. When I see something “shopping” that I think deserves wide attention, I Tweet that. A few Tweets a week, on Tweetdeck, is about it. I don’t “follow” anyone, but I do have a few people that I ostensibly follow, which means when I occasionally Tweet myself, I’ll check what they have Tweeted.

I find it hard enough to keep up with urgent email. I’m not about to add another tool requiring constant sending and receiving. But then, I’m not trying to “sell” anyone, anything but a point of view. So Twitter is an important component of that for me.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I’m aligned with Anne on this one and will add that for me, Twitter is the least enigmatic of social media options (Facebook feels fuzzy by comparison).

Twitter has become my top source for news, it widens and closes the communication loop with my content, speaking engagements, and consulting work and I’ve made invaluable contacts through it that have led to several high-volume projects. There’s power in 140 characters or less!

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

It’s tough to create ongoing conversations, since there are so many distractions on Twitter. So, I try to do three things, post about: 1)Industry news, 2)Industry events, 3)Industry challenges. Bottom line, conversations are taking place with or without me, so I might as well contribute.

Brian Kelly
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Good buddy:

Twitter is the equivalent of “CB” radio. Do with that what you will.

Over and out.

Verlin Youd
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I am a big fan of the concise and clear — and twitter is good at forcing that discipline. I am finding myself using it more regularly as I fit it into the “normal” information feeds I use regularly. That will only get better as various social networking platforms make integration easy and intuitive.

As for a retail communication tool, if there is anything I’ve learned in my career it is that you can NEVER rely on one communications channel. It will be an important channel, but always one of several needed to drive value.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

The phenomena that I can’t help but point out is that, as technology continues to be introduced to the market, “we” are then compelled to use it. Or so it seems.

I have many useful applications for Twitter as stated in the article, but also know that only a certain portion of my contacts pay any attention to the channel.

As business people, we need to take a stand on “why” we use these channels rather than be sucked into a time-wasting vortex and not know how we arrived at that point.

Thanks for your many comments.

Jason Williams
Guest
Jason Williams
9 years 7 months ago

Some of the current ways I am using Twitter:

1. industry and market intelligence. Amazing how much you can learn from following competitors and consumers.

2. keeping track of retailers, promotions, etc.

3. Promoting our product promotions with our retail partners.

4. being proactive about engaging consumers. finding customer service opportunities for our products, helping answer questions about products or categories.

James Tenser
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Like Herb, I tweet to announce – auto linked to LI and FB. Like Zel, I tweet cool quotes at conferences. Seldom read it. Doubt others do either. (133 chars – phew!)

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
9 years 7 months ago

We use it as part of our overall social media strategy and as part of our strategy, I consider it to be successful. We connect well to a targeted group of people and our own staff.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 7 months ago
I started using Twitter for the two purposes I continue with today. One, I post links to my own JAM with Mike twice-weekly email of quotes and accompanying editorial. Why? Really because I can, through a simple link on my Constant Contact email server. Does it do anything? Probably not, but it is painless so I continue. Two, I subscribe to several people who post quotes that I find interesting and subsequently use in my writing. I do not engage in ongoing conversations and see no personal value in bothering my “followers” with inane posts of my random thoughts or mundane activities — nor do I understand those who do. The good news is that millions do use Twitter to constantly tweet every little thought that occurs to them. Why is this good news? There is a burgeoning use of twitter feeds to predict future events, from the price of a stock, to the profitability of a new movie or product, to the outcome of an election. While not infallible, researchers are finding that like… Read more »
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