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Build Your Network and Influence through Twitter Chats

If you have been here before you probably know that I am a very enthusiastic participant on Twitter. So enthusiastic in fact that twice a month I moderate #CollegeChat on Twitter. Recently, Up and Running asked me to write “How can Twitter chat help your business?”  to help guide startups and small businesses on how to participate in Twitter chats to help build influence and enhance engagement in your targeted market. You can read the entire post at Up and Running. An excerpt follows below.

One of the best ways for small businesses to build their networks and increase their influence is by participating in Twitter Chats. Twitter chats are Twitter based conversations that anyone can participate in and are kept on track through the use of a #hashtag, a topic with a hash symbol (“#”) at the start to identify it. There are currently more than 600 ongoing Twitter Chats, ranging from weekly to monthly discussions on a wide variety of topics. You can review an exhaustive list of ongoing chats maintained at the Twitter Chat Schedule.

Participating in a Twitter chat is a great way to network and interact with other people who may also share your professional and personal passions. It is also a great way to introduce yourself and your business to key influencers whom you want to connect with.

Be Strategic

Look for a chat where you can bring value to the conversation. For example, I moderate #CollegeChat twice a month on Tuesday evenings. Most of the chats I moderate are in question and answer format and include an “expert” guest on a particular topic. The majority of guests I first met by their attending and participating in #CollegeChat. My guests have included professors, authors, independent higher education experts and business owners targeting the higher education market.

With hundreds of ongoing Twitter chats, you should be able to find a number of chats that are ideal for both networking and for your business. Perhaps you have developed a business tool, application or book that you are targeting to business to business marketers? Then you might want to check out #B2Bchat. A recent #B2Bchat focused on “Facebook for B2B -The Times They Are a-Changin’.

Expand your Knowledge

Also consider joining in Twitter chats just to expand your knowledge. Have you been considering adding a blog to your website but really don’t know where to start? Consider checking out #Blogchat on Sunday evenings to get fresh ideas from blogging experts. Recently Brian Solis, a thought leader in new media and a best-selling author, was a guest for #Blogchat and discussed with attendees how to use blogs as tools to build influence.

Do you need some new ideas for your start-up or small business?  #Smallbizchat is a great chat for small businesses since its focus is on helping small businesses to succeed as they start to grow. Recently on #Smallbizchat, Dina Dwyer-Owen, a certified franchise executive with more than 30 years of industry experience and a recent guest on the television program “Undercover Boss”, shared with attendees “How to Live Rich in Your Small Business”. #Smallbizchat is hosted weekly by Melinda Emerson, a noted small business expert, coach and author.

How to Participate

In order to participate in a Twitter chat, attendees will need to have a Twitter account.  To sign up for a Twitter account, go to http:// twitter.com. Once you have your Twitter account, you are ready to go.

There are a number of formats to use to follow a Twitter chat but the easiest way I have found to participate is by using TweetChat, a platform designed to make “Twitter chats” run easily.

Don’t be a Bystander

In order to get the most out of any Twitter chat is to make sure you join in. Most moderators ask attendees to go ahead and introduce themselves. Your introduction is a great way to begin meeting others.

By joining in a chat you are not only sharing your ideas with the attendees but also with the attendees’ followers. Don’t be surprised if you pick up a number of new followers after the chat based on comments and interactions you had during the chat.  Every time you write a tweet that is then re-tweeted – quoted or rebroadcast by other attendees – your tweet is not only repeated across the chat but also to the followers of the person who re-tweeted you, thereby expanding your reach exponentially.

And, the best parts about participating in Twitter chats are the people you meet and the network you build.

State of the Social Management Systems

LinkedIn’s Powerful Share Button

Still unsure about the power of “sharing” on LinkedIn? Maybe this article from the Business Insider will change your mind.

Spamming: Bad Twitter Advice

Recently while conducting research on behalf of a financial services company I work with I was quite surprised to see that several of its well known competitors are Twitter spammers.  These companies, who are in the commercial lending business, are mass following other accounts only to then unfollow these companies once they have artificially inflated their followers.  According to Twitter the practice of “aggressive following behavior“, once reported, will be investigated by Twitter for further action including losing your account.

How do I know they are Twitter spammers? Just by looking at the number of companies they follow versus the number that follow them back. Once a Spammer is followed back, they often then drop the company from the list they follow in order to artificially pump up their numbers. In addition, I can also tell they are spammers because they have published very few tweets, but most telling and should be most embarrassing to them, the lists these companies are on. The companies are on very few lists and the majority of lists included titles including the words “Twitter Spammers.”

Is that the kind of influence they are really trying to achieve? Does their CEO realize the damage their “Twitter team” is doing to their brand? Or is the CEO oblivious which says even more about the company. But perhaps most importantly, is this the kind of company you want to borrow from for your business? Do you want to trust this company to safeguard your financial documents and reputation when they are so careless about their own?

Social Media: The Eight Stages of Listening by Jeremiah Owyang

Social Commerce is Now via the Altimeter Group

Are You Afraid of Bloggers and Social Media? Maybe You Should Be.

Creative Commons License photo credit: M i x y

Are you or your Brand afraid of bloggers and social media? Well, maybe you should be–especially if your brand is still sitting on the side lines and not listening.  Jessica Gottlieb , a powerful voice on the Internet and a mom blogger,  recently wrote two excellent posts “Five Simple Steps to Bringing a Brand to their Virtual Knees” and  “Six Tips for Brand Managers Who Might Be Afraid of Bloggers” . Gottlieb is that “Jessica Gottlieb” that started the “#MotrinMoms” backlash on Twitter in November 2008.

Gottlieb expressed her displeasure with Motrin’s ad campaign that she and others felt wasn’t supportive of new mothers and  in a series of tweets expressed that “picking on new mothers is vile.” Her tweets set off a reaction that reverberated across Twitter and then the Internet and finally the mainstream press and it wasn’t until Monday that Motrin finally responded to the moms they were trying so hard to connect with but by then the damage was done http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/11/17/motrin-mothers-groundswell-by-the-numbers/ .In just a weekend, the mommy bloggers had mobilized and expressed their anger in their own blogs, on Twitter, on FaceBook where they created a “Boycott Motrin” Group, on YouTube where they added their own videos, as well as on Flickr. That same weekend the controversy was picked up by mainstream media including the New York Times http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/moms-and-motrin/?scp=1&sq=Motrin%20Moms%202008&st=cse

The title alone of the first post should get your attention if you still think you can sit social media out. In her first post, Gottlieb clearly lays out the steps of how anyone with a blog and or a Twitter account and a handful of followers can take aim at a corporation. Jessica’s steps consist of:

1) Timing is everything: Large corporations close up in the evenings, and many are completely checked out on weekends. If you post something critical of them on a Friday evening, you have a two to three day head start on your buzz versus theirs.

2) Ask readers to take an action and report back: When you post about the evil corporation be sure to ask your readers to do something other than just read. Ask them to call or email (letter writing campaigns have gone the way of the brontosaurus).

3) Track and share the momentum: Set up a google alert. If you’re asking people to say #xyzstinks then you will want updates as quickly as possible so that you can support people who write #xyzstinks. As people are writing be sure to share it in public forums like Twitter, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg.

4) Go multimedia: Really, multimedia doesn’t mean internet, TV and radio. Multimedia (in our frame of reference) means text, audio and video. Post your message to your blog, to cinch, and to YouTube.

5) Get redundant: Stay on message and repeat it ad nauseum. I recognize that after a day or so it’s unlikely that you will care any longer, but stamina is everything. Constant blog posts in every blog you contribute to are key. Repeat steps one through four tirelessly.

As a PR professional, I recommend that companies pay attention to all of these steps but also take a closer look at step 1 –“Timing is everything.” Companies still naively think that if they have bad news that they are required to release they need to drop it on Fridays after the Stock Market closes. Depending on who you are and what you have to announce that just won’t fly anymore. You may think you are  pulling a fast one on the traditional press that follows your company but you won’t be pulling a fast one on the bloggers that work 24/7.  In addition, the tradional press may also spend the weekend digging up more to include in their story. And like Motrin, you might end up with quite a mess on your hands before the weekend even wraps up.

Maybe you might be thinking that since your company is B2B you don’t need to worry about a possible “groundswell” catching up to your company. Sure you want to bet on that? Jessica’s steps can be used just as easily to target B2B companies as easily as they can be used to target B2C companies.

If her first post gave you pause, then her second post “Six Tips for Brand Managers Who Might Be Afraid of Bloggers”  can serve as a road map to get your company moving. Gottlieb recommends:

1. Build Social Capital early and often: The best way to make sure you never have a big problem with bloggers is by participating in their discussions before the drama.

2. Do not hand social media over to interns: Interns are adorable, and I recognize that businesses need them for things like answering phones and fetching coffee. However, when your intern is in charge of your facebook page you’ve just handed the keys over to someone who was probably delivering pizza last month.

3. Monitor your brand round the clock: Small businesses do it, because they have to. You need to also. It doesn’t have to be one person, but at the barest minimum a google alert with YourBrandHere and boycott, sucks, or criminal as a keyword will keep you informed of a tempest brewing.

4. Respond truthfully: One big criticism of of the Motrin fiasco is that the apology wasn’t sincere (authentic).

5. Don’t participate if you don’t have the resources: Really. I honest to goodness recommend that brands stay out of social media if they aren’t going to make it part of their business. Do not set up a facebook page and then let it sit there. If you want to protect your name online buy your URL’s, take your twitter ID’s and just park them. Don’t invite a conversation you won’t show up for.

6. Just be yourself. Social media isn’t about your brand, it’s about you.

Building social capital is critical and without it you won’t be able to build a good relationship with the community your business needs. It doesn’t mean pushing out non stop information about your company and products. It means “listening” first to the discussions in the communities you are looking for a home in. It then means offering useful information to that community or better sharing the information of the other community members first.

I also “love” that tip # 2 recommends that companies not turn over social media to interns. In the last year I have heard a number of companies –including PR companies– either talk about their plan to turn “social media” over to an intern or who have already done it and it always leaves me aghast. Just because an intern has been on FaceBook longer than anyone over 25—and that is because it was originally a college only community– doesn’t mean they have the expertise of company, customer, products or the industry you are in.  Would you really send your intern in to close a deal with a potential customer you have been chasing for years or to represent you to the technology reporter you want so badly to cover your company? Then why would you do it in social media?

One other tip I would offer is “transparency”. Gottlieb mentions in tip #4 being authentic—truthful. It is also important to remember in social media that people don’t want to talk with a logo. They want to talk with a person. If you’re tweeting say who you are right up there in your profile. If you have to talk behind a logo try to persuade management to add your name on the Twitter page so your followers can more easily engage with you.

Read the full posts. They are excellent.

Still afraid?

How to Get Good PR

Why TOMS Shoes and Gen Y Bode Well for our Future

Emily's new shoes

Emily's new shoes

Yesterday I took my 14 year old daughter Emily to the mall and bought her a new pair of navy blue flats from TOMS Shoes that she has been wanting for a while. Emily wanted these shoes because as she told me “they are really cute and comfortable” and she likes that for every pair of TOMS that you buy the company pledges to give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. According to the TOMS website :

  • A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.
  • Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they also are dangerous when wounds become infected.
  • Many times children can’t attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don’t have shoes, they don’t go to school. If they don’t receive an education, they don’t have the opportunity to realize their potential.

The company said that as of April 2010 over 600,000 pairs of shoes had been given away to children in need.

The popularity of  TOMS  shoes and their “One to One ” program among Generation Y –roughly those born in the 1980s and 1990s and 77 million strong–  bodes well for our future. According to marketing and demographic research, Generation Y cares deeply about causes especially involving world issues and the environment. And, as reported by Joel Kotkin in his article for Newsweek titled “400 Million People Can’t Be Wrong” :

Between 2000 and 2050 the U.S. population aged 15 to 64—the key working and school-age group—will grow 42 percent, while the same group will decline by 10 percent in China, nearly 25 percent in Europe, and 44 percent in Japan.

Looks like Generation Y has the heart and the mass to lead us into the future. I for one hope they keep their passion as they age.

Altimeter’s Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management