I Don’t Get Twitter

how to use Twitter for brands

Yes, I said it. I don’t get Twitter. To be more specific: I don’t understand why I use Twitter.

There was awhile about three months ago when I thought I was finally figuring it out. I was participating in chats, sharing interesting information, getting RTs and finding people who provided insightful information that I enjoyed.

Flash forward to now: My Twitter follower growth has gone stagnant (except for the occasional robot or porn star) and RTs are hard to come by. To top it off, I’m overwhelmed. I follow way too many people, but I don’t want to unfollow them for fear they might unfollow me and then my follow count will go down and people won’t consider me an influencer and AHHHHH! I’m freaking out, man.

Along with my personal issues with Twitter, I have no idea what I am doing on it when it comes to my brand accounts. I’ve read the articles, tested the theories and tried to be “useful” to fans. But it isn’t working.

So I’ve come to the conclusion: some people and brands aren’t meant to be on Twitter.

My conclusion really came about a few weeks ago when I read this article from the Atlantic. The title? “Be Better at Twitter: The Definitive, Data-Driven Guide. “Sign me up,” I thought.

To the Atlantic’s credit, the info was great. They looked at about 43,000 unique tweets and asked users for their feedback about them. What they found useful, what they found funny and what pissed them off to no end. The result of what we should all be doing on Twitter?

“Do be useful. Do be novel. Do be compelling. Do not, under any circumstances, be boring.”

Well, hell. I’m trying to be all those things – for personal and my brand accounts – with little success.

Here’s my edited conclusion:

Do be useful. Do be novel. Do be compelling. Do not, under any circumstances, be boring. If you can’t do all these things, don’t do it at all!

Every community manager gets the question from a higher up about why they haven’t put a brand on a certain social network. “Why aren’t we tweeting? Why aren’t we on Instagram?” Sometimes they answer should be: Because consumers won’t get any value from us there.

If you can’t provide value to consumers, don’t use it. And if you can’t provide value to yourself and others, don’t use it.

I’m going to take a step back from Twitter in the next few weeks and see if I can’t find and provide more value on other social channels, like G+, Pinterest and Instagram. Then I’m going to take what I learn and do the same for my brands. Maybe if I finally leave Twitter, I’ll get it.

So tell me folks – do you get Twitter?

How to: Re-purpose your content for Twitter

I came across a great article this week from oneforty, one of my favorite social media resources. Such a favorite that I’m a little hesitant to share it with others in the hopes I’m one of the few who use it (which I realize is unlikely). The article discussed how to create quality content on Twitter, which has been a bit of a struggle for myself and my team.

I can say with confidence that I have Facebook mostly figured out. At least figured out enough to be able to tell what works, what doesn’t and why. Well, sort of why. And I’m not sure if I’m measuring it correctly… But anyways! Twitter is a whole other animal. Especially when it comes to content that resonates with your audience of super finicky followers.

And the eternal question for me lately has been, “How do I take my kick ass content and get it to work on Twitter?” Because re-purposing is the greatest and most time-saving shortcut ever invented when it comes to writing.

So I’m going to break out some of my content buckets and show you how to take your copy to Twitter:

1. Fill in the blank questions become polls. Fans of my brands absolutely love fill in the blank questions. They fit the bill perfectly – short, easy to answer and flexible. But if you ask someone to fill in the blank on Twitter? Crickets.

Instead, try out my new favorite tool Twtpoll. You can give that “fill in the blank” options for your followers to choose from. Make sure to do a follow-up tweet later with the results to show your followers you’re listening!

2. Open ended questions become daily tips. I ask a boatload of questions on Facebook. Most of the time, they are open ended and just ask for consumers opinions. Take the results and insights your users provided and turn them into a daily tip for Twitter. Content with almost zero work? Oh hells yes.

3. Open ended questions become live Twitter chats. Aggregate some of your previously asked questions on Facebook into a series. Preferably a series that relates. Let your community know you’ll be asking the questions live at a certain time. Then you facilitate the conversation by retweeting and participating yourself.

4. Caption contests become jokes or riddles. In one of my communities, we post photos of cats (LINK) and ask users to come up with captions (Yes, I realize I Can Haz Cheezburger does this. No, I don’t consider it “content mining”). And some of them are actually hilarious. So put your comedian cap on and turn those funny captions into jokes or riddles that could garner retweets on Twitter.

And then there are the content buckets you use on Facebook that can be used on Twitter with almost no translated. But remember, never post the exact same content on both mediums on the same day at the same time down to the same exact second. Still re-purpose! Spread the goods out.

5. Blog posts become blog posts. I like to change the type of post I use on Facebook and Twitter when it comes to blogs. With Facebook, I try to solicit feedback and get fans to click the link. On Twitter I just want click, clicks and more clicks.

So frame your blog post like you would an interesting news article. Or, it it contains tips and tricks, use one of them as a teaser. Clicking the link will lead to more. So do it!

6. YouTube videos become YouTube videos. See #5.

7. Contests become contests. Disclaimer here: Facebook contest rules are super strict. You can get away with…I mean, run a legitimate contest on Twitter without all the red tape. I’m particularly fond of giveaways. And it can be anything, big or small. It’s amazing how many Twitter users love a good sticker.

The possibilities are endless! Except that’s all I got. What Twitter content has been successful for you or your brand?

The Spaghetti test: Define your community by what sticks

My friend and former colleague Josh-Michéle Ross recently wrote a great blog post about the difference between traditional media audiences and social media communities.

It got me thinking about what exactly defines a “community.”

Ross points out that the main difference between an audience and a community is connectedness.

Well, there ya have it. End post. Thanks for stopping by.

I kid, I kid. I agree with Ross completely, but I also think something else defines a community – the users themselves.

When creating content, my boss talks about the “Spaghetti test.” We try out a bunch of content every month on our walls and Twitter pages and see what “sticks.” Whatever sticks is what makes our community what it is. Do they respond to humor? Sarcasm? Honesty? Are they folksy? Hip? Quirky?

In traditional marketing, if your content doesn’t work, you pull the campaign and decide what you would like to push at your audience next. There is probably some discussion about why things went wrong, but you never have a direct line to these people to know exactly why your ad with a talking cat pissed them off so much (hypothetical, as always).

Social media is that direct line. If your community doesn’t like a talking cat, they tell you. Trust me. They really tell you.

And that’s how users define a community. It is my job as a community manager to listen to their reactions and adjust to them and keep the content dynamic.

So here is a content tip for the week: try out something new. Create a new bucket, write some copy and go for it. Make the spaghetti. If your community lets it stick, keep up the good work. If they let it fall off the wall, move onto the next pot.

How to: handle bad content

A funny thing happens when you’re a community manager – you become oddly possessive of your community. It isn’t just a kitty litter Facebook page. It’s my kitty litter Facebook page. So step off!

Okay, I don’t say “step off” when someone sends me content to post. But I have been put in situations where a coworker or someone from our PR agency sends me content to post that I’m not happy with. It isn’t that it’s off voice or off topic – it’s bad. Just…bad.

The even funnier thing, though, is usually the content is coming from someone who is my superior. Even though community managers spend their days in the trenches – on the walls, fielding customer service questions and getting called out for not responding to issues – we actually rank low in most companies in terms of organizational hierarchy.

So what do you do when you get a bad status update from the VP of brand management? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Breathe. When I first read bad content, I tend to jump straight to the freak out phase. But instead of running into your manager’s office and yelling that the PR agency is a full of $*!%ing idiots (hypothetical situation, of course), stop and take a deeeeeep breathe.

Step 2: Dissect the content. Read the content again. And again. And again. Pull out what the goal of the copy is, especially the main idea. This may take a lot of dissection if the copy is riddled with fluff and length, but make sure you come away with an understanding of what the person was aiming for.

Step 3: Edit, edit, edit. Want to email whoever sent you the content back and tell them you can do better? Prove it first. Re-write the copy (main idea included!) and make sure it is actually better.

Step 4: Write back (with caution). Now is the time when you ask yourself, “Is this worth it?” If it is, write an email back in a positive way (i.e. Avoid dropping any F bombs). Start out thanking them for the content and telling them the idea is great. Then outline your suggested edits. Make sure to clearly explain why you made changes and how you feel it will increase engagement and work better on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Step 5: Accept the result. In my experience, people are more likely to accept your changes without any complaint when they trust you. Once you prove yourself on your social network they will start realizing that you know better than them. Because you probably do. I mean, I know I do…

But if, for whatever reason, the person comes back saying they prefer their original copy, repeat Step 1. Then accept that this one status update or blog post won’t ruin your community and you’ll personally be able to recover (And make sure to mention in your metrics presentation that you did not write that post).

And no matter how many times they shoot you down, keep fighting for the content you believe in. That’s part of being a good community manager – advocating for and recommending best practices based on your experience.

Strategize that content

Content is king. And usually I’m okay with that because I love writing. When I first started as a community manager, I was spitting out fun, new content about cats left and right. “Who would ever complain about this?” I thought.

Answer: I would. That’s who.

It isn’t easy to develop content your fans not only want to read but engage with three times a week, every week…for the rest of your life. Well, not your life, but at least until you can pass this brand onto some other poor soul.

In order to avoid sitting in front of your computer on a Wednesday at 5:30pm with absolutely nothing to post about when you really want to go to happy hour ($5 margaritas!) you need a content strategy.

Create content buckets. Define the different categories of content you’re going to produce for your brand. This doesn’t mean polls, questions, and tips. Those are types of posts that you can use within each of your content buckets. The actual buckets are things like ‘Health related’ and ‘Funny posts.’ Try to develop between three and five buckets for each brand to keep things interesting. And make sure it is what your audience wants to hear – not just what you (or your boss) want them to hear.

Make a content calendar. Do this before you even start writing. This is what you want to write – the space that needs to be filled for the coming month. You can create a Google calendar and add an “event” for each day you want to post. Give the event a bucket and a type, like ‘funny – poll’ or ‘health-question.’ This helps you ensure you aren’t producing the same content over and over and over and over and over…

Write the content. This is where those content buckets come in handy. Instead of creating random content on the fly, stick to the buckets. Be one with the buckets. Mix things up with polls, open-ended questions and insider tips and tricks. Remember: the goal is always to get your community to engage with you. Not just read and move on. That isn’t memorable for anyone (especially not your boss, who is looking for some action on their Facebook page…wait, what?).

Lay it all out in an editorial calendar. This is the nitty-gritty stuff. Create an Excel worksheet or Word doc with a big table that has everything – the week of the post, day of the post, actual content (Facebook in one column, Twitter in the next) bucket and type, picture and any links to include. It is always better to have everything in one place. Otherwise you post a poll asking users for feedback on a photo and, oops, no photo.

All this will enable you to click that ‘Share’ button well before happy hour starts.

But how do you know if the content you created is actually working? Stay tuned (which means I’m still figuring it out and True Blood is on).

(Special thanks to my manager, Helen, for arming me with this super sweet strategy for success)