Yesterday was an all-day learning experience.
I was taking time off, but wanted to spend a whole day getting to understand the dynamics of microblogging (specifically Twitter) with my corporate social media hat on.
I had previously spent time searching Twitter and other microblogging sites, and had signed up for a few, but had never really dove into the deep end, so to speak. Well, I finally did.
It was an eye-opener, to put it mildly.
What's This All About?
I think most people understand what blogging is all about, and the fact that services like Twitter are called "microblogging" is probably a disservice. Blogging is rather static; microblogging is like a continuous, never-ending conversation -- 140 characters at a time.
My initial reaction made me think of "collective brain hum" -- it's a very noisy and confusing environment at the outset -- but, given some patience, patterns emerge, and it becomes approachable, understandable and leverageable.
Sure, a lot of what you see on Twitter appears as mindless chatter, but -- make no mistake -- that's the same sort of chit-chat you see when people are getting to know each other, staying in touch, and forming social relationships that matter.
So, From A Corporate Perspective, What Is Twitter Good For?
First, the obvious answer is "getting news out about your company". However, there's more to it than that. I found plenty of corporate Twitter accounts out there, spewing out the predictable press releases.
My impression? Spewing out press releases via a corporate Twitter account is exactly as effective as doing the same from a blog -- that is to say that neither are particularly effective, and both are mildly offensive to my sensibilities.
However, those same press releases and other propaganda are far more effective when brought to others' attentions from well-known members of the Twitter community -- just like it works in the blogging world.
Second, there's real-world brand management going on. I found dozens and dozens of EMCers out there representing EMC well. Say something about EMC, or one of our products (or one of our competitors!) and there'd be a crowd of unofficial EMC brand managers chatting with you before you know it.
This is corporate brand marketing in an entirely new dimension. Many thousands of people are continually forming impressions around you and your company, and it's done in an entirely unstructured and organic manner. For traditional marketeers, this is head-spinning stuff.
As an example, if someone is frustrated with our company or our products, we're (collectively) right there in real time and listening sympathetically if nothing else.
And it's 24x7 -- right now, it's 7AM on a Saturday, and -- yes -- the twitterati are out and about.
Third, there's the infinite network of experts always available. Post a tweet with a question or opinion, and -- before you know it -- people are coming out of the woodwork with either a response, or the name of someone else who can probably help. And this happens in minutes, not hours or days.
If you've never seen or used Twitter, simply go to http://search.twitter.com (or http://www.monitter.com) and type in your favorite search term. Maybe a name or two. You'll be amazed at the results.
Simply put, I now believe you can't ignore Twitter as part of your overall corporate social media strategy. Just like you can't ignore Google.
I had been postponing engaging with Twitter, and I was wrong.
Originally, I had high hopes for Yammer, which is like Twitter but restricted to people with the same (presumably corporate) email domain address. There's a bit of activity there, but it pales besides the Twitter flood. More going on outside your company than inside your company -- no surprise there.
And then there's "following".
On Twitter, people follow other people. Recommendations are made between friends on who should be followed, and who should be unfollowed. I have now had a Twitter account for something like 24 hours, and I now have 52 followers.
Now, to be fair, I am somewhat of a known identity in the various circles I participate in, so some might not be surprised by this. But each of these followers has a list of people who follow them, and so on. It's an extreme and real-time example of social networking.
Regarding the long-standing complaint that social media behavior can appear as just goofing off -- well, Twitter is addictive and ripe for abuse. Indeed, the "tweeps" (Twitter users) tell me that they've all had to learn how to tame this particular beast.
I'll let you know how I do on this one :-)
Despite that EMC has no formal strategy for Twitter, we're probably one of the more proficient companies in using it well. We have many dozens of unofficial brand managers representing us on the service, we're obviously forming good relationships and having great communication between people inside our company and outside out company.
I couldn't have asked for anything better.
You might ask -- how did this come to be?
Simple -- it was the people.
We have an extended core of "social people" at EMC. They participate vigorously on the internal social platform. They tend to blog proficiently inside and outside of the company. You'll see them leaving comments on other people's blogs and comments. Wherever you go, you'll generally find the same EMCers participating and engaging.
They're out there in force -- representing themselves and EMC quite well, thank you!
And so, when Twitter (or whatever) comes along, there's really no need for us to do anything. The EMC social people find out about the service, set up shop, and do what they normally do -- engage in discussion.
Shouldn't that be at the heart of any corporate social media strategy? To find, encourage and enlarge your internal group of proficient "social people"? So that -- regardless of the platform or context -- they're out there representing your company well?
As a matter of fact, put this way -- I guess being proficient at Twitter was part of our plan all along!