What you need to ask yourself and your team if you want to integrate Twitter effectively into your Comms Plan

Seems to be a funny question to ask in a Blog directed at Comms Pros, but having scoured Linkedin for senior PR folk from the world’s largest tech companies over the course of the last week, I’m bemused to report… only half of them have a personal Twitter account and you’d have to halve that number again to see how many actively use it. Granted this was not a comprehensive survey, but it still strikes me as odd. I’ve been vocal about not being Twitter’s greatest fan, but… as a Comms Pro it would be negligent not to make use of it. So, what’s the deal?

In a word… Fear! Comms Pros have for so long seen themselves as the puppet-masters, only ever to be quoted as “a company spokesperson”, that having their own thoughts attached to their identity is just too much to take on. It’s ironic that those most in need of media training are many of the people that give it. It’s of course much easier to sit back and purport theory while picking fault in delivery, than it is to create an individual persona/brand and then manage it, as you would your companies, or any executive that entrusts you with theirs. Fear is debilitating. Fear of what your peers think when you make comments of public record, and fear of what journalists may interpret if they follow you. Of course media training is different to social media training, but where it applies to managing one’s personal brand, the rules are the same. Sadly the old adage ‘no-one ever got fired for buying IBM’ is alive and well amongst Comms Pros on Twitter, who seemingly prefer to say nothing, than have something scrutinised for fear of it taking the shine off their or their company’s brand.

So, how do we right this wrong? It starts with your responsibility as a Comms Pro and subsequently as a Twitter account owner.

As a Comms Pro, your primary responsibility is to give insightful and relevant strategic counsel. One of the best ways to do this, and I am speaking from first-hand experience (having only truly embraced Twitter myself in the last year) is to live and breathe it. I wouldn’t use a mechanic who had only ever read about cars in books, nor would I listen to someone tell me about how I should run a social media program who didn’t have a Twitter account that they regularly use.

Pretty simple? Yes, it really is. And now that we’re on the same page – what is your responsibility as a Twitter account holder; AKA a Tweeter?

Use it often: At the bare minimum you should be Tweeting daily. As a general rule, I’d suggest Tweeting three times a day. There are better times to Tweet than others and it depends on where you live, but 5pm is prime time for Aussies. Don’t tell me that this is too much. If you are a Comms Pro, you read a lot. Finding three snippets of information worthy of sharing across the course of the 18 hours you are awake is really not that hard. You need to maintain an active presence or your followers will cut you out. Don’t over think it. Tweets that contain less than 100 characters receive 17 per cent higher engagement than longer Tweets.

Use it specifically: I’m sorry but I just don’t get people having private conversations between @s on Twitter. It reeks of loneliness for me. Loneliness at best, pretentious at worst. There are other mediums that are better suited to this. My advice is to use Twitter as a way to engage broader audiences. This may well involve using the @ handle as a way to stimulate this engagement, but I think too often it’s misused and only alienates followers. Tweets with Hashtags (#) receive twice the level of engagement than those without and Tweets with one or two Hashtags (#) have 21 per cent higher engagement than those with three or more. This is a far more effective strategy in building rapport.

Use it to learn: Listening is as important as Tweeting. I’ve spoken to some people who say they have a Twitter account, but just to watch. I say, don’t limit yourself. Twitter should be used for both. Each is important. For a Comms Pro it’s about staying in touch with and sharing back to the business who could be potential evangelists. Who are the community leaders and influencers in your field? This is gold stuff that you can’t truly know unless you use Twitter as a learning tool. Learning is interactive, not passive. Take for example this stat. Tweets that ask followers to reTweet receive 12 times higher reTweet rates than those that do not, yet only one per cent of brands use this strategy. Be bold. Be forthright. Be humble, but get engaged.

Use it in companion: Twitter is one social tool. To get the most out of it you should leverage it in companion with other social media sites. As an example, Tweets that contain links receive 86 per cent higher reTweet rates than those with no links. Finally, remember it’s not all about you either. You need to be the social media champion within your business if you are a Comms Pro. If you aren’t a Comms Pro Twitter should still be something you think about if you want to engage with different communities in a collaborative real-time way. It’s also a pretty good source of news. If you aren’t on Twitter today, speak with your resident Comms Pro about how to best use it. And if they are one of those 50 per cent I mentioned early who aren’t on it already, ask them… WHY ON EARTH NOT! Don’t let your personal or professional brand slip into a black hole.

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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