Monday, March 30, 2009

Want to take over the world with Twitter?

So you've decided that Twitter is the way to jump into this Web 2.0/social media thing that everyone is buzzing out. If that's where everyone is, then maybe this is the "magic bullet" that will finally get you to those crazy traffic goals you were given last year.

I have one bit of advice (given with all due respect and great humility for my own mistaken attitudes in the past).

Get a grip.

You aren't going to suddenly "move the needle" on you web goals by starting up a Twitter account. Having a Twitter account does not automatically mean that your organization is "Web 2.0" (this is quickly becoming a meaningless term so you should probably stop using it) or social-media savvy.

It means you have an account on Twitter.

That's true of Facebook, Ning, Yahoo Groups, niche online communities and all of those other social networking hotspots. These are all different tools -- like hammers, screwdrivers and saws. Got an account on all of 'em? Great. You've got a full toolbox. Now you need a plan, materials (content), and a crew to do the building. Take any one piece of this away and it won't work. If you expect a single person to do all of the building, it's going to take an awfully long time. If you "crowdsource" the work and don't have a plan (or oversight), the effort will be hap-hazard and unfocused in terms of your goals. Think about your content -- what you are talking about on all of these platforms. The expectation of your audience is that you'll be contributing valuable content to the community... not tweeting "where should I go to lunch to today" or "@whoever You Rock".

So... what do you do?

First of all, look at these communication tools and see how they align with your organizational mission and goals. I'm not talking about the goals that say "10 million web visitors by July", I'm talking about the big, organizational goals like "we want to make boatloads of money as quickly as possible" (I paraphrase here) or "we want to make the world a better place for the backyard chipmunk". Whatever your board of directors bought into, dust that bad boy off and take a look. Will having a Twitter account move you in the right direction?

Yes? Awesome. Excellent. We're on a roll here. Will it move you toward your goal faster than other communications options (marketing, public relations, large donations to key political campaigns) or even physical options? If you are trying to get more schools built in Sao Paulo, would you get to that goal faster by actually giving grants to schoolteachers who live in that community or by paying Paris Hilton to pout into a television camera?

Think hard about it. Just because Twitter exists doesn't mean you have to use it. If you decide to use it, it doesn't need to be central to your communications strategy. If you are trying to reach a small, targeted group of people (such as chipmunk lovers), they've probably found each other without your help and are connecting somewhere. It might be Facebook, it might be Yahoo Groups, it might be a listserve run out of a server in someone's basement. Whatever the case, go to them.

You spent a lot of time and effort coming up with those goals. Stay focused on them. Don't retrofit your strategy to fit the tools.

OK. So after all of this the broad social media tools still make sense in light of your organizational goals. Now what? How fast does it work? How much will it cost to run? What do I do to make sure I get results?

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of "Get A Grip", coming up really soon. I promise.

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