Monday, March 16, 2009

10 Steps to Using Twitter Effectively

In continuation of the Twitter series of posts, I thought I'd put together a quick and dirty 10 step approach to using the tool effectively. The list provides a snapshot of what a novice user can do immediately to start realizing the benefits of such a tool.

And now for the top 10 (I suddenly feel like Letterman):
  1. Setup an account at It's quick and easy and you can be done in less than 5 minutes.

  2. Setup a profile (Photo, title, location, description). A profile description is critical so that people know what you're about and will be the ultimate deciding factor to whether they choose to follow you or not.

  3. Make your first post. Try to make it relevant. People really don't care to hear about Fido’s bowel movements or that you just saw a spider on your desk. There may be a select few but the majority of the time it's seen as being a nuisance and doesn't provide value to the community.

  4. Follow thought leaders (eg. @chrisbrogan, @Armano, @guykawasaki) and you can follow me at @jeffpontes. They will be the ones who will provide you with valuable insights and will help you to find others in the industry who share common interests and business challenges. Also when reading blogs you enjoy, search for their "Follow me on Twitter" link and start following them.

  5. Follow those who follow you. Don’t follow everyone since there are many who will simply go on a following frenzy as a means of spamming the Twitter community. It's a nuisance, it's ineffective and eventually Twitter catches on and shuts down their account. Choose to follow those with a relevant profile, have a healthy ratio of following / followers. Those who are following 1,000 but have only 100 following them are obviously not the type of people that will provide you with any value and are most likely spamming en masse. Also take a look at the quality of the person's posts. If they rarely contribute or post about Fido's new collar then simply pass on choosing to follow them in return.

  6. Retweet when necessary. If you come across something interesting give credit where it's due and repost it using "RT @username" as part of your message. At the same time don't overdue it as it could quickly become overkill as people pass it from friend circle to friend circle which can spread very rapidly.

  7. Have a conversation. Reply to interesting comments by including "@username" in your message which indicates to the person that you are engaging in dialogue with them. Keep it relevant and provide something of value in return.

  8. Contribute regularly. The true value in any community is that there are opportunities for everyone to give and take. A community full of takers will not realize its true potential as a knowledge resource.

  9. Use Twitter driven tools such as TwitterBerry, Tweetdeck, Twitter Search (among an extensive list of available tools which continues to grow) to unleash the true potential of Twitter. Find what tools work best for you. This could be content for future posts.

  10. Promote your account. Drive people to your Twitter account by including your account name in your e-mail signature, on your blog, in your social network accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). People with the same interests as you will choose to follow and you never know who you might meet.

Enough already...start tweeting! See you all on Twitter.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's All the Twitter About?

The topic has continued to come up and marketers are trying to figure it out. After growing at a rate of 1,382% between February 2008 and February 2009 and being recorded as the fastest growing "member community destination" (according to Nielsen), there must be something worth exploring here. In fact, Twitter's growth has exceeded that of Facebook during the same period and is only behind Facebook and MySpace in terms of popularity.

To help explain the phenomena, I've decided to summarize some points from Wikipedia which really explains it best:

What is Twitter?
  • A social network
  • A micro-blogging service
  • Often described as the "SMS of the Internet"
How Does it Work?
  • Users send and read other users' updates known as tweets
  • Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters
  • Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and
    delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them

  • Delivery can be restricted to a circle of “friends” or available to everyone / anyone by default
  • Updates can be sent or received via website, SMS, RSS (read only) or applications (Tweetie, Twitterific, TwitterBerry, etc.)
A major reason for its success is that users do NOT need to visit the site to take part in the community!

Stay tuned for "10 Ways to Use Twitter Effectively", "10 Ways How Not to Use Twitter" and "How To Be a Power Tweeter"...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Skittles, Taste the Rainbow of Controversy

Not sure what the thinking was behind the recent launch of the new website but it has definitely caused a stir in both consumer and marketing circles. At first glance I myself wasn't sure what to think as I was left confused and shocked at the decision to leave the Skittles brand message open to interpretation to all those who visited their "site".

It has been all the buzz with many on the fence as to whether they would define it as being a greatly successful "campaign" or a failure of great proportions. Either way a brand invests a lot of time, money and effort into communicating the appropriate message and building a relationship with their consumers that involves a certain level of trust. With the introduction of social media, marketers now have a vehicle in which they may be able to tap into consumer trust to assist in spreading a relevant message.

At the same time, if not handled correctly malicious consumers have the ability to open the floodgates of profanity, vulgarity and all of the negative things that serve against the brand. The Mars candy brand quickly realized the power of the web in propagating a message (either good or bad) and the importance of having a damage control plan. Within 24 hours of launching the site with live feeds from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube providing the main sources of content, Twitter was brought down due traffic overload.

The concept has far exceeded any expectation they could have had for its viral reach although at what cost? With a disorienting user experience, a gimmicky delivery and no substance or value being provided to end users, it would be a challenge to claim the program has been successful in the traditional sense.

Of course, should Skittles realize a lift in sales and/or are open to taking an edgier approach to their brand positioning (similar to that of an Axe body spray) than all the naysayers could quickly be proven wrong.