Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Own Private Twitterverse

As a marketer, what can I learn from my own behavior?

When I began my career in marketing and corporate communications many years ago, I created a regular morning ritual. I would get up very early, skim the major business daily newspapers, clip stories for my files, and forward select articles as a courtesy to my clients. To do my job correctly, I have always found it important to stay on top of trends and look for competitive or commentary opportunities for my clients.

Of course, my ritual has changed over the years, as technology has changed.

Today, I still get up early. But I go online to skim the major business dailies, to bookmark or share important stories, to add my comments to stories, and to read my Google alerts and RSS feeds. And I spend more time reading blogs than I do reading mainstream media sites.

The biggest change has happened in the last year. I now start my morning by checking my Twitter account first.

My personal Twitterverse – the few hundred people I follow – are a trusted group of colleagues and sources. These are chosen relationships, not forced ones (“must read The Boston Globe because I might miss something important”).

My Twitterverse can often point me to news and content – from mainstream-media sources and non-mainstream-media sources – that I care about faster and better than I can find it myself. On Twitter, I can essentially subscribe to opinions from bloggers, as well as headlines from mainstream publications. And I can share things that are important to me, with people who I care about or have come to value. Twitter has dramatically changed the process of discovery for me.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the value of Twitter. Critics point to the low signal-to-noise ratio, the increasing amount of spam, and the number of inactive accounts. But Twitter has become an important and valued part of my professional life. (It’s also become an increasingly valuable marketing tool for my clients, which you can read about elsewhere on this blog.)

Twitter works for me because I have made it my own private Twitterverse. In my case, I have carefully accumulated followers, and I think carefully about everyone I follow. I have gone for quality over quantity.

With millions of people participating in Twitter – many of them inactive or marginally active – it is increasingly important for marketers to be able to find and engage with the most active and thoughtful among us.

So, what engages me, as an active member of Twitter?

I like tweets that are:

Provocative – give me information and ideas that get me thinking

Relevant – appeal to my interests and use SEO so that my standing searches can find good tweets easily

Valuable – provide working links to valuable content or information that I can take action on easily (for example, an ebook I can download)

Obvious – favor descriptive language over cutesy but obscure language

Sharable – leave enough space so I can easily re-tweet (I suggest at least 20 characters)

Consistent – stick to an area of expertise and don’t go off on tangents

Respectful – don’t waste my time

Authentic – come from a real person or brand, with a real profile and a real photo or company logo

In my next blog post, I will provide some insight into how I created my own private Twitterverse: how I tweet.

(The picture above is me on the stage set of my first press conference, in the 80s. And yes, I am communicating with a colleague in Europe using a telephone - not a cell phone, SMS or Twitter.)

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