PCR guides would-be social butterflies through the challenges of networking online and doles out a few Twitter tips...

Smart social networking: part two

So, perhaps you’ve read part one of our guide to smart social networking, and have set up a Twitter account, but are you doing it in style?

Most people can manage to sign up, complete a profile and perhaps upload a picture. But after this there’s a bit more work involved. First you have to decide whether you want to ‘follow’ anyone – in other words, whether you want to read their updates. For example, you might decide to follow people local to the area, similar businesses, news feeds or even a few random celebrities. The chances are, if you start following people and engaging in conversation with them, you’ll gain some followers back. If you Tweet – make your own posts – without doing this, you’ll get far less traffic.

At some point you need to consider what your own Tweets will be like and this will depend on what you want to achieve. For example, Setchell favours the chatty approach: “I think people identify with you if you’re friendly and it helps to keep you at the forefront of someone’s mind if they are chatting to you regularly. We are a nice, friendly business, so keeping that persona online is important.”

Of course if you only post advertising links, you don’t get the same level of interaction but you do save on time. You can even treat Twitter like an RSS news feed if you want information without building your own brand – just follow and read without ever posting yourself.

Don’t be afraid to have a ‘personal’ account as well or instead of a more corporate identity. Even the Best Buy CEO Brian J Dunn has his own account (@BBYCEO). Gaskell also prefers a more personal style. She comments: “I think it gives a personality to a business which in my case is often peopled by young men.”

You can even use Twitter to resolve customer complaints. Big brands such as BT, O2 and Starbucks, for example, all actively search for their names and get in touch with the relevant Tweeters when there’s been a problem. Similarly, many Facebook pages invite comments from customers.

Once you start to branch out onto multiple social sites – have a look at how you could use LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and Tumblr, just to name a few – it might be time to consider how you maintain them all.

As Stevinson says: “Joining social media networks is one aspect, and while it takes little time to actually Tweet a message, or post to Facebook, managing those networks is a much more time-consuming task.”

Fortunately there are apps such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck available which enable users to keep up to date on multiple sites and even make automatic posts to each of them. It’s worth doing some research to see if any might suit you.

Ultimately, having a Twitter or Facebook account enhances rather than replaces the site or shop you already have. Use them smartly, if you have time and the inclination, and they can help you achieve better business.

Quick and easy Twitter tips

Use the search box to see who’s talking about you

Check your ‘mentions’, otherwise you could miss an important @ message from someone you don’t follow

When time permits, reply to other Twitter users as well as posting your own material

Keep an eye on what topics are trending to see what people are talking about

Put a # in front of keywords and they can be clicked to
see Tweets from everyone who’s using them

If you follow a lot of people it might be worth organising them into lists

If it all gets too much to handle, look into using a social networking management application

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