The Poetics Of Professional Tweeting
Let’s assume we’re on the same page that says Twitter is good for something. Now let’s romanticize it and equate to a modern limerick; let’s make it vulgar and call it Limerick 2.0. (The number of characters bars it from Haiku status—keep all that meaning under 30 characters and that’s serious art.) What should your little poem—the professional tweeter’s poem—say to the world?
Should it be a sales pitch? An advertisement? Random thoughts on poppy seed bagels? How does a professional tweet, anyway? Are there proven methods of effective tweeting? Can we call it something else besides “tweeting?”
Unfortunately, the answer’s probably no on the last one, unless you want to look sillier than if you just succumbed to puddy-tat (loltat) jargon in the first place. As to the nature of the tweet (one can’t exaggerate the sigh that just exited my core upon typing that last dependent clause), I pinged an elite group of cutting-edge, on the fringe, historically wild-web-west new media hip-shooters about effective professional tweeting, and not one of them had anything to say about it.
Well, there’s always Chris Richardson, formerly one of WebProNews’s own and now blogging sports at IntentionalFoul.com, with his colorful takes on everything. “Essentially,” he said, “it’s all minutiae anyway—‘I went to such and such steakhouse during Pubcon and it was the bomb. Great selection of meat.’—and so on. There’s only so much detail you can provide in 140 characters.”
One might surmise Chris hasn’t been won over from the Twitter dark side yet. He’s not alone in his skepticism. Over at Wired.com’s “Listening Post” blog, Scott Thill bemoans the lack of “penetrating insights” from the band REM’s Twitter feed before noting the un-Snoopness of Snoop Dog’s. Some PR poser, someone completely out of touch of with the bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yay-ishness of Snoop spends 140 characters telling followers to pick up a copy of the new album at their local Wal-Mart.
Okay so we still have naysayers, but the problem with naysayers is they always point out who’s doing it wrong, which is kind of easy. Who’s doing it right? My list of elite social media contacts will have to be updated, and Chris Brogan should be on it. Brogan recently posted “50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business.” While there are 50 guidelines there, themes have developed out of them (themes that are likely good personal goals as well) that can be summarized this way:
- Be your true, authentic self, but don’t focus on yourself or your business too much. Point to interesting field/business-related things that got your attention. (This will play better than “I’m at Starbucks.”) And ask people following you questions about their own experiences. Tweet about others’ experiences.
- If choosing an official company tweeter, choose more than one to fill in gaps.
- Follow interesting people. This is the interesting-by-association technique.
- Be human. Humans have relationships. Humans like interesting pictures, ideas, and humor.
- Be useful. Find something that helps you do something better and share it.
Valeria Maltoni, whose credentials are as long as your arm, picked up Brogan’s cue on her blog and reminds marketers, “Twitter is not another channel for pushing messages or ads. Please go back and reread this line, twice…. There is a lot you can learn about the dynamics of conversation and what people are interested in by observing and participating.”
Both Brogan and Maltoni refer to Whole Foods, where the rep shares community information, JetBlue, where one will find travel tips, and the Home Depot, where employee stories are told. The Huffington Post is tweeting from the Democratic National Convention—um, constantly.
What about a small business guy like you? Lexington, Ky.-based wedding photographer Shaun Ring uses his Twitter account to stay connected with other photographers, to send digital thank you notes and acknowledgments, to show his human side, and, perhaps most importantly for his romantic business of capturing romantic moments, Ring captures them in 140 characters too: “Shooting at the nail salon before heading to lunch with the girls. Don’t all great weddings start off with Panera and pedicures?”
And there’s your still life poetry, right?
Chris Richardson would be angry with me if I didn’t end this column without demonstrating his acquiescence to “maybe.” Referring to the music industry’s lack of effective tweeting, he says:
“If word got out Jack Johnson was a verified tweeter, all the hippie hottie college chicks would go follow him. And if the artist uses it for even their minutiae crap, it would still give insight to their ‘world.’ and let the fan feel more ‘connected.’ So I guess the short answer is using a verified personal touch—‘hey, the show in San Francisco was bonkers tonight. Thanks for coming out. Pix coming later’—that would be recognized and appreciated. If you established that trust and took the Trent Reznor route and announced releases and free downloads before the mainstream media got word, it would be a huge hit.”
In 140 characters or less: It’s authentic relationships, not self-serving sales pitches, that build business.