The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

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Building Twitter

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If there is a Golden Rule to Social Media it is that numbers don’t matter in a positive way. It is irrelevant how many followers or friends you have. There have been plenty of articles recently highlighting how  easy it is to acquire large bundles of Twitter followers but volume for its own sake is vanity. There are some very good reasons why you don’t want to just concentrate on volume unless you are being paid for page impressions viewed. Following on from my last blog about the CCExpo, imagine you have a stand at a big trade show. You know roughly how many people are likely to attend but you need to decide how many people to man the stand with, and how much marketing collateral to take with you. If you under-resource you won’t be able to take every sales lead available to you. If you overstaff  it wastes precious resource and can make the stand look unpopular. In a perfect world, all of your staff on the stand are engaged in meaningful conversations throughout the day and there is always someone available to talk to. You never waste resource on tyrekickers, suppliers or competitors. Although in the social world there may not seem to be much of a cost of participation there certainly is an opportunity cost to concentrating on numbers:

  • Firstly, the bigger the numbers, the harder it is to even monitor the conversation. It would make sense that you would want a mutual social relationship with your community and so you would “see” all their comments, statuses and posts. The sheer volume of noise this generates means it is difficult, even with the best monitoring tools, to make sense of what is happening – even harder to engage in a meaningful way with your community. This is the equivalent of the doors to the trade show opening and a wall of people making their way directly to your stand. The people manning the stand would be completely overwhelmed and be unable to identify the real prospects amongst the timewasters.
  • The objective is not just to acquire and keep the community captive. The challenge is to nurture and develop relationships with the community on as personalised basis as possible. A monitoring and listening approach will look out for references to you, your company, your products, your competitors and market issues. The hierarchy would suggest that with limited resources you want to make sure that the defensive position is protected first – that the mentions of you and your products are picked up and responded to. This could still leave a large part of the community untapped and feeling unloved. This is similar to having a stand and just handing out promotional literature. It’s a fairly blunt marketing strategy. The best use of trade shows involves taking the right people to one side and discussing their detailed requirements over a coffee.
  • The final reason why numbers are unimportant is that you will be judged by the company you keep. The Social Influence scorekeepers look not only at numbers but the strength of the community you interact with. As your social community is often visible, if it is largely made up of pornbots and people from different continents it doesn’t reflect well on your housekeeping. It may mean that potential followers decide not to. Again, taking the trade show analogy, we all scout the whole venue first and make value judgements over which stands are worth visiting. Of course there will be those you have heard of in advance but there will also be those that look popular or have interesting content worth exploring. Similarly you avoid the ones where the staff look uninterested or uninteresting and the stands which are full of students. As a supplier you need to create a positive first impression just to have a chance of developing the relationship further.

With those caveats, how should you build your Twitter community?

To start with – really think carefully about your Twitter name and profile. The name is important for making it easy for people to refer to you and contact you. The hard work is done by Twitter when you reply to someone but if you want to DM someone or refer to them in a normal tweet, underscores and numbers can mean you never get the message. Keep it as simple as possible. If all of the remotely basic versions of your company name are taken choose a different path. For example if you are a joiner called John Smith it is far better to go for @HappyJoiner than @john__smith377. Think in advance also about how other people at your company could get involved. If this is likely @JoinerJohn could easily be supplemented in future by @JoinerRichard but @HappyJoiner would only suggest Richard is in a bad mood or unrelated. Research shows that the photograph plays a really important part in whether people look at your tweets or not. As a result, never leave the egg image, and pick a photograph which is of a person or an image large enough that it can be seen clearly as a thumbnail. Twitter profiles are one of those areas where you don’t want to be too arty. You then have a limit of 160 characters. In this space you must say clearly what you do, try and differentiate yourself, explain where you are (a bugbear of mine) and who you want to follow you. The Twitter search will be used by people so think of the words you would want to be searchable in your profile. You can’t say everything you want to in 160 characters but you do also have space to add a url so have a clear strategy for where you are going to send people for more information.

I find that using lists and targets is the best way to stay on top of things. In Twitter there are some real constraints which you need to manage your way around. The most obvious of these is are the 2000 barrier on follows and the dangers of being suspended if you unfollow too rapidly. It would be much easier if you could spend hours searching for “your kind of Twitterer”, follow them all and then wait for them to follow back. Unfortunately Twitter puts a set of hurdles in place to force true engagement. The first of these is that you can’t follow more than 2000 accounts unless you also have 2000 followers (approximately). There are similar hurdles as the number increases but the problem is the same. As you get nearer to the limit you find yourself carefully unfollowing to give yourself headroom.

I find it easiest to stay focussed from the start and not automatically follow everyone back. When I follow people I really try and concentrate on people that I want to engage with – potential customers, influencers, influences, relevant suppliers, customers and competitors. If the Twitter account doesn’t meet the profile: don’t follow! Of course this can appear rude if you ignore a follower by not following back. The simple way to address this is to publish a charter of what your account is about and who you want to follow you. When choosing who to follow always look at their most recent tweets – what’s the point of following someone who last tweeted three months ago? Similarly – what’s their balance of follows and followers. If you follow someone who has 13,000 followers but only follows 100 is their really any point? If you want to learn from their pronouncement then maybe but the chances are they won’t ever see one of your tweets. Interaction and referencing is the best approach with these accounts.

I also find it useful to maintain lists from the start. Lists are a really good way of grouping Twitter followers and followers according to whatever criteria you want. Make sure you make the lists secure if you don’t want to offend them by seeing how you categorise them (people will be notified they have been added to a list unless you do so). This will also come in handly when you want to be proactive – you can quickly see how many followers of a particular type you have (a quick check is to fill lists right up until you reach the 500 limit and then create a second list called Customer2 for example). These can be exported into spreadsheets and databases for further analysis. This is a very tedious job to do later so its best to stay on top of it as part of your operating procedures from the start.

One of these lists should be targets. These are people who initially you would follow and who you would love to follow you back. These may be journalists, executives, or key customers. They will often have thousands of followers and be extremely selective about who they follow. Importantly they are also likely to be very busy. If you don’t know who you are aiming for you are never going to engage with them. Tweetdeck is a good tool for monitoring their conversation in different lists – this target list may only have one or two tweets a day and most of them will not give you an opportunity. However, if you monitor in real time you can also react at a  time when you know they are catching up on their social media and may well see your tweet. To give yourself a chance of getting a follow you need to be seen first and foremost and you then need to give them a reason to! Examples of reasons may be that you retweet their comments (everyone likes retweets), that you provide more information on a subject they are tweeting about currently, or simply that they entertain you and they retweet your own creation. It’s a fine balance between stalker and someone who is genuinely interested in them so make sure you control frequency and content carefully.

Finally, regularly have a purge of follows. There are some good tools available which analyse people you follow who don’t follow you back. The same tools can manage removal of the oldest first and also give some indication of the likelihood you should expect a follow back based on the relative numbers of follows/followers. I regularly have a look at unfollowing up to 50 at a time. This gives headroom for following more people who may be interested in participating in your community without causing concern with Twitter. This is a good practice also because some of these may not be following back only because they overlooked you. Unfollowing and following back may be all it takes to recruit!

Written by greencontact

September 29, 2013 at 10:48 am