Tuesday, July 21, 2009

4 Ways to be a Better B2B Twitterer

There's a tremendous amount of interest in Twitter among b2b marketers. I'm frequently asked by clients and prospective clients, "What should I tweet about?" Nobody wants to be a dork. Everyone wants to do it right, but b2b social media marketing in general is still so new, and rapidly evolving, that it can seem like the rules are being written and rewritten on the fly.

Two recent articles got me thinking about how to answer this question. First, in How to score the coveted retweet, Reid Carr offers some concise but helpful advice on forming relationships on Twitter and producing content worthy of being retweeted—endorsed and passed along by other twitterers to their followers. Second, B2B's biggest social media screw-ups by Mark Schaefer demonstrates what can happen when companies are clueless about social media, including thought not limited to Twitter. At a high level, these two pieces are kind of yin and yang, what to do and what not to do.

But to get more specific, what constitutes a good b2b tweet? What type of content should b2b marketers be trying to promote on Twitter? I believe that effective b2b Twitter content breaks down into four main categories. All of these apply whether you are producing your own content or retweeting that of others.

1. Help me do my job better. This can range from guidance and techniques (such as the posts from Reid and Mark above) to news about innovative products or services. Innovations can be either evolutionary/incremental (help me do something I already do, better-faster-cheaper) or revolutionary/discontinuous (enable me to do something I couldn't do before). The iPhone was revolutionary; its imitators are producing incremental improvements, or at least trying to. In the data analytics / business intelligence world, most of the innovations over the past couple of decades have been incremental, with a few discountinuous innovations like illuminate.

You can tweet about any of these, though revolutionary innovations tend to attract the most attention on Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media. When tweeting about your own product or service, the key is (as with marketing in general, though even more so in social media) to focus on the benefits.

Where can you find such information to share? Three common sources are 1) your own content (after all, promoting your own content is probably a big part of the reason you're on Twitter), 2) from the Twitterers you follow (via retweets of information you find valuable), and 3) by monitoring RSS feeds, either from individual blogs or topic aggregators like Junta42 (content marketing) and B2B Marketing Zone (b2b narketing and PR).

2. Tell me something interesting. You don't have to limit your tweets to purely practical content; information or news items that are odd, unexpected or trivial can add some life to your Twitter stream, provided they aren't overdone. For example, I recently saw a link from Brian McDermott about how frequently news releases from the Obama administration contain spelling errors. I thought it was interesting, so I retweeted it.

3. Make me laugh. Again, this is something that shouldn't be overdone, but we can all use a chuckle once in a while. The best humor is first, well, actually funny, and second, actually relevant to your Twitter following. For example, the Top 5 Media Industry Parody Videos: highly germane and frightfully on-target satire of marketing and advertising types (though, warning, some of the language isn't suitable for kids or prudish co-workers).

4. Have a conversation. Finally, Twitter is a tool for building relationships. It doesn't have to be about business all the time. Conversations that are business-oriented can be conducted publicly through @ replies. More personal, relationship-building conversations on off-topic subjects (e.g. the local weather, sports, celebrities, your kids, obscure rock bands from the `80s, etc.) should be taken out of the public realm through Twitter's direct messaging capability.

In short, being a good b2b Twitterer largely means simply using the social skills applicable to offline settings. Be interesting, funny, topical, conversational, and don't only talk about yourself.

Which is why this recent appeal from a technology vendor is so appalling (this is from an actual email blast, I've only removed the company name to spare them the embarrassment):

I invite you to join the community of XYZ Company followers on Twitter to keep up to date on, and discuss the following with us in real time:

- XYZ Company release announcements, tips, benchmarks
- XYZ Company customer news
- XYZ Company events
- XYZ Company job postings
- And XYZ Company commentary on market announcements (other vendors, partners, tech trends, etc.)

Click here to follow XYZ Company on Twitter: http://twitter.com/xyzco


Ugh! Whether on Twitter or any other social media platform, the key word to remember is "social." The most effective way to promote your brand or product is indirectly, by being smart and helpful. "It's all about me" content, like the email above, will inevitably fall flat.


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom


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