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Individuals and brands are flocking to Twitter, but all the employees figuring out how to share their company's message on the new medium might be surprised to learn that often the best thing to do on the service is stay silent.

At the 140 Character Conference in New York on Wednesday, that was the most ardent advice for brands using Twitter. According to Peter Fasano, Principal at Mass+Logic: "The most important thing on Twitter, is knowing when not to Tweet."

With over 4 million users on Twitter, there is a lot of noise on the service. And brands need to avoid creating more of it.

"We're all figuring out our own rules of engagement," says Brian Morrissey of AdAge, but twittering responses to any mention of a brand — an increasingly common practice — isn't doing much of anything.

In fact, it can be a negative for a brand's image. According to Fasano: "Popping up because of a keyword mention doesn't matter." As more individuals and brands flood the zone, "the autopresence of saying 'I'm here' loses it's value."

Instead, brands should focus on helping consumers, solving problems and growing their reputation. And that's what brands need to be considering when they reach out to people into the space.

According to Fasano, it's easy to get caught up in the live stream of Twitter, but brands have to ask themselves: "You can see what matters today, but does it matter tomorrow? Did it influence other media?"

Working from that perspective, brands can jump into social media when it matters and make a difference to forward their business model.

The value of Twitter for brands goes beyond simply being up to date with the latest technological fad and making sure that they are where consumers are. It provides brands an excellent way to dialogue, engage and grow their reputations, but it's important to know why people are there and what they're looking for.

Brand advocates should keep in mind a simple motto: "Don't always be selling." Consumers are on Twitter, but they're not there to purchase. And while Summize can be a powerful tool for brand management, where every companies can see every single mention of their company and products, responding to every tweet can simply create more work.

Consumers already experience fatigue from brands coming after them on the phone, in the mail, or online, and twitterers are just as apt to feel abused by marketing in the space. They also have an immediate platform for their negative reactions.

Says Morrissey: "People don't go to these chanels to talk about brands. If you're not adding value, you're spam."

Image: TwitTip

Meghan Keane

Published 17 June, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Chris Spencer

FYI: Summize was purchased by Twitter about 1 year ago and is now what we Twits (Twitter users for those who don't know) see as the 'search' function within the application.

over 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

An interesting post. I do agree that people on Twitter should not tweet for the sake of it and silence when there is no relevance or value to a comment is advised. I also agree that you need to reach out and engage people, not just expect them come to you and stay interested.

However, I genuinely think there is the opportunity to sell direct to customers via Twitter, provided that you are doing so in a relevant way. How do i define relevance? You need to set your stall out about why you are on Twitter and take a close look at your followers to see what they are talking about and asking for. By building personal relationships and engaging with your followers you build trust and when trust exists, people are open to promotion. This leads to relevant communication.

Take a look at some of the successful UK brands that sell via Twitter but have also spent the time to engage with their followers and join in the dialogue. A good example is @Accessories_UK - I've exchanged messages, retweets and comments over the last few months and find the company friendly and fun to interact with. As a result I bought a bracelet for my girlfriend and she loved it. I welcomed direct selling on Twitter because they built a relationship with me first.

I don't think selling on Twitter is a bad idea. It is like any other communication channel, if you are intrusive and irrelevant people will tune out and you will build a negative reputation. This applies to other online channels; send out poorly planned email campaigns and your open rates will fall and opt-outs rise; put up hard hitting PPC campaigns with badly structured landing pages, your conversion will wilt.

If brands think through why they are on social media sites like Twitter and make sure they understand the etiquette of the community, I think there is a great opportunity to add social media as another tool in the communication kit to increase customer engagement.

What does everyone else think?

over 7 years ago

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Ashok Cherian

In India, we are seeing brands slowly but surely taking to Twitter and using it as a two-way street with customers, informing them, answering their queries and solving their problems. Two such examples are @relianceworld and @flykingfisher

over 7 years ago

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