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"We need to be on Twitter," cries the CEO. But for how long, and what will it do to the brand long term?

The consistent cry from boards and management interested in the Internet is the always 'the latest thing'. Today, it's Twitter. But the Internet has bad habits. It keeps check of what you do. It crawls, catalogues and communicates all the past 'latest things'.

That's right. Those things. Those 'not latest' things. The things you were doing yesterday. They are still there.

See, social media isn't a campaign. It's a habit.

No. Actually, it's a strategic, long term commitment to your customers. No matter what you do with Twitter today, it is what you do with Twitter tomorrow that truly reflects the brand experience you will deliver to your customers. Let me explain ...

Not so long ago the CEO yelled "We need a Corporate Blog". Remember that? You engaged you customers, talked to them online, had actual, real dialogue and looked pretty cool.

From HP we saw one of the best deliveries that engaged customers with thought leadership, analysis, new technology and better still employee input. Great brand building stuff knowing the quality of technology was backed up by excellent people who could deliver on the brand promise. And so it went for a time. And then the cobwebs set in.

The top link for the employee blog goes back to last November. The blog is forgotten. Are the customers forgotten? No. HP is still doing some great things but the employee blog is yesterdays news. Unfortunately for me this was lost and I only hunted the good oil out because I was writing this. For everyone else visiting that page it shows HP to be one year old.

For anyone seeing a forgotten blog page it tells the visitor that the business doesn't want to engage anymore. Worst of all, it conveys a company that was on the edge, but now they are being left behind because they have no follow through. Who wants to be with a brand like that?

HP is not alone. The Join Barclays Blog from the US telling us what it is like to join the company is - well - not assuring. You have to wonder why they bothered. The Victoria Beckham blog hasn't progressed since May because someone can't be bothered adding a redirect into the DNS to the new blog. This list could become very long.

So if you want your brand to say 'can't be arsed', 'sorry, I was interested in talking to you but now I'm busy' or in some cases 'we can't finish what we started' remember to get on Twitter. You might just be featuring in post here real soon. Just remember with Twitter, corporate blogs and any other social media your response, or lack thereof, lives forever and becomes fodder for commentators like me.

That is unless you are genuinely interested in talking to and engaging with your customers. More importantly, listening to your customers. A bit like a call centre or retail customer service desk. If that is the case, get a plan together, resource it properly, encourage feedback and stick with it. Twitter is a great tool to engage. So are corporate blogs. But the engagement isn't contained in a magic box. It is entirely up to you...

Julian Grainger

Published 20 August, 2009 by Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger is an internet consultant and cotnributor to Econsultancy.

9 more posts from this author

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Chipo Mugomba, Digital PR practitioner at n/a

Cheers to you post. This can't be stressed enough. The number of times we hear the words "we want to start corporate blog to announce our new line of dish pans next week...". First question to client should be "Ok, and what exactly do you think you are going to achieve by doing this??"

Would be good to see a comparative list of social media one-hit wonders and the social media legends that have gone past the lime light. 

Chipo 

almost 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Good post Julian. I've had senior execs say to me "Why should I bother with Twitter, it's pointless". My answer is, unless you have a genuine passion and commitment to engaging in meaningful conversation, then don't bother.

That may seem at odds with my view that Twitter can be an incredibly valuable communication and engagement tool. However, as you point out, there is no point starting something that you don't have the volition/resource/commitment (edit at will!) to sustain. There is nothing worse than getting people interested only to let the tumble weed set-in. It will damage the brand because people feel that you were never really that interested and if you can discard them once, you can easily discard them again when it really matters.

I always talk about Accessories Online (http://sn.im/acconline) as a great example of a UK retailer using Twitter (and other social channels like Facebook) to truly engage with their audience. Vicky understands the important of conversation, not simply pushing sales messages. She has spent the time building rapport and responding to her followers, actively engaging in dialogue. As a result, when she puts links to new ranges or advertises special promotions, people listen and click. 

I think too many people hear "social media" and then either think it is a short-term fad or jump in without thinking. As with any communication, you need to have a clear reason for being there, define a strategy and then follow that strategy. Just because social media requires a different type of etiquette and engagement doesn't preclude strategic planning or delivery. Why be somewhere if you don't know why you're there and don't know how to determine success?

thanks

james

almost 7 years ago

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Kendra

I totally agree...GREAT post!  I get these requests all the time from department leads to start a forum or blog. I stress to them the importance of putting together an internal process for posting and repling to threads; but regardless, these communities launch with no success.  I cringe everytime I review the sites and notice little to no activity.  It looks worse than if this feature didn't exist.

almost 7 years ago

Stephen Dill

Stephen Dill, President at SRD InterActive

Julian, your post reminds me of the reaction many senior architects had when I began to teach them word processing on their first computers 20 years ago. Two minutes into the session the light would dawn and they would stop me with a hand up and a look of shock on their face and ask, "Do you want me to become a secretary?!"

We are again coming into contact with people who have an interest in what everyone is talking about, but little understanding of the change in their world that is being brought about by it. Many people, of all ages and education levels, still see getting involved in "social networking" or "social media" as a decision about whether they want to be found by their high school buddies or not. As I often teach, Twitter and blogs are Google Juice. This is about leveraging technology to be found. This is serious business, here to stay, and anything BUT frivolous. 

When I go into a firm to set up a social media strategy, after a thorough discovery session with the top managers to determine objectives, I conduct a full-day boot camp involving everyone in the firm who have any domain knowledge that the company resells to their customers. One conference room or many distributed and connected by video Skype, everyone gets assignments to go to their desks to research blogs of experts in their fields and come back and report. Then they are assigned to comment on one blog entry in 10 minutes and report back. Then they are told to go to their desks and Google those experts to find their points of presence: Twitter, Friendfeed, Flickr, Stumbleupon, Delicious, Digg, Ping, LinkedIn, Facebook - log everything - and come back and report. Through all this the senior managers are seeing whiteboards and pads of paper filling up with data on how much is "out there" that affords them an opportunity to become known, or potentially gives them business intelligence about competitors or the markets they sell into. They also start to see who they have on staff who has a natural talent and interest in social media. We summarize the passive results before lunch. Then in the afternoon everyone creates the profile text blocks that will describe their firm, and use those to create profiles in all of a dozen tools I have determined are most supportive of the company's objectives. In most cases a company page is created on LinkedIn and Facebook and a half hour is spent collecting and posting content from material the company already has or is currently circulating internally (that is ready for disclosure, obviously). We wrap the day by seeing who wants to be part of the SM content team and determining first assignments for the company blog. We also identify individual bloggers who have the capacity, interest, and skills to represent the company through their own eyes.

The net result is that the company as a whole is aware of what is involved, the benefits of diligence and commitment have been demonstrated, and everyone knows who has taken on the role of dialoging with the world of customers, analysts, and competitors. At the same time, the senior management buys in, knowing who is going to be involved, and often joins in as participant when they see that so much of what they put into emails and memos has relevance to the social media machine that will ultimately make it easier to be found, generate more inbound leads, and potentially open up channels of communication that they never thought could be established. 

We haven't been at this very long, so the jury is still out on whether this boot camp idea will cement the 'process' of social media content publishing into the company psyche like word processing is fully embraced at all levels of any size firm, but I'll keep you posted.

almost 7 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

James, Stephen, Kendra

I hope your are all busy. You should be. And Stephen what a great analogy. It is a sea change. People fail to understand just what is happening online.

I would add one thing. What is the story the business wishes to tell?

Every great yarn has a core tale to tell the customer. What are you and how do you want to be perceived?

Is this a story about caring? the bleeding edge? responsiveness? being real? 

If the business can decide a core story to run through the online communities in which they participate they can shout from many mouths into one voice.

They can also serialize the push-side of the content to gain a following and keep people coming back to something relevant and something they can pass onto others.

almost 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Stephen

I like the idea of 'boot camp' - any idea needs senior management buy-in. Without this you do not have the right resource or commitment to really drive the project. Please keep us posted how this develops.

Whilst I agree that tools like Twitter play a role in increasing "Google Juice" i don't think they are just tools to help you be found. Whilst they do serve this role and are an integral part of the social media optimisation element of SEO and Online PR, they also play an essential role in communication and building customer engagement. Being found is important but giving people a positive impression of you and your business is essential in building loyalty, encouraging word-of-mouth and driving repeat business.

Thanks

james

almost 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Semons

Please do not spam this blog with badly positioned links. We are having a useful discussion about blogging and corporate communication - please stop wasting our time with lazy marketing - did you not know that links in these blogs are no follow and will be removed anyway by the Econsultancy team!

Yours, bored by tedious marketing efforts

james

almost 7 years ago

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Janine

Nice post Julian and examples of poorly executed blogs. Very topical! Maintaining fresh relevant content through any channel blogs, social media or websites is imperative to building and maintaining relationships and brand integrity.

almost 7 years ago

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