Sunday, September 28, 2008

Twitteriocy

Twitter idiocy. Or Twitteriocy (I'm coining a term- run with it). It's what we are beginning to see on Twitter, and it is an easy thing to combat. Now, while Twitter right now is the hot thing for corporations, and we have begun seeing more and more and more companies getting accounts, well, it is becoming obvious that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

So, I am laying down my simple rules for not being a Twitter idiot. Because, well, no one likes an idiot.

Now, this all came about at Blogworld Expo. Once again, it was a great event and Rick Calvert did a great job. But, as the wonderfully charming Gwen Bell noted - with such the concentration on Twitter this year, next year should be Twitter World Expo.

Zappos had a party at Prive - the CEO of Zappos follows me on Twitter, and vice-versa - and I ended up at the bar with the CEO/CHO, Luke, of Fitfuel. I noticed the sticker of his Twitter name on his head (yes, he had it stuck on his head), so I asked him why he (and, well, most of his team at Fitfuel) was following me on Twitter. It's a simple question, right? I wonder why a lot of people follow me on Twitter as I tend to either talk about 80's music, rap lyrics, rap videos, my personal rules of PR and Twitter (okay, that might be why) and other random shit on my mind. Usually in threaded conversations, so they are discussions with others.

His response was that I must have followed first (not to sound cocky, but with 3000+ followers and following 1325, I rarely proactively add anyone). After that, it was just quiet.

Until he went back to his team and started talking about the stupid conversation he had at the bar about Twitter. I have dog ears, by the way, if you wonder.

See, isn't that nice? Nothing makes me feel better than being characterized as stupid. Now, the simple and easy answers could have been: we follow you because you're an influencer (ego feeding works with most people, just not me); we follow you because you are part of the Twit2Fit (thanks Jason Falls, Equinox and my Yoga person there, Maura Barclay, for keeping me healthy!) hashtag group (true, and, well, might be the reason, but who knows now and I don't care); we follow you because you have a lot of smart things to say about PR and Twitter (okay, more ego gratification, but hey, that would work because it means they know who I am). Shit, make up some reason why you are following a person.

So, with this in mind - and with me having set up a Twitter account for my day job - here are the rules that I have come up for Twitter.

1. Don't have your PR firm set up and be your Twitter account. That seems pretty simple, doesn't it? But, well, I heard a story at BlogWorld Expo of a PR firm charging $7000 for a week of Twittering, and have heard other stories of astronomical figures on setting up and monitoring the Twitterverse. How is aPR firm supposed to respond if they have to go back to the client and get the okay first? Um, social media and quick time conversations like Twitter do not work that way.

2. Don't follow everyone willy nilly. First, it makes no sense - if you follow someone, well, it does not matter unless they follow you back. Otherwise, you're a corporate shill that is just talking to nobody. You're talking to no one and it's obvious that you just are doing it to do it. And, well, if that's what you want, that's great. I have a lot of the Zappos people follow me ... but I so rarely wear shoes and they don't sell Havaianas yet (come on guys, get on the stick). But, I like the company, and don't follow all of them back. But, hey, they must like me enough to follow. My strategy? If someone follows the corporate account first, I follow back. If they Tweet about the company more than once, I follow. If they are a blog that I read that is in the corporate space (or a journalistic space), I follow to see what they are working on. Simple and easy.

3. Get Tweetdeck. At first, I was not a fan ... but if you are in-house and doing Twitter for work, there is no greater tool. Not only do you get the stream, the replies and direct messages, but it keeps your global searches right there to reply. And, well, if you are doing a corporate Twitter account, scan for your name and other terms that refer to what your company does, and what its products serve. Seriously, it rocks. And, those that know me know that I'm stingy with the likes.

4. Be engaged. Be personable. Be responsive. There's nothing worse than sending someone a direct message on Twitter ... and hearing nothing back. You followed ME first, and yet you are unable to respond to a question? And, well, that's just a direct message. If you are sent an @reply, and do not respond, do you REALLY want to be in the conversation, or you just glomming onto the next thing? If it's glomming, well, you are not ready.

5. Be a person. The other day, I noted that I do not like corporate Twitter accounts with no name, but said in my more usual way. Seriously, this is supposed to be a conversation, and you want me to talk to someone with no name? No reference? No bio? Um, no thank you. No, really, go away.

6. Twitter is not for everyone. For another, longer post ... social media is not for all corporations or entities. There are those that social media will NEVER be the right fit because of policies or legalities. Despite the mantra of the social media "experts", social media is not a right fit for all companies. It's a simple rule. In that, Twitter is not right for all groups - but that does not mean they should not be monitoring Twitter. You don't even need to download Tweetdeck ... you can use Filtrbox for Twitter searches (an added bonus to what is being said out there on blogs, and such).

I also spelled out rules for me following others yesterday. Just click on these links and you'll see.

If you are a corporation, though, what exactly are you trying to accomplish on Twitter? That should be the first question. For me, it was to monitor and participate and answer questions. It was cut and dry, and from engaging, I have been able to turn what were active detractors to active enthusiasts - by acknowledging, responding and helping. Simple as pecan pie.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Slave to Technology

If you read my blog, you notice a trend: I often talk about what public relations needs to do, and how it needs to change. Sometimes it's a broken record, but it serves a purpose.

Now, I can be like a social media expert (something, btw, I never call myself because boy, is that a career-limiting path) and just talk about social media tools with no real world experiences or examples. Talking tools for tools sake makes you, well, a tool. Don't tell your audience about the new social media tools that have launched, because in a year or two, most of them are likely to be ignored or dead pooled. Or, in five years, we'll all talk about how quaint it was that we would recommend this or that to clients ... with no real ROI on the tools.

At the end of the day, social media and public relations is getting so caught up in the tools, that it is forgetting that it is just technology. The PR people and the firms are too dependent on technology and the tools - and these tools expand beyond social media. It includes email and instant messaging and using the computer all the damn time and never leaving the office. The tools that that PR people use almost exclusively in media relations are email and IM, and unfortunately ignore that phone looking thing on their desk.

That's a problem. A big problem.

During the big brouhaha on PR is dead, Frank Shaw built upon my post and said some of the things I meant to say.

It is not just about the relationships, but building the right relationships within the right verticals, and doing your research prior. And, yes, that takes time and involves sitting in front of the computer.

But, well, my computer monitor died - the notebook still works (I can hear it!) but the screen is dark. No clue why, and just need to go to the "doctor" to get it checked out. But it was a good reminder that we are too caught up in technology. We have so fallen in love with technology, that we can't do anything without it.

So, once upon a time, I was working at a PR firm. I was asked to help out on a media tour, and while I didn't know the client well, I knew the story enough to send out a quick round of email pitches (which another person had claimed to do). The difference? I actually called the reporters, and booked the media tour via phone.

Yes, I do good phone. I was able to get on the phone, quickly encapsulate the pitch into 30-seconds for a reporter, and get the meeting. I booked the tour in two days.

So, instead of just talking about tools and pontificating, here's my advice to PR firms with junior staff. Or, to any PR person that wants to have better media relations skills.
  1. Put away your keyboard. No, seriously, have the keyboard taken away. Emails can be answered at a later time, and if it really is an emergency, the client will call you and your coworker will walk over to your office. But, in PR, very rarely is anything in PR an emergency (such, well, that will be a life and death situation). Put away the keyboard, and only use the phone.
  2. Call up a reporter and offer to meet for coffee or lunch. No, it's not to pitch them, but to find out what stories they want to write about, and to learn more about them. It's this real world networking thingie. I know - a total mind fuck!
  3. Pick up the damned phone. Deals aren't closed via email. Pitches aren't closed via email. Media tours are not booked or finalized via email. It's done by phone. It's simple - the strong use the phone, the weak stick to email. Pick up the phone and talk to reporters and analysts.
While technology has its place in public relations, we have been over-relying on the tools for so long that the basics of public relations - the relationships and the connectivity with face-to-face meetings and the ability to do good phone - have been lost. It's the few that can do it, and do it well.

We have become slaves to technology - and it has only become worse with the social media tools. Break the chains and get back to basics.