For all of Twitter’s advantages — its ability to help you better understand and expand your virtual community as well as providing another means of reaching existing and potential clients — the medium does have its limitations.
For starters, users are limited to text-based posts of no more than 140 characters. That means it shouldn’t be used for traditional blogging or PR purposes, says Russ Vance, digital director of Wickware Communications Inc. in Toronto (twitter.com/Wickwarecomm).
But even that can be a benefit in disguise, according to Michael Kay, president of Financial Focus in Livingstone, NJ (twitter.com/finfocus).
“Twitter compels me to be concise,” Kay says, “forcing me to really think about what I want my Tweets to accomplish. You have to be disciplined and boil your message down to headline, sound-bite form, which is good for honing your critical thinking skills.”
Even negative Tweets directed toward you present an opportunity to improve your business, says Marie Swift, president and CEO of Impact Communications Inc. in Leawood, KS (twitter.com/marieswift).
“When someone complains, it creates an opening to address problems you might not otherwise know exist. You can respond, ‘I saw your post. Let’s talk on the phone to see how we can resolve the issue’.”
Vance suggests you establish a policy for handling negative Tweets: “Be as honest and as authentic as possible and follow the best practices of good PR.”
If, despite your best efforts to resolve the problem, a negative Tweeter becomes an ongoing problem, you can post a message telling readers that the person has an axe to grind. You can also blacklist them and encourage others to do the same.
Here are some Don’ts for your Twitter use:
> Don’t beat your own drum too loudly
“Twitter feeds should be primarily social and not overly promotional,” says Swift. “It’s good etiquette to cheerlead for others more than overtly promoting yourself.”
Swift says Kay is a good example of someone who uses Twitter effectively.
“Michael (who writes regular columns for Psychology Today and Forbes) doesn’t say, ‘look at me.’ Instead, he refers to the headline of one of his articles on the Psychology Today website (e.g. Too Smart by Half, Jan. 27, 2012) to attract readers to it.”
The strategy works. “When I do that I see the results very quickly by the spike in the number of hits on my articles.”
> Don’t use Twitter to speak poorly about your competitors
Says Vance: “Keep it positive or say nothing at all.”
> Don’t Tweet when you’re feeling emotionally or mentally stressed
“These bits and bytes can come back to haunt you,” Swift warns. “You want to seem spontaneous, but don’t be rash.”
Adds Vance: “Like everything online, be careful about what you say on Twitter; once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.”
(You can delete a Tweet, but by then it will have reached your followers.)
> Don’t use Twitter to share mundane daily activities
“Professional acquaintances usually don’t want to know where you had dinner,” Vance says. “Mixing personal and professional Tweets is a mistake.”
> Don’t Tweet too often
Excessive Tweeting makes you a nuisance, says Swift, adding that some people become Twitter addicts and send out Tweets that don’t add any value.
“Content must be relevant,” Vance says. “So, find pertinent things to Tweet about and send them to the appropriate people.”
This is the second installment in a two-part series on Twitter