Make Twitter Great Again: Your 'Age of Trump'​ Work-Arounds


(San Francisco) - Last week, I had the honor of presenting to over 100 Bay Area non-profit founders, EDs and CMOs at San Francisco's storied City Club. The brief was straightforward: how might small to medium size non-profits best use Twitter and Periscope to meet organizational goals. I gladly accepted the offer in mid-November, but realized by early January that my intended preso had to be thrown out in order to reflect our current Twitter reality.

Thanks, Donald. 🙄🙄🙄

Yes, due in part to the cantankerous candidate, potus-elect, president and tweet-aholic (as well as the most volatile US election in our history), Twitter is forever changed and, in some schools of thought, damaged beyond repair. I don't share this view, but it's not without some merit; Twitter's algorithm, advertising, unique ability to host, showcase and magnify noise, outrage and abuse - compounded by leadership's seemingly laissez-faire approach - make 2017 Twitter a much different animal than the 2009 Twitter that captured my heart.

Twitter is forever changed and, in some schools of thought, damaged beyond repair.

To date, Twitter hasn't ever really shown us how to use their product, but in 2009 this marketer quickly saw that it was a nexus for individuals and brands to network their stories across the global internet. As I've said in previous blogs, videos, and presentations, Twitter is tantamount to working the room at a mixer. You arrive with an idea of whom you would like to meet, seek them out, say hello, find common threads of conversation, and then work out what you and said parties might do in the real world, post 'Twocktail', hopefully finding ROI together. This basic how-to worked for a long while until algorithms, advertising, outrage and the election season started to transform Twitter into an increasingly charged environment. In short, my 2017 Twitter experience feels like trying to have that same mixer in the middle of Grand Central Station during a protest. To illustrate, I began raising my political voice from the beginning of 2016, through the debates and post November 8th, which is when I, like many others, lost their minds on Twitter when the unthinkable happened (which I own). 1,000 new followers and 12 weeks later, I realized that Twitter's algorithm had completely transformed the who, what, where, when, why and how of my feed, moving me into an almost entirely political space; without realizing it, I'd self-sequestered. Again, this was my Twitter experience, which made my new user experience pretty much my fault (if Twitter's algorithm is considered the innocent party and just coded that way). The feed of a marketing consultant engaging for his business had transformed into something more akin to a political activist running a campaign with varying levels of hyperbole. I hadn't intended to say 'Welcome to my highly charged Twittersphere, Let’s Not Do Business' but this was the reality, my optics to repair.

As I told my City Club audience, I had to recognize what had happened, the role I'd played, and determine ways to return my Twitter experience to a happier medium for myself and, most importantly, my followers. In the end, Twitter remains a fabulously powerful medium with incredible reach and velocity, in ways that Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are not. Some of my most valued client relationships began and flourished on Twitter long before they were a face-to-face reality.

Twitter remains a fabulously powerful medium with incredible reach and velocity, in ways that Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are not.

So, how do we make Twitter work for SMBs?

Lay the Foundation. If you're new to Twitter or your tweets amount to a pretty digital bulletin board with little to no engagement, ask yourself the following: what are five compelling stories that make your SMB brilliantly unique and important in your given business sector or the overall marketplace? Look to your brand's mission, vision and values to inform and cross-check these brand stories. Once you've landed on some core brand narratives/storylines/truths, start mapping out short and longer range business, marketing, or sales goals, in as concrete terms as possible. The stories we tell over social help move us towards all goals, as long as we treat every engagement and insight gained as a business lead. Twitter or a greater social strategy is unique to a given business, but shouldn't be a guessing game. Social strategy and the tactics we use are determined by the stories we tell and the goals we set. This is where experimentation comes in, perhaps utilizing different platforms in conjunction with Twitter (more on that in a moment). In short, if business brand stories and goals are understood, you're building your SMB Twitter strategy on a solid foundation.

Direct Messaging is Your Secret Weapon. Social media is only truly effective to the degree that we convert online engagement into reality and action. This should be your #1 goal on Twitter, as well as other platforms. Given the noise of 2017 Twitter, direct messaging is the equivalent of a quiet, in-app conference room far away from the maddening main feed roar. Even though Twitter can be a hot mess, it's important to continue seeking out, following and engaging those individuals and brands most important to your business, networking your stories, opinions and perspective with others. However, if you and another party are following each other, direct messaging creates a private space for one-to-one connection, away from the eyes of others. I've enhanced many Twitter relationships in this way, and many have become contacts, friends and associates in real-life. Twitter will probably remain Grand Central Station with a protest for the foreseeable future, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to meet incredible new colleagues or business connections in the rushing crowd of thousands. More patience and a bit more work are required, but the benefits are definitely still there. As in life, haters and disagreeables are always around, but your next high-value Twitter contact is there, too. Once you've made the leap to direct messaging with a contact, make your move. Have that cup of coffee. Meet up at an event. Propose a collaboration. Again, social media is only real to the extent that YOU make it real. IRL (In Real Life) is where ROI is found, so get to it!

The stories we tell over social help move us towards all goals, as long as we treat every engagement and insight gained as a business lead.

Stay on Message, No Matter What. 
As previously explained, raising my political voice - and moving away from brand, marketing and business-related topics - had a direct, and in some cases, detrimental effect on my Twitter experience, as well as my followers. It's on me to move the dial back to a more balanced Twitter where business items, client news, current events and personal day-to-day experiences might peacefully co-exist. To do that, I'm manually re-engaging those topics and followers to influence the algorithm, but it's much more than that. I'm doing it to get back on brand. This is the difficult part, especially since the current moment is one of the most intense we've experienced as a nation, since social media has been in existence. Many of us would like to participate in what's happening, to raise our voice. But, if we're primarily using social media for business purposes, this can be tricky (as my personal case study demonstrates). As we all know, 'alternative facts' are something we're hearing about these days, especially with regard to social media storytelling. Taking that cue, it's critical to stay on message - like a political campaign - telling brand stories that powerfully reflect your own, mission-driven truth. Twitter's hyperbole, endless issues, noise, anger, abuse, and unfiltered opinions are here to stay, but as SMBs, we strive to be our own best brand steward while on the platform. A simple rule: if in doubt, don't!

It's critical for your business to stay on message - like a political campaign - telling brand stories that powerfully reflect your own, mission-driven truth.

Up Periscope. Your second defense against the Wild West unpredictability of Twitter is Periscope. Periscope is Twitter's answer to live video, allowing users to broadcast directly from the Twitter app on their phone or through a professional broadcasting set up. Periscope is another exciting way to transport your Twitter colleagues, audience and network out of the noise and into a dedicated video immersion of your own creation, showcasing a newsworthy moment or unique business brand experience; think of it like your own live remote news report. Periscope guarantees your revolution is being televised across the open internet since, though Twitter, your broadcast is instantly, globally distributed, hence the real, built-in benefit of using Pericope and Twitter together. Unlike FacebookLive or Instagram Live, this is where unequaled velocity for your video brand experience happens. It's also free! Whether it's a live panel discussion, a Q&A, breaking business news, or any other type of hosted or compelling broadcast, Periscope provides users with the ability to moderate their broadcast experience, share across other social platforms, and revisit after the live broadcast is over. Periscope also adds permanent, evergreen pages to your business story, which you may add, keep, or delete to best showcase your business. Periscope is truly a Technicolor Press Release (my catchphrase, please use!) and an invaluable tool all SMBs should explore if already on Twitter, or considering an expanded Twitter presence. For more on the benefits of Periscope, please reference this piece.

Is your business already on Twitter and/or Periscope? How has your Twitter experience changed over time? Follow me @jamesjetsoften on Twitter and Periscope. 

Published via LinkedIn | February 1, 2017