The real-time nature of social media has profoundly changed how we connect and engage with each other on the Web. From political revolutions to tweets from outer space, Twitter, a micro-blogging platform, has emerged to be the de facto social network to express ideas, connect with friends, engage with thought leaders and collaborate with customers and the general public in real time. As the fastest growing social network, Twitter has grown from what started as a mere SMS messaging platform to become one of the most powerful and active social platforms in the world.
My personal social media journey started in 2010 when our company started to use CRM integrated social technologies to improve employee engagement. I started using Chatter, a social collaboration tool with a mash-up of Facebook and Twitter features, which is integrated into our Salesforce.com CRM system. In less than a year of using Chatter, I had the most followers within our company. It was the internal social collaboration success that led me to start using external social platforms like Twitter -- I joined Twitter on March of 2011.
I soon realized that internal and external social engagements are very much alike, but the benefits of scale truly come from sharing outside of your company walls.
[ Grow beyond small workgroups: Take Social Collaboration To Next Level.]
As a Chief Marketing Officer at Enterasys, I've had the opportunity to connect with some of the most social executives out there, including social CIOs, CMOs and CEOs -- many are my customers. The beauty of Twitter is that it is the ultimate listening and learning platform. If you follow a few considered practices (I am reluctant to use the phrase "best practices" since the platforms and rules of the game tend to evolve quickly), Twitter also becomes the ultimate connection platform, linking you with other like-minded, smart and kind individuals who volunteer their time to teach and be taught.
I use Twitter to stay connected, grow as a person, share and exchange ideas and connect with my colleagues, friends and customers. I am in awe of the transparency it creates by enabling global, open and direct real-time connections with virtually anyone.
The many benefits of using a social media platform, such as Twitter, are too great to ignore, as are the many articles and blogs on how to Write Good Tweets, how to use Twitter etiquette ("Twitiquette") and the Science of Tweeting. Based on my experience as a "social CMO" and regular user of Twitter, here are a few practical tips I have learned on the art of tweeting:
The Basics -- Your profile is hugely important in terms of establishing trust and social connections. Most people will not follow you if:
-- You use an egghead avatar or inappropriate photos -- a picture is worth a thousand words.
-- You have no biography -- trust is the currency, and not having a bio does not help establish trust.
-- You lock your account -- implies command and control behavior, which is not very social.
-- You have purchased followers -- a savvy networker can detect over inflated followers (hint: look at the number of listings versus follower count).
-- You engage in excessive automation -- enough with the auto direct messages.
-- You treat Twitter as a megaphone instead of a telephone -- your Twitter stream illustrates your engagement levels.
Think Before You Tweet -- It's been said many times that you are what you tweet. That said, tweeting without thinking can lead to problems. So, before you join the conversation, take time to consider what value you can bring to it. Each tweet is an opportunity to build (or break) your personal brand and communicate who you are to your networks. Risk management on social media is a critical part of your own personal social strategy, so do pay attention to how you want to be perceived and how your network will use your Tweets. I think some of the best Tweets are engaging, helpful, newsworthy or inspiring. For me it's all about thought-leadership, engagement and being open as a human being.
I firmly believe that Twitter should not be used as a weapon to speak poorly about individuals, companies or ideologies. True wisdom is knowing what to overlook. If you are upset, don't tweet. There are lots of trolls out there looking to push your buttons; be polite and dignified. Don't be a smart jerk.
Just Be You -- Authentic engagement thrives on social media. It is an online conversation, not a broadcast. So, if you wouldn't rattle off "marketing speak" in a face-to-face conversation with a friend, then don't tweet it. By being yourself you will establish a genuine, authentic and a personal voice that will get people interested and help to humanize your brand. Xerox's CMO Christa Carone (@ChristaCarone), reminds usthat "the only legitimate social media voice is the same one you would use in a room full of peers." Twitter echoes that with the advice to, "Tweet like you're having a conversation with a good friend."
Think Quality and Engagement, Not Quantity-- Don't get caught up in obsessing about the number of followers you have or the number of times you tweet each day. Instead, obsess about quality engagement, and your following will follow. Focus on connecting people. In a knowledge sharing economy, connections bolster influence. Connect people and the dots will follow. Engage your followers by creating quality content that is interesting, conversational and valuable.
Influence on the social Web is earned by adding value into others' networks and streams. As an avid Twitter user, I constantly share and engage with my network on everything from inspirational words of wisdom, to relevant industry posts and interesting articles, to recruiting amazing talent and everything in between (that includes my vacation pictures).
Listen and Respond -- Worry less about being heard and more about listening, or as SAP's CMO Jonathan Becher puts it, "Be social to listen, not to talk." It may be hard to quantify your listening skills in the real world, but the online world has proven to be quite the contrary. Every comment you respond to, retweet you send or question you answer is a structured form of practice for one of the most important skills a person can have online and off: listening.
Using social media has become a natural part of my day. Like breathing, it just happens. It's not something I "do" but something I live.
Here is an acronym to help you remember the art of tweeting: Don't do social, be S.O.C.I.A.L.: Sincere, Open, Collaborative, Interested, Authentic and Likeable. Be human and have fun.
Vala Afshar is the CMO and Chief Customer Officer for Enterasys Networks, responsible for global marketing and customer service and support operations. An award-winning inventor of social technologies and customer services operations, Afshar is considered a pioneer in cloud computing, social collaboration, business intelligence and customer relationship management. Afshar is also the author of The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence.