Tag Archive for: Twitter

How to use DM on Twitter.

26 Jan
January 26, 2010

This is going to be a really short post (I hope). A topic that came to mind as I was working out a proposal for a client. I realise some people are still unaware on how to effectively use the Direct Message feature on Twitter. Or rather, I should say many still think of Twitter as a “broadcast” tool. And uses the DM like a “personalised broadcast tool”. *shakes head* Let’s get back to basics.

How word-of-mouth is disseminated on Twitter

When a tweet is being sent out, you will first reach your immediate followers (1st degree), which their retweets will reach their immediate followers (2nd degree) and so forth. Any replies, retweets or following will expose your message and profile to new people. So think of a multi-level communication structure when you send that tweet out.

So never think no one is reading. Someone always is.


Think : Why Twitter?

  • If you have chosen Twitter as a channel, I would expect you are looking to converse and engage folks in conversations.
  • You want to share as well as get the latest news, be in the know-how and obtain real-time responses.
  • You want to be seen, be heard and be noticed.
  • You want your word to be spreaded.
  • You want to grow a sustainable community (following).
  • You want to syndicate your content from other platforms.


Think: Why Public?

You want your conversations and content postings to be public because of all the reasons above. It’s a great place to know people and lead your conversations into a private discussion. However if it is your intention to be seen, be heard and be noticed, feeding your content on DMs (especially when you have yet to build a personal relationship with the other party) will make you seem spammy. And by doing so, you lose an opportunity to encourage retweets.

The great thing about Twitter is you never know who is reading what. Something that might not seem interesting to you could be intriguing to someone else. Hence if you want the word to be spread around, it’s always a general principle to have that word in public. Unless of course, it is meant to be private in the first place.

Think: Why Direct Messages?

  • Chats : You may be engaging with a very sensitive or hot topic with someone and your conversations are flooding your stream. Now, people hate “flooding”. So take this conversation in private.
  • CRM : You found a disgruntled customer. You want to address the problem. Reach out in public, show that you are listening and you want to take the problem forward. Bring the conversation into private mode and resolve any pressing issues, including obtaining customer information to rectify the matter.
  • Private & Personal Notes : You want to get some attention and you don’t think it’s necessary to announce it to the world. It could be a note to a personal friend that doesn’t fits your professional image. A date with someone with meeting details that you would prefer to keep it private. All contact information should be exchanged privately.


Think: When NOT to use Direct Messages?

  • When you are intending to mass send the same message to everyone and make it look like you are actually trying to be personalised. Actually, this applies not only to Direct Messages. You shouldn’t even attempt doing that on Twitter (or anywhere). Most people would generally classify that act as spamming.
  • Automated messages. Similar to the above, except this is even worse. Never send an automated message especially when your intention is to tell someone to “visit my website”, “check out this cool video”. Trust me, you would be reported soon.
  • When you don’t exactly know the person well and have nothing personal to say. Especially for brands. You would want to be deem listening publicly. So even if you are trying to garner some direct feedback from fans, make it a point to greet the person publicly first and ask if you can speak in private. (Just like you wouldn’t ask for someone’s number without getting his/her name first.)


What’s GREAT about Direct Messages?

  • It gives you an opportunity to get to know someone beyond face value on Twitter. An avenue to exchange private information without fear for being stalked by strangers.
  • You do not have to worry about your messages being flooded in the streams of replies and that someone you are talking to may just happen to miss it.
  • The need for DM encourages 2-way following. That is because you can only DM someone who is following you.

Ahhem… okay, the post didn’t end up being very short at all. But there are definitely more to share. The “Direct Message” feature is a great tool but use it wisely. The downside of it is that many people has ceased to check their DM due to an influx of spams. Ask around, you would realise many of your friends probably don’t check their Facebook Inbox messages too for the same reasons. So DM does not guarantee you will definitely reach who you are trying to get. Again, the great thing about Twitter is the ability to reach hundreds and thousands of people in real-time. So you really want to be OUT THERE.

Use DMs, but use DMs wisely.

Most Popular This Year – Twitter, FanFou, JiWai and DiGu!

13 Jun
June 13, 2009

I was doing some research and browsing Chinese social sites for the past few days. Came across this article and I thought it’d be interesting to translate it into English for the greater reading pleasure of the larger population.

(Translated from Original Source Here)



Are we entering the era of mico-blogs this year with Twitter, FanFou, JiWai and DiGi?

Fanfou.com

In 2009, when the negative news of professional blogs, faced with pains of survival, retrenchment, transferring of ownership and difficulty in finding a financial model are surfacing, a different type of “blog” – news of the “micro-blog event” streams in unceasingly. From how Obama made used of Twitter to rally support in the Presidential elections to how FanFou was used in rescuing a young girl, “micro-blogs” is gradually gaining attention from the mass.

In Wikipedia, Micro-Blogs are described as… ”a form of multimedia blogging that allows users to send brief text updates or micromedia such as photos or audio clips and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, digital audio orthe web.” In actual fact, micro-blogs were first created in 2006 when founder of Blogger.com, Evan Williams launched the service under his new company, Obvious. Thereafter, creator of XiaoNei.com, Wang Xing replicated Twitter and launched China’s first micro-blogging site, FanFou.com. Now, it has evolved with  a series of micro-blog sites like JiWai, ZuoSha, TaoTao. “Micro-Blogs” has achieved pretty good development in terms popularity and usage. One can’t help but look forward to a future of a “Mass Micro-Blogging” era.


The Trend of Micro-Blogs

“Where’s best to dine and gather in west of Hangzhou, treating friends to a dinner”, “I fell in love with ‘A Dream of Red Mansions’ all over again, hence a classic”, “Suddenly feel like watching Wang LeeHom’s concert…” to Ms. Jiang, who’s working with an IT firm, logging on to FanFou to yak about her thoughts is just like logging on to MSN, it has become a habit. It has been one and a half year since she registered for her FanFou account with her colleagues, she has already left more than 500 messages on FanFou. Approximately one per day.

The “FanFou” that Ms. Jiang visits on a daily basis, has the nickname of Twitter’s “China clone”. Its functions are similar to Twitter. Simple interface, with a status column at the top with the words, “What Are You Doing?”. You can only enter 140 characters in the column. Under the status column is a listing of your friend’s latest status updates. You may also reply, forward or favourite these statuses. And on the right, are your data and messages from your friends. In addition, apart from posting through the web, it can also support mobile, sms, mms (photo), QQ, MSN, GTalk robot and API etc.

“To be honest, I’m getting more and more attracted to micro-blogging.” Having hung on this simple website for almost 2 years, Ms. Jiang did not seem to be getting tired of it, but rather, growing a dependence on it. This has alot to do with the growing trend of “micro-blogs”. Especially since the beginning of this year, more people are joining “micro-blogs”, and the followers on Ms. Jiang’s list have increased along. “Nowadays the messages received on FanFou are more interesting than before.” Ms Jiang’s sentiments are not with no grounds. America’s independent research group, Compete ever did a research on America’s local statistics. In 2008 alone, Twitter‘s membership increased by 6.5 times.  As of December 2008, Twitter‘s unique visitor-ship has hit a high of 4.43million.

Apart from the increase in user numbers, the various “micro-blogs” which sprouted in the past one year has revealed traits of popularity. In China alone, there are about 10 big and small of such sites including JiWai, DiGu, ZuoSha, TaoTao and so on. “But all these sites almost the same with each other, imitating Twitter, I still prefer FanFou.” Ms Jiang said.


A Display of Fast-Food Culture

“People today live in a fast-food culture, without much patience to write long-winded articles. These single-liner blogs are more suitable to record those random thoughts that flash across our minds.” Ms Jiang admits she was willing to try “micro-blogs” in the beginning due to its convenience. Definitely as compared to traditional blogs, “micro-blogs” are much more convenient and casual. Netizens are always wandering on the Internet every second, creating their own records, and it is hard to keep track of these records. But “micro-blogs” are capable of recording these movements in real time. Signatures on IM can be sent automatically to the “micro-blogs”. You can send your sights and thoughts through your mobile to your “micro-blogs” when you are on the move. It can be said that “micro-blogs” is the cross-platform that record all the records of every netizen. “Almost everyone has at least one blog. But how many actually has the energy to consistently have an updated frequency? But in FanFou, I can casually put in a message, could be senseless or just rantings, won’t take me much time. This is something everyone can and is willing to do,” said Ms Jiang.

A New Media for Grassroots to Disseminate News

Although Ms. Jiang was first attracted to the convenience of “micro-blogs”, but the fact that Ms. Jiang is still infatuated with “micro-blogs” has many other reasons. “I use FanFou has my main source of news, I will take note of breaking news from a few news source, for example new IT products, IT reviews, current affairs etc.” the reason why Ms. Jiang is enthusiastic about “micro-blogs” is exactly the advantage why more people are taking notice of this service. As the user base for “micro-blogs” is huge,  and dissemination of news is convenient, hence it is gradually turning into a new media for grassroots to announce information. An example is the WenZhou earthquake that happened on 12th May, 2008. The exact time of the earthquake happened at 2.28pm, and the first tweet about the earthquake appeared on Twitter at 2.35pm (GMT +8). Twitter became the first media in the world to break the news of the earthquake. On 30th December, 2008, Embassy of Israel in New York even held a press launch on Twitter as a public response to the problem of Gaza. This event is known to be the first ever “Government” press conference held on the Internet.

“Despite FanFou is filled with all kinds of people, but don’t assume that they are all ‘grassroots’. There are also many celebrities, and the news they announce are rather authoritative.” The ‘celebrities’ that Ms. Jiang is referring to are not only those who have become rock stars on FanFou but also those who hold a certain status and reputation in society. Traditional bloggers celebrities like Wang XiaoFeng, Lian Yue are also popular on FanFou. Each time they update their content, it will attract a lot of followers. “Don’t under-estimate these fans, there’s quite a lot of them!”

Mobile Internet Generation Will Become Mainstream

“From the viewpoint of an IT professional, I am optimistic about the future developments of “micro-blogs”. But it will not take off too quickly in China in the next few years.” Although enthusiastic about “micro-blogs”, Ms. Jiang remains logical in her analysis on its developments. “The format is still not easily acceptable by many.” As a pioneer user to experience the growth of “micro-blogs” in China, Ms. Jiang naturally has reasons to her judgement. Although there is an increase of the people using micro-blogs around her, but the community has not change much. The majority is still largely made up of people from the IT or related industry. The other communities do not spend so much time on the Internet, mainstream public are still used to working in the day and playing games or spending time chatting at home in the night. “Only when those users and communities who spend a lot time online matures, then there is a chance that it could seriously become useful,” said Ms. Jiang.

“Micro-blogs are not developing to its fullest partly because mobile phones are not that common yet. When we’ve reached the mobile Internet generation, when micro-blogs are integrated into mobile phones, it will become mainstream.” Internet Observer, Fang XingDong predicts the same forecast as Ms. Jiang. But he thinks that the reason why “micro-blogs” are under-performing is not due to the habits of the users but the popularization of mobile phones.  In Fang XingDong’s understanding, blogs have always been an accumulation of knowledge and use of communication. Blogs will continue to develop towards these two ends.  Traditional blogs can be a medium with insights and develop in the direction towards elite or professional blogging. And “micro-blogs” are in between instant messaging and traditional blogging, to strengthen use of communication. “Future ‘micro-blogs’ will also be a new media, but mainly used to provide news, not in the arena of insightful media,” Fang XingDong forecasted. (by Guo Pei)


Curious on what each “Twitter-clones” in China has to offer? You can find me on the various platforms.

FanFou : http://www.fanfou.com/belindaang
9911 : http://www.9911.com/wits
DiGu : http://www.digu.com/belindaang
TaoTao : http://www.taotao.com/v1/space/89409707

How to do #followfriday wrong & be unfollowed.

05 Jun
June 5, 2009

Top FollowFriday

#followfriday is THE day in Twitterverse where everyone expresses their gratitude and reciprocate by recommending the good folks to follow. It has since become the most anticipated day of the week on the microblogging network. People are eager to impress, suck up to and look appreciative. Of course, Twitter is filled with many truely sincere folks, but there are also some just hoping to rip off from the community.

And to assist you in falling into this evil cycle, here’s how to do #followfriday wrong and be successfully unfollowed.

  1. Blast Those Names!
    You go to http://www.topfollowfriday.com, narrow on all the big endorsers with a huge following and spam their names on a big #followfriday list. Hopefully in return they will say thank you because most of them are such nice folks. Then your follower list will suddenly explode.
  2. Retweets the #FF
    You know RTs always work. Hence you RT even the #followfriday recommendations so someone will take notice of you. You don’t know them and you don’t really care!
  3. Recommend Someone You Don’t Know
    You are not following them, you haven’t  had a conversation with them. You don’t even know their gender. But who cares? Everyone seem to be following them and it kind of worked! So why not? You join in the trend and flood them.
  4. Mass #FollowFriday
    Who needs customized recommendations? Mass list will do. So you copy and paste every single name on your follower list. Just to make sure you play fair and make everyone happy.

If you follow the 4 steps above, I ensure you that you will definitely achieve unfollows. Good luck! Have fun with #followfriday the wrong way.

Personal Branding in the Digital Age

27 May
May 27, 2009

Lianhe Zaobao, zbWeekly - 17 May 2009

My second article with Lianhe Zaobao was published on 17 May, 2009 without my knowledge. Luckily I manage to get a copy of it from my colleague. The article provides an overview and introduction of importance of Personal Branding and how it can potentially tap on digital media as a platform. What you read here is a brief take only, which a detailed account would probably not have adequate space on print as I would have wished.

Here’s a brief translation of the article for your reading pleasure.


Personal Branding in the Digital Age

In the midst of the economic crisis, many people are starting to worry about their rice bowls. Among the many job seekers, how do you make yourself shine from the rest, to become the primary choice for your potential employer? Aside from experience, qualifications and skill sets, have you ever considered about your professional image? If you are working in the field of marketing, then perhaps this article may be able to offer you some fuel for thought.

In the competitive environment today, “packaging” has become a common and essential keyword in our everyday life. Regardless of the things we eat, wear or use, almost every product needs to undergo a process of packaging to attract the interest of the mass consumer. Even enterprise and government agencies are actively packaging themselves and revamping it into a new and refreshing enterprise brand. So to transform itself into an eye-catching brand culture that will fit into the society today.

Most of us have the common impression that branding is a commercial strategy. In actual fact, all of us are unique individuals, with qualities that can evolve into a unique brand. “Branding” is extremely important, especially to those in the creative, advertising, marketing and PR line of work. This is not only limited to the professional knowledge required at work, but how to effectively use it to construct a personal image.

The lightning evolution of technology is gradually changing our social cultures. Social networking, which has become increasing popular in the past few years, comes in timely to create such an effective and free demonstration platform for us. To folks who are considering a shift in career, this platform has also created a channel to transform your professional image. This will allow others to get to know you from a refreshed angle through direct interaction, by repackaging your personal brand.

Following are introduction to some social networking sites that are mandatory to check out.

  1. Linkedin : This is a site designed for professionals, especially those in the field of marketing technology. Currently, it consist of more than 35 million users from over 170 different industries. You can upload your CV with Linkedin, exchange industry news and engage in friendly discussions with people of the same interest. Its network may look to be smaller than Facebook or Myspace, but it is concentrated with industry specialist from around the world. There, you can effectively establish very useful connections and relationships.
  2. Facebook : I believe everyone is very familiar with Facebook. According to statistics, approximately 19% of Singapore’s population owns a Facebook account each. That is almost 760,000 people logging on to this social network at least once each month. Contents in Facebook are relatively less formal, therefore if you choose to use Facebook as one of your personal branding platforms, then you must be careful to manage the different messages communicated between your professional and private image. We are usually at comfort with our shortcomings in the face of our close friends and family. But this is a very serious taboo. Hence I propose that you consider having two accounts to manage the different nature and needs. Or you could also make use of Facebook’s privacy settings to determine which contents are suitable for what audience.
  3. Twitter : As compared to the other two social networks above, this is a relatively new social media tool in Singapore. Obama made use of Twitter extensively to reach out to Americans during the Presidential election period. It created a lot of positive responses. Since then, it grew to become a mass media in many parts of United States and Europe. Whether it is getting the latest breaking news or making connections with enterprise celebrities, Twitter has proven to be a very effective tool for these purpose. Through frequent daily tweets (messages sent through Twitter are known as tweets), you can build and establish your professional image and positioning over a long term. It can also increase exposure and attract more readers for your blog.
  4. Professional Blog : We definitely cannot ignore the representation of Web 2.0, which is the blog. I recommend that before you publish your professional blog, you first register for a personal domain. This domain could be your name, or a handle that you most commonly use in other social networking sites. The biggest difference between a professional blog and a personal blog is in the selection of contents. A professional blog is an important link to building your personal brand. It enables your followers to better understand your views and analysis on professional topics. This will allow them to further affirm your industrial knowledge and standards.

When managing the many social sites, you should also take note in maintaining a uniform style design. Additional care must be taken in the selection of photographs, colours, handle/name and bio. Having the same personal brand image across would ensure netizens will have no problem identifying and locating you regardless of whichever social site they may be browsing. I propose that you approach it in a witty, friendly yet professional treatment.

Personal branding is a long term image strategy and simply cannot be built only when its needed. Having merely presence on these sites are not adequate. A certain amount of time must be invested daily to expand your online community. Back to the basics, human relationships has always been built on the foundations of sincere communication. And this society rule had never changed with time.

Everybody wants to become a rockstar on the digital sphere. Those who will really shine can only be told with time. Hence, don’t be too hasty with results and expect returns within a short term. Building a personal brand reputation requires first and foremost sincerity and unwavering passion. Only when you understand its true importance then will it open doors for your career.

Opportunities are only for those whom are prepared. Are you prepared for it?


I definitely don’t think the article above does justice to the topic of Personal Branding in the Digital Age. Much needs to be further emphasized and explained on why this is an important consideration for people who desire to excel in these fields. There is also a lot more to say about the benefits it can reap with a successful personal brand.

I will probably try to work on a separate post here that attempts to touch a little further on the topic. This could take awhile considering a very busy month ahead. However, I would be more than happy to discuss this topic with you. Just drop me a buzz at @belindaang on Twitter or beep me any time over my email.

Your comments and inputs are greatly appreciated.

3 Quick Tips on Managing Negative Information

20 May
May 20, 2009

Jumping on the social media wagonMany companies are wary about joining the social media because they have no idea how to manage negative information and news. A digital crisis can come like a typhoon and most companies are not armed for it. Although it would probably take an entire book to explain how companies can best deal with the digital sphere.

I have summarised 3 most important points here to helping your company manage negative information and feedback.

  1. Timely : Have a clear internal process on management of a digital crisis within the organisation. Most company have no idea if the PR people or Marketing folks, Corporate Communications, GM or MD should make the decision. Hence have this thought process clearly drawn out. Make the approval and clearance channels as minimal as possible to assure shortest response time. Remember, time is often the deciding factor to all crisis management especially online.
     
  2. Transparency : Maintain a policy of transparency. I understand this may be hard for many companies to embrace. But there is NO way one can dictate all the information distributed online. And attempting to do so will only give a bad name. I recommend that all negative comments be taken in positively. Engage active commenting users to gain insight to the issue and credit them for the efforts. Such successful examples include AsiaAir, who transformed negative publicity into loyal customers and a long-memory of good word.
     
  3. Consistency : Consistently gather statistics, observe and listen to conversations in order to understand ground sentiments. Digital strategies should be frequently relooked and adjusted accordingly to meet organization’s objectives as well as ground demands and expectations

Lastly, note that a digital strategy for any company is never one person’s work. It requires the like-mindedness and joint effort of every single member of the company. Encourage the culture, not attempt to deminish or control it. However, draft a clear social media guideline for your staff so that certain professsional ethics will still be met and expectations managed.

Good Post – Meet the brands that ‘get’ Twitter

29 Apr
April 29, 2009

Came across this article in iMedia Connection, which further affirms and better explain the points that I was trying to make about companies and brands using Twitter.

I can’t remember, but I think this is like the 1000001th time I’m saying this, but Twitter is not a noticeboard. It was created to be a conversational tool and still is. Don’t complain I’m naggy but social media is all about bridging relationships and selling, shouting, flashing don’t work. Just a gentle reminder. =)

READ NOW! : Meet the brands that ‘get’ Twitter

Lack Of Crisis Management Is A Crisis Unmanaged.

23 Apr
April 23, 2009

Hear hear…

After the Domino’s effect, it has become ever more obvious that Crisis Management is one of the most important function of every PR person in a company. In the digital age today, it is almost impossible to take absolute control of every individual and tiny bit of information. Many a times, the bad PR would have found its way into the mass faster then you can say, “SXXX!”. And just in case you missed all the action, Adage gives an overview on the “cheese in the nose” incident here. And guess what, the two protagonist of the prank video are facing charges, as reported by NY Times.

Traditional marketers usually attempt to lie low and wait for news to subside as people tend to (used to) have a short memory when overwritten with news of the following day. But things online is a quite different scenario. News don’t simply get overwritten. But rather, they get passed on and duplicated in multiplies. People talk wildly about them, make assumptions and create a large snowball effect that could have an unimaginable damage. One that can get out of hand and destroy an entire brand, if not dealt with properly, and timely.

Domino’s was critized for not responding to the issue promptly. But on realisation that these rumours are not going to stop and customers are quickly losing trust in the brand, they reacted swiftly to turn the tables around. Domino’s incident started off with a viral video. Domino’s decided to end it with a viral video.

As touched on previously during the China’s melamine poisoning incident, hiding facts or pretending to be an ostrich no longer works. Likely that the most positive PR is really to face the issue oncoming and find all possible ways to minimize the damage and rebuild brand confidence. Taking criticisms positively may also help to calm and convince consumers in one’s willingness to listen and address the problem. Consumers wants to know what IS to be done, not what cannot be undone.

But what really prompted me to write this was not Domino’s. I mean yes, Domino’s affair caught my eyeballs and I was having a whole lot of fun following the news. There are no Domino’s in Singapore, so I guess what doesn’t really concerns me won’t affect me too adversely. However, one incident DID affected me.

Just last Wednesday, I posted a blog post on “How Companies Are Using Twitter” and commended on the proactiveness of Midphase (my web hosting company) in addressing customer satisfaction issues. I was given much confidence from the General Manager himself on the service quality and was promised downtime wouldn’t happen again. That was last week. I was happy for a couple of days and tweeted positively about it. BUT today, not only was there a server outrage, emails were down but the entire Midphase iterally “disappeared“. Even their own company site and support systems could not be reached. No one is attending to their Twitter accounts. GM Marc Bollinger‘s last message was 8 hours ago and their parent twitter account @Midphase was 16 hours ago! It was creating a nervous breakdown for many customers who anxiously hanged online to wait for any possible news.

Midphase Hosting

Reviews on Midphase’s services has been dropping quickly since 2008 when their service quality suddenly deteriorated. With 71,900 domains owned by Midphase and hosting on their servers, you can imagine the kind of anxiety each and every customer is going through. Customers are not demanding an immediate restoration. Customers demand and has the right to know what is going on. However, that channel was not made readily available, especially essential for a company with such a global customer base. I had to make a long distance call to the United States to find out what is actually going wrong. As I do not have any existing number with me (website is down). I am for once grateful that Google caches information. (Not grateful for this all the time as their cache caused me a lot of trouble once).

About 3-4 hours later, the service came back on. When the General Manager for Midphase,  Marc Bollinger woke about 6 hours later, he was overwhelmed with the unhappiness and short of explaination to customers on the outrage. People (including me) were coming together over twitter, making wild assumptions and threatening to terminate the service due to frequent downtime. Marc quickly sent a personal apology to each customer and the Midphase blog was promptly updated to explain the issue. Although he explained he was asleep at that hour, the promise of a 24/7 service has been broken and it has shook the confidence of customers in a big way. Isn’t it ever more prevailing that value of customers are invaluable especially in times of recession where businesses are constantly trying to cut each other’s throats to stay afloat. Competitors will be more than happy to benefit from the spill over of this effect. 

So you can see, social media does not necesasary only cause damage to big brands, but small companies can suffer as well. This is of course, largely dependent on the type of business you are in. But a digital crisis is not something to be seen lightly as. Regardless if your company is big or small.

 

Post-Domino’s Effect

After the much hyped Domino’s incident, PR agencies are sitting up and relooking into ways to tackle digital crisis when they happen. Niall Cook, the Worldwide Director of Marketing Technology for Hill & Knowlton posted a question on twitter yesterday,

Thinking about a rapid response Twitter app for companies to use during a crisis. Any thoughts?

As quoted from Adage on the aftermath of the Domino’s case, “In Just 24 Hours, Clip Has Received 760,000 Views, and Warrants Are Out for Offending Employees’ Arrest.” Los Angeles Times quickly churned out an article reflecting the on recent incidents on how the businesses of CNN, Amazon and Domino’s are affected by the power of Twitter.

Like it or not, brands don’t really have a choice to the kind of publicity they want in digital age. The only way to counter the game is to be part of the game. Like they always say, don’t wait for customers to come, be where your customers are. And obviously, where your customers are, will be where the action sparks too. 

I am no PR expert, although I am trying to hone my skills in this area. Perhaps PR gurus can drop your comments here on

how you think a digital crisis could be better managed to minimize damage and what is the desired minimum time delay of responses.

How companies are using Twitter – Big & Small Ways

15 Apr
April 15, 2009

 

Marc Bollinger on Twiiter

I was quite pleasantly surprised today. Just a couple of hours ago, I received a tweet from @marcbollinger. And he signed off as GM of Midphase, which is my host. Just this afternoon, I was complaining about my email having problems. Apparently, he did a search for “midphase” and reached out to lend a hand to the customers who are on Twitter. My my… am I impressed.

I had been a long time customer of Midphase and have always enjoyed their prompt and polite customer service. However, the hosting service seem to have detoriated in the past year. I had to sigup for a backup host somewhere else while retaining my service for my primary domain. Their GM’s personal tweet and response to the ticket has made this relationship ever more special. As a consumer, I’m telling you… it makes a difference.

Many large MNCs have began exploring Twitter as an alternative channel for feedback and direct customer reach. It has also evolved to become a sales channel with exclusive deals just for Twitter followers. The potential is endless.

Dell claims to have exceeded 1 million in sales using Twitter. They currently have approximately 32 Twitter Accounts, all targeted at different markets for different purposes. Dell listens and builds according to the needs and wants of the market. You can’t blame consumers for loving them in some ways. I am using a Dell, by the way… (not that I love them, it’s affordable!)

Dell on Twitter

But for small companies to use Twitter, not many have jumped on the wagon yet. Or perhaps, not many are really known to be using this medium yet. Many airlines, transportation companies, traffic reports, radio stations have all started using Twitter to inform customers of changes in services and to pick up complains so that crisis and unhappiness can be managed and handled at first point of eruption. This not only increases overall customer satisfaction, the active (instead of passive) approach (just like what Midphase did), more often than not, puts a smile on the face of this once disgruntled customer, who now will broadcast the good name of the company.

Salesforce.com has associated Twitter as an indispensable CRM tool. Not only did they use it at an early point of their business to market the new service, they use it as a consistent customer feedback channel to keep customers feeling involved. 

Customer service is no longer about passive response. Customer service today cannot wait for a complain to arrive. They have to go out there and seek to solve the problems in the wild. A good customer service is one that goes out to the customers, not the other way round. Today, if I’m unhappy, I’ll walk out of the store, wire up with my iphone and tweet about how bad a service is. Think about how much time a brand has to do damage control. Crisis management is required almost immediately. Well, unless you never pisses anyone off, which I really believe is not possible.

Seriously, I cannot figure out a much cheaper and more effective way to provide great customer service like this. Yes, we know NOT everyone is on Twitter, but a good company with online presence should try to exploit every possible way of building an effective B2C relationship with their customers. 

Setting up an effective call centre or customer support system could get quite costly. Twitter is free for now, and even if they start charging, it is still a viable and great way to reach out. Twitter has evolved beyond simply a messaging or micro-blogging tool. But rather, it has become quite a community by itself. People are connected, they share, exchange and build new offline relationships. It is smarter to be “included” now than “excluded” later.

A quick search on Google targeted at Singapore pages revealed disappointing results. I can’t find any local company who is utilizing Twitter for their business yet. Not even our Big 3 Telco firms, Singtel, M1 or Starhub. Some may say Plurk is more popular in Singapore. But no, they aren’t on Plurk either. The only way to reach them is either I walk in, send an email and wait for a reply (if any) or hold on to the phone for half hour (or more) and wait for someone to pick it up. More often than not, a voice recorder talks to me. (Note : In all these options, I’m approaching them. Not the other way round)

Some possible advices for SME who are thinking about tapping on Twitter.

  1. Be a user, not a spammer.
    Use the service, have a desire to connect and engage in conversations. Twitter is not a notice board. You have to reach out and not just shout out.
     
  2. Human face, human tweep
    Please, please, please don’t use a robot. You could have an official company account with your logo, but do have another of a managerial level or someone people could speak with that has a name to a face. There is always greater sense of relation to a face than a logo.
     
  3.  Use Twitter Search
    Search for keywords like your company’s name. Observe conversations and take initiative to reply. Provide solutions and assistance. Don’t just attempt to be “around”. 
     
  4. Start a Hashtag
    Once you make yourself known to the Twittersphere, you could attempt to start a hashtag. For example #companyname. So whenever someone has anything to say that they want you to hear about, a hashtag can be added to the tweet. It makes your search easier and much more organised. 
     
  5. Know what your Twitter Account is for
    Dell has 32 accounts for different purposes. Know what your account is for. Don’t confuse followers who may decide to unfollow you the next minute. As with all other tweeting rules, grow a twitter asset, not a liability. People want to follow only when you are a valuable addition. Twitter is a demographic targeted sphere. So, know your customers.

For Singapore or Asian companies who are just beginning to explore social media as a channel of outreach, please feel free to contact me at me@belindaang.com for consultation. I will be happy to provide you with the advices, steps and necessary management of your online blueprint.

Getting from 0 to 1000.

23 Mar
March 23, 2009
    

 

@paddytan was asking me today, now that everyone is jumping on twitter, has blogging dip in trend? Well, the conversation has prompted me to write this posting.    

Twitter celebrated its 3rd Birthday last weekend and I also celebrated my 1000th follower on the same day. 1000 follower may seem like no big deal to many Twitter-celeb (even a cat @sockington has 200,000 followers!) But the journey from 0 to 1000 could potentially be the hardest learning curve for any tweep or aspiring tweeter.

How can you, without using a get followers scheme, not a celebrity, not a big shot in some top MNC make your voice heard as you build a strong and faithful following. And here are the open secrets I want to share with you today.

5 TIPS TO GET FROM 0 to 1000

  1. Decide your motivation and objective
    All of us have different reasons why we tweet. Some are for fun, just to keep up with friends while others may have career or business motivations and agenda. I started tweeting for fun. But that lasted only 2 days and I gave up. I left the account to rot for one year before deciding to explore again. And this time, I saw the potential. I started with only 8 followers. It took me approximately 8-9 weeks to reach where I am today.    


    Questions to ask yourself

    • Why am I joining Twitter?    

    • Was it simply to make more random friends?
    • Or do I have a targeted industry I would like to meet people from?
    • To build and establish my social media currency? 
    • To build an online credential that could possibly spill over to real life?
    • Build stronger customer relationships?
    • Etc

    For me, my motivation is direct and focused. To know more people in the marketing, advertising and digital field. To be able to converse directly with these people, and establish my online reputation and social media currency in the longer term. Sharing on Twitter also allows me to hone my skills in a bigger way as I voice my opinions openly on random issues.

     

  2. Be sincere, be honest and don’t try to hard sell
    Twitter is a sphere where relationships take time to build. (actually, all strong relationships take time to build) You have to prove that you are a valuable connection and people can benefit from following you, vice versa. Here are some ways to get you started.

     

    • Don’t try to be someone you are not. When you do, the entire Twitterverse knows it. There are too many wise and intelligent people out there. So don’t try to look smart. Just be true to yourself and your heart. Be sincere and really have a desire to connect. (This point was added in after being reminded to re-emphasis it when I read @smashadv’s comments on this posting. He’s one great friend I’ve got to know on Twitter.) 
    • Follow BIG names like @guykawasaki. He’s a really nice guy and although he seldom replies, he does when you say something smart or useful. You could get a pretty extensive list at Twitter Counter or WeFollow.com.    

    • Start conversations with tweeps you follow. Don’t keep quiet, make some noise. When I mean noise, I’m not saying you should make a fool of yourself. By starting a conversation (it could be a question or a poll or in response to their tweets), people get a chance to be associated with you and will be more incline to following you as well.    

    • Retweets. Retweeting is an extremely effective way to fill your timelines with contents and get noticed. However, pick tweets that are in relation to your targeted demographics. When people find your information handy and interesting, they will naturally find a reason to start listening.    

    • Never. And I mean NEVER attempt to use auto-DMs. Be personalised, be a face to a name. If you try to promote before you build that human touch, you are doomed to fail.    

    • Forward interesting and new contents. Original contents are as important as duplicated ones. As much as people appreciate it that you are RTing, you would realise after some time, everyone is connected with everyone else. Hence we are all reading the same thing. Take some time to browse your frequent blogs and browse around, or even write something and send it to people. Create discussions on topics and share your views if you agree or don’t agree to something and why.   

  3. Invest Time and a Listening Ear
    Twitter is a tool where the most ancient art of conversational skills is being tested again. And this is the art of listening. There are hundreds and thousands of conversations and monologues going on at the same time. The greatest challenge in order to fully engage yourself in those conversations, is really just listening.    

    • Spend at least 15 m
      inutes of your time everyday just plain listening. Read what others have to say. See what is the talking point today.

    @robin_low congratulated me on reaching my 1000th follower as he said, “But you really tweet alot.” Well, I try to. Although you may find me disappearing in a certain fashion when work starts filling my desk.

    • Try to tweet daily. The best hours are US and London time, that is the time zone where most tweeps are online. Although I really have problems staying awake during that period nowadays. I make about 40 tweets a day on the average. You can get an analysis of your engagement here.  

     

  4. Paying it Forward
    Render your help and recommend others and you will soon realise others will do the same for you. Twitter is a beautiful place to be in because no one on it has any bad intentions. The virtue of reciprocity and paying it forward is truly evident here because that is one of the strategies to make yourself heard and valued.

     

    • The rules of success with Twitter is simple. You will realise that the more you give, the more you get in return. And the ratio of your returns will always be higher than your giving.    

    • Every friday is #followfriday. One of my favourite days when I can get up to 100 followers and know how many people actually values my addition. #followfriday is a really cool initiative by tweeps who takes the lead in recommending other good tweeps to follow. It’s a friends introduce friends scheme that opens your doors to all these wonderful people with a wealth of knowledge you would love to tap on.    

    • In return, you can recommend interesting people to follow simply by writing a tweet like this, “Great folks to follow! #followfriday @belindaang @unmarketing @lucasblack @David_Feng @robin_low @cheth…” And the list goes on till you reach 140 words.  

  5. Personal Branding for Twitter
    I would strongly suggest you pick a twitter id that is either your name or a witty handle to remember. More often than not, people will choose to use the same title as their blogs, facebook profiles or website.   

    • Plan your digital footprints in such a way that makes it easy for people to recognise and locate you across all platforms.    

    • Use a consistent avatar with a great smile of yourself or put on a digital effect that people will remember you about. And not the “standard msn messenger flowers, soccer balls or horses”. Make it a YOU.    


    • Create and Design a Twitter background that will load nicely on all popular screen resolutions. Make sure the background contains all the contact information you would want people to find you in. If you really have a problem with this, drop me a tweet @belindaang, I would be happy to assist.    

    • If your intention to tweet is professional, do maintain that image throughout all your branding attempts.

     

These 5 steps are not your typical “quick money making guide” or “20,000 in one month!” gimmick. These are hard and solid rules to building an effective online relationship. Since then, my blog readership has doubled (and 10x in some cases especially during my timely post for the Great Gmail Crash). @jeffoliver decided I was a good case study on effective personal online marketing without a monsterous CV, that he made an analysis of all my social networks to his students. I managed to get noticed enough to earn myself a small little report on Lianhe Zaobao. And I don’t see this is the end of all the wonderful things that are going to happen. I had made some hard and fast friends on Twitter and I am confident you will reap some really great rewards too.

Have fun on your journey from 0 to 1000. =)