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Should You Be on Twitter?

Feb 2, 2010 ,

via Creative Commons - CarrotCreative's Photostream

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a question posed to me more often than ever before: should I be on Twitter?

While most seem to chirp out “Of course! C’mon! It’s fun! Everyone should be on Twitter!!!!” [notice the multiple exclamation points], my first response is generally something along the lines of:

Oh, hell no.

Why?

Because if you don’t know WHY you’re there, you can’t understand why you should stay.

Social media requires a strategy, whether you’re Suzy Sunshine looking to find fellow knitting fans or Bob the Business Owner seeking new customers.

Ask yourself right now: why are YOU on Twitter?

I research, compile and present social media strategies to a wide range of businesses throughout the year and I always enter each research stage with one assumption: this business should NOT be on Twitter. That is, unless I find evidence to the contrary. I don’t want my clients wasting their time with a social medium that is not conducive to their goals and…well…a waste of time. Establishing yourself in the social mediasphere is an investment. As I recently stated in a presentation at Chicks Who Click, you can’t have ROI without the I. If you have the choice between pissing away 15 minutes a day on Twitter and going to get a taco, go get the taco. It’ll at least leave you sated – which 15 minutes a day in the social mediasphere will NEVER, ever do.

Here are five questions to ask yourself if someone tells you that you simply MUST be on Twitter. Please kick them in the shins and then review this list. After all – it’s your time and something  you can never get more of.

Question 1: What do you think Twitter is?

If you think it’s something dirty (heh – “twitter”), if you think it’s a waste of time, if you don’t know…get clarification. And here’s the shocker: the answer is different for everyone. What Twitter is to ME isn’t the same thing it is to the awesome folks over at Good Belly. Clarify and then personify.

Question 2: How much time do you have to spend on social media each day?

Social media – and especially Twitter – is SOCIAL. That implies dialogue. Interaction. And in order to interact, you have to get to know people and break the ice a bit. Way too many people treat it like a hit-and-run accident or a one night stand. Relationships are not borne from broadcast headlines and self-indulgent posts. They’re borne from connecting on a personal level with your audience and THAT takes time. It’s the I in ROI – what are you prepared to I?

Question 3: What do you expect to get out of your Twitter account?

New customers? More site traffic? Blog comments? If you don’t know before you begin, take a minute to determine what you envision to be the end result. When you know the answer to this, question 4 will quickly answer itself.

Question 4: Is your target demographic on Twitter?

I recently worked with Doyle Albee at Metzger & Associates on a social media strategy for a high profile, international brand. Our initial thoughts? Twitter? Hell yes! The end result after 5 weeks of research? Hell no. Their target demographic lived in a niche bulletin board system and not on Twitter – and there were other ways to access key bloggers for product coverage. It’s NOT for everyone and we were truly delighted to tell the client: don’t waste your time here – spend it wisely over there.

Question 5: How will Twitter integrate into your other online presences?

Blogs, Facebook Fan Pages, Tumblr accounts, online promotions…How will you integrate Twitter into these efforts as well? No online presence is an island and one needs the support of others to be the most successful possible. If you don’t know about Facebook Fan Pages (also NOT for everybody), check out this killer post from Tamar Weinberg at Techipedia on building a Facebook Fan Page. If you’re working with a social media consultant, PR firm or ad agency who’s telling you that you should be on Twitter and cannot answer that question…shit, I hope you don’t have a contract. Fire ‘em.

And now to you, reader: what other questions should people ask before they dive-in face first into Twitter? Share you comments below and share with your friends so they can add their insights as well!


42 comments
Max Adams
Max Adams

I am tweeting this right now. [wink]

NikkiGroom
NikkiGroom

I clicked on this because you put a pic of Lassie as the thumbnail. I feel like I've been had!

Sheri Bell
Sheri Bell

Great points, Erika and Sara. Twitter is a great place to engage, but also an effective monitoring tool. I don't think a company should be on Twitter if they're not about engagement, even if it's the perfect place for them to reach their target market(s).

Scott Wild
Scott Wild

Excellent post, Red. When I work with my clients, I teach them that traditional media (radio, print, tv, etc) is about "Getting" attention and social media (web site, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc) is about "Giving" attention. I tell them to stop validating themselves and start adding value. You can't do this if you don't know your audience and what keeps them up at night (issues, fears, frustrations, etc). I am really looking forward to digging into your site more. My first visit and I'm already hooked. Keep the good juice coming!

Greg Polk
Greg Polk

I have to admit that I thought we were one of those businesses that shouldn't bother with Twitter. However, with a little effort and not much of a plan, it's already starting to payoff even in the B2B environment we live in. Great article, thank you!

Alex
Alex

I just added a link to this in a post I did about using Twitter! Thanks for the good info, E.

Chris Gregoire
Chris Gregoire

I think you're thinking of Twitter upside-down. I think ALL companies should be on Twitter. They might not all need a Facebook page, or a blog, or anything like that, but they should all have an ear plugged into Twitter. Here. Read this http://bit.ly/h27ExK You'll see what I'm talking about.

The Redhead
The Redhead

ZOMG - you're in my archives! The cool thing I've found about my own FB fan page is that it's a great aggregator. People who aren't on Twitter can go there for info and to see other content I find interesting. That, and it's been great fun!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Your article is from 2009, thus it was not "a few month back. It was a year. It is a link farm. Every comment is spam. You can take my blog off your spamming list. I've also deleted your link from the above comment. See ya!

ChrisC
ChrisC

I used the same Twitter / Cigarette image in a blog post a few months back on the value of Twitter to journalists. Would love to get your feedback: *link deleted by The Redhead*

The Redhead
The Redhead

Ari, don't kid yourself - 10 minutes A DAY is still crap. It doesn't even come close to putting Twitter in the position of being a medium worth the time investment. for 10 MINUTES a day people are still better off going to get the taco. In my opinion, of course.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Ari, don't kid yourself - 10 minutes A DAY is still crap. It doesn't even come close to putting Twitter in the position of being a medium worth the time investment. for 10 MINUTES a day people are still better off going to get the taco. In my opinion, of course.

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog

At 10 minutes a week, Twitter may not be the right medicine... but it could, if one is using the feed for broadcasting stuff that came from a blog or from Facebook, and only uses Twitter to reply to messages. Depending on the business, that *could* be 10 minutes a week... though 10 minutes a day is more of an ideal minimum.

Brian Burns
Brian Burns

I enjoyed this post, Redhead, and in general, agree with the sentiment that companies are better served to do a thorough evaluation of each tool (such as twitter), rather than just jumping at the hot new thing. However, I'd also likely caution against a company abandoning a tool like twitter upon a single evaluation of its lack of direct utility, as I find It's often only over time that the value of twitter reveals itself, and its benefits may even be different than first anticipated.

Nemra
Nemra

Yes, nice point! I just started using Twitter for a week as a best news aggregation tool ! There are few sites / authors i like to read, and instead of opening multiple pages to see what they wrote or not in a few days, i just follow them on twitter. May be i will start using it as a communication tool in the future, but i use it now exactly because it gives me a value!

Victor Panlilio
Victor Panlilio

Twitter is just the latest toolset for people who understood The Cluetrain Manifesto in 1999. The sad part is, if you get on the wrong train, it doesn't matter how fast you run down the corridor.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for stopping by, John. And you're right - hot topic or not, not everyone needs to be wearing hipster jeans!

Erroin Martin
Erroin Martin

You would be amazed about how many businesses are afraid to listen to their customers.

John Knight
John Knight

Great article, I like how realistic it is. Not everyone should be on Twitter and the questions outlined really make you think from a personal and business level as to what you want to accomplish before diving in. I have been on Twitter for almost a year, it started of as a work thing to investigate, but I quickly became a fan and have seen personal value by the connections I have made thru it. I also like the honest approach of telling clients not to be on it, I think too many companies and people thing because it is a hot topic you need to be there, not true.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Great remarks - you can't control what your customers are saying, but you can improve your reputation in how you choose to deal with it! Let your customers talk - you might be surprised at what you learn when you sit down to listen!

Erroin Martin
Erroin Martin

I cannot begin to tell you how many business I work with that just think Twitter is a shouting platform. It is an engagement and they need to realize there are now perfect plans and have to jump in with goals in mind. You cannot learn to swim if you do not get into the water. Right now I see marketers getting the most out of twitter because they a social people in general. Besides having a plan businesses have to be free of their inhibitions. The key to social media is being social and most business are "afraid" of what happens when people become social. Business fear a lack of control over the conversation.One a side note -- One of the worst abuses is the people who use scheduled tweets to shout out into the crowd about their services. Those people should have their email accounts and telephone numbers given to the worst spammers and telemarketers on the planet.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Doc, doc! It hurts when I go like this!Well, stop going like that!Indeed, Kevin. :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Great reminder on social search, Irina. Thanks for stopping by again!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Awesome point on "social technographics." I think it goes hand in hand with demographics - you can't consider one without considering the other. Welcome, Steve - thanks for stopping by.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Yes, yes, yes. It's the "I" in ROI that most businesses miss. Like a website - having one doesn't entitle you to traffic. Thanks for stopping by!

The Redhead
The Redhead

And I don't know about you, but I don't have much time for time wasting!

Irina Jordan
Irina Jordan

Very insightful and to the point - thanks. I'd like to add that not only companies need to ask this question but individuals as well. You're your own brand. Decide beforehand how you want to come across. Remember: Google now shows social media results as well.

Irant
Irant

Another excellent post, Red. Very informative, and the message about figuring out WHAT you are trying to do before you decide HOW you are going to do it is a key takeaway. Motion is, indeed, not progress . . . K

SteveO
SteveO

I like the "this business should not be on twitter" approach. I would add that its not just demographic it is the "social technographic" profile of your taget customers, from content creators to inactives. Social technographics cuts across demographic profiles. I agree with what I think you are alluding to that the social media strategy needs to be and intergral part of the companies communications strategy and mix and also be consistent with the business and marketing strategy and brand. To a do it yourself company, NPO, etc, I have recommended them reading "Groundswell" by Forrester Research. Couple years old but still relevant for business.If the company is not going to use social media but is potentially worried about its' online reputation, I'd recommend using a social media monitoring service such as "Social Mention." I believe they still have a free side to their service if they're cheap bastards.

AndreaVahl
AndreaVahl

Great questions that everyone should be asking! It's too funny when you talk to businesses who want to get on Twitter because they've heard so much about it in the media. Then you start asking how much time they want to invest and it's 5-10 minutes once a week. Twitter isn't for them. Thanks for the great post!

Megan Carpenter
Megan Carpenter

This is a great point. There are occasionally people/companies that probably shouldn't be on Twitter. It's nice to have a focused approach to social media. Like KeepingYouAwake, I started out Tweeting silly things about my day, then started finding people that were really using Twitter, not letting it use them (and their time). Twitter can be a great tool for learning, sharing, and educating, but it can easily be a time waster if people don't have a strategy.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for stopping by! Understanding the platform is key to finding its purpose in your social media plan. Welcome to Redhead Writing!

The Redhead
The Redhead

You are 100% right with regards to reputation monitoring. Sending you a high five!

KeepingYouAwake
KeepingYouAwake

I was excited about this article when I read the title. I decided not so long ago to figure out Twitter and what it was all about. I'd started a long time ago, posting the same idiotic points of my day that so many still do. Later I moved to posting quips and comments that I thought fit for a speech at a reception, or at least a stage in a karaoke bar. Finally I started talking to people. Now that's primarily what I do. In addition, I use it to promote my blog and find other interesting people to read. If you don't get it, understand it first and see what it CAN do for you. You're dead-on. :)

theclimbergirl
theclimbergirl

Brilliant, as always. The only thing I'd add is that my basic assumption used to be, "This business should not be on Twitter." Now, my basic assumption is that "This business should be reputation monitoring on Twitter." I suppose that varies by industry and business size... there are businesses for whom even reputation monitoring would not have the ROI to make it worthwhile. But, I have seen a shift for me in my own expectations as a consumer... I presume, at this point, that companies ARE listening.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Welcome to the blog, Scott. We have fun and great conversation to boot. And I appreciate your perspective: "Stop validating yourself and start adding value." I'm stealing that (just so you know). :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Awesome to hear, Greg. Always great to hear that companies are finding success in the social web - keep it moving and keep the conversation going!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Wasn't addressing the "listening" aspect of Twitter in this post, Chris, but yes, it's a valuable listening tool.

GlennFriesen
GlennFriesen

I have a feeling that with increased connectivity (social, AR...) the brands that don't listen to their customers will go the way of the dodo. Excepting the ones that are too big to fail. They will probably stick around, making life suck a little more with every one of their "touchpoints" in our lives.

Scott Wild
Scott Wild

Then you would technically be stealing from the guy who stole from the guy who wrote it down for me to steal. ;) It's a great mindset and really works for my clients. Looking forward to the great conversations. Game on!

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  3. [...] Redhead Writing – Should You Be on Twitter? [...]

  4. [...] Should You Be On Twitter? by Erika Napoletano at Redhead [...]

  5. [...] 2. Social Media. Specifically, Twitter. I know, I know. I thought it was all bullshit myself only a short time ago. (Please spare me the “It’s people telling you what they had for lunch.” It isn’t.) If you do it right, it pays dividends in many ways. How do you do it right? First, follow people who are ethical and good at it. Like my pal Shelly Kramer or the Orange Sock King himself, Mike Brown. They don’t just broadcast or sell. They interact in a positive way. They form communities that share information and encouragement. They’re human. And kinda funny (looking.) Kidding. They are funny and informative and you should follow them and their example. As in #1, if you don’t intend to stick with it and contribute, don’t do it. It’s worse to have a Twitter account that sits idle than it is to go without. (Also instructional is Redhead Writing–she drills down deeper into whether you should be on Twitter or not here.) [...]

  6. [...] 2. Social Media. Specifically, Twitter. I know, I know. I thought it was all bull myself only a short time ago. (Please spare me the “It’s people telling you what they had for lunch.” It isn’t.) If you do it right, it pays dividends in many ways. How do you do it right? First, follow people who are ethical and good at it. Like my pal Shelly Kramer or the Orange Sock King himself, Mike Brown. They don’t just broadcast or sell. They interact in a positive way. They form communities that share information and encouragement. They’re human. And kinda funny (looking.) Kidding. They are funny and informative and you should follow them and their example. As in #1, if you don’t intend to stick with it and contribute, don’t do it. It’s worse to have a Twitter account that sits idle than it is to go without. (Also instructional is Redhead Writing–she drills down deeper into whether you should be on Twitter or not here.) [...]

  7. [...] 2. Social Media. Specifically, Twitter. I know, I know. I thought it was all bull myself only a short time ago. (Please spare me the “It’s people telling you what they had for lunch.” It isn’t.) If you do it right, it pays dividends in many ways. How do you do it right? First, follow people who are ethical and good at it. Like my pal Shelly Kramer or the Orange Sock King himself, Mike Brown. They don’t just broadcast or sell. They interact in a positive way. They form communities that share information and encouragement. They’re human. And kinda funny (looking.) Kidding. They are funny and informative and you should follow them and their example. As in #1, if you don’t intend to stick with it and contribute, don’t do it. It’s worse to have a Twitter account that sits idle than it is to go without. (Also instructional is Redhead Writing–she drills down deeper into whether you should be on Twitter or not here.) [...]