Three Businesses, and Their Success on Twitter

Of the big three social networks (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), Twitter is the most free-form. There isn’t a right and a wrong way to do things, but there are a lot of different things you can do. Businesses are recognizing this and are finding ways to add value to their customers’ lives on Twitter, which, in turn, builds brand loyalty. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at how a hardware store (Home Depot), a grocery store (Whole Foods), and a paint manufacturer (Benjamin Moore) are using Twitter.

These companies have very little in common, but all three are successful on Twitter. Benjamin Moore has 11k followers, Home Depot has 45k, and Whole Foods has a whopping 2 million. I realize that number of followers is a very basic metric, but it’s the easiest thing to show a measure of success. Why are these companies succeeding? Let’s look at what they have in common:

Firstly, and most importantly, all offer good, relevant content. Home Depot offers building suggestions and asks their followers what projects they’re working on. Whole Foods shares recipes and user guides, like this fantastic how-to on selecting fruit. Benjamin Moore offers very specific color selection advice and savings on their products. The key here is that none of these handles are actually selling anything. Social media marketing is a misnomer — as soon as you overtly try to sell a product, consumers tune you out. Nobody visits Twitter to see ads, they visit Twitter to converse and find cool links. Keep this in mind.

Secondly, these companies use conversation to engage with consumers. Twitter is not a megaphone, it’s an engagement platform. Think of Twitter like a cocktail party — you can’t just show up and start shouting into the room, you have to first introduce yourself and get people interested in you. If you click on any of the above profiles, you’ll notice that the majority of recent tweets are @mentions, meaning a conversation is going on. These conversations are key to building brand loyalty, and will build your positive reputation within the community.

Finally, all allow their community manager(s) to show some personality. Tweeps want to connect with your brand, and being a person rather than a faceless company is the best way to do that. What do Benjamin Moore and Elvis have in common? Nothing, but if I happen to like Elvis, you just deepened my connection with your company. For this reason, community managers are more successful when they’re allowed to show some of their character.

There are plenty of successful companies on Twitter, I’ve just picked these three to talk about. What other companies have you seen good content from?

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Commercial Throwback: Billy Dee Williams for Colt 45

This is a great ad, one that would certainly not be allowed to air today. Best line of the commercial: “I don’t claim you can have a better time with Colt 45 than without it, but why take chances?” Oh, and the tagline is great too: “The power of Colt 45 — it works every time.”

In an age of responsible drinking advertisements, this commercial is a relic of an older time. Plus Billy Dee Williams is awesome.

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The Importance of Giving Credit

Much like real life, there are polite and impolite ways to interact with people on social platforms. Every Monday, I’m going to answer a question along these lines. To ask a question, find me on Twitter.
DEAR JOHN:
Sometimes when I find a tweet I want to retweet, I don’t have room to add a comment. I know it’s good etiquette to keep tweets to 70-80 characters for this exact reason, but some people don’t. Is it okay to shorten the original tweet to make room?
— TWEET SHORTER
DEAR TWEET SHORTER:
I run into this quite a bit, and it’s frustrating. I don’t want to have to edit your content, but if I want to comment I have to.
You are absolutely right about the 70-80 character rule — it’s always good to give your followers room to comment. If you want to retweet someone who fills up the entire 140, though, it’s acceptable to shorten their tweet to a reasonable length as long as you don’t change their content — but do so with MT instead of RT. MT stands for “modified tweet,” and is acceptable when you keep the content of the tweet the same, but cut some words. I prefer to keep txt lnguage out of my tweets, but I find myself using things like 2 and ‘r’ when I need to make room to comment. In my mind, RT is comparable to a journalist’s quote, while MT is comparable to a summary.
Another _T you may have noticed is “HT @username” (or h/t), which stands for “hat tip.” This is used to give credit to somebody, which you should always be doing, of course. Also acceptable as a means of giving credit is “via @username.” I’d say I see via more often than HT, but both are acceptable ways to give credit.

Kubrick certainly knew the value of giving credit

Pretty straightforward — RT is a direct quote, MT is a paraphrase and HT is credit. Keep your tweets to 80 characters or less, so your followers don’t need to bother with this, and you’re doing your part!
–JOHN
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Beluga Timeout

It’s important to work hard, but it’s also important to know when to take a break. If you have two minutes, watch this.

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Will we buy media ever again?

As I was stumbling around the internet a few days ago, I came across a very interesting question: Do younger generations who have never paid for music have interest in owning digital content? Are we exiting the age of ownership?

That got me thinking, and I realized that yes, we are exiting the age of media ownership. I bought my first cassette tape when I was 9, “Pretty Hate Machine” by Nine Inch Nails (I promptly hid it from my parents). The first CD I bought was “Master of Puppets” by Metallica (another great choice, I must say). I remember these things because they were important to me at the time. Within ten years, moments like this won’t exist anymore. Music will be streamed on demand via high speed connections, and will cease to exist as a physical medium for all but the most avid fans.

I remember installing Napster in middle school, and being in awe over the immediate wealth of music it allowed me. I didn’t understand how it worked, I just knew that I could instantly listen to whatever music I wanted. I had become spoiled. I began to assume that this is how music should be, that it was a readily available commodity rather than a product I should be paying for. I can’t explain why, but I never felt like I was stealing. I would never take a candy bar from 7-11, but downloading music wasn’t the same at all; I guess I felt like I was doing enough to support the bands by seeing them live. Anyway, when Napster was shut down, I moved on to other private services that satisfied the same need, instant access to whatever music I wanted. I had already exited the age of music ownership. Then along came streaming music services.

Streaming services offered me everything I liked about downloading music, and made me feel like I was giving back to the artists. I started out on Rhapsody, paying $12/month to use a clunky desktop-based application, and then shelled out $35 for a Sansa music player to take my music with me. I was happy with it until I got a smartphone and realized my app options with Rhapsody were limited. I discovered MOG and started paying $10/month to use a web-based system with a good mobile app, and have been happy ever since. One of the few limitations of current streaming music sites is the unavailability of big bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, but that is universal and will change when the number of subscribers goes up and companies can license them. Although I’d gotten used to the convenience of downloading music, I have stopped downloading entirely because paying for streaming music is so much more convenient — it’s available all the time, on any device I want.

Given the convenience of streaming services, I don’t see physical media ownership of any kind within ten years. All digital content will be streamed, and ownership will be irrelevant. Analog connoisseurs will still be able to purchase albums on vinyl, as long as they continue to sell, but for the other 97% of the population, ownership of media will cease. The next generation will likely have no conception of what it was to own an album, and I’m just fine with that.

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To auto-DM or not to auto-DM?

Much like real life, there are polite and impolite ways to interact with people on social platforms. Every #mannersmonday, I’m going to answer a question along these lines. To ask a question, find me on Twitter.

DEAR JOHN: When I follow some people on Twitter, they send me a direct message immediately. At first I was flattered that they would take the time to message me, but now I feel violated because I realized the messages are automatic. Why do people feel the need to do this? — VIOLATED

DEAR VIOLATED: I honestly don’t know why people make use of auto-DM. They probably think that by engaging with new followers with auto-DMs, they are building rapport with their community. In truth, they are only showing their ignorance of Twitter as a platform.

Twitter, like all social media platforms, is built upon open communication between interested parties. Direct messages are a valuable part of the system, useful for times like when I won Redskins tickets from the official Redskins Twitter account and had to DM them my name and address. I didn’t want to share that information with my followers, so I DMed the Redskins’ account (after asking them to follow me so I could DM them, an oversight on their part).

Unless you’re also auto-following anyone who follows you, sending a DM is frustrating because the recipent won’t even be able to respond to you. My rule of thumb is that if you aren’t also following the person you are DMing, you shouldn’t direct message them. Instead, use a public @ message to get in contact.

I just looked, and I have 24 direct messages in my inbox right now, 22 of which are auto-DMs from when I followed someone. I found only one of those messages worthwhile, one I received from @GeorgeTakei: “Thx for being a “tweep”–I hope you RT me hard & often! Don’t forget to #FF me if you like my stream. Oh Myyyy, that sounds naughty.” And I only enjoyed that because it’s hilarious, and he’s a celebrity.

Direct messages are valuable in certain situations, but auto-DMing is a practice that needs to end. It’s frustrating, worthless and rude. — JOHN

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Pizza and Cookies — What?

Let me begin by saying that I love football. I grew up in the DC area, so I am (regrettably, these days) a big fan of the Redskins. I’ve been to quite a few football parties, and none have looked like this. Nobody seems interested in the game. I don’t see any finger food or beer. And the dude is late because he had to stop and buy milk?! COME ON!

DIGORNO’s old combination, pizza and breadsticks, made sense. If I want pizza, I probably also want some delicious breadsticks. But nothing about pizza makes me want cookies — and I love cookies. How about zucchini and bacon? Kool-Aid and string cheese? Hummus and steak? There are things that go well together, but this is not one of them.

Ad rating: 6/10, including two bonus points for the look the guy in blue makes when he says “AWESOME!”

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