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Twitter Tricks of the Trade: Be Human

imgresWhether you’re in community management or social media, it can be quite the challenge to keep your audience on track, on topic, and happily managed. Recently I was asked to write a blog piece about “Keeping on Topic” for the U.S. Department of State, Office of Innovative Engagement.

Having polled our Social Media team, we came up with 14 imperative points to help build and manage a community that remains relevant, and “on topic.”  Of those 14 points (which you’ll have to check out the blog post — we’ll let you know when it’s live), our team discussed how important it was to create a social media persona and guidelines, specific to each project.  Having a consistent tone, and a feeling of “identity” gives followers expectations and a social structure.

twitter_robot01I’m a Twitter-nut.  I love it (particularly on NFL days when I can rant about my beloved Chicago Bears. P.S. Prep for another Da Bears references below).  The brands that I think manage their Twitter-presence best are the ones that understand WE ARE HUMAN. We like to be entertained, recognized, and engaged.  We also like to be “in the know” and updated on content we personally find interesting.  We do not like Tweet-ads that feel like commercials, nor do we like robotic tweets (unless they’re humorous or thoroughly a robot).  Voice, tone, context, heart, cleverness, hilarity, rich content, discussion, insights — these are elements people look for in a friend or as an evangelist for a company.  It’s why I follow @LanceBriggs, and no longer follow my favorite Chicago Bear (and recently retired) @BUrlacher54.  Lance on Twitter is on topic, candid, & engages!  Brian on Twitter is a PR team with an appearance schedule.  There are ways to create engaging, fun, real accounts, even if the Twitter handle is not directly operated by “the source” (ala an athlete, actor, CEO, etc).  Have respect for your audience, and they’ll follow you anywhere.

From the “On Topic” blog post, I pulled a few essential points that I thought were important to share.

  • Build your voice and respond.  There are two reasons people follow you: they want to know what your brand has to say, and/or they want to respond to your brand.  When taking over the social media for your brand, it’s always best to create a tone document to share and gain approvals.  We like to pick two or three example “voices” (public figures) to emulate or inspire our tone.  This helps for consistency and gives structure to your communication approach.  If you care enough to build a universal tone and personality (even if it’s dry), you are making the right steps in providing a structure and expectations for your audience.
  • Permissions and escalations. Know exactly who has access to your social platforms (keep it minimal!), and apply permission settings when you can.  To be honest, there is not much point in having a Twitter presence for your brand if you have to get sign off for each tweet by a bevy of supervisors.  You will never be able to be responsive enough for the community.  In such cases, build an FAQ, or a series of well thought out, pre-approved statements that allow you to acknowledge a comment without responding directly to it.  Do your best to craft respectful, non-bot-like retorts, if you cannot answer directly.
  • cory-booker-tweetBe professional, but leverage humor. When dealing with off-topic posts or criticisms, be humorous and lighthearted. Remember that there are “people” on the other side of those Twitter handles, and they appreciate knowing that you’re a human, too – and not a bot or a content advertising schedule.
  • No personal opinions.  Never get drawn into a fight or a debate. Stay firm, state your company’s ground and be considerate, but don’t give in to a verbal war.  Take the high road, but stay firm.  If your policy allows, have extremely frustrated users contact you via customer service.  This will buy you time to escalate the issue internally, and consider a strategic approach.
  • Scale expectations and controversy. If the brand you represent deals with content that stirs controversy, consider paying for 24/7 monitoring to ensure you don’t miss anything.  It is expensive to have your own marketing team available nights and weekends.  There are companies (like Metaverse Mod Squad) who do this professionally, and can stay within your budget.  Have insight into future events and scale appropriately.  You can confront brewing issues immediately, instead of letting time and accumulated, unchecked frustration add more voices to the choir.  Planning proactively will help you avoid the retroactive clean-up!

Again, we’ll share the link to the entirety of the “Staying On Topic” blog post once it’s live.  If you have any particular tricks up your sleeve that help you in shepherding your wayward flock, please let us know in the comments below!  We love to share great tips and insights.

Izzy Neis
Director of Digital Strategy & Engagement

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