Twitter is like a ball of clay

One of the most challenging things I do as a social media consultant is try to explain Twitter to clients. Most people have an immediate and pretty consistent reaction to Twitter at first. “That’s the dumbest thing I have ever seen” “I don’t get it at all, why would I ever want to do that?” I hear it all the time and guess what? I said the very same things when I first discovered Twitter. I resisted Twitter myself for a long time. I eventually decided as a social media expert I couldn’t simply dismiss something out of hand with out trying it first, so I dived in. Only by adding friends and experiencing Twitter first hand did I begin to understand the power and usefulness.

I’m not sure Twitter is something that can be explained at this point. As I said to a recent client, look, Twitter is like a ball of clay. It’s nothing really, but also everything. It’s whatever you make of it and different people do different things with it. It’s one of the aspects that makes it so hard to explain. Is there alot of flack and nonesence on Twiter, sure. But that’s not the sum total of the Twitter experience. If you focused on certain aspects of a knife, you might say it’s a dangerous wepon that can ingure of kill. Why would I ever want to use one. But, of course, that’s not the sum total experience of a knife. Most people use it as an important tool to prepare food. Don’t let the trivial aspects of Twitter fool you, there is serious marketing, PR and branding going on on Twitter daily. Major corporations are starting to figure it out such as ToysRUs, Dell, and Ford. They are listening, engading and making a difference with real customers. My friend and social media cohort Ron Ploof wrote a terrific e-book on how Ford’s Scott Monty used Twitter to put to rest a potentially very damaging PR firestorm. ToysRUs did a great job over the Christmas holiday season answering customers questions on toys, availabiity and other customer issues. A more enjoyable experience than waiting on hold endlessly.

Not every social media tool is right for every business or every situation, so the first thing to do is determine is Twitter is right for your business. Then, think about a strategy based on a clear purpose and outcome. How will you mold the Twitter clay? Is it a branding tool, customer service, a listening post? How can you provide value and service to your followers? If you don’t like the sillyness of Twitter, than come on in and start adding value.

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