Thursday, January 8, 2009

Strategy First, Tweets Second

Twitter is a stupid waste of time. Twitter is the stuff of genius. Where you fall on that spectrum often has more to do with how you see this important social medium strategically than how knowledgeable you are about the ins-and-outs of Twitter. Or any social medium, for that matter.

Those who contribute to the social media landscape write often and extensively on the HOW—tactics. Less so on the WHY—strategy.

Not that hows are bad, especially as social marketing is so young. They help you visualize what’s possible. Check out “50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business” published by Chris Brogan last August and see how businesses are beginning to use Twitter.

Ultimately though, hows are just a tactical laundry list.

You might do this. Or you might do that. Sure you might, but every business is different. Why a particular approach is right for your business. Or not. That’s the key.

If you’ve begun to explore social communities, like Twitter, but haven’t been able see real benefits, don’t blame the medium. More than likely, you haven’t strategically connected your objectives to your audience and the medium. Without that connection, you really can’t answer a very basic question, “Is Twitter right for my business?” Just using the latest cool platforms isn’t enough. Especially in this economy. Results matter.

Not familiar with Twitter?
Twitter is a social networking website founded in March of 2006. It defines itself as, “a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

Twitter users communicate online (and via mobile web, mobile phone and instant message) by sending and receiving short 140 character messages, called updates or tweets. These updates appear on the user’s profile page and are delivered to others who sign up to receive them. Members can also restrict message delivery to those in their community circle, if they wish.

See for yourself at Click and watch the short video.

Just a moment…make a plan
In the rush to go social, otherwise smart businesses may get ahead of themselves when they tweet first and think strategy second. Successful marketing has a strategic hierarchy. My clients, co-workers and grad students all know this. And I’ll admit to being something of a stickler here. Not because I like stickling (or hierarchies, for that matter). But because the model is simple and it works.




Objectives set the goal and define how your success will be measured.

Strategies are the directions you take to achieve your goals.

Tactics are the tools you use and how you use them.

When you start at the hierarchy’s bottom, it’s easy to get seduced by a tactic and jump off on the wrong track. Then how will you measure success? Likely you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you start at the top, with objectives, you clearly outline the path you need to take. Then you can make informed decisions that link your brand with your customers and the communities they create and share. And, based on how well you achieve your objectives, you can determine your success.

By the way, if strategic thinking is hard for you, take comfort in being in good company. Make a plan using these five steps.

1. Start with your audience
As with all things brand marketing, begin with your customers. You walk the customer-centric walk, don’t you? The Forrester Social Brand Strategy study, just released December 17, had this to say about social networking (order the full study if you like, but the executive summary tells the tale).

“…companies must understand who their target is, how that target seeks to engage, and the role that distinct social media channels play in their brand experience.”

Where does your brand come in contact with your target audience? Your customers probably tweet, media mavens say more than a million people do. You recognize that your audience has important things to say about your brand and you want your brand to be part of that conversation. Not to direct it. But to be part of the give-and-take that defines conversations. So how do you join a conversation that’s already taking place?

You start by listening, not talking. Use TwitterSearch as your ears.

See what’s being said. See how the medium is being used. Identify the influencers and the followers. Think about the roles your brand can play in the conversation. Yes, roles. Plural. Don’t stop with customers. What about employees? Strategic partners and vendors? Channel partners?

2. Set your objectives and strategies
What can you do in 140 characters? Quite a lot, actually. Look at just a few possibilities.

Enhance brand loyalty
A community provides a sense of place and a means to increase customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. A Deloitte and Beeline Labs study, "2008 Tribalization of Business Survey," researched 140 organizations with communities and found that nearly ¼ of them had already seen increased loyalty. This is especially impressive when you consider the majority had been around two years or less. One of the study’s major takeaways, “Communities can increase revenue per customer dramatically, i.e., 50%.” Who’s doing this? How about Southwest Air (7,609 followers at the time this blog is being written) and Whole Foods (13,910)?

Establish your leadership position
If your business is news, or you deliver useful and newsworthy information, social networking may be made for you. Marketing. Public relations. Or network news. CNN Breaking News has 70,988 followers who stay informed—and who also participate in the news through commentary and the sharing of ideas. Next time a story that he reports intrigues you, send a Twitter message to @RickSanchez (41,531 followers). Who knows? Your tweet might just appear on air because, according to CNN, “Rick’s newscast is…YOUR newscast!” Who else in the media is on Twitter. Have a look at just a few:

Generate better ideas to generate better products
Involve your customers in your products and gain the benefits of thousands of outside thinkers. Shorten your design cycles and go to market faster with better products—designed by the people who buy them.

According to Vovici, December 15, 2008, My Starbucks Idea generated—and prioritized—55,000 ideas. OK, this one’s not on Twitter, but it’s the result of a thriving and active community. On Twitter, in its first 18 months, Dell IdeaStorm (244 followers) generated over 10,000 ideas. What could your business do with a great customer-centric idea?

Increase sales
Sure. Will a million bucks do? According to ZK of, December 26, 2008, and a Dell Outlet tweet December 19, 2008 (3:07 pm), Dell produced that amount in an 8 month period through sales alerts. People sign up to follow the DellOutlet receive messages, or tweets, alerting them to product discounts. DellOutlet has 3,452 followers and has expanded to multiple Twitter accounts, including DellHomeOffers (595), DellSmallBizOffers (475), DellSmallBiz (415), TeamDell (293), StudioDell (201), and DellintheClouds (165), among Dell’s 65 Twitter accounts.

3. Develop tactics that reflect your strategic plan
Go back and dig out your tactical laundry list. Use your knowledge of your customer, and your brand, coupled with your objectives and strategies to cull through the tactics to see where there’s a fit.

Don’t copy. Be creative. Who knew you could have an online wine tasting in real time? You can with TwitterTasteLive.

Develop a voice. Are you the authority? Then be authoritative. Are you all about entertainment? Then be entertaining. Are you creative? Then be amazing. Every time. Be real and human. Be open to suggestions and criticism. Remember, its your customers you’re conversing with. They know something about your brand and your products.

4. Now tweet!
...and tweet with confidence, because you’ve considered your audience and connected your brand objectives and understand how you can utilize the medium to achieve the results you want.

5. Measure your results and refine…then repeat
Your job as a marketer doesn’t end once you launch. Track results. Improve your tactics. Then repeat the circle again. What do you measure?...why the metrics that most closely describe your objective, of course.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

1 comment:

  1. This is such great advice that is often overlooked because of (BSO) Bright-Shiny-Object Syndrome.
    Thanks for the reminder...I shared the heck out of this.