Social Media: Examples for Business

By Beacon Staff

Last week, we talked about what social media is and why a business would want to use it.

This week, let’s look at Twitter, a major social media site.

Twitter is a microblogging platform. That means you can “tweet” (Twitter-speak for send a message) what amounts to very short blog posts. A tweet can be no longer than 140 characters.

To listen to what someone on Twitter has to say, you “follow” them.

Obvious question: Why would you do such a thing?

Because that person is informative, challenges people to think, says things that provide insight and wisdom, and in some cases, it’s a way to get direct access to a real person at a company without sitting on hold for 42 minutes.

And why would they follow you? Same reason, of course.

Twitter offers direct – sometimes live – access to people you’d never likely get to converse with in person.

For example, I’ve gotten to ask Ansel Adams’ son questions as he and Robert Scoble looked at Ansel’s studio in Yosemite. For a photographer, that’s a pretty cool thing. Someone out there might be just as interested in what your business does.

Among those on Twitter: the New York Times’ restaurant editor, the CEO of Zappos, Comcast customer service, Shaq and lots of less-than-famous, but incredibly smart people.

I created a Twitter account for the Beacon at http://twitter.com/FlatheadBeacon. The Beacon staff doesn’t actively post to it (but they could). It acts like a RSS news feed for just-released stories, which brings more readers to the Beacon website.

For a news organization, this is a wise use of Twitter since they produce content constantly. If the Beacon wanted to “tease” about upcoming stories, it would be an ideal way to do that.

Twitter can also be effective for covering live news events. Last week, Barry Conger (Executive Director of the First Best Place task force) tweeted from a Columbia Falls City Council meeting, sharing progress reports during the council’s evaluation of a permit for Habitat for Humanity lots.

What’s the difference between that and a text message? Anyone who is interested in First Best Place goings-on can also follow Barry and keep up to date on what’s going on in Columbia Falls. A text message won’t be seen by 200 people. A Tweet can be.

If you want to know of news on the Beacon site as it appears, you have two choices: Subscribe to the RSS feed, or follow the Beacon on Twitter. You can also get the once-daily emails.

Rotary uses Twitter (http://twitter.com/rotary) to keep their members informed. Sure, people read Rotarian magazine and they look at the Rotary.org website and perhaps have the Rotary.org RSS feed coming to their feed reader, but does that mean their use of Twitter is a bad idea? Not even.

Weekly, there are hundreds of Rotary-related messages on Twitter. That gives Rotary a handle on what’s trending in the Rotary world, a pipeline to club members if they need it, and a way to get info out to well-connected members quickly.

That’s exactly what a customer-oriented business also wants.

If you’d like to learn more on this topic, I suggest that you check out Robert Scoble’s discussion about how Zappos uses Twitter. That’s just one way to use it, so find what fits your business. Small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike use social media for business, including Ford and Cisco.

What about you?

How you claim your social media territory depends on you. If you are your brand, you may want to use your name.

For example, I register on these services under my name, eg: http://twitter.com/MarkRiffey. I do that so that when you Google my name (as a prospect is likely to do), then the search results will be dominated by stuff I’ve done, said and written.

If your business is the name you want people to know, claim the business name, such as twitter.com/JoesSports.

While the details are different for Facebook and other social media sites, the concepts are the same. Use social media interaction with your clientele and prospects to familiarize them with you and your business.

Next week, we’ll talk about common social media mistakes businesses should avoid.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com.