Monday, February 7, 2011

A Tale of Association Twitter Success by Craig Sorrell

Written by guest blogger @craigsorrell

Approximately two years ago when I brought up the notion for my association to get involved in social media, I received many scoffs. I brought my Trapper Keeper into my boss’ office and pulled out lots fancy charts and graphs, show tried and true numbers, and, yes, I even showed that Social Media Revolution video with the Fat Boy Slim music (my past self is STILL apologizing to me for that one) about the effectiveness of social media. The numbers were there, and if you read them it appeared that everyone uses social media. My boss liked the numbers (and video) and gave me the green light. So, I started with revitalizing the Facebook page that existed from 4 years ago, and I introduced my association to Twitter.

I am a Twitter junkie and I get tons of information from it. I love it, and since it is so easy, I figured my association members would love it as well. I created the Twitter account, and posted some information and waited for followers. I posted more information, re-tweeted some information, and waited to get more followers. Nothing was happening. After a couple months, I realized that, even though a lot of my friends are on Twitter, the fact I use Twitter all the time, and the news (and Oprah) talk about Twitter; not everyone is on Twitter. So, with time running out, and the well drying up from me saying “trust me, if we create it, they will come” I had to do something to generate a Twitter buzz. My solution was to poll people as to why they were not following us on Twitter and the answers that came back the most were “that’s a younger person thing” and “maybe you should focus on the students than regular members. Students get that stuff.”

Astonished at hearing this, and after sorting through the poll data again, I realized that there was hidden meaning. These responses were exactly like Wesley’s “As you wish” response. The only difference is that the members did not mean “I love you” (or they could have, I’m pretty likeable) but they meant “I just don’t understand it.” I decided that I was going to have a teleconference and explain what Twitter is. My outline was very simple: talk about why I love Twitter, the practical uses, and real life examples and how they relate. But, after the teleconference started I came to the conclusion that I was forgetting one crucial element. I needed to answer the question that the members had which was “you may like it, but why should I use it?” A tough question, because it is hard to convince people who are adamantly negative on a subject to change their mind.

I targeted the people “on the fence” who did not quite understand it, but showed a little curiosity. Here is how I did it:

Step 1: Explain what Twitter is. I recommend skipping Jack Dorsey’s (one of the founders of Twitter) definition of ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ or as it was once explained at SXSW ‘trivial bursts of information.’ Avoid words like ‘inconsequential” and ‘trivial’ at all costs. You will lose an audience quickly with those words. Instead, use something that they can relate to. I used a real world example. I said “you know that scroll at the bottom of the news screen that has a sentence of what is coming up, or what is news? Twitter is that scroll, but instead of scrolling, it comes to you. Instead of waiting for that scroll to come back around, because you caught the tail end you can already have that information in your Twitter feed. Even better, you not only have that information in your Twitter feed, and possibly sent to your mobile device, you did not have to wait until 6 o’clock to actually get the news.” Ohhhh’s followed after that explanation (music to my ears). I proceeded to explain the purpose of Twitter is to have short bursts of information to keep a constant info-stream. It is the real world, and that Twitter helps expose the real world between emails and blog posts.

Step 2: Explain how Twitter works. It is tough to explain to scientists that you can get your point across in 140 characters. I explained how to add links in posts for more information if you want to reference an article, blog posts, or company data. The critical part of this is to also explain that if @sherman sees something from @craigmerica has put out for all of their 100 followers and @sherman wants to share that information @sherman re-tweets that information. That information then goes out to all of @sherman 100 followers then the information spreads. The silence was deafening. So back to the real world explanation: If your child goes to school, where there is one child with the flu, the flu is spread to your child. Your child then comes home to their personal ‘network’ and shares the flu with you and others in the ‘network.’ You then go to the office (your personal network) and share the flu with your co-workers. The look at the flu like it is information. That is how twitter works.

This example started questions, people were getting it. Finally I broke through.

Step 3: Explain why they should use it. The answer is: because you can reach an audience that you normally cannot get to. It is rare that you actually get to talk to CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, sports team owners, or upper management from products or services you enjoy. These people are out there they are responding and listening to what people have to say. Twitter is that opportunity to connect. It gives everyone a voice.

Customer service happens on Twitter. Again I had to go to my well of real world examples. I told them how I bought a printer; it had network issues, so I returned it and bought a new better model. Same issues. So I returned it, got the “Joe Namath guarantee” that this model would work from the store “Geek” and same problem. I tweeted about the issue and how when calling the customer service line I got no answers to my problem and rude people. I spent 5 tweets putting my customer service problems and printer problems out there, and 6 hours later I not only got a tweet back, but after a dialog I received an email with a $50 voucher asking me to please try their brand again and that they apologize for what I had to go through. Not only did they give me the voucher, but they finally helped with the problem. I connected with people I could not connect with regularly. Connections, no matter how us use those connections, are why you should use Twitter.

Step 4: Keep it simple. There is no need to explain everything in detail about something like Twitter. I had the emotional intelligence during my presentation (shout out to #assnchat people for teaching me that is not just a buzzword) to read that my audience was a little overwhelmed. Address things, but do not spend too much time over explaining. Trust me, explaining what a hash-tag is takes way longer and is more complex than you think. Talk about what it means, and give websites where people can read more information. I cannot stress it enough on how careful you have to be on not overwhelming the audience while explaining new technologies. Go into the presentation assuming everyone there is whelmed. They could be over- or under- at any second, and you do not want that to happen.

The epilogue is that the thirty people showed up to the first teleconference. Fifty-Two showed up at the second due to word of mouth, and sixty-three came for the third. In a month’s time I went form 16 followers to 268. Education is key, and when you start something like this, listen to the “as you wish” when people say it. There just may be an alternative meaning that you need to read into in order to make something a success.

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