I’ve never really “got” Facebook. It is useful for following one’s gap year globetrotting offspring, as they download photos of their adventures into the ether, but for business? Is the casual writing style it encourages really a good showcase for what you are trying to promote? To my mind, it is better to make your points from a personal website in a more structured style, and to partner that with a pithy few words which link to your piece, the vehicle for which is Twitter. We have all been made aware during the last year of its potential hi-speed mechanism: rallying supporters for the Arab Spring and the London riots (and clean up afterwards). But most non urgent information, you’ll probably be glad to hear, proliferates at a more leisurely pace.
So, how does this superficial-sounding social medium work? First, you create an identity by opening an account. Next, start “following” other people. These may be a mixture of people you know, business colleagues and others in your field of interest. Some of these will then follow you back. At the same time, try posting your own comments. Some people get stuck here; they don’t know what to say in the allotted 140 characters. The answer is to look at other comments, and you’ll soon get the idea. The discipline of getting your point over in a few words is a good one for all communicators. You will soon find your own voice, by observing other people’s tweets, and deciding what works best for how to want to project yourself.
Some businesses get their PR companies to “manage” their twitter account. While this is better than nothing, the posts tend to be bland and self-promoting. Restaurant owners who do their own are able to project their personality and promote themselves much more effectively. Russell Norman does it brilliantly, and Stevie Parle maintains a gentle repartee while promoting last minute spaces at his Dock Kitchen.
If you’re famous, you will naturally attract followers. Otherwise, you need to draw a bit of attention to yourself. Twitter helps with this, by picking up the content you tweet about and suggesting you as a follower to others. Another way is to join in conversations. By pressing the reply button, you will address the other person, and if they reply back to you, all their followers will see your twitter name. If all this sounds convoluted, the best way to proceed is just to get started.
In the process, you will come across baffling symbols like # and #FF. A # (hash tag) creates or follows a trend; the words that follow it must have no spaces. So for example #nopainnogain on your tweet would probably be gathered into the fitness arena, and you may find yourself being followed by personal trainers looking for new clients! #FF is a tradition among the twitterati to encourage their followers to follow new people they like, or simply to publicly endorse their friends. It stands for Follow Friday which is the day it all happens. And then there is the mysterious group of letters and numbers preceded by bit.ly/, yfrog/ or ow.ly/. Click on any of these links and it takes you to the internet. This is the key to publicising a post/blog on your website. If you were to copy the link in full directly on to Twitter, you’d soon use up your 140 characters, so these agencies shorten it for you, simply and efficiently.
Why do some people get competitive about the followers they have? Having a large number of followers can give you as much credibility as a large income before the credit crunch, rather like being popular at school. But on a more practical level, the bigger the audience the more effective the message. You will notice by looking at some people’s profiles they might be following 2000 people, simply to get more followers. How can they be engaging effectively with that number? The answer is they don’t, and to me half the fun is getting to know people, and perhaps meeting up with them in real life. So, a proper social networking tool. I’d say around 200 is the optimum number of people to follow. Another important thing is to enjoy it, allow yourself just a bit of fun occasionally. I follow @sixthformpoet just because his tweets makes me smile.
If you are working in the restaurant industry, Twitter is almost a must to keep up with all the new openings and trends, especially in London. It also has huge benefits for the latest breed of pop-ups, street food and mobile operators as to their whereabouts. Eavesdropping on the conversations of restaurant owners, chefs and critics gives you a lot of information you would otherwise only know about weeks later. And honestly, it needn’t take up that much time, if you’re selective.
I hope this has whetted your appetite enough to have a go. Do contact me by email on the link below, if I can help further. Or see you on Twitter! I’m going to shorten the link to this post now and alert my followers. My username is @JulietShield.