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Why you’re using Twitter wrong for business

Last week I created a new Twitter account to coincide with starting the new job at TYR.  After experiencing a shocking amount of frustration whilst choosing a twitter handle, I finally found myself deciding who to follow to kick-off the new account.  Most of the usual suspects for me – Tim Ferriss was the first guy to spring to mind, among a bunch of other efficiency freaks and tech / marketing geeks.  Having followed a few people and companies, I posted my first tweet, had some dinner and went to bed.

The following morning, I checked Twitter and found that i’d somehow amassed 20 followers in the 8 hours I’d been sleeping.  Naturally, I assumed that people must have adored my profile photo and LOL’d their faces off at my fascinating first tweet about the difficulties of choosing a handle.  Having smugly talked down to my girlfriend about how interesting everyone thinks I am and eating some bacon and eggs, I tweeted again, this time about a pretty disappointing attempt at baking cookies.  I sat back and waited for more followers and for my burnt cookie tweet to go viral.


Could have been worse, right?
Could have been worse, right?


At the point that my ego had reached it’s peak, the inevitable happened of course – in two days my follower count dropped to 3.


Yeah, I wasn’t happy.

So, this got me thinking about why this happened.  Why had I got a bunch of followers (Coincidentally business Gurus who help directors of company’s, like myself) and then lost them all within a few days?  Sure, it could be that my tweets were so boring that I’d scared them off.  I’m not being arrogant when I say that I don’t think that’s the case.

The assumption I’m going to make (and please feel free to correct me if you think this isn’t the case and that I actually am just very boring) is that my followers, whom, to their credit, actually chose their target market well, only followed me in hope that I would follow them back.  They will then unfollow me (perhaps a automated bot does this) in hopes that they would then have a lot of followers and be following a very limited amount of people – the celebrity way.  Seeing as their services are relevant to me and I may actually be interested in what they have to say, I suppose you could look at this as a pretty good way of marketing your business or services on Twitter.  Here’s why I think it’s not.

No one cares about your business

People don’t care about businesses.  They care about people.  They care about you.  Even Apple, with it’s devout and loyal followers launch any new product with a keynote and a bunch of films of the key people involved of the development of that product.  Sure, these events and films are centred around the product, but they’re presented by people. We connect with people, not products.

Obviously this can be leveraged through social media.  Twitter, in this case, gives  you an opportunity to give your company a voice. An actual voice that you can use in conversation.  That’s the key word, right there. Conversation.

When those initial followers unfollowed me, they made a big mistake. They forgot that I’m a person and I tweet myself.  I tweet about my wants and needs.  I tweet about what pushes my buttons and what I’m interested in, or conversely, what annoys and frustrates me.  All of the above is exactly what you need to know about your customers. Let’s consider some questions the unfollowers would not be able to answer about me:

What blogs / newspapers do I read? Translated for them: Which blogs / newspapers should they advertise their services in?

What tone of voice do I speak in? Translated for them: What tone of voice should I speak in?

What kind of content do I take interest in .ie retweet / like / share. Translated for them: What sort of content should they be producing?

Most importantly though, they missed an opportunity to engage in conversation with me. When I ultimately end up needing one of their services and I tweet about it, they’re not going to hear it because they unfollowed me.  You’d think that in a world dominated by “social” networks, we’d know that it actually is as simple as just talking with people. Not to people.  We have to listen in addition to being heard.  We have to be brave and engage in conversation, but not in a faceless corporate way. We have to be ourselves.  Be opinionated.  Be transparent. Be the company that you yourself would want to use: a fair and honest one.  These are values that can be displayed through our social media usage and we shouldn’t forget that.

There’s nothing wrong with setting business goals when using social media – we do (which I’ll write about in another post). But I’d never be so silly to say that you should be followed by more people than you’re following.  Hell, if you’re following 10,000 people and only followed by one, then you have one person who cares, and 10,000 opportunities to talk with people who could.

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