This is only my second original post on my new blog, so I thought I’d write about something I think I know well: Twitter! However, I’m pleased to say that after having finished this post I definitely know more about the subject than I did before!
Twitter followers: 1402 (and counting…)
Sara Robinson is Cake Communications’ Managing Director. Cake Communications is a modern PR and creative communications agency based in Cardiff Bay. On their website they state that they have a unique, fresh approach to how they do business and are passionate about communication that delivers tangible results. Sara works with colleagues and clients to design and implement campaigns that meet and exceed objectives. The services they offer include PR, Social Media Training, Copywriting, Public Relations, Graphic design, smartphone app design and blog management. They also have a blog, which is a good read for businesses or individuals interested in social media and other forms of digital communications.
James: Hi Sara, thanks for agreeing to speak to me about your work. Could you start by telling me what place Twitter has within your wider communications strategies and the individual campaigns that Cake Communications designs and implements?
Sara: Hi James, thanks for the opportunity! Twitter has become an increasingly important part of the communications mix only in so much that more organisations are waking up to the opportunity that social media presents to communicate more effectively with their audience. Of course, like any opportunity, there are associated threats. Savvy businesses are recognising that there is a risk attached to diving head first into social media without allocating proper resource to it and conducting sound research to establish which channels are right for them. Sometimes it’s worse to ‘do’ social media badly than not do it at all. We always advise clients to establish which of the traditional business functions they want to use social media for. Is it research? Engagement? It’s surprising how many organisations still think they should be on Twitter ‘because everybody else is’ and don’t give proper thought or consideration to their objectives and how to evaluate the impact. As a result, from our point of view, we are seeing more and more demand for support with training, strategy development and general hand-holding through the process. I have sat with clients and told them that Twitter isn’t for them because research shows their customer base isn’t using that social space (yet), and another communication method will be more effective for them. There really isn’t one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s certainly more of a buzzword than it was this time two years ago.
J: One problem I find with businesses on Twitter is that their approach to the medium can sometimes be tokenistic, irrelevant or, occasionally, spammy! What can businesses do to prevent this from happening and how can they keep things fresh?
S: I think the old principles of PR and communication are as true as they ever have been even though the technologies are evolving all of the time. Relevance and the quality of the content you can offer are the most crucial things. Of course, the fundamental difference is that whereas the old media models were built on one-way communication, social media is more about engagement and useful interventions in conversations. That’s a cultural shift that many organisations can struggle to adapt to, as we have been used to the ‘broadcast’ model for most of many people’s working lives. As PR professionals, we are well-versed in helping to create meaningful conversations so we are well-placed to guide businesses through the minefield that is Twitter and help them embrace the engagement approach. In terms of keeping content fresh, a blog is always a brilliant resource to establish yourself as thought leader in your field. If you use social media to signpost your followers to genuinely interesting, value-added content then you are using it well. That of course has the added benefit of boosting your SEO performance for key terms and pulling people into your website. In terms of being relevant, audience research is crucial and it’s important to spend time making sure you are following the right people in order to ensure the relevant potential customers/stakeholders/ambassadors are following you. The best way to make sure you build that following, of course, is making sure you have good quality and relevant content so it’s a bit like a chicken and egg situation. But the best way to do it well is to invest resource into it and to really think through what you want to get out of it.
J: Do you think Twitter has a measurable value to a business that uses it? Although it costs virtually nothing to use, do you think the man-hours spent using it are worthwhile?
S: It’s a common belief that social media is free. If you are doing it to meet business objectives, social media demands time and we all know time is money. For that reason it is obviously important that the time invested in social media is measurable. However, it’s not as easy as being able to prove a direct ROI from social media. Only very few brands have achieved this, and it’s very much the holy grail that all marketers are chasing. I would turn it on its head like this: Have you every tried to calculate the ROI of all of the business cards that you hand out at a networking event? A Twitter follower, like a business card, merely represents potential. And when it comes to brand awareness or positive sentiment about your organisation, many people will be hard pressed to pinpoint WHY they buy a service or feel the way they do about your organisation. Twitter is always part of a wider set of variables.
There are of course things you can measure – engagement, how many people are sharing your content, total number of people reached, increase in traffic to your blog or website and so on. And you absolutely should build in these metrics from the outset.
J: In your opinion, is Twitter activity translatable into measurable economic value and/or earning potential?
S: See my above answer!
J: My opinion is that Twitter is, for the most part, NOT a direct sales tool, and anyone who treats it as such is probably wasting their time; would you agree?
S: In a word, yes. Try and sell on Twitter and you’re already failing. Try and inform, educate, share, participate helpfully, create ‘ambassadors’ for your brand and curate content and you’re onto a winner. For me, it’s the golden rule. Anybody who wants to sell more by being on Twitter is only going to be disappointed.
J: Finally, what can potential clients hope to gain from your social media expertise?
S: We really help people take a step back and think about why they are using social media and what they expect to gain from it. We help with training, content plans and strategy development to help organisations get the most from social media. The one thing I’d say is just because it seems free, it can be an expensive waste of time if you don’t invest in a carefully though-out strategy at the outset and invest the time necessary to do it well. We can help get the ball rolling right through to handling social media on a client’s behalf where they don’t have the internal resource and want to punch above their weight online.