The Rules Of Engagement

If you want to do big things with Twitter, it’s essential that you focus on the three Es.

Engagement, engagement, engagement.

Recently I began working with an advertising company to help them build social media campaigns for their clients. It’s been a fascinating process, as despite all the hype and attention Twitter is still very much an unknown quantity for a lot of really smart people. What’s been extremely rewarding to me personally is seeing the light bulb go on while I’m making my pitch. Yes, there is value there, and yes, the potential is huge. Now they see it, too. Together, we can make something pretty special happen. It’s exciting stuff.

The tricky part is finding the balance between my involvement and educating the client in what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, so they can do it, too. A big part of this experience is immersion – you can read as many books as you like about a subject, but until you actually get out there and do it, you’re never going to become an authority.

If the client wants, I can take care of everything, which includes designing and updating their profile, building the network, liaising with PR and management, marketing the brand to other relevant social media sites, and all of the actual Twittering, too. But it’s better for me, and it’s a lot better for the client, if they are the voice behind the tweets. It should be them. They’re the expert, after all. I’m just the guy behind the scenes.

So what do I mean by engagement? How does one ‘engage’? It doesn’t have to be as awkward a process as you might think. There are just a few basic rules, and they’re pretty flexible.

  • When somebody asks you a question, answer it to the best of your ability. And if you don’t know the answer, recommend somebody who might. Either way, you’re still a key part of the process.
  • Get into the habit of using Twitter’s real-time search to find conversations about your brand or product. About you. Are people asking questions? Are they happy? Are they disappointed? Find out what the problem is, and get involved. It’s good to talk – in fact, it’s vital – but you can learn a lot more by listening. The personal touch goes a long, long way, and Twitter’s search allows you reach way, way behind your immediate network.
  • And better still: it’s free. There are 20-25 million people on there today; in a year that number will be 100 million. And in ten years, a billion. It doesn’t matter if it’s still called Twitter or something else supersedes it – the concept is here to stay.
  • Nobody is going to be offended if you send them something for just being interested, like a 10 per cent off coupon, or a live MP3, or a free two-week membership. Or even if you’re just doing them a favour. What costs little or nothing to you can have enormous value to somebody else, and often your generosity is as or more valuable than the gift.
  • If somebody says something nice about you or your product, thank them.
  • If somebody publically thanks you, acknowledge it publically.
  • Look after the little guys. In turn, they will look after you, and when of them becomes a big guy – and it happens more often than you might think – they won’t forget. I hate to build a key premise around a lousy film, but people will pay it forward. This can only help you. Unless you’re being an ass, in which case they’ll still be paying it forward, but it won’t do you any favours.
  • Be nice, until it’s time to stop being nice. (And then you unfollow and block.)

Very few people are fortunate enough to be so famous that they don’t need to worry about crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. For the rest of us, the details are really important. Twitter, like anything else, is only as good as you make it. So why not make it about your network, and not about you?