Do You Need to Be On Twitter?  

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When you build your business or organization, a web presence is necessary. People expect  a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should provide the basics: who you are, what you do, and how to reach you. Beyond that, you have some choices to make. I’ve heard “We should be on Twitter” from small businesses and organizations alike.

Let’s start with the word should. Who’s the boss of your communications efforts? Who says you should be anywhere? Social media is a great way to expand your services, but you need to consider what’s a reasonable reach.

I’m going out on a limb here: not everyone should be on Twitter. I know that may cause some in marketing to squawk, but I think it’s true. For small businesses or organizations developing an online presence or strengthening the one they have, Twitter isn’t necessarily the best option. There are a few reasons I believe this.

Twitter needs product

Why would businesses or organizations be on Twitter? To connect with your target audience, build community and sell something. If you’re in a non-profit it may not be a product you’re selling, but you are selling ideas and resources. That means you have to follow through with product (content).

You want to be a source of content people consult. If you’re new to the game, it can take time to figure out where to get your information and how to use it. Don’t share your own stuff exclusively; you aren’t the centre of the world.

Think of Twitter like a potluck and bring something that others will like and share. What can you add to the conversation online?  Bring something beyond an opinion: share links to articles, reports, product profiles, give kudos to other organizations or businesses doing great work.

If you’re retweeting other people’s tweets, and you should if fits your work, frame it your way. Your voice is unique. What is your take on the information? I’ve heard Twitter critics say it’s just recycling of all the same information. It’s fair to say a lot of information gets recycled (here’s to going viral), but your goal is to make your comment heard.

Twitter has its own speed and language

I’ve explained to friends who don’t manage social media that Twitter can be like jumping to hyperspace in Star Wars: a lot of poorly written information woven through with hashtags comes at you very quickly. When I first started tweeting for 2 brands in my workplace in 2009, I was stunned by the writing and the weirdness of tags. Writing well for Twitter is an art, and I’m glad to say it has improved significantly since 2009, but it still varies wildly.

To be heard, you need to be clear. It takes time to observe Twitter, figure out your voice, and use it well. It’s an ongoing practice, in fact.

Twitter is a community, but maybe not yours

Twitter users have the capacity to build a worldwide community of connections if that’s the goal. Is that your goal? Where are the people you want to reach?

I had a discussion with a friend in the arts community who sighed, “I should be on Twitter. I don’t get it though.” And she might not need to- perhaps her community isn’t on Twitter. Twitter is still confusing to many people. Some can’t read it for its abbreviated language (it’s not a friendly platform for those who have literacy challenges) or overstimulating speed. Some prefer social media that’s more visual, like Instagram or Pinterest. Where is your community? Go there, and then build.

Use Your Time Well

If you have a small staff or volunteer pool, Twitter may not be the best way to utilize their time or efforts. Do what is going to work for you. Do what you can do consistently and with meaning. When I click through from websites to stale Twitter accounts that haven’t been used for years, I can’t help but wonder about how current the site itself is. It doesn’t inspire confidence.

You don’t have to be everywhere online, so think about where you can be with meaning.



Photo: lauramusikanski, MorgueFile 

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