By Association Adviser staff
Just about everyone you know, admire or do business with seems to be tweeting something these days. But the micro-blogging service is still widely misunderstood and often underutilized. Hence the endless debate about social media ROI.
In response, Naylor held a roundtable discussion for employees and association clients to help them get more out of the popular 140-character social networking tool. Here are some of the most common questions and misconceptions that came up in the session led by Naylor online marketing specialist Kelly Donovan [@HurriGator]. Watch video.
Participate with hashtags
Join relevant Twitter conversations and trending topics by using hashtags. A hashtag is a word, string of letters and numbers, or phrase preceded by a pound sign. For example, #assnchat is used by the association community to mark tweets about association publishing and management. Use existing ones or create your own. There are no fees or copyright limitations on hashtags.
For associations, hashtags can be especially useful for announcing you have a new issue of your member magazine out or for promoting an upcoming conference. Hashtags are also great for allowing non-attendees to follow what’s going on at the event (and to comment on what’s happening at the event). Just insert the hashtag in front of the conference or event name before you tweet. Many times, associations establish and promote use of an event-specific hashtag before their events.
Donovan said if you want to follow an event, first look to the association’s website or event materials to find their Twitter name and any agreed-upon hashtags. If you can’t find that information through the association, try searching for the name of the event in the Twitter search engine. For example, searching for CalSAE’s recent Elevate conference turns up plenty of tweets with “#CalSAE2012,” the event’s designated hashtag, appended to them.
Do people use mobile devices to tweet during shows or events?
If at an event, people will probably be using a mobile device rather than their laptops, said Donovan. However, at their offices they’re probably using TweetDeck, Hootsuite or another third-party dashboard.
These dashboard tools are powerful tools for listening and monitoring activity, but they can also take up a great deal of time and be a distraction, noted Naylor’s Vice President of Association Relations Charles Popper [@charlespopper]. He advised having a small number of meaningful success metrics to follow in order to keep your time investment in check.
Better for talking or for listening?
Donovan agreed that Twitter is a great tool for associations that want to learn more about what their members are talking and concerned about. Popper stressed that when using Twitter properly, you will start seeing who the influencers are in your industry.
Can you delete a tweet?
Yes, you can, said Donovan, but only the person who sent the tweet can actually delete it. Hover your mouse over the tweet you want to trash, and a “Delete” link will appear.
Editors of association magazines should take the lead on tweeting on behalf of magazine, said Popper. If you’re going to mention someone in any of your media, it’s possible (and a show of goodwill) to include that person’s Twitter handle in your posts. Type the “@” symbol immediately followed by their Twitter name, and Twitter will hyperlink their name in your tweet. When that person next logs into Twitter, they’ll receive a notification that you mentioned them.
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Can you add short commentary to someone else’s tweets before sharing them?
You used to be able to add your own commentary before retweeting, said Donovan, but now Twitter will not let individuals modify a retweet produced by clicking the “retweet” button. However, you can do a workaround by cutting and pasting the tweet you liked into your own tweet text box on your home or profile page, then inserting your own comments. To let others know you are forwarding someone else’s content, type “RT” in front of your tweet, said Donovan.
Can you modify someone else’s tweet?
Modifying a tweet means you retweet someone’s content but slightly alter the original text to make it shorter, to correct any typos or to otherwise make your point. As with the RT sign described above, type the letters “MT” for “modified retweet” just before the original content.
Twitter vs. traditional media
It’s not a matter of either/or, said Donovan, it’s a matter of when. Many people, especially younger people turn to Twitter first to learn about breaking news, then tune into CNN, radio or other traditional media to get more in-depth coverage and analysis.
Besides using “RT” and “MT” markers to acknowledge fellow Tweeters, there are a few basic Twitter etiquette rules association professionals should follow. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, in which you can screen who’s following you, Twitter allows you to follow prospects you just met or admire, but don’t know well. It is possible to “protect” your tweets and only allow people you approve as followers to see what you write, but Twitter culture is based on openness and transparency, and protecting tweets is generally frowned upon.
When building your profile page for professional purposes, make sure you have a professional photo of yourself, not your generic company or association logo, and certainly not the default Twitter “egg” advised Naylor Marketing Manager Dana Plotke (@danaplot). If tweeting under the association or communication brand, include a headshot and the name(s) of the people who are managing the account.
Insert a website that represents your company, or if you don’t mind mixing your professional and personal lives, one that represents one of your hobbies or interests. However, remember to keep it clean.
Public vs. private messages
Most tweets are open access public view, said Donovan, but the “direct message” feature allows you to send a private message to one of your followers.
Tweeting to just some followers
According to Donovan, you can target your tweets to selected followers by creating groups, such as “business” and “personal,” or perhaps “members” and “vendors.”
Social tools for F2F networking
“Twitter is also a great tool for reaching out to sales, sponsorship and membership prospects you haven’t talked with in awhile,” said Naylor Publisher Jill Andreu [@jkandreu]. “You can call a prospect and open the conversation by saying, ‘I just saw a great tweet from you.’ It gives you a great excuse to call.”
More and more association members are organizing Tweetups to meet members with common interests when heading out to a conference, said Plotke. A Tweetup is a get-together where Twitter enthusiasts can meet in person and see the faces behind the Twitter handles with which they converse.
If you’re still skeptical about Twitter’s impact on the association world, start paying attention to the number of name badges that have people’s twitter handle included, said Donovan.
Twitter is still a work in progress, but with more best practices being perfected, it’s becoming a powerful tool to have in your member communications arsenal.
Follow Kelly, Dana and the rest of the Naylor team on Twitter: @NaylorLLC.