Since it started six years ago, the social networking site Twitter has inspired, and sometimes infuriated, PROs the world over. Love it or loathe it, if you work in PR, you can’t ignore it.
One of the criticisms levelled at Twitter is that it is full of useless chat. However, Mark Pinsent, head of content and consumer social media, EMEA,at PR firm Weber Shandwick, says this need not distract you: “As anyone who uses Twitter will tell you the beauty of it is that you get to choose who you listen to. So your control over irrelevant chatter is complete.” And for those who complain that they can’t think of anything to say on Twitter, Pinsent advises them to first listen. He explains: “There are almost certainly industry journalists and other influencers in your sector using the tool to source material for stories and posts, so keeping a watching brief on their Tweets can present opportunities to build relationships that can benefit your clients or your own business. Twitter is also the main platform for the breaking and spreading of news and issues. Again, keeping an eye out for mentions of your clients' brands and products can give you early sight of issues and the ability to address them before they blow up into reputation ally damaging crises.”
Twitter is only as effective as the person using it. Chris Klopper, CEO of agency Mulberry Marketing Communications, says the secret to getting the most out of it is to “engage, engage, engage”. It is important to pay attention to what the right people are saying, but even if you simply reTweet their comments, you can add a few words to create an interaction.
Some people complain that Twitter eats up time, and Klopper admits this happens to him occasionally: “I do get carried away, sometimes, and waste my time on Twitter, Tweeting unimportant stuff, which doesn’t always give a positive impression.“ Saying the wrong thing can also mean you lose followers. Klopper warns: “This is where Twitter users have to be careful, especially for those who want to sell themselves. You must think about what your personal intentions are, and how you ‘package’ your wasteful Tweets into something funny or interesting.”
Pros and cons of Twitter
Peter Roberts, head of issues and crisis management at PR firm Bell Pottinger, summarises the main benefits and shortcomings of the site for PROs.
strengthens the relationship between PROs and their brand consumers
reaches a younger demographic long lost to traditional media
affords brands the chance to demonstrate their more convivial sides
gives PROs greater insight of day-to-day journalistic needs
is invaluable in alerting businesses and their teams to any simmering discontent towards their respective organisations.
is instrumental in generating a disproportionate amount of noise around today’s brands, much of which is inane and has to be followed attentively by PROs
gives undue prominence to relatively minor issues that have been blown into bigger problems
Means PROs now have to effectively police employees in ensuring that their Tweets don’t compromise the organisation.
How do you make the most of Twitter?
Gillian Quinn, social media account manager at PR agency Threepipe:
“How you choose to deliver you message and engage with your audience is what sets one organisation apart from the others. It is restricted only by your imagination. For brands like Sainsbury’s which is utilising the tool to its potential, there are the rewards of more than 40,000 engaged followers. The brand use Twitter to promote products, adverts and sponsorships and respond to journalist and blogger requests. Burberry has grown its followers almost four-fold over the past 12 months, with a unique approach that offers followers exclusive content and products to reward their loyalty – 900,000 followers help share the brand message and perception.”
Simon Turton, owner of agency Opera PR:
“Ask yourself what are you trying to say and how do you think recipients are going to respond. The best postings are informative in some way and, ideally, provide some useful insight. You also have to think about how a company or organisation would be perceived if it couldn't send out messages via Twitter. Call me a hair-shirted Luddite and thrash me with an iPhone power cable, but I don't think we would be any worse off if we didn't have this form of communication.”
Camilla Brown, account manager at communications consultancy Manifest London:
"Without Twitter, brands wouldn’t make half the noise they do today. We are so lucky to have a ready-made audience that allows us to bypass traditional routes and talk straight to the consumer. Take BrewDog for example, without its strong online following, would it have hit £2.2m investment in its fund-raising scheme? Would it have had the Diageo Debacle on the front page of the FT? Would it have hundreds of people sending in pictures of food made with their products, drawings of punk pirates or attempts at bottle designs posted through their front door? Hell no.”
Written by Daney Parker