Thursday, October 08, 2009
Twitter is what Twitter does
Sadly, I can’t be in two places at once, so I had to miss the CSME Twitter event on Wednesday night. But the beauty of the modern wor(l)d is that everything gets written about, and Emma Woolley of Cottage Life and Explore has posted a quick overview on her blog along with her point of view on how magazines should use Twitter:

    Social networking is what it is: a series of networks in which people share, engage, and challenge. It’s about conversation and interaction. This is why social networks are for people, not impersonal corporations.

Twitter is a means of communication, not a replacement for other kinds. Your primary interactions with readers happen through the magazine and website, and maybe books. Then email, and phone, and your customer service department. We all still get the odd old-fashioned letter, and maybe write back to them. Twitter, Facebook and the others are just the latest in this list – and like all means of communication, they have their own evolving rules of etiquette and standard modes of behaviour.

Emma posted some good tips on using Twitter for your magazine, and I’ll add a few more:

• Have a plan. If you know you’re going to be too busy to spend a lot of time thinking about what to do on Twitter, then set out a bare-minimum schedule for yourself. At Best Health, for instance, we have a daily newsletter that features a health tip. I repurpose that for my bare-minimum Twitter post. By doing that, I’m creating value for Twitter followers (the tips are a hit), maintaining brand visibility, and making sure I don’t forget to check Twitter. Ideally, I do more than that in a day, but at least on those crazy weeks I know I’m still participating.

• Use your manners. You don’t just hang up on someone when you’re done with a phone call – we’ve developed a set of linguistic and behavioural patterns to handle the interaction. Same goes for Twitter. Reply to people who’ve struck up a conversation. Don’t be a spammer. Don’t send unsolicited direct messages. Make it obvious that there’s a real person (or a group of them) behind the account. Participate in the conversation.

• Create interactivity. Once you’ve built a large-enough Twitter community, they can help you meet editorial goals. Solicit feedback to be incorporated into the magazine or website, like this piece I built based on Twitter and Facebook conversations. Ask for story ideas – for instance, we’ve solicited questions about H1N1 through Twitter. You can even use it to find interview subjects. These are all valid uses of the platform, provided you follow the point above and mind your manners.

• Have fun. Print magazines have a lot of separation from readers, both in time and space. Twitter is your chance to bridge the gap. So interact with people, have conversations, make friends. Show your followers that you care about them.

• Have a goal, and a way to measure it. The number of followers you have is indicative of influence, but it’s not a definitive measurement. So decide how you want to measure success on Twitter (it will certainly come in handy at performance review time). Is your goal increased brand awareness? Click-throughs? Communication? Sub sales? Figure out what you want to do before you start.

And finally, you know what? Just because Twitter is trendy doesn’t mean you have to be on it. It’s acceptable to decide that it doesn’t fit your magazine’s strategy, and it would probably be a better decision than doing Twitter badly.

- Kat Tancock
About Me
Kat Tancock
Kat Tancock is a freelance writer, editor and digital consultant based in Toronto. She has worked on the sites of major brands including Reader's Digest, Best Health, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Elle Canada and Style at Home and teaches the course Creating Website Editorial at Ryerson University.
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