Taking the Mystery out of Engagement
When companies and individuals contemplate Twitter (update: and blogging), some of their first questions are, “What do we write, how can we develop and maintain interest, how do we avoid looking silly?”
When I am advising them on creating a Twitter presence, one of the key tools I use is “Value Vectors” to help formulate the content strategy. Here, I will outline the tool and how you use it, so you can improve engagement in your following.
Value Vectors Overview
Twitter is not a social network, even though it is very much a network, and it’s social. It is not profile-based like LinkedIn, Facebook or Orkut. It is content- and relationship-based. Twitter has mobility and news in its DNA, which makes it unique. The 140-character limit is imposed because many people tweeted originally over the SMS network, pre-iPhone ,^) This characteristic is a blind spot to most executives, who often have a “computer orientation” to the Internet.
You will create your “space” on Twitter as a function of (usually) three of the vectors. To identify your space, you pay attention to how far along each vector you want to be. Where they intersect is your space.
Your space has a yin/yang relationship with the community that you are trying to build. When you have a defining concept and know the interests of the people you want to engage, make your tweets resonate with them. Twitter is the epitome of viral, so your community will coalesce around your tweets. You need to tweet on the right channel to make this happen.
Here are the vectors:
- Links—share information that your peeps (people) will find interesting or useful. Also make it relevant to your business. Here you are sharing other people’s content.
- Help—by definition, Twitter lives in what many execs consider to be a “tech” environment. The Help Vector points out tech problems and often offers solutions, with links or not.
- Scene—report “on the scene” happenings or wacky experiences that interest your followers. This maximizes Twitter’s mobile DNA.
- Muse—reflect on what you care about, problems, challenges, breakthroughs. Here you are a content creator.
- Fun—joke, jibe, satirize the madness that is the world. Tell stories, and make light of crazy or frustrating experiences.
- Fame—give (usually) first-hand insight into famous people, companies or places to which you have access that your followers wished they had.
- Deals—offer or report on promotions relevant to your followers. You may promote your products or services.
Now let’s explore in more detail.
Everybody appreciates information, and most Twitter clients (applications you use to interact with Twitter’s infrastructure.. Seesmic Desktop, Tweetdeck, Twhirl, Splittweet..) have built-in URL shorteners, so the URL you share doesn’t hog all the 140 characters, and you can position what you’re sharing. Here, you use your experience about a business or industry to select the best information to share. This is good way to start tweeting because it’s the least risky. You add value in the selection and the recommendation, and don’t neglect the latter because that’s how you differentiate yourself from linksharing software machines. Examples:
- @dbarefoot RT @tcktcktck Great article from @socialbrite: “10 ways to support charity through social media” http://bit.ly/15qfeJ
- @bwdumars RT @smulpuru: eCommerce sales still trending up; average +11% in Forrester & Shop.org’s flash survey of retailers: http://tinyurl.com/l8o5tz
- @Infosourcer @SouthwestAir approach toTwitter:what the airline tweets about and why, & how the microblog has led to PR success. http://bit.ly/XPeV7
Twitterers are in the vanguard of Web 2.0 and social networking. Most have a geeky side to them, although Twitter is mainstreaming. If the people you want to engage are deeply involved with various Web 2.0 sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, your stock will go up when you comment on feature problems and offer workarounds. Examples:
- @thelocaltourist When you create an event in FB Fan pgs you can’t message attendees. You can, however, make someone else Admin and THEY can message. Odd.
- @FrankGruber Hard drive full? Store your stuff on the cloud: http://bit.ly/CXJCw
- @jerrymichalski ok, win7, you’re certainly a step up from voldem… er, vista, but what’s with the freezing up for 40 secs every 20 mins?
By definition, most of us live some version of “everyday” life that is pretty unremarkable some days. Be aware of how you interact with your friends and family; if you think about it, you usually remark on things that are exceptions to the usual because they are, well, remarkable. The Scene Vector refers to factual situations, aberrations. Your train ran off the tracks, you got stuck in an elevator, an ice cream truck ran over your mailbox, your dentist used way too much Novocain.
- @NurtureGirl Painted faces of strangers in my neighborhood during block party. Now they look strange, but we aren’t strangers. #gratitude for kids
- @hugo84 Standing on the “Ledge” of the world at the Willis/Sears Tower. Of course there is someone standing next to me jumping up and down.
The Muse Vector is weighted less for reporting and sharing external events than what you think about something. You may support your thought with a link, but the focus is drawing attention to a problem or opportunity and, perhaps, suggesting action. When you decide to take more of a position, the Muse Vector entails more risk and reward. Executives want followers but are wary of alienating people by taking too much of a position on something. However, Muse increases engagement much more than Scene or Links because you take a stand.
- @jobsworth thinking how nice it would be to see artists, authors, poets and musicians from the long-ago past show up as trending on twitter.
- @peterkim There are many smart minds in E2.0 and SMM. If they could learn from each other, lots of value would be created.
- @paulcaswell writing a marketing story for weave the people, out of my zone – the joy and challenge of being an entrepreneur
Most people spend good parts of their lives in an intense, serious state, so most of us appreciate a laugh to unwind and realize that things don’t have to be so serious all the time. You can think of the Fun Vector as the equivalent of cracking a joke. There are various approaches that I’ll delve into in future posts, for example: sardonic wit, clowning, self-deprecation and ironic comments. As with cracking a joke, the Fun Vector carries a higher risk/reward profile than Scene or Links.
- @chrisheuer “Jogger injured in buzzard attack”. Now if ever there was a reason not to jog….. http://bit.ly/Pgjhy (via @abisignorelli)
- @GuyKawasaki 5 atrocious science clichés to throw down a Black Hole: http://om.ly/?vbD AC
- @hugo84 Our oven’s self cleaning mode seems awfully convenient, except it fills the house with noxious fumes. The manual says this is normal – WTF!
- @retheauditors Just Lunch… I mean desserts. RT @TimMoore: Facebook Dating Ad Hooks Up Married Man … With His Wife http://bit.ly/A9djY
Most executives have at least fleeting connections with highly visible people or companies that other people would like to know more about. Some executives are famous themselves. The Fame Vector leverages fame’s patina; it shares your coveted access. Obviously the risk is sharing without violating privacy of the person or company to which you have access. That said, anyone can use some derivative of the Fame Vector by using secondary information to replace the direct access you may not have, but to remain in the Fame Vector, the secondary information must be unusual or restricted. If you use publicly available information, you are really in the Links or Muse vectors.
- @richardbranson Join in the live online Q&A with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of The Elders: http://tinyurl.com/p8z2qf
- @danielbru Off to go have coffee with Akash Garg, Co-Founder and CTO of Hi5. Interested to see what he has to say about social networks today.
The Deals Vector is currently driving Twitter’s sustained attention of executives because a growing slate of companies is selling millions of dollars of goods or services on Twitter. All humans are economic creatures at some level. All of us have been fleeced in bad deals, and we appreciate paying less for something to make up for it, or to get ahead. The Deals Vector might include links to an e-commerce site, coupons or insight into how to get a good deal on something.
- @SouthwestAir We LUV you and New York! Earn an extra Rapid Reward to or from the Big Apple…details here: http://bit.ly/ncxwG
- @52teas Mango Orange Honeybush is SOLD OUT! Don’t miss out on your favorite: http://www.52teas.com
- @DellOutlet Happy Friday! Just posted some coupons at www.facebook.com/delloutlet – select “Wall” tab to view them.
Using the Value Vectors
As you read the brief descriptions, you may have found yourself asking, “Now, which one should I use?” To maximize engagement, you will optimize a combination of the vectors. Through working with executives to increase their personal or their companies’ Twitter communities, I have derived the vectors to make explicit what most experienced Twitterers have learned over time. Here are some thoughts to create the mix you need:
- Do at least a back-of-the-envelope study of the stakeholders you are trying to engage. Think about your most highly prized prospects or clients with whom you have had lunch over the past couple of months. What are their interests as a group? What keeps them up at night? What interests them personally? Whether perennials, 1960s E-Types, offshore M&A or forex swaps, consider personal and professional interests.
- Now look at the vectors while you consider the interests of your stakeholders. Which three of the vectors correspond to either your personal or your firm’s expertise, experience, access and personality or culture? Rank the vectors. Which will you lead with, and which will play a supporting role?
- Variety is important in Twitter because it increases engagement. If you lead with the Deals Vector, throwing in Muse or Fun Vector material can dramatically increase surprise and engagement—just make sure it resonates. Humans pay high attention to exceptions from the norm, and you can use this to your advantage.
- When crafting your mix, pay attention to the unique set of resources you have to mount a sustained effort. Don’t lead with the Fame Vector if you had some fleeting access to visible people or companies.
- The more of yourself you put into your tweets, the more engagement you will create, as long as this is appropriate for your desired audience. For a company, treat your Twitter effort as a team of individuals, and explicitly map out your resonance points, but allow each person to develop his/her style. We have had two generations of synthetic media and “entertainment” to which there is a growing backlash. People respond most to other people, not anesthesized, eviscerated “content.”
- I’m dying to hear what you think about the vectors! Please tell me what I’ve unknowingly omitted.
- Please note that the vectors are a way to think about the content that you contribute via Twitter. Separately, I will explain techniques like retweeting, introductions and other interactions that are key to building community.
- I hope the vectors help you to think through your company’s Twitter presence with more clarity, so you can resonate with your followers and create more value.