There's No Right Way To Use Twitter

Whenever a new technology rolls around, people try to answer two important questions:

  • Why should I use this?
  • How should I use this?

The problem with this second question is that it buys into the idea that there is only one right way to use any technology. Instead of asking "How should I use this?" try asking "How can I use this?". It's easy to be comfortable implementing tactics and strategies made safe by others, but conformity often comes at the price of success. It's good to listen to industry experts, to take their opinions and weigh them against the data, but ultimately we have to be willing to blaze our own trails.

Dell's most talked about Twitter account, among the many they have, offers discounts exclusively to the people following Dell on Twitter. This strategy captures the essence of Twitter's ability to drive sales. If you're looking for case studies on how to make money from Twitter, this should be one of your first stops. But, while there may be others following in Dell's footsteps, there are also plenty of people who don't think Twitter is made for such direct marketing tactics.

Some people think that Twitter is all about customer service, and for those people Comcast's service account serves as a paradigm to be followed. Frank Eliason has done an excellent job running the account in a way that is genuinely human, courteous, and customer focused. Since starting their social media initiative, Comcast has seen a large upturn in customer feedback and positive discussion associated with the brand. As a pioneer of the industry, Comcast has shown that there is a place for personal engagement and individual attention on Twitter.

Dell and Comcast are both excellent examples of how to use Twitter, but neither of the approaches mentioned above is a good solution for every company. There is no recipe for success that will automatically generate results from your social media campaign. To say that Twitter should only be used for customer service, or for driving sales, or even at all, is to limit our thinking to uncreative formulas. It gives us an easy stance to get behind and a mantra we can chant, but it leaves us with little credibility as marketers.

There's only one right way to use Twitter: the way that works for you. Whether that means helping customers, building awareness, or driving sales, as long as Twitter is helping you accomplish your goals, then you're doing just fine.

Written by Chris Allison on October 6, 2009


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True, there really is not a "right" way to use Twitter. But there is a wrong way -- several wrong ways, actually. Blindly following anyone who follows you, posting inane "this is what I had for breakfast" tweets, spamming your followers with the same links to read a blog post, and so on. The key is like other social media channels: know your audience, engage authentically, and provide value.

Written by
Chris Allison