The PR's guide to Twitter
10 top tips for using Twitter to promote your practice from Leanne Tritton, managing director of ING Media
I am not sure that there is any evidence that an architect has been commissioned for a project based on their witty Twitter postings, but it doesn’t mean that Twitter and other forms of social media aren’t useful business tools.
For those that love Twitter, they know how it works and understand the benefits – for those that need to be convinced, it is often hard to explain how it can be useful in a business sense – sort of like explaining to Sinatra fans in the fifties the appeal of Elvis.
I am nervous about giving tips on how to use Twitter successfully as it suggests that there is a right and wrong way – when one of the joys is that it is so free form and intuitive.
At ING Media we specialise in food as well as architecture and design (we like to eat) and the reaction to twitter for the two groups couldn’t be more different. Food clients see Twitter as core to their communication with customers and take posts incredibly seriously – jumping immediately to fix operational problems, reward loyalty, develop new product lines and just stay close to customer needs. The refrain from them is always “what else can we do?”
However, architects for the most part are slow to engage at a practice level. Small practices, journalists, individuals, PRs and media organisations have seen the light, but there are few examples of larger practices using it effectively – and in the spirit of how individuals understand Twitter. This is understandable as most practices are often constrained contractually by talking about their work and therefore, the freeflow nature of Twitter is counterintuitive to how they are used to working.
@barkarchitects, is a good example of a small practice based using Twitter effectively. Based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, it has over 1,000 followers and uses it to update followers on projects and its very unique practice. It is no stranger to innovation, its principals long ago qualifying as pilots and purchasing their own light aircraft to overcome distance issues in visiting clients (but that is another story).
@subutcher at Barefoot & Gilles is the unofficial Twitter Queen who has over 7,700 followers and has a steady flow of interesting industry information and personal banter. I have never met her but she is a great case study of someone who uses Twitter in a way that makes me assume she is likeable and knowledgeable and I want to know more.
Like our food clients, architects can use Twitter as a great opportunity to engage with communities and promote their practice ethos. Despite the recession, the recruitment of great people still remains an issue for most practices and Twitter is a very effective tool for spreading the word – at no cost.
I delved into Twitter about 18 months ago as an optimistic sceptic and have found that it is similar to any other community – it can be informative, amusing, powerful and annoying – and I love it.
The language of Twitter has to be personal and authentic – using it as a tool to simply disseminate press releases is the kiss of death.
The most compelling “corporate” tweet accounts usually have one person who manages the posts with very few corporate guidelines. I have met a number of these “ghost-tweeters” and they respect and instinctively understand the organisation they are representing. My recommendation to practices is to find someone in your organisation who already tweets, who you trust and let them go for it.
1. Following: By following people with similar interests, you can learn about trends, news and gossip in seconds and I can get an insight into industry issues. It’s also fun to watch deep-seated rivalries that were previously private come to life on Twitter – and they say women can be bitchy! Make sure you stay out of those conversations – observing is fine but long-term relationships can be damaged quickly by an ill-thought-out quip.
2. Your tweets: this is often the toughest part – condensing a sometimes complex message into a compelling 140 characters. The secret is to make sure that your tweets are those that your followers will find interesting and positive. Hands up on this one – I am sure I have bored followers with tweets about camping trips, kids etc. Apologies, but sometimes the mood takes over. Do as I say, not as I do!
3. Retweet: this means passing on a message to your followers. Retweet anything you think will be of interest to your followers, and similarly treat your tweets being retweeted as an accolade. It’s a sign your followers were inspired, interested or entertained by what you had to say so much that they wanted to share with their friends.
4. Mentions: if you enjoy a link or want to comment on a tweet, then make sure you mention the original tweeter. You’ll pick up friends that way!
5. Twitter help: one of my favourite aspects of twitter is that most tweeters really want to help out. I have had useful responses to requests from great restaurant recommendations to finding architectural experts in Vietnam – simply ask Twitter.
6. Hashtag: add the # to any subject that you believe will generate a following – twitter’s version of the Mexican wave – sometimes it will take off, sometimes only a few will pick it up, but it increases the chances of being found in searches.
7. Create a conversation: interacting with your followers and peers sparks a series of miniature debates with surprising results. Who knew that Joe Average following you and your sparring partner would have such valued insight? These moments listening to your unexpected audience could see you change your business for the better with access to the little people like you never had before.
8. Learn the lingo: like mentions and retweets, impress your followers with your skills. Friday Follow (#ff to you and me) someone who’s inspired you that week, or someone you’ve met that you’d like to meet again. It’s the greatest Twitter honour to suggest to your followers that they should follow the star of your week.
9. Position your personality: keep it relevant but add a bit of you in there. While sometimes we can stray (see tip 2), it’s important your tweets stand out and reflect you and your organisation. The most successful accounts have character that reflects a brand’s values and the people behind it.
10. Don’t panic: by the end of the day of launching your new Twitter account, when you settle down to catch up with all you new follows and followers, don’t overreact to fewer followers than you’d hoped for. Rome wasn’t built in a day either, and working from the ground up is definitely the start to building your own Twitter empire. Follow the tips above and watch your following grow - as you get into the swing of things it will all come naturally.
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ING Media respresents architecture practices including John McAslan & Partners, Eric Parry Architects, KPF and Bennetts Associates. Contact her on Twitter @leannetritton