What should I do about my unloved Facebook and Twitter presences?

Yellow footsteps on sidewalk towards Follow Me message

Social media sometimes feels like the be-all-and-end-all of marketing and communications nowadays, but really it’s still in its infancy. In my last post I talked about the immaturity of society’s relationship with social media, and recently I’ve been thinking more specifically about our professional obsession with it. People often talk about Facebook and Twitter in particular as something you ‘have to do’, especially to get a new business off the ground. I have a great example in mind for this – myself!

When I set up Start Talking last Christmas I (of course) set up Facebook and Twitter accounts to accompany my sparkly new website. The idea: connect with potential clients; drive traffic to my website; make interesting, informative posts to build a community around my business; showcase my awesome communications skills. Very nice.

Except that really I haven’t had much engagement on these two channels at all. I had a good go in the spring – I sourced links to blogs and articles, I created a free consultation offer, I pointed out interesting bits of my website, and I posted on local community pages and business forums. I kept up a regular stream of posts and I put as much effort in as I could afford to spend.

Between Christmas and early summer, I saw no more than a handful of likes, and all from my personal friends.

Inevitably, I stopped investing my time in Facebook and Twitter and directed it instead to my website and to LinkedIn. Lo and behold, these two channels have secured me business and potential client connections, both through former professional contacts and organically. Since early summer, I’ve had next to no activity on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve seen no resultant slowdown in business or engagement. The conclusion? My audience is not on Facebook and Twitter. That’s not how they want to find my services.

So, what should we do when Facebook and Twitter aren’t working for us? People expect to see a presence on these two channels so it seems a pity to close the accounts down, especially as they’re up and running, and double-especially given the nature of my business. On the other hand it serves no one to have two dead accounts, out of date and contributing nothing, cluttering up the Twittersphere (and the Facebooksphere). They make me look bad as a Communications Consultant (!) but as a small business owner I can’t justify spending the time on something that’s not paying me back. That’s what I would tell a client and it’s what I’m telling myself.

The solution? I’m not sure yet. Over the next few weeks I’m going to work on building a Facebook presence that’s worthwhile and interesting and drives traffic to my website if anyone should happen upon it, but that doesn’t require any maintenance from me! If I get anywhere with this I’ll let you know. Meanwhile I’d love to hear your ideas via the comments box below. Never let it be said that there’s nothing left to learn!


Live tweeting an event: creating a content narrative

One of my clients has a really cool event happening next week and when I met him today he was wondering how to maximise its coverage on social media. I suggested that we live tweet the event, and I was excited to have the opportunity because, to me, live tweeting epitomises the best things about social media as a tool to show your work in action and to connect people around a common experience.

If you’re not sure what live tweeting is, let’s start with the Oxford English Dictionary which defines it as:

VERB (WITH OBJECT): Post comments about (an event) on Twitter while the event is taking place.

Essentially it’s a way of reporting an event in snippets – you turn up armed with your smartphone, and you tweet about what’s happening at very regular intervals either throughout the event or for a defined period of time. Each time something interesting happens, someone says something noteworthy, or you take a great picture, you tweet it. You retweet what others are posting too – speakers, event Smart Phone with Blank Screenparticipants, audience members. You ask and answer questions. All those tweets – both yours and those posted by others – are connected together by a hashtag which you’ve predetermined, so you and everybody else can easily find the conversation and join in.

The most obvious example is a conference. Let’s say it’s about rabbits (I love bunnies). We’ll call it Rabbits International 2017. All your publicity material in advance includes the conference hashtag, #RabbitConf2017, and your delegates’ packs include a flyer asking them to tweet comments and questions using the hashtag, before, during and after the event. Then you might choose to live tweet the opening talk by a world rabbit expert, with photos of him speaking, quotes, and lots of retweets of others’ comments. You would definitely live tweet the talk where they bring out all the adorable bunnies, because, yes, photos of cute animals really do rule the internet. I’d be really surprised if a strategy like this didn’t generate some good conversations that wouldn’t otherwise have taken place or, more significantly, that would have taken place without your involvement in them.

Here’s a less obvious example. You’re a hotel and you’re holding a wedding fair. You write in advance to all the businesses attending and ask them to use your hashtag, and you include it on a flyer in the pack you’ll hand out to couples who attend the fair. With luck and encouragement some of the businesses attending might tweet about their preparations for the event and post their own photos of their stalls, while you post your own preparations at the hotel. On the day itself, you go along and take photos (with their consent!) of couples visiting the fair, telling their lovely engagement stories and getting their wedding ideas. You tweet about the stalls on offer and mention the Twitter handles of any of the attending businesses, especially the ones making use of your hashtag! You include useful wedding planning tips (and you can schedule these in advance). Of course you make sure there are lots of photos of your lovely hotel.

Both these examples show how intensive use of Twitter over a short period can enrich your event by spreading its message to those who couldn’t come, and making it linger in the memories of those were there. But there’s a more important reason to go to the extra effort of live tweeting: it creates rich, unique content, a content narrative, which you can repurpose when the event itself is long over. It’s easy to compile your tweets into a blog post, or a Storify story (although this depends on consistent hashtag use so don’t neglect publicising your hashtag!). You turn the photos into a gallery on Facebook. You edit the video snippets and put them on your YouTube channel. Real people are involved in the story of your business. This content shows your business in action rather than in its ‘marketing’ mode.

Live tweeting allows you to be your own journalist. Not every event is important enough to attract the ‘real’ press, but we can use Twitter to recreate the same effect and make a story out of the day-to-day. To me, Twitter has its natural home in journalism and using it in this context unleashes its most valuable powers.