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2590025080_d5ce7bf163Earlier this week I participated in a focus group with the goal of helping a trade organization better communicate with its members. As the group was discussing ways in whcih the organization could improve its communications it struck me, with the increasing popularity of social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter it’s becoming harder to communicate instead of easier. Wait, let me qualify that – it’s becoming easier to find and communicate with strangers and long lost friends, even easier to create new valuable business relationships, but harder to communicate with other groups of people. The reason is the number of tools being used and the different adoption rates. Think about it, when email was the only tool available,most everyone used it. But now, some people primarily use Twitter to communicate, while others use Facebook, and still others use LinkedIn, it comes down to personal preference. Then there are all the other social networking sites out there that people are using.

Conversations are taking place everywhere, but as the tools increase the active listeners become smaller. That’s an important point – your audience may be huge, but your active listeners are much smaller in number. This happens when people join a platform, try it out and then ultimately either become active using the platform or abandon it. And even when they’re active it’s doubtful they’re reading everything you publish.

This particular trade association is doing a lot of things right – they’re on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The problem that was uncovered during the focus group is the very large membership became much smaller as they spread across the different platforms and a large chunk of the membership wasn’t participating on any platform, either by choice or not knowing the channels exist.

It became clear duing the discussion that if you’re not monitoring all three platforms you might be missing some conversations that could lead to beneficial partnerships with other members. But then who has the time to monitor all three? It leads to the question of whether it’s better for the trade association to be everywhere, or if it’s better for them to choose one communication vehicle and make it meaningful. By being everywhere you’re communicating with members in their space, but potentially reducing the quality of the conversation by diluting community engagement. By focusing on one channel you’re forcing your membership to that channel (which may backfire if members don’t like the channel) and providing a larger community of active listeners to take part in conversations. Which is the right way? You tell me.
Image credit: Flickr user djfoobarmatt
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The design industry is embracing social media a little more every day. The AIA published an article for architects using Twitter, Engineering News Record wrote about firms’ goals for Twitter and each day you can find more design professionals sending out tweets. Like all social media tools Twitter has its advantages and disadvantages, but until you dive in you wont know what potential it holds for your company. Personally, I’ve been on Twitter for a couple years, but didn’t use it much at first. Now I’m addicted. I’m following great people and finding new information everyday. Recently I’ve added my firm to Twitter. It’s just getting started, but I’m already seeing the potential, especially as our clients start joining and tweeting. If you’re thinking of putting your firm on Twitter I’ve got some tips for you to help ease your transition. Here are my top 10:

  1. Dive in personally, then transfer what you’ve learned to help your company succeed on Twitter.
  2. Concentrate on quality of followers, not quantity of followers
  3. Share valuable content, remember it’s not all about you
  4. The RT (that’s twitter speak for retweet) is the equivalent of telling someone “hey, I like what you’ve got to say.”
  5. Follow people. You don’t want to be that company that’s only interested in having people listen to them. Not sure who to follow? Find a few people you respect on Twitter and check out who they’re following.
  6. Expect organic growth, rarely are there overnight successes on Twitter or any platform for that matter.
  7. Participate. Twitter, like any social media platform, is only as good as the effort you’re willing to invest in it.
  8. Let people know you’ve joined twitter – add a link in your email signature, blog about it, talk it up in your newsletters.
  9. Follow people in your industry and learn from them.
  10. And because Twitter can turn into a huge time suck if you let it, get organized. Use an application like TweetDeck to categorize the people you follow by topic, get notice of your mentions and direct messages, shorten your URLs and handle multiple Twitter accounts, all within the same window.

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I was reading my stream of Twitter updates and was excited about a tweet from @themarketingguy. He pointed his followers to the Barnes & Noble app on the iPhone. If you download it, it comes with a coupon for a free tall hot or iced coffee at a Barnes & Noble Starbucks stores. The tweet was simple “The Barnes & Noble iPhone app comes with a free cup of coffee.” I immediatley downloaded the app to my iPhone and retweeted @themarketingguy’s tweet. Barnes & Noble gets more face time with me, @themarketingguy gets validity to his tweet through an RT (that retweet speak in twitter) and I get a free cup of coffee and an app that I’m likely to use regardless. The lesson to be learned? Sometimes it’s a tiny little thing (like a cup of coffee) that helps you to interact with your audience, gain word of mouth and make a great impression. Just think, already this went from app to twitter to blog. Where will it go next? Good press for a buck plus change.

image credit: webgrl on Flickr

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