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Do you really need to be on Twitter?

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

Chances are if you are reading this, the answer is yes.

Ah, Twitter.

For many, including myself, it’s a love-hate relationship. Yes, it can be as mean as one of the Heathers and as toxic as a political discussion with family members over Thanksgiving dinner. And this barrage of bad news, infighting, and mocking of everyone and everything goes on not only every day but every minute of every hour.

But if you are a small business, nonprofit, candidate, policymaker, elected official, or anyone else who relies on consumers, media, voters and community engagement, it’s absolutely necessary.

Clients generally do not like to hear this. They are busy steering companies, running for office or thinking about big policy ideas that impact scores of people. They don’t have time for these 280-word salads that often don’t make sense to them or even worse, criticize them.

Even so, we drag them over to the dark side because no matter what they do, no matter their brand, no matter how private they like to be, there are conversations going on that they need to be part of. Because guess what? The chances are that people are already talking about them.

The bottom line is that you, your company, your campaign or your cause need to know what people are saying about you. Whether it comes from a customer, voter, local taxpayer, a journalist or your competition, feedback is critical. And engaging those people in a positive way is just as important. It allows you to make a connection, shape a conversation and deal with an accusation before it takes on a life of its own.

Yes, Twitter is not used much by the general public. The numbers show about 22 percent of American adults are connected, and only 10 percent are responsible for 80 percent of tweets, according to Pew Research Center. But you aren’t trying to reach the general public. You are targeting a niche, an influencer, specific voters, loyal and new customers, an industry or journalists who live and breathe on Twitter. Twitter allows you to promote yourself or respond to events immediately and then provide a link to more information on your website, blog, YouTube or positive news story. You can increase awareness and turnout for a community event, push out product updates, respond to critics in real time and correct misinformation immediately. Hashtags allow you to be part of a conversation where interests align with your own. And Twitter analytics let you measure what tweets get the most traction – so you can do more of it.

Twitter is part of your overall social media infrastructure, which is critical at a time when social media has surpassed print newspapers as a news source in the U.S. It’s the online word of mouth. And well, if you don’t have a Twitter account, you look a bit amateurish. Think of a candidate running a campaign without a web page (and yes, that does still happen). A company without a logo. A charity without photos of those they help.

But one word of caution: Don’t try this without supervision if you are new to it. While one retweet from a major influencer can extend your reach to tens of thousands of people, one insensitive, stupid, that’s-not-what-I-meant tweet, retweet or off-target hashtag can take you down, damaging your reputation.

There are a slew of examples, but instead of piling on someone who lost a job, was kicked out of school or cost a company millions of dollars, I will point to a baked goods company whose mistake might have been embarrassing, but not lethal.

A few years ago, Entenmann’s tweeted out a message asking its followers how they felt about indulging in “tasty treats” and used the hashtag #notguilty.

What was the problem? It was the day a jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of killing her two-year-old daughter and #notguilty was trending on Twitter. Let’s just say some people found Entenmann’s tweet insensitive. The company quickly deleted it and apologized.


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