Chris Reimer is a longtime Twitter evangelist, and when not posting far more than 140 characters, he’s got his game face on as VP of Social Media at Falk Harrison.
Why is Twitter a great platform, and how is it different from other social networks?
Twitter is brilliant. It allows for direct, one-on-one engagement and outreach to anyone on Earth (who uses Twitter). Humans love to communicate, and want to be heard. There are countless case studies of people using Twitter to move mountains – to launch products, to gain exposure via someone famous, to sell products, to reconnect with old friends, to build something out of nothing with no ad budget whatsoever!
This is a dumb example, but I was watching Piers Morgan interview Kyra Sedgwick. I can’t remember what they talked about, but it was a great discussion. I was able to tweet “Hey @kyrasedgwick, I really enjoyed your interview on @piersmorgan.” In this case neither responded, and yet I still was very pleased to be able to say this to them. I don’t know why – it’s just how we as humans roll. I hope to be a guest on Piers’ show some day (seriously, why not). Could it help even a little bit that I tweeted him about his Kyra Sedgwick interview? I don’t know, and herein lies the problem for people.
They want PROOF that something’s going to work. Sorry, social media just doesn’t work that way. I am perfectly comfortable tweeting with Piers Morgan, Jon Stewart, anchors from Al Jazeera America, and countless others because one of these days something will shake loose. See how that works? I have no proof. I just keep on talking with people. Seriously, I am going to appear on Al Jazeera America soon (I hope). What is the ROI of that? How would I even calculate this? Who cares, you know?
ESPN is currently publishing their annual ranking of the top 500 basketball players in the NBA. Here’s their first reveal: 401 through 500. Look at how many of the players have Twitter accounts! Perhaps more importantly, note the decision by ESPN to include the Twitter names of these players. They’re not linking to their Facebook fan pages or a Google Plus page. They’re sending ESPN.com readers off to these players’ Twitter accounts. Watch a sporting event – as the announcers introduce the game, their Twitter usernames are often down below their names. Live TV events put a static footer on the screen with a hashtag. All Twitter, all the time.
Ask yourself: if Facebook has so many more users, why would all of these outlets focus on Twitter instead? If it’s the stupid social media platform that no one understands (you’ve heard, “I just don’t get Twitter.”) or cares about, why are really smart people including Twitter as part of their strategy? The answer is because Twitter has built a brilliantly easy service to use, and as far as electronic communication goes, it’s a superior tool. Finally, the people that use it are passionate about other people, and passionate about what they believe. I think they more often tend to be glass-is-half-full kind of people. Frankly, that’s another great reason to be on Twitter. If you’re passionate about something, Twitter is full of similarly passionate people.
For the most part, we’ve gotten past the stereotypical days of people tweeting about what they ate, but there still is some skepticism. Was there a turning point for you when you realized that Twitter wasn’t “just another social network?”
Please, do continue tweeting what you ate. That was and is the most dumb complaint about Twitter, and in my opinion, the complainers are afraid of something. Of what, I don’t know – we’d have to ask them. Maybe they’re afraid of real relationships online. Maybe they’re afraid everyone will discover they’re a fraud (Seth Godin reminds us of this deep-seated fear we all have) – exposed as the uninteresting people that they are? “Too busy” to bother with communicating with strangers online? It’s hard to say.
“Why would I wanna know what someone’s eating for lunch? Twitter’s so stupid.” Meanwhile, you get to work and go waste 30 minutes by the proverbial watercooler, talking about last night’s Breaking Bad episode and the great sushi place you just tried. Equally inane banter! However, in this case, Twitter is judged by a different standard. That’s so silly. You most definitely want to know what I’m eating – plus, I provide pictures!
I joined Twitter on November 5, 2008. My t-shirt website, Rizzo Tees, had debuted five days prior, and I was kind of freaking out. How was I going to get the word out about my fledgling business? Seems silly to ask today – social media, Kickstarter, videos made with inexpensive DSLRs, etc etc. Back then, it was a bit of a mystery to me. I thought I was going to drop a bomb on the t-shirt world with my designs, and all of my strategically-placed banner ads. Yeah, not so much. I had heard of Twitter, and decided to give it a try.
Somehow, some way, my first tweets were NOT “buy my product, buy my product, did you hear about my t-shirts?” I’m actually proud of that. I suppose the turning point you asked about was when I received a t-shirt order from someone I had made friends with on Twitter. I was like, “WHOA,” and then thought, “Oh, yeah, that’s supposed to happen!” When those orders started coming in via Twitter, I thought, “This is changing the world.”
Anyone can tweet out their latest blog post, but what do you think separates the crème de la crème from your average person?
People that care about you and not just their share of your wallet. Everyone is not a “mark,” waiting to be profited from.
Out of all the mistakes you see, what are maybe the top five?
#1: Tweeting from the wrong account. This is such an easy mistake to make. I’m talking about social media community managers sending tweets from the corporate account they’re managing instead of their personal one. Like Kitchen-Aid talking about Obama’s dead grandmother, or Chrysler lamenting the lack of driving skills of Detroit citizens [WARNING: graphic language].
I preach the Five Second Rule. Yes, that’s all the time we have! But it’s better than nothing. Construct a tweet, and then just look at it for five seconds. Check spelling – make sure iPhone didn’t autocorrect some word into something horribly embarrassing. Make sure you’re in the right Twitter account. Be really careful.
#2: Pretty obvious one, but being too salesy. Readers of the great Mike Stenger, ask yourself: Who boots up their social media accounts in the morning in order to be marketed to? Anyone? Does anyone do that? Short of maybe drooling over a Groupon … No! No one does that. So why do marketers act like they do? They talk about their products constantly. Sometimes, that’s all they talk about. I call it “brute force marketing.” Just bring the avalanche and turn that same old predictable conversion rate. No, we can do better than that. Broken record alert: consumers buy from those they like, know and trust. Use social media to tell stories, to take people into your manufacturing and R&D process, to connect with those that have problems to solve, to explain “why” you do what you do. That’s how you get people to like you, to know who you are, and eventually to trust you as THE problem solver in the industry. That’s who I buy from, anyway.
#3: Quitting. Once you start using Twitter, don’t quit! You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it. “I just don’t get Twitter.” Well, here’s the thing. It’s just a big group of awesome people – talking, sharing, learning, laughing, lamenting, inspiring, and yes, marketing. All of those things make sense to me. So people don’t get Twitter, and they quit. Two things: one, it is quite possible that you’re just sitting at the wrong table. It’s like being at a party. People over here are talking about their sailboats and boarding schools, and you’re like, “Whoa, wrong party.” Nope, turns out your good friends are just over on the other side of the room. Walk over there instead. Change your scenery and change your enjoyment of the party.
Same with Twitter. Your experience will largely be a product of who you’re following. If you aren’t following an appropriate group of people, what can you expect to get out of the experience? Two, and I don’t mean to be rude, but I think “not getting” Twitter often says something more about the person than the service. I have talked to potential clients about social media, and they’ve said, “I just don’t care what other people think.” Well, EXACTLY.
#4: Treating so-called “social media influencers” as your “jumper cables” – blunt instruments ready to be wielded at a moment’s notice. Without a pretty strong relationship, I think it is ill-advised to start trying to tap other people’s networks. It’s just spammy and icky. Related to this, it is grossly inaccurate to think that a few tweets from even the most famous online influencers are really going to rock your product’s boat. Mark Schaefer talks about this in his book “Return on Influence.” Mentions from even famous people often have zero effect on a product or societal movement.
#5: Tweeting stuff like, “Hey, have you subscribed to our email newsletter yet?” I most certainly did not, and I’m thinking about starting an email newsletter whose sole purpose is to get people to unsubscribe from your email newsletter. You might as well stand naked on a street corner wearing a sandwich board. People can smell desperation – don’t smell like that. And do not clog the arteries of Twitter with such exhortations! Give me value, not a guilt trip because I don’t want to receive your email newsletter.
I think Twitter lists are highly underrated, and there’s a lot of creative ways you can use them. Is there an aspect or feature of Twitter that you feel the same way about?
YES to Lists! Twitter lists are massively underrated. I use my lists everyday, including the lists “The Brotherhood” for good friends, and “fait attention” (“pay attention” in French) for people I learn from. This is how I distill the noise down into a list of tweets I can read and respond to. I follow 17,000 people, and don’t really have time to work on culling it down. People don’t realize that you can put people on a list, and therefore follow along with their comings and goings, without following them. You don’t have to follow people to have them in a list. You can also make lists private. So, you can set up a list of your ten most hated competitors and follow along WITHOUT following them, and WITHOUT them knowing that you put them in a list. And no one can look at your list except you. Pretty cool corporate intelligence tool, if you ask me.
Ultimately, Twitter is about making connections you probably would not have otherwise made. THAT is what enhances life. I would never have had the chance to get to know Julio Varela without Twitter. We’ve been Twitter friends since the beginning. He’s from Boston and loves the Red Sox (nobody’s perfect). I’m in St. Louis. We’ve chatted on the phone and Skype a few times, but most of our communication is via Twitter – both tweets and DMs. I had always wanted to travel to Boston and meet this guy in person.
Back in 2010, my family was at Disneyworld in Orlando, and I was (of course) tweeting about it. He saw my tweets and said, “I’m in Orlando right now, too!” So after the family got to bed that night, I jumped in a cab and went drinking with him and his dad. What an unbelievable experience. Three and a half years later, I’m cheering on Julio’s opera singing brother Fernando – he’s part of the trio “Forte” on America’s Got Talent. Twitter just makes life more interesting, and that is because people are interesting.
What are your absolute favorite Twitter tools or apps?
- Twitter for iPhone
- Twitter.com – yeah, just the website
- Making lists on Twitter
- I used to use Twilert, but it stopped working due to the API change and I just haven’t gone in to fix it
I’m not big into analytics or whiz-bangy tools. I just like talking to people, helping people, inspiring them to do cool stuff and be nice to others, and educating myself on our changing world.
Where can people learn more about you, and check out your stuff?
I am probably best known for Twitter, and you can find me @RizzoTees. I work with a great crew of creatives at Falk Harrison where we help companies with branding, design and social media. My website is ChrisReimer.com, and in the about section about halfway down, I have a big list of resources your readers might find useful. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.
Mike Stenger is a writer with a love of all things technology.