Why Your Great Granddad Knows More About Twitter Marketing Than You

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I’ll level with you here guys – one of the things I don’t do too well in this game is social media. I’ll hold my hands up here, I know it’s important to a business but with the best intentions in the world, I keep finding myself letting it slide. However, out of all the social media outlets that I have a presence on, of all the audiences I regularly forsake perhaps the one I have the most trouble with is Twitter.

Which is a bit of a bugger really as that’s quite possibly the most important.

I see tonnes of other designers that really nail Twitter, and use it as their primary social outlet. Names like Sarah Parmenter, Andy Clarke and Jessica Hische spring to mind. Jessica even made an entire website just to teach her mum (and vicariously me) how Twitter worked!

What’s more interesting is how these designers actually use Twitter to their advantage. Very rarely do you see them advertising a new product they have for sale, selling tickets to the next event they’re guest speaking at or even linking to a new portfolio piece they just published.

They’re just chatting.

Now, I may be totally wrong here, and it probably goes against the grain of most online marketing books out there, but I think it’s in simple conversation that designers promote themselves most effectively, and I’ll tell you why.

To use my earlier examples; I started following Jessica Hische after quite naturally (and quite unavoidably) finding some of her amazing work online, through following her tweets I found out she was friends with a UI designer called Sarah Parmenter who is also amazingly talented. So I decided to follow her. She then retweeted something from Andy Clarke that she found amusing who turns out to be a rather talented web designer.

You get the idea – you know how Twitter works.

I don’t want to teach you to suck eggs here.

it’s effectively the same way you might get to know two old ladies having a conversation behind you on the bus

All I’m saying is that through a natural quite unrelated conversation I quickly became a fan of two new designers that I may not otherwise have found.  And it’s not just that either, there’s also a bi-product that comes from this. Because these designers are just chatting and not punching out marketing speak on the hour, I feel like I’m getting to know them. Agreed, it’s effectively the same way you might get to know two old ladies having a conversation behind you on the bus, but the end result is the same. When the time comes that one of these designers does want to promote something, I’m all the more likely to respond to it – not because they’re Twitter famous, but because I know them.

What I’ve Been Doing Wrong

So why is it that poor old Alex hasn’t been getting any twitter traction? Because until now I’ve basically been doing the absolute polar opposite to what I’ve just said.

I have three Twitter accounts at present, one for my design business – Hunting Town, one for the Design Range and most recently one for me. I have no favourites. I ignore all three quite equally. On the Hunting Town account I occasionally post images of projects I’ve worked on, the Design Range account basically acts as an RSS feed that only updates when there’s a new article published and my personal account is just what I use to actually follow people.

What I don’t do on any of these accounts is actually interact with anyone.

I’m trying to promote a social media account without actually being social

It’s because of this vital and painfully obvious factor that I think I just give up with Twitter time and time again. To say it out loud sounds really stupid doesn’t it – “I’m trying to promote a social media account without actually being social“. It’s moronic. Yet I think it’s what a lot of us actually do. We’re so wrapped up in work and trying to actually run a business that we treat social media as just another box that needs to be ticked, we just need to get a post out for today to show we’re still alive.

So why do we do it then?

It’s because we’ve taken our cues from big businesses. If you look at the Twitter accounts of Red Bull, or Nike, they have a large following and post regularly about their services and products and it works for them. But they’re companies, they are Red Bull, they are Nike. How do I explain myself here?

You’re not going to become mates with Red Bull.

Now that’s not to say that that’s the ideal way for a big business to handle Twitter. In fact Gary Vaynerchuck positively implores big businesses to be more social on a one to one basis with their customers in his book The Thank You Economy, and some major brands have taken this kind of thinking on board to great effect. Argos recently garnered a tonne of attention from their response to this customer.

Heh – love that. Do you get what I mean though? The fact that I (and many others) have just posted that tweet is testament to the fact these kind of personal interactions are effective.

Blizzard too are a great example of interacting with their customers on a personal level. Aside from being incredibly open with the development of their games, their actual developers take time out to field questions on their personal accounts. Greg Street (aka Ghostcrawler) in particular was almost considered the voice of Blizzard by virtue of the fact that he replied to so many tweets personally. So granted, whilst you’re still not going to become mates with Blizzard, you may well end up getting to know Greg Street.

It’s this kind of interaction that was such a simple and obvious part of business for our grandparents. You weren’t just a service to your customers, you knew them. You knew that Mrs Smith popped in for a loaf and some cheese on a Thursday, or that Brian had just had a new baby because you actually spoke to them and actually got to know them. Well the same is true today, it’s just a reversal of it, instead of you knowing your customers well, they know you before you even meet them!

You just need to be there to get to know.

So what’s the plan then?

So going forward I’m going to try a new approach. I’m going to leave the Hunting Town and Design Range accounts as they are for now and focus instead on actually using my @lexsingleton account like an actual human being. I desperately encourage you to follow me and give me a nudge if you find me slacking and by all means, try and do the same yourself and let me know how you get on! If you’ve got any tips yourself that could help me out or any other designers, please do let me know in the comments below!

Photo credit to AdamCohn

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is owner of Hunting Town Design, a small design house based in Manchester UK specialising in Graphic Design and Illustration. Alex is also the founder and editor of The Design Range. Find out more about Alex on his website or follow him on twitter.
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