Twitter time-savers: Tweet success in just 20 minutes a day

“How much time should I spend on Twitter?” is a question I get asked repeatedly. And last week one person upped the game by asking, “But what if I only have 20 minutes a day?”

OK, I accept the challenge!  Here are my thoughts on being an effective Twitter-er in only 20 minutes a day. I’ve divided this into two categories — 20 minutes a day for beginners and then experienced folks.

The 20-minute challenge for beginners

In a world focused on “engagement” and “conversation” I’m going to give some unconventional advice — Forget about it for a few weeks. If you’re a beginner and can only spend 20 minutes a day on Twitter, concentrate on building a relevant tribe of followers. Two reasons for this:

  • You’ll become disheartened trying to engage with people if there is nobody interesting to engage with and
  • Twitter is simply boring if you’re only following 12 people and you’ll probably quit. Critical mass means following at least 150 active tweeters.

So in the first two months, tweet at least once a day so people see that you’re active, but spend half of your time finding and following interesting people.  Don’t worry if they follow back or not. That will come in time.

In this related post on building influence through Twitter, I’ve listed some easy ways to identify and follow interesting people who are relevant to your business and interests. And if you’re just starting out and need some advice on what to tweet about, here is some help on that topic.

Now for the other half of your time, spend it reading, and occasionally responding to, tweets from your new friends.  This will give you the chance to see what kind of tweets you like, which is instructive when you start tweeting more heavily yourself.  If you’re unfamiliar with the quirky language of Twitter, do a search for one of the many tutorials that are out there. Most people quit in the first two weeks, so hang in there and get help if you need it!

The 20-minute challenge for pros

Let’s face it, if you’re really immersed in Twitter, the challenge is probably how to not spend ALL your time on this addictive little channel!  Once you have surrounded yourself with an interesting tribe, it’s easy to “go down the rabbit hole” and follow link after interesting link.

Now that you have built up a critical mass of followers, it’s time to take advantage of this amazing resource and engage and build meaningful connections.  Here are a few time-saving corner-cutters:

1) Get in the habit of sharing. You’re constantly reading on the Internet any way, right?  It’s so easy to share an article, post or video these days by clicking on that little Twitter “share” icon.  Don’t worry what it’s about. If it’s interesting to you, it will probably be interesting to your Twitter friends, too.  Just be yourself and let your Twitter audience find YOU!

2) If you’re only spending 20 minutes a day, do it at different times of the day so you have the chance to interact with a broader range of people.

3) By now you’re using some kind of an organizing tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, right?  It’s an excellent way to improve your efficiency by helping you focus on those who are actively connecting with you.

4) One of the most time-efficient Twitter strategies is to look for opportunities to re-tweet posts. This has two important benefits. First, you’re providing interesting and meaningful content to your followers with little time investment on your part. Second it is a way to connect with somebody and compliment them with a tweet.  And don’t just re-tweet the same people all the time.  When you can, glance through the whole Twitterstream and look for opportunities to connect to new folks.

5) Another great time-saver is using a Twitter app for a smart phone. Use those idle minutes waiting to pick up the kids at school!

Can you keep up with everything going on? No way. Not even if you spent 10 hours a day!  Being effective in 20 minutes a day means knowing how to use these time-saving tips and then having the discipline to prioritize. Here’s what works for me:

  • My first priority is to see who has mentioned me in tweets.  I don’t take that for granted. People are reaching out to me and trying to connect, so I want to engage with them, even if it is a simple “thank you.”
  • Next, I look at direct messages and quickly sift through the spam to make sure I don’t miss something important from a friend.
  • I have my TweetDeck set up with columns with marketing thought leaders, people who are active on my blog, local friends, and other topics.  I scan through each column to see what some of my favorite people are saying and look for opportunities to engage and re-tweet.
  • I’m constantly reading throughout the day and clicking the “tweet button” to share interesting articles. One problem I have is that I tend to share in chunks, so I will be inactive for most of the day and then send a flurry of tweets because I’m in reading mode. That may be annoying to some followers. Of course it is possible to schedule tweets to even things out through various services including HootSuite but that takes a little more time and the idea of “scheduling” tweets seems fake to me. A personal choice.
  • Don’t forget to show you’re human. If you’re in a queue some place, write a quick tweet to let people know what’s going on in your day.

Those are a few of my ideas for saving time and still being an effective citizen of the Twitterverse. What’s working for you? How do you spend your time most efficiently on Twitter?

This is what happens when Barbie joins Twitter

This week Mattel announced a new video Barbie that has a tiny camera embedded in her chest (YouBoob?).  The iconic doll has fully joined the social media movement by leading her fans through a Foursquare scavenger hunt, Facebook puzzles and YouTube adventures.  She even has a Twitter account. Check out her tweet stream:

So here I am laying in a pile of naked Barbies again.  Feeling a strange tingly sensation. : p

@Skipper Of course I’m bitchy.  My boyfriend’s a eunuch.

Have you heard about new Blogger Barbie?  Sits at the computer all day. WTF?

Just got back from set of  Toy Story 3.  Potato Head was wasted again. #douchebag

@Ken No, no honey. Eunuch is Spanish word for HOT!  Luv U baby!

Let’s dress up!  I want to be Lady Gaga and shoot fire from my boobs!

Sitting at the Dream House watching #OldSpice on YouTube.  Yeah, well my man smells like polychlorates.

I would give anything to be able to take a good crap.

@mattel  So sick of pink I could hurl. Am I being sponsored by Pepto Bismol or what? #newcontract

Head just popped off again.  Not easy texting with nose.

@Ken LOL!  Polychlorates is the Spanish word for cinnamon silly!  Luv U baby!

I have now been under this damn couch for a week.  Need to get my drink on.

Being chewed up by the dog. Later!

For my friends around the world who are unfamiliar with Barbie, this was not real. It is supposed to be funny.

Can The Shirtless Old Spice Guy pull off a marketing miracle?

Unless you’ve been in a cave this week, it would have been hard to avoid the splendid, amazing and entertaining Old Spice media blitz, which includes brilliant ads and one of the best social media campaigns in the young history of the channel.

“Hello Ladies,” says the oh-so-manly Old Spice guy. “Does your man look like me?  No.  Can he smell like me? Yes.”

While the hilarious Old Spice ads have been an Internet hit on their own for months (5.5 million views), everything changed this week.

As TNW reports, the Old Spice social media team had secretly been collecting people’s – and especially celebrity – questions and responses across Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo Answers, and were preparing for this week’s all-day-video-shoot where Shirtless Old Spice Guy (Isaiah Mustafa) would provide video responses. This included providing a proxy wedding proposal (that was accepted!).

Literally, an over-night marketing legend was created (here’s a link to some of the stats).

I don’t need to re-hash the details of the campaign.  Instead I’d like to point out that this is an extremely rare example of a brand attempting to entirely re-invent itself.  To accomplish that, you need it all — vision, guts, brilliance, execution, and a lot of advertising money.

There have been plenty of others who have tried to go down this perilous path and failed (remember “it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile?”).  This drive to resuscitate Old Spice may go down as one of the most ballsy moves in marketing history.

Despite numerous attempts at an updated image, OldSpice was still languishing behind edgier brands like Axe. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been a fly on the wall when the ad agency (Wieden+Kennedy) made this pitch: “While the  historical Old Spice customer is an ulta-conservative white male in his mid-50s, we would like our new spokesperson to be a half-naked black man flaunting his manliness to women under 40.”  Sure, the social media is genius. But what I admire most is that they may have finally taken a quantum-leap toward achieving this:
Old Spice … the pungent, stinging stuff my DAD used to splash on his face each morning, is now a trending topic on Twitter, not to mention riding the top of Digg, Reddit and a ton of mainstream news stories. The story is all the more remarkable because of how awful Old Spice ads have been in recent years. Remember the “centaur” ad during the Super Bowl?

Another break-through aspect of this campaign is how a blue-chip brand truly integrated a multi-million-dollar mainstream advertising campaign with the social web.  Even recent successes like the wildly-successful Nike World Cup mini-movie seemed to occupy a special niche as a pure social media play.  Can you think of another high-profile example where the TV spokesperson is really interacting and responding to people on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube? This may be the start of real integration.

This social media campaign has built tremendous momentum in just a few days. Will this actually sell body wash?  What will happen to the brand’s core demographic?  Will we witness a true marketing miracle? Will the Old Spice Guy suffer from (ahem) over-exposure?

And now it appears that the social media onslaught has just as quickly some to an end. Today, the “Guy,” chainsaw in hand, says in a final tweet and video “like all great things this too must end.”  And then he catches a giant fish that falls from nowhere.

So what will happen next in this campaign? Some guesses:

  • Customer contributions to their own home-made shower commercials
  • Shirtless guy cameo appearances in real TV shows
  • Humorous , longer YouTube productions with how-to tips on how to be manly

What do you think?  I hope you’ll join me in appreciating this really special marketing campaign and tell me what you think about it in the comment section.

By the way, this blog post is dedicated to Arminda Lindsay (@AllArminda). Why?  Because she asked me to. You should know by now that I am basically the {grow} community’s personal blogger … kind of your word valet.   And Arminda wanted me to write about a half-naked black man.  So I did.

Why your company may not need social media

Let’s have some fun with my buns.  Cinnamon buns, that is.

One of the myths we recently discussed on {grow} was the claim that every business needs to use social media in its marketing strategy.

So what determines if the social web can be used effectively in any company?  One key is industry structure.

Marketers are actually quite limited in the number of options they have based on the competitive structure of their industry.  Social media is just one marketing channel, and its opportunity for use will be determined by the marketplace, not the hype you read on the Internet!

To illustrate this concept, let’s look at how four companies — with four very different competitive structures — may or may not use the social web to sell the very same product: cinnamon rolls.

Flat Rock Village Bakery, Flat Rock N.C.

The Flat Rock Village Bakery is a small, family-owned cafe that serves its customers wood-fired pizzas and artisan pastries. They have a single location in a tiny mountain town. Why would somebody buy a cinnamon roll from this bakery?

  • Convenience of central location amid relatively little competition
  • Ambiance of tree-lined community setting
  • Community involvement and reputation of the company
  • Consistent quality of artisan products
  • Appeal of non-chain, local ownership
  • Attentive Service

As a marketer, we want to increase sales by promoting these points of differentiation.  The social web can certainly enhance the reputation of the bakery but probably won’t significantly drive more traffic to this store — They essentially already have a captive audience. Their focus should be on increasing sales per customer at the actual point of purchase. What is their risk of NOT participating in the social web?  Low.

McKee Foods, Chattanooga, TN

Now compare that to a national bakery like McKee Foods whose Little Debbie brand is found in grocery and convenience stores throughout the country. Little Debbie will sell you a cinnamon roll based on

  • Low price, which is enabled by efficient operations and distribution
  • Large selection of products in a grocery store aisle
  • Coupons and promotions
  • Brand awareness
  • Consistent, but low-quality, product with a relatively long shelf life

Unlike the cozy competitive climate of the Flat Rock Bakery, competition in the grocery aisle is fierce and Little Debbie would ignore the social web to its peril.  The bakery giant can certainly use social media to:

  • Monitor customer conversations about its products
  • Build brand awareness cost-effectively
  • Coupons and promotions
  • Involve consumers in its brand
  • Create new products
  • Facilitate customer service
  • Monitor competitor activities

Can you begin to see how these dramatically different competitive structures influence marketing strategy?

Panera Bread, everywhere

Panera has built its successful business by establishing clean, bright stores that serve as community meeting places. You might drive to Panera to buy a cinnamon roll because:

  • It’s a spacious, convenient place to meet colleagues and friends
  • They have bakery-quality food at reasonable prices
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • A recognizable national brand with predictable quality

Panera faces a host of competitors offering similar value.  Compared to the first two examples, its business model is more easily duplicated, so finding ways to connect to customers is key.

There are lots of opportunities to do this through the social web, especially if it could master location-based apps like Foursquare that reward frequent visitors.

Cinnabon, a mall near you

Although Cinnabon also serves up cinnamon rolls — in fact that is basically ALL it sells — it represents a radically different competitive dynamic.

Cinnabon bases their competitive advantage on one thing — location — and the opportunity to sell you through an impulse buy. They are usually located in malls and airports so if you are hungering for a fresh-baked goodie, you really have no choice.

Their price point is set high, and they don’t need to use coupons or other promotions because they’ve got you right where they want you – captive.

They have a Facebook page and a Twitter account but is this where they should spend their primary marketing effort?  No.  As a marketer I would probably spend money on fans to blow the heavenly cinnamon smell out onto the airport concourse!

Putting this to use for your business

Obviously in the space of a short blog post I had to do a simplistic comparison to make a point. I realize the industry structures are more complex than what I present here.  Still, I think it’s a useful example illustrating the widely different dynamics in selling even a simple product like a pastry.

Where do you go with this as you make your decisions about social media?

  1. Begin with the fundamentals including market research, customer interviews and competitor analysis before jumping into any marketing initiative.  Spending money without knowing the competitive structure of your industry will create disastrous results.
  2. Use clear-eyed intellectual honesty when assessing the social media opportunities for your company. There is a natural tendency to want to climb onboard Facebook or YouTube because everyone else is … but take a hard look at what effort is going to be the most effective use of your resources.
  3. Look for channels that allow you to emphasize your competitive advantages and how they match customer needs.
  4. Measure every effort to constantly adjust your efforts to the changing marketplace.

What is the competitive structure of your business?  How many “stars” would you give your social media opportunity and why?

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