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Summary:

Yahoo’s release of Twitter usage presents some interesting pointers for organizations, implying that greater benefits are available to companies using Twitter to actively engage with their own team members: companies that stop seeing Twitter as an outward-focused medium, and customers as a separate audience from staff.

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Yahoo’s release of Twitter usage statistics, reported earlier this week by Mathew Ingram, presents some interesting pointers for organizations striving to build strong social media presences.

The research focused on the ways influence is established through Twitter, hinting at which user categories are the most popular, as well as which provide value, and how.

While businesses can apply this information to tweak their interactions with clients, customers and the public via Twitter, the research points to much more than that: It implies that greater benefits are available to companies that use Twitter to actively engage with their own team members: companies that stop seeing Twitter as an outward-focused medium, and customers as a separate audience from staff.

A Culture of Public Collaboration

How many of your staff members actively follow — that is, engage with — your company’s Twitter feed? How many staff members’ Twitter accounts are actively followed (or engaged with) by your company’s Twitter feed?

According to the Yahoo study, “Organizations … devote a surprisingly small fraction of their attention to business-related news.” Other user categories didn’t behave like this, though. It reported that, for example, bloggers:

  • retweet valuable URLs from a range of relevant categories, noting that “[In-Tweet URLs] originated by bloggers tend to be overrepresented among long-lived URLs.”
  • act “as recyclers and filters of information.”
  • consume large amounts of information, acting as intermediaries between the media and other users.

Do those who run your company’s Twitter account see staff as peer sources of valuable information that can be recycled for the company’s broader following?

This approach has the potential to benefit the company among internal audiences, as well as those in the public space. At its most basic, actively engaging with staff members within the public space provided by Twitter reflects the value of the staff to the company.

It reinforces to team members themselves — as well as customers and clients — that the company regards its staff as thought leaders, and while this approach can’t create a culture on its own, it can support a culture in which team members are actively recognized.

The “intermediary layer” alluded to above comprises about 500,000 Twitter users, according to Yahoo’s research, and only 4 percent of them are among the “elite” 0.05 percent of users who attract half the attention of the Twittersphere. Your company doesn’t need to be Lady Gaga to lead opinions on Twitter. But to take advantage of the intermediary layer, it does need to actively engage with peers (including staff members), filter information and retweet the good stuff.

It also needs to do that consistently. More than 270 URLs were initiated by bloggers per capita, according to the research. (By comparison, the average organization generated an average of 104 URLs per capita.)  To approach a significant level of value, your corporate Twitter team needs to consume a lot of relevant media; either direct from the source, or from other opinion leaders, including your staff.

Twitter and the Corporate Blog

If your organization has a blog, you’ll likely be tying your Twitter strategy into that, so if you’re planning to improve the value of your Twitter interactions, using them to engage with staff as well as clients, you might need to apply that same approach to the corporate blog, too. Do your staff members actively engage with the corporate blog, not just as contributors, but as audience members?

While many company blogs like to take the company line, apply the company style guide, and adopt a semi-corporate tone, some of the tried-and-tested blogging advice — writing “on the level,” telling stories, using anecdotes, and revealing a human side — may help companies to build credibility among all their audiences.

It’s one thing to have a team member draft a blog post; it’s another to see your staff daily accessing the company blog—perhaps via their Twitter feeds—then making comments, retweeting links to posts, and so on.

The company blog can be a particularly appropriate way to keep staff informed of the work of other parts of the business, and aware of the relationships the company has with its followers—provided the blog, like the company Twitter feed, is authentic, and successfully treats all its followers as collaborators, rather than “staff” and “customers”.

Does your company treat staff and clients as separate audiences? How well does it engage and collaborate with both groups through the company Twitter feed and blog?

Photo courtesy stock.xchng user a_kartha.

  1. Good topic. Understanding how Social Media can be used across an organization’s business units is the next step in the evolution of this industry. This article and report highlight the importance of strategy to me. An organization will strategically plan the usage of Social Media to acheive their objectives. Some high profile users use Twitter as a one-way news outlet. Some use Twitter as a full collaboration suite.

    Your customers, especially in industrial and B2B want to know their supplier’s culture and who are the wizards behind the curtain.

    Thanks for doing a great job bringing awareness to an exciting business trend.

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