In the Hutong
They shoot artists, don’t they?
You can understand why many people in the corporate communications gig are still coming to grips with what many people call “Web 2.0,” that collective set of online applications that depend on you, me, and other users to create the content. (I prefer calling it “people-generated media,” but one buzzphrase is as good as another.) This is, after all, confusing stuff for a marketing craft formed in the comfy crucible of television, radio, newspapers, and magazines.
Sarah Milstein makes a good start in The New York Times, giving some good ideas about how Twitter can be used imaginatively in business. She explains some basics that apply to everyone (share ideas, share knowledge, and show respect), gives several that are imaginative (let executivess and employees Twitter as employees to make the company look with it, run contests, solicit feedback, respond to complaints, advise on status, thank customers.)
My biggest complaint about Sarah’s approach is the Screwdriver-Nail Conundrum. Just because you CAN do something with Twitter doesn’t mean that it is always the best tool to use (a truism that applies to any communications or marketing tool.)
Experience (and Sarah’s article) suggest that there is no set formula for what Web 2.0 tools you should use in business, or how you should use them. Such decisions are not formulaic – they have more to do with your company, its business, its people, and the individuals and entities you need to interact with than the tools itself.
The best advice I can give to anyone about using Twitter (or blogs, or Facebook, or whatever) in your business is to actually go and try it out for yourself. Play with it for a while, get to know it, and then if you need go find somebody to help you figure out if and how it makes sense to use it in your business.
This is especially true when you wander beyond the the U.S. and Canada. Very few new media agencies or advisors in North America come packaged with regional experience or focus (Christine Lu is one of the very few.) The way to use these tools in China requires a more nuanced approach than in the U.S.
In the meantime, Joel Postman over at Socialized (which Sarah links) suggests some basic but excellent and principles-based best practices for using Twitter, but he keeps them basic and principles-based.