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  • Writer's picturetamera

Twitter: insight, engagement, affinity and stepping outside the echo chamber

I’ve been using Twitter for what feels like forever, but is probably closer to 18 months (internet years are the new dog years), and as time has passed and more people have joined the value of the service to me, projects I’m involved in & my clients has increased exponentially. It’s an odd little tool that can easily overwhelm at first, or seem like a waste of time – really who needs to know “what you are doing” at any given moment? But when used and integrated into your digital social participation has tremendous value, personally and professionally.

Tons of ink (pixels) have been written about how to use twitter, brands who are on twitter, word of mouth potential, etc. etc. and I’m of course now adding to that with this post. What I want to explore is how Twitter provides a breadth of insight into the online mix, adds another layer of engagement and can actually help build affinity – but truly only if you step outside of your comfort zone, or echo chamber, for the marketing & PR focused amongst us.

One of the beautiful things about Twitter is the connections you can make outside of your standard social circle. It’s easy to get wrapped up in talking to the same people all the time, in real life, and online – we naturally gravitate towards those we know, or people with similar interests. But for any online interaction to be truly meaningful, sometimes we have to step outside of our norms and expand our field of vision. I’m as guilty of this as the next person, but I have tried to broaden my horizons and engage (and listen) to people outside of my ‘norm’ in the last 6 months as the community has grown.

This is important regardless of whether you are using Twitter as a brand, using it to build your network/ connections, or using it to gain awareness/ affinity for personal reasons. The one thing that remains constant throughout it all is that Twitter is not a broadcast channel. If you just use it to push out your own interests it will be immediately obvious and you won’t get any true value out of it.

Participating on a network like twitter enables you to find out a ton of information about how people view the world, what interests them, what excites them, what ticks them off, what they’re reading, who they like to talk to, how they use social tools, etc. – all “in the moment“, but all relevant and available when and how you need it. If you only “follow” people who think like you, who are in the same field, or who share your tastes in whatever, you are missing valuable insight into the bigger picture. This doesn’t mean you have to follow everyone who follows you, it doesn’t mean you have to spend hours upon hours watching the “tweet stream” update, it doesn’t mean you have to stick your tweet into every conversation, but what it does mean is that to truly get the benefits for your brand you have to do more than just monitor your keyword usage for mentions of your company or product name. Who are these people who are talking about you? Why are they talking about you? Do they care that you are listening? Do they want you to jump in and start promoting or defending your brand? Or are they just unique individuals who are sharing their experiences “in the moment” who you should listen to and take insights away from? It all depends on the context, but if you aren’t willing to find out more about them than just what they said about you *at that moment* you are missing the broader insights.

Recently I organized SustainabilityCamp in Toronto. Truth be told I had no idea who would be interested in attending an unconference that wasn’t focused on start-ups, social media tools, or technology, but had a broader (and at the same time narrower) focus on social and environmental change & collaboration. To my delight, pretty much using Twitter alone to spread the word about what I was doing, and reaching out to people involved in the eco-movement I was pointed to via Twitter and other social networks, the conference not only sold out, but had 12 complimentary and relevant speakers sign up! And most of the attendees weren’t actually ON Twitter – they had just heard about it from people who were. And they came from all walks of life and areas of interest – marketing, PR, NGO’s, academia, small business, etc. I’ll put together a summary/ case study of the day over the next month, but what truly amazed me was how diverse my social network on Twitter IS. I was talking to all these fantastic people who weren’t in marketing or PR and hadn’t even realized it because it just seemed so natural that we all would connect for one reason or another over time. That is powerful.

It’s easy to get involved with Twitter, but it does take effort to get and give value. Sometimes I tweet nonsense about hockey or movies, or what have you (I also am known to rant every once in a while about things I’m passionate about), but I also participate, listen, and learn as much as I can. I don’t follow everyone back (mainly because with over 1,000 “followers” I had to turn email notifications off and it gets hard to carve out time to update my list), but I do regularly add people to my “circle” as I go. You never know what you can learn from someone – if you are there for the right reasons.

If you want to engage with me on Twitter — blah, blah, follow me here :) But if you really want to engage with me, send me an @ message and let’s start talking.

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