Stop Trying To Turn Your Web Site Into Twitter

The web does not need to be homogeneous. Usability is important and making sure your site is meeting visitor expectations is critical, but I think we are losing our ability to create sites that are appropriate for OUR audiences. Case in point – the redesign of the Slate web site. Haven’t seen it yet?

Here’s a look at the new home page layout:


Not so bad or different from how it used to be, but scroll down further and it is a disaster:


I don’t even know where to look?

I am getting a little exhausted by what seems lately like every web site’s attempted reinvention into some type of social media experience. Not everything needs to look or feel or function like Twitter or Facebook. Twitter and Facebook are great tools and can play a really important role in your relationships with your customers and potential customers. A web site is not a social media outlet – why do we keep trying to make them into one?

Even Facebook is arguably trying to turn itself into some strange Facebook Twitter hybrid with its new design.

Enough already.

Today’s web sites should be about integrating your web site proper with your social media efforts. Turning your site into a real time experience with constantly refreshing content and comment streams, well, takes away from the experience most visitors are looking for when they choose to visit your web site – instead of your Twitter feed or your Facebook page. There is still room for a well designed, user-centric web site in your internet strategy. Let’s make the most of what a web site can be and stop trying to make it do everything.

The comments about the Slate redesign have been overwhelmingly negative. Look, I know people aren’t generally great with change, but the criticisms of this redesign really resonate with me. And they should resonate with anyone who is still designing and developing web sites for clients in today’s climate.

Are you annoying your customers?

With technology advancing at what often feels like warp speed, it is easy to forget that on the other side of any type of communication is still a human being. We have so many opportunities to instantly express our thoughts and opinions and so many outlets to post to, I think we may have lost sight of why we engage in the first place – to communicate.

So much of our business communication is decidedly one-sided and often, a little ego-centric. Think about it – how do you communicate most often with prospective clients or customers? Email? Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? A blog? There has been a lot of talk in the past couple of years about how push marketing is dead and it is now all about engagement. While I agree that engagement media (think Twitter and Facebook) have certainly risen in popularity and sophistication, there is still plenty of room in your marketing mix for good old-fashioned push marketing (think Email or blogs).

Whatever channel you choose to communicate with your customers, make sure that you are always putting THEM first. It is so easy to forget this simple philosophy and just bombard people with messages that are all about you and not all that interesting to them! I often suggest to clients that they think about their own behavior when we are discussing a new marketing concept or delivery method. Granted, your target market may be very different from your client and those differences are important to recognize, but there are certain types of behavior that are pretty universally annoying.

Are you guilty of any of these?

  1. Obnoxious Frequency. Sending the same email blast out every other day for two weeks because your open rates are low. Tweeting about every little thought that comes into your head all day long.
  2. The Hard Sell. Are all of your communications all about how wonderful your company or product is?
  3. Not Listening. Do you ever reply to people who do try to engage with you or do you leave them hanging?
  4. Being Intrusive. Social media can be tricky – just because you or your company was mentioned, does not always mean you need to jump in to a conversation.
  5. Not Asking for Permission. Do you add people to your email list, or worse text message list, without asking? Do you get permission for one thing and then automatically sign them up for everything else?
  6. Abusing Trust. Do you share email addresses with other companies?
  7. Not Taking No for an Answer. Do you make it easy for people to disengage with you if they so desire?

Engaging in great communication starts with you and it is easier than you might think. How can you avoid being guilty of the above offenses?

  1. Take a hard look at your email content and/or your email list segmentation. If you have low open rates, ask yourself why. Perhaps your information is not all that interesting or useful. Make it better!
  2. Ease up on the blatant sales language. Start to build a reputation as a connector of people or a source of useful and topical information.
  3. Build social media listening into your social media strategy – spend time reading what others are writing and when appropriate, join the conversation.
  4. Use some restraint and avoid being creepy! Just because you or your company were mentioned in a post does not automatically mean it is appropriate or welcome for you to directly engage and jump into someone else’s conversation.
  5. Follow sound opt-in procedures and be clear about your policies when someone is signing up to receive communication from you.
  6. Treat your email list, followers and connections like gold – because they are! If you’re not sure about a particular behavior, you probably shouldn’t do it.
  7. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe and if you do step over the line in the social space, apologize quickly and sincerely and then go away.

If we all take a moment to think about our audience and put ourselves in their shoes, our communications can’t help but be better!

Twitter Usage in the Real World

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released a study about Twitter usage last week and it is full of some very interesting stuff! The headline for the study on Pew’s web site is “8% of Online Americans Use Twitter”. Twitter promotes itself as having millions of users worldwide, but there has not been a lot of data available about who is using Twitter and how they are using it. It is a tool that many businesses and organizations are struggling to figure out how to use in a way that produces tangible results.

What else did the study show? A few other highlights include:

  • The biggest age demographic for Twitter use is the 18-29 bracket
  • Women are slightly more likely to use Twitter than men
  • Urban populations are the heaviest Twitter users

The most interesting finding, I think, was this:

One-quarter of Twitter users check in multiple times per day for tweets from others, while one in five never check for new material on the site…

In the follow-up questions on those October surveys, we found that Twitter users are nearly equally divided between those who check the site on a daily basis (or multiple times per day) and those who check the site infrequently or never.

The study also found that the greatest number of posts were of a personal nature.

So what does this mean for your organization? It certainly raises some questions about Twitter users. I think there has been a tendency to think of Twitter users monolithically, which does not seem to be a smart approach. This study should remind us that all channels we use to communicate with our customers require specific strategies and may also require micro-strategies to reach different target audiences or achieve different engagement goals.

I’d encourage you to check out the full report on the Pew Research Center site – here.

Can Social Media Generate Leads?

Google Social Media + Lead Generation and you’ll find a wide variety of opinions on this topic. I’d like to suggest that can social media generate leads, is not even the best question to ask. A better question is how can we use social media to best support our business/organization and our customers?

There is an interesting article on just this topic over at the American Express OPEN Technology Forum “Is Social Media Failing to Produce Business Leads?” – read it here. In it, the author suggests that perhaps social media’s “job” isn’t so much to produce leads, but to allow companies to better or more strongly engage with their customers.

I tend to agree with this premise. I think there is an almost involuntary urge to try to make every technology fit in to an old school box about how to use it and what it does. That kind of thinking is a mistake. While those of you who have read posts here before know that I do believe selling is still about putting the right offer in front of the right person at the right time – with social media, we have a whole host of new tools to help accomplish this task.

Social media can do a lot of things, but expecting to setup a Twitter account, a Facebook business page and/or even a LinkedIn profile and then just have the leads flowing in, is a completely unrealistic view of how these tools work. In order to get benefit from them, you have to actively use them. And not just to post your sales information or press releases, but to actually talk to your customers and potential customers.

Social media has opened up brand new ways for people and businesses to communicate and engage with each other, it’s true. But it is important to understand what these tools can and cannot do and how to make them work for you.

Getting Started with Social Media

So unless you’ve been living under a rock or in outer Mongolia for the past couple of years, you’ve probably found yourself wondering what the heck you should be doing to take part in this brave new world of social media to advance your career or business…

The prospect can really be quite overwhelming – which media to choose? How to choose? What to post? How often to post? How to interact with others? When not to engage with others? The questions can seem endless!

The good news is, that social media, like anything else is something you can figure out one step at a time. When you break it down into reasonable steps, it suddenly seems like an achievable goal. And don’t we all want to set achievable goals?!?

A few questions to get you started:

  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. Where do they spend the most time – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, YouTube, etc.?
  3. How much time do you have to commit to social media on a weekly basis?
  4. Who in your organization will be responsible for keeping your presence up?
  5. Who will develop your social media policies?

Developing and implementing a social media strategy takes time and effort, but beginning to think about these questions is a great place to start!