Cracking The Twitter Code, Part II

By Carolyn Braff

When it
comes to social networking, MySpace is out, and Twitter is in. But what exactly
is Twitter, and how does it work? SVG dives into the ever expanding world of
Twitter with a two-part series examining the latest craze in social networking
and how the application is infiltrating the world of sports broadcasting.

Why Twitter?

Twitter is
an extremely open-ended platform. Depending on how it’s used, Twitter can help
individuals, leagues, teams, and even companies touch fans, consumers, and
customers in new ways.

For Jenny
Storms, VP of marketing for Turner Sports, Twitter stands apart from other
social-networking platforms in the opportunity it affords for personal
engagement with the fan, along with the daily contact offered by other social-media sites, such as Facebook.

“Part of
the Twitter beauty is that it’s definitely not a marketing or sell message,”
Storms explains. To promote the NBA playoffs on TNT, Turner analysts will be
responsible for Twittering on a daily basis, many of them for the first time.

“This is a
personal-engagement platform for the talent to have with fans,” Storms says. “We
are not going to be pushing them to push our messages. We’re excited about
letting these players find their own identities within Turner.”

Another
former player who has found an identity within a network is Rebecca Lobo, who
Twittered throughout the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament while working as an
analyst for ESPN.

“On Game
Day, I used Twitter to give extra insight into the women’s games I was
covering,” Lobo says. “Hopefully, the Tweets give an added insight that the
fans can’t find anywhere else. On non-game days, I just post things that I find
entertaining.”

With just
140 characters to work with for a Twitter post, the first lesson these analysts
must learn is how to pare down their words to the bare minimum — which comes
easier to some than to others.

“The
140-character limit is the perfect amount — not long enough but long enough,”
Lobo says. “My basketball-related Tweets are only things that I would feel
comfortable saying on-air. The non-basketball tweets are things that I think
would be interesting or humorous to people who follow my Twitter page.”

Tweeting in Person

This week,
the National Hockey League hosted a series of Tweet-Ups across North America. In 25 NHL cities,
Twitter users congregated in bars and restaurants to
watch the opening night of the NHL playoffs in a unique social-media atmosphere,
while Twittering about their experience.

“The
Tweet-Ups create a social experience that makes a community on the opening
night of the playoffs,” says Adam Acone, VP of broadcasting and programming
for the National Hockey League. “With Twitter, you reach not just the people
that are Twittering but all those that are following them, and we wanted to
create a unique way for our fans to share common experiences and particular
experiences. It’s really a way to create some energy around opening night.”

The NHL is
hoping Twitter will grow some awareness about the start of the playoffs, and
that will translate into increased viewership, for both the televised games and
the new free-content portal at NHL.com.

Companies Tweet, Too

Chris
Lyons, manager of educational and technical communications for Shure, began
using Twitter to connect with customers a few months ago. Using Summise, an
integrated feature that allows users to search Twitter posts, he responds to Twitter users who are
discussing Shure products or contemplating buying a microphone or have questions
about the company.

“I can
proactively address a customer complaint before they call our technical-support
line, so it’s 50% market intelligence and 50% customer support,” Lyons says. “When I
proactively engage a user, I might jump in and say, I’m with Shure, if you have
any questions feel free to contact me. Ninety-nine percent of the time the
reaction is, I didn’t know Shure was on Twitter, that’s really cool.”

Twitter may
be a fad, but it’s important not to get sucked into Twittering simply to do so. For a company to be successful on Twitter, Lyons says, posted content must match the
company’s personality. Twitter users can see through users trying to be
something they are not.

“It’s
important to make sure that the way you communicate on Twitter matches your
corporate persona,” Lyons
cautions. “If your company has a very hip, casual personality, then you want to
pick somebody in your company who can communicate that way on Twitter. You want
to be transparent and open about the fact that you’re Twittering on behalf of
your company. One thing Twitter people hate is the feeling that they’re being
sold something, so you’ve got to be honest about that.”

Lyons may only directly engage with a
Twitter user once a day, but he spends up to an hour each day reading through
the keyword posts that the OutTwit plug-in pulls directly into his e-mail inbox.

“With the
messages in Outlook,” he says, “I can easily forward a message if it’s something that I
want someone else in our company to see, like a user commenting on a product.”

OutTwit
also helps with competitive intelligence, because Lyons
can read the posts of another Twitter user — a competing company, for example —
without that user’s knowing that Lyons
is following the posts.

For Cracking the Twitter Code, Part I, click here.