Is Twitter still a safe space for brands?
It’s time we had this discussion. Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday this year brought an interesting phenomenon: a number of prominent Twitter folks announced they were giving up Twitter for Lent. Why? Well, for the same reason a lot of folks give up chocolate or alcohol – the mixture of rapture, emotion, frustration and indulgence makes Twitter the perfect guilty pleasure to avoid during a time of reflection and atonement.
Let’s face it, Twitter is no longer the safe space for free ideas that it was envisioned to be. People are giving it up because they think it is bad for them. Even the company admits it has issues, though it hasn’t quite been able to find an elegant solution to the problem. The level of bullying, weaponization of ideas and downright bare-knuckle brawling – albeit from the comfort of armchairs – has increased dramatically, making it an uncomfortable place for people trying to have a healthy discourse or discover ideas.
This directly affects brands, who have spent heavily to craft what they hope is a winning message to build followers and customers on Twitter’s massive platform. With all the rancor associated with Twitter, is any of that investment still worth it?
Sort of. Anyone crafting a Twitter strategy nowadays has to understand that the platform is different and strategies that would have worked a few years ago will fall flat today. Here are some considerations:
Humor solves a lot of problems and can make your brand seem more attractive, particularly to those members suffering Twitterverse fatigue. Having a consistent brand voice that makes people smile when they read your tweets gives you an audience affinity that you won’t have if your Twitter voice is overly serious, overly marketing or devolves into the worst of Twitter discourse. Leave them with a chuckle and they will always invite you back into their world.
Lead With Your Values.
People want to do business with companies that reflect their own values. This becomes more dangerous on Twitter nowadays because company values – better pay, social outcomes, environmental commitments – can easily turn your brand into a political football. (In fact, your crisis communications plan should even have a strategy around the possibility the president mentions you on Twitter.) But, what you believe is who you are, so don’t be afraid to consistently express your brand values in an open, nonconfrontational way. You may get detractors, but you will at least let your supporters know what you stand for.
Plan a Good Defense.
And, speaking of detractors, now more than ever you have to be prepared to act decisively when you are attacked on the platform or find yourself in a Twitter-driven crisis. Twitter is home to the semi-anonymous drive-by, where someone who otherwise has a handful of followers can immediately go viral with bad information, lies or just unhinged vitriol. How you engage with these attacks is vital to shutting down a wider reputational issue. If you are a visible brand on Twitter, you need to know when to fight back and when to ignore. In addition, make sure that you are constantly monitoring the conversations around your brand. Software helps, but smart people, with good judgment, are the best resource.
Even if you’re among those who hope to find saintliness by being simultaneously abstemious to the Tweets and the Maker’s Mark (which, incidentally, are an inadvisable combination in any season), Easter is bound to come and you will have to face the Twitter again. Change your strategy and have the right attitude, and you can capture the abundant potential of the platform while not feeling like you need to reach for the hand sanitizer after every tweet.
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