The Day I Became a Whirling Dervish of Tweets

Krista E. Summitt is the Chief Storyteller for the Lenovo Developer Program. She blogs about brand and content marketing at Brain Currency

Der’·vish —

A member of a Muslim (specifically Sufi) religious order who has taken vows of poverty and austerity. Dervishes first appeared in the 12th century; they were noted for their wild or ecstatic rituals and were known as dancing, whirling, or howling dervishes according to the practice of their order.

Being called a whirling dervish may be a compliment when it comes to sales or reducing costs, but when you apply it to a Twitter content strategy, it is a recipe for disaster.

During one of my past corporate marketing communications jobs, we were trying to create Twitter buzz around a keynote speech one of our leaders was giving at an industry conference. Now, my philosophy on promoting anything via Twitter is to tweet about it only once every four hours; anything more, and you risk being labeled a spammer or coming off like a pesky kid asking for candy.

However, when I presented my editorial calendar with this schedule to my then-manager, his response was “No, that’s not enough. Krista, you should be a whirling dervish of tweets! I want tweets going out around the clock!” I visualized every bit of my hard-won social media credibility headed over a cliff.

Despite my attempts to professionally object, I could see I was not going to convince him that he was wrong. One of my favorite sayings is “Some people don’t think bacon is greasy,” and I quickly surmised this was one of those times. I loaded up Hootsuite to tweet every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day, in the week leading up to the event (at the time every 10 minutes was the maximum frequency you could load up to publish automatically).

Within the first two hours, we started getting replies like:

“Stop it! What are you doing?”

“We GET IT! Lay off!”

Then, the kiss of death: “Are you guys automating your tweets now?”

I took this feedback to my manager, who initially was more concerned with who had responded than their actual protests. After a second round of gently urging him to let me dial back on the tweets, he relented.

So, what lessons can I share with you from this experience as a social media practitioner?

1. Make every piece of content you create speak to one typical customer

It is so easy to publish, curate, and syndicate content now that sometimes we forget there is a human being at the end of the communication stream.  As with verbal communication, timing and frequency can make or break how your message is received. Can you imagine if someone came to your desk every 10 minutes, all day, and said “Hey check out Bob Dobalina’s keynote at Content World 2014!”?  To bring this point home, check out this video, “Twitter in Real Life” to see how Twitter might look if you verbalized what you tweet in a public setting

2. Use testing to take the stress out

One of the beautiful things about social media for business is that unlike print, radio, and TV, you can test a strategy and adjust it almost instantly, with a much smaller investment and much more definitive results.

3. Commit to owning your communications and being responsive to your audience

What my then-manager wanted me to do is what I call “digital fax blasts” – one way, non-targeted, impersonal spam. If we go back to the real-time analogy, you wouldn’t tell a customer about an event and then just walk off if they had a question, would you? (I hope.) The same thing applies to social channels. The best companies proactively listen to their customers and reach out to humanize their brand.

Slow down, don’t be a whirling dervish in social media – think, be intentional, listen, and respond.

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