Why Twitter’s 140 Character Restriction Can Make You a Better Marketer

PeopleEven if you aren’t using Twitter for marketing purposes, I think it can still help you become a better marketer. One of its most basic features can help us write better marketing copy, regardless of medium.

When I first started on Twitter I struggled with the character limit. In speech we’re used to using superfluous words and long sentences. Soon I realised it was forcing me to learn a valuable skill.

Keep It Relevant

On Twitter the character limit means brevity is essential. Marketing, as I understand it, is about getting your message across as effectively as possible. Saying everything we need to in under 140 characters means we have to communicate our core messages succinctly. Once you’ve got to grips with condensing your main points into one Tweet the same practice could make writing your marketing copy easier and more fruitful.

No Room for Padding

In a tweet there is no room for jargon and sales speak. Faced with a customer, we have less than 140 characters to convince them to buy. We really have to think about the main benefits of our product. In doing so we might even raise valuable questions about our overall marketing plans.

The more we think about how to clearly communicate our message, the better we become at it. When we next have a Press Release to write, with lots of important information to fit into just the title, we have had a lot of practice. When next thinking about the first paragraph of our website homepage, we have that extra knowledge on keeping it snappy.

Help or Hindrance?

Reviewing and analysing your own copy is one way to learn to be more succinct, but I think that learning by doing is always faster. Trying to tell people about your product in less than 140 characters will help a lot more than any amount of proof reading and study.

At first I didn’t like Twitter’s character limit. Now I realise that it could make me a more effective communicator. What do you think? Has it helped you convey your message more effectively, or have you found yourself too restricted?

Why not share your thoughts in the comments section.

How to Decide If a Twitter Follower is Relevant to You

Reading GlassTwitter is all about engagement. In real life we try to avoid people who are of no interest to us, whether for personal or business reasons. The same applies on Twitter. How do you know whether or not a follower is worth your time? Twitter has a few ways of helping you decide.

What Are They Talking About?

It may seem obvious, but the content of a follower’s tweets can tell you a lot about how useful they could be. I ask myself:

  • Do they engage with their followers?
  • Do they talk about things that are relevant to me?
  • Who else are they talking to? They might be talking to someone I want to connect with, and could provide me with an introduction.

Friends and Followers

Although some people do follow back to be polite, following can be a one way thing. I compare the number of followers a person has to the number of people they are following.

Being followed by more people than they are following suggests that they have something very relevant to say. If they are being followed by a lot less people than they follow, I ask myself why that might be. There’s a chance it’s because they’re not engaging.

See If They’ve Got Klout

Klout is a great Twitter app that scores users out of 100 on their Twitter ‘influence’. It also shows you what topics they regularly talk about, so one way I can quickly decide on a follower is whether or not their Klout is high in the topics that I am interested in, or they’re meant to have expertise in.

A word of caution: Klout can be manipulated, but, it can be useful as a deciding factor if you’ve looked at the other two things and are still unsure of a follower.

The Signs Are There

I find that looking at these three things can give me quite a clear picture of what kind of Twitter user a person is, and whether or not I want to engage with them. The elements are almost like flags on a beach, telling you where (and where not) it is safe to invest your time.

That reminds me, I have Klout to gain and followers to earn!

Seedcamp – One Survivor’s Story

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What’s that saying… What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

Seedcamp is frequently described as “the original and best UK boot camp for start-ups”, and it certainly enforces a strict disciplinary regime.

It started last Wednesday afternoon, when London Seedcamp’s Top 20 start-ups met to practice their pitches. The feedback was insightful, helpful… and brutal. As new boot camp recruits we needed to be taught acceptable social behaviours!

I was told that the start of my presentation was amusing and engaging, but didn’t tie to anything else. Another start-up was told that his content was great but his delivery was so boring that “I stopped listening after the first slide”, while a modest, softly-spoken individual was told to “sit by the door tomorrow, and run up and down the stairs three times before you present – we need to see your blood pumping”. We were all told to rewrite and to practice, practice, practice. There was no doubt how seriously Seedcamp took their boot camp reputation.

Harsh though the feedback was, it worked. Every presentation was much better the next morning. I was thoroughly impressed by all the smart start-ups that were keeping a packed room captivated (that’s Mark in the bottom left hand corner). Having survived the practice run together there was a great sense of camaraderie amongst us – we’d all learnt a lot together in a very short time, and there was a strong shared sense of knowing that we’d all taken a step up.

Pitches over, we got to kick back briefly while the Seedcamp panel (@ahansjee @christianhern @tomall @glyndot chaired by @ceduardo) discussed “From Business Development to M&A”.

Then it was onto what I’d been really looking forward to – mentoring – five 45 minute sessions with groups of entrepreneurs, product experts, VCs, and angel investors. Traditionally boot camp requires hard physical exercise. At Seedcamp, physical exercise is replaced with mental exercise. We had been warned to expect challenging conversations, and the mentors didn’t disappoint.

As I write, the winners haven’t been announced, but I think all 20 of us won.

The process and people are amazing. A week on I’m still digesting the huge amount of fantastic advice we received. Mentors have been incredibly proactive at getting in touch since – making introductions and removing barriers. New meetings and opportunities are going in the diary.

And there are worse things than being referred to as a “top idea” in the Guardian Smile

Seedcamp – I’d thoroughly recommend applying, participating and surviving!

Facebook or the Phonebook?

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Within days of each other this week I received the latest editions of both the Yellow Pages and Thomson Local directories.

Two things struck me: Firstly, just how small both these directories now are (you can see in the incredible shrinking yellow pages in the picture). Secondly the copies of these directories I received 12 months ago were both still in their cellophane wrappers.

Who Still Uses Yellow Pages?

These local directories used to have a virtual monopoly on discovery of local products and services. Today their business model has been annihilated by a combination of Google Local and social media. Instead of looking up a business and trying to pick one based on the ads, we can all now easily ask for recommendations from trusted friends on social media, or scan reviews on Google Local. And I find each platform works best in different scenarios:

  • Facebook is great for general recommendations, often in my locality
  • Twitter works best when I am looking for recommendations around my niche interests (software and IT products) and I don’t care whether the service is local to me
  • Google Local – I’ll go to Google if I don’t get anything useful from one of my friends on social media, or I need an answer right now and can’t wait for a response

All my directories are now in the recycling bin. I just wish I could opt out of receiving them in the future.

Do you still advertise in Yellow Pages? Have you used your copy in the last 12 months? I’d love to hear if it still has value.

Sharing that Top 20 and Friday Feeling

Here at CubeSocial HQ, we’ve been celebrating making London Seedcamp’s Top 20.

We’d been itching to share our good news since we were told at the start of the week, so it felt wonderful that as soon as we did, Twitter friends immediately got in touch echoing our excitement:

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Of course we’re very aware that Top 20 means that there are 19 other teams “rocking” Seedcamp next week, but regardless it’s a great feeling, made all the better by your support!

The one-day-only Seedcamp celebration offer

So I’ve decided to throw caution to the bootstrapping start-up wind… the first 20 to subscribe to CubeSocial today can do so at 20% of the usual price. Whatever you fancy – Basic, or Plus, Monthly or Annual, you’ll just pay 20% Smile

Click http://cubesocial.com/ and sign-up for the free trial (or simply login if you’re already on the free trial). Then, in CubeSocial go to https://app.cubesocial.com/Admin/Account/ChoosePlan and choose your preferred plan. The Discount Code is seedcamp.

Join us in that Top 20 and Friday feeling!

CubeSocial Selected for Seedcamp London

Seedcamp logo

CubeSocial is one of 20 tech start-ups selected for Seedcamp London, which takes place next Thursday 11 August.

During the event, we get five minutes to showcase our business to a range of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, lawyers, accountants and other experts, followed by an afternoon of expert mentoring and coaching.

Becoming a Seedcamp London finalist is great recognition for everyone involved here at CubeSocial and follows on from last month’s listing as a Company to Watch in the Thames Valley 250. We hope the day itself brings us more good news.

Wish us luck!

Four Reasons Your Company Doesn’t Need a Social Media Policy

imageTrust your staff and they’ll behave accordingly

In my experience, if you place your trust in people they will generally behave accordingly. As business owners we spend a lot of time and money hiring – searching for the best people we can find, and then putting them in a job with responsibilities. What message does it then give to them if you then say ‘sorry, Facebook is banned here’?

Instead of trying to manage people’s time, I prefer to manage the results and allow people to manage their own time accordingly.

Social media is just another way to communicate

Do you have a telephone policy? A fax policy? A restaurant conversations policy? Social media is simply one more way to communicate, and conversations can happen anywhere. The technology itself is neither good nor bad. Creating a policy for each technology is the wrong way to go about managing the risks.

More rules and regulation just put people off

In my opinion you should be encouraging your staff onto social media. It helps create a human face to your organisation, enables you to engage where your customers are congregating and empowers each employee to be a proud representative of your company. No employee wants to get into trouble and more rules will simply make employees hesitant to engage in the very behaviour you should want to encourage.

You probably already have all the rules you need

You probably have an employee handbook in place that has all the rules and regulations you could possibly need to define what is, and is not, appropriate behaviour. It’ll likely cover things like discriminatory behaviour, immoral and illegal activities, how to behave with customers and colleagues and how to handle confidential information. You can violate those regulations in person, on the phone, and yes, in social media.

Do you really need another policy for this particular technology?

What should you do instead?

So if you don’t have a social media policy, what should you do instead?

Well, as I have written before, no policy will be able to cover all aspects of a conversation. Instead you need values. Values enable employees to make smart decisions by themselves about how to engage.

Don’t Zappos values say everything staff need to know about how to engage with people on social media? Microsoft’s blog policy is famously two words: Blog Smart. It’s about empowering staff to make smart decisions based on company values.

Instead of creating a bunch of command and control rules that nobody reads, think about the values that embody your company and how you can use them to enable staff to make decisions by themselves, engage customers, and win new business.

What do you think? Any other ideas to add?