Archive for the ‘FAQ’ Category

Ask Jeremiah: The Comprehensive FAQ Guide to Twitter


Need a Twitter expert in your corner? I’m here to help!

New, Advanced? Shy? Submit a Question
I’ll take the most rudimentary basic question to the most advanced, don’t be shy. This is a living FAQ, if you have a question for me, Jeremiah, leave a comment and I’ll answer, if you’re really shy, you can email me, but I can’t promise I’ll see it (I get a lot of emails). I’ll be updating this over time, so please bookmark, and share with your network.

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Got a question about Twitter? ask @jowyang

Alright, let’s get to work, I’m here to help, this faq will grow over time.

Ask Jeremiah: Comprehensive FAQ Guide to Twitter

What are common terms and phrases I need to know? Do I Tweet or Twitter?
Twitter, which evolved from simple status messages to now a global conversation, is referred to in a number of times. Asking folks: “Are you on Twitter” is appropriate. When you want to use Twitter, and want to refer to it as a verb, it’s appropriate to say “I’m Twittering that”. However, it’s more appropriate to say to say, “Did you Tweet that?”. (verb conjugation) It is never appropriate to suggest “I’m twatting now”.

I just joined, now what? I don’t get it.
Twitter on it’s own makes little sense, why? It’s a social tool and this means you have to follow others. First, use the address import tool to add folks that are in your Yahoo mail and Google mail. Secondly, do searches for people you may know to find them. If Twitter search doesn’t’ work or the “Find people” search, use Google and seasrch “First Last Twitter” to find folks. Once you find people you do know (or want to know) see who they are following, and add them. You can always add me, but you should first see how I use Twitter.

Who gives a donk what I ate for lunch, can I talk about something else?
Yes, talk about anything you want. The twitter question “what are you doing now” isn’t the most effective way of using the tool. Instead, answer this question “What’s important to me” or better yet “What’s important to my followers”. Also, engage in dialog, ask questions and answer others questions using the reply feature.

Why 140 Characters?
140 characters is the size limit of text messages using SMS, since Twitter integrates well with mobile devices, you can text to “40404” and enter in 140 characters to tweet from your phone. Also, 140 characters is a true bite sized chunk of information making it easy to consume and create –ideal for rapid sharing of ideas. Loughlin reminds us that the true maximum payload of SMS can actually be 160 characters.

How do I use the reply feature?
Easy. When you see someone’s tweet, there’s a small ‘arrow’ next to their tweet. If you feel like responding to them, click that arrow and it will automatically load their name into the text box. Type your answer in 140 characters and submit. This will make conversations easier to track and find.

How come people don’t write in normal English in Twitter?
Good question, due to it’s limited 140 characters style of publishing, Twitter has formed it’s own unique nomenclature, similar to how users of pagers in the 90s developed shortened codes and how text message have developed their own digital shorthand. Often you’ll hear people use Twinglish, a combination of “Tw” plus other English words like “Twello Texas”. It’s cute once in a while, but can grate on ones nerves after a while. Twanks Tweeple.

What is a “DM”?
DM stands for “Direct Messages” which suggests that an individual can message another individually using the private messaging system (like email) to other members. You can only DM users that are following you. You may hear individuals say “DM me for details about conference discounts” suggesting the user wants to take the discussion private. Do note that Twitter’s DM system still resolves in 140 characters and is fairly primitive, many conversations may naturally shift to email, or even the archaic phone!

Question: What does “RT” or “Retweet” mean?
One of the greatest aspects of Twitter is how quickly word of mouth spreads globally. If a user thinks another users tweet is interesting, they may choose to retweet what they say. In this instance, the member will repeat what the twitter user said. Example: “Did Jeremiah got a doctorate in Twitter?” if a second user sees this and agrees, they will echo it back in the following way: “Retweet: @Jowyang Did Jeremiah got a doctorate in Twitter?”. In a shortened version, they may also use RT, an abbreviated version of Retweet, it would go like this: “RT: Did Jeremiah got a doctorate in Twitter?”. And in case you’re wondering, no I didn’t get a doctorate in Twitter, but I did get my undergrad in Twitter. BT a Bachelors of Twittering.

What the heck are Hashtags or #?
You may often notice that twitter users add hashtags to the end of their tweets. Such as this example: “49ers just scored 7 points against the Cowboys #football”. Users are using hashtags for events, ideas, conferences, TV shows, and any other interesting subject to make tweets easily found. By using this hashtag, anyone can use the search tool to find anyone talking about a particular topic. As you know tweets, on their own, can be taken out of context, so hash tags are a simple way of making content findable and retrieable.

How is Twitter going to make money?
Good question, a few weeks ago (early 2009) they raised yet another round of capital, a strong round of $35MM. VCs require a business plan for that amount of money, and they’ve indicated that they’re seeking to provide services to brands. I predict that they will offer services to brands to secure their corporate names, provide analytics, and crude customer and prospect management tools. It’s unlikely they’ll generate revenue from ads as we know that ads don’t perform well in social networks, it could disrupt the user experience, and also tweets can be exported to other clients –purging ads out of it. It’s possible for them to monetize with contextual ads as people search, or develop a currency system for third parties to use during transactions, I think those are far fetched.

Should companies register aka “squat” user names?
Great question from Tom in comment 5. Companies should register their main company and or product name, but they should not register all the variations of their name. Registering the most common name like “‘Hitachi” makes sense as this is one of the first places users will look and it will also score high in search engine results. Brands should not register all the variations as they won’t be able to register all the different varieties. I know that Twitter themselves have ‘locked’ variations for brands that have requested, but I don’t know if this is a common service. Expect Twitter to offer name registration services for brands, similar to GoDaddy for urls.

What do I need to know about Twitter Search?
Thanks Daniel, good question. Search is a your best friend! Twitter actually has two search tools, the first one is the tool. It was originally created by a developer who named it summize, then Twitter acquired them and the developer, it’s slowly being integrated with each users profile page. The search tool is easy to use, and you can use it just like you would Google. First, search for your name, variations of your name and your actual twitter handle. Examples: “Jeremiah” or Jerymiah” or “@jowyang”. The search tool offers an RSS feed so you could subscribe to search results and watch them come into a feedreader, like MyYahoo. Also, see the trending topics on the right hand column of the search tool, that’s a great way to see what the community is talking about, which is referred to as a ‘zeitgeist’. Another useful tip is to search other people’s names to see the conversation around them, or search terms that have hashtags to see all the discussions around an event or topic.

What’s the difference between private and public tweets?
Thanks Daniel, good question. Did you know that your tweets, when public, are publishing to the whole world? Your boss, wife, kids, competitors and enemies can read what you’re writing, for better and for worse. It’s important to remember that you’re publishing (like a blog) and these tweets will stay public forever –even if you delete them they could be archived. The internet tends to trend towards open communications and many (if not most) make their tweets public, however you should be aware of the impacts. If you’re still concerned about privacy, make your tweets private, which means they will only be visible by those you follow. Check out the toggles here on the account page, you can select the ‘make my tweets private’ checkbox at the bottom of the page.

How much time should I spend constructing my Tweets?
I like this question from Caesar. The answer? It depends on what your objective is with the tool. The same thing applies when you’re communicating in real life, are you have an impromptu conversation with friends? Or are you having a business discussion with colleagues. Regardless of your objective, you should take the time to construct meaningful tweets that are grammatically correct, and are void of spelling errors. The more thoughtful you are with your tweets, the more people will notice and may react –just tweeting a stream of consciousness or spelling out every detail of your mundane activities isn’t going to win folks over. I’m a bit more careful on my tweets, I try to get them to be about 120-130 characters so folks will have an easier time retweeting them, and I try to write in an engaging way that folks will find interesting –that is of course unless I’m tweeting from a party –then all the rules are off! Summary: you’ll get back as much as you put into tweeting.

Can small businesses succeed with Twitter, or just the big ones?
We’ve seen press picking up the successes that Dell, Comcast, and Jetblue have had with Twitter, but what about small businesses? Good question from James Hong. The answer? There are more opportunities for small companies –as these small tools have big reach to a global community. In fact, Zappos, an online etailer has done very well for itself by using twitter for customer support, marketing, and thought leadership. Koji a “Korean Taco truck” (I’m serious) has gotten lots of media buzz from tweeting it’s location to it’s community. In summary, there’s plenty of opportunities for companies both big and small.

What should I put on my profile?
Thanks to Jennifer Bongar for the question. In all social networks, not just Twitter, the more you fill out your profile (here’s how) and make an effort to connect with others, the more you’ll get back. So, it really depends on your goal, if you’re using Twitter to do heavy social networking with others you don’t know, make an effort to fill out the profile with your name, occupation, location, and an appropriate picture, bonus points for linking to your blog, facebook, or linkedin site. Yet if you’re using it just among your friends, they already know who you are, and can put less information. Some users suggest they won’t follow those who don’t make it clear who their name is, also, putting an image (preferably your own picture) is a good idea (here’s how).

How do you measure click through rates?
Thanks WBB Jeff, a good question. I’ve yet to see an easy-to-use accurate method. There’s a few considerations you’ll have to take in to really be accurate. First of all, use a tracking tool like bitly or snipurl to track click throughs. That’s the easy part, the numerator for your ratio. The hard part is trying to determine the denonomater. Twitter is time-sensitive, and we know that tweets around late morning to lunch time eastern time may get more attention, and certainly during weekdays. Secondly, not all users are on twitter, and this HP research on twitter found that the actual number of active users is around X percent. So depending on how accurate you really want to calculate, you’ll have to factor in those impacts.

How should I brand my company Twitter handle?
Kate Lukach says she sees large consumer brands with branded handles, yet wants to know what SMB and B2B companies should do. This really depends on your objective. I recommend that you certainly reserve your formal company handle on Twitter. It comes down to expectations. Make it clear in the profile what the objective is, whether it be for support, news, questions, or conversational. Some brands like Dell and Oracle have employees that share the name of the brand @richardatdell which creates a unique hybrid brand –yet with it’s own challenges. Some brands use the corporate handle and an ‘official spokesperson’ like @marketingprofs will indicate their persona and face. Of course, you can expect many employees to create personal twitter accounts, and they may indicate their affiliation with their employer. In any case, set expectations in the Twitter profile.

Got a question? Ask Jeremiah, leave a comment below. I’ll be updating, merging, and modifying these questions and answers over time.

Update: This ultimate guide to Twitter (with screenshots) is truly, well, ultimate.

Social Media FAQ #6: Who “Owns” the Social Media Program?


I’ve started a new series, called Social Media Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a collection of the top asked questions I hear over and over. I’m putting them here on my blog is a great place to help everyone quickly get educated, convince their boss, or be able to help their clients get over these hurdles, so please, pass them around.

If you’re seeking advanced topics, cruise through the web strategy posts (it goes back pages and pages)

I’ve been speaking to a couple of companies each week from a variety of industries, and each at different levels of expertise (see the five questions I use to gauge their level of sophistication).

Now, in 2008, I’m often on the phone with the VP of Marketing, or speaking to a large group of corporate marketers, previous yesars, it was a small brownbag of those that were trying to evangelize –enterprises are waking up and seeing the impact.

I’ve noticed a trend of questions lately, where during the Q&A session someone will ask “Who owns the social media program?”. I get variations on the theme that include “Who should updated Wikipedia?” or “Who should respond to bloggers” or “Who should respond to twitter?”.

I’ve deduced there are two reasons why people ask this question:

The first reason is that companies are very unsure of who ‘owns’ this type of communication, one very foreign to the model of corporate communications who creates press releases and anoints official company spokespersons.

The second reason people ask this question is that they’re undergoing internal turmoil, and they are trying to get me to say something that will prove a point to someone else in the room. I can always tell, as I see the audience eyeballs shift from the person who asked to the person it was ‘intended’ to aim at. (Speaker tip: I watch the audience as much as they watch me during presentations –esp blackberry usage, and what’s said on Twitter)

..both are valid and real.

All of this gets trickier and trickier as when we realize that social media impacts nearly every department in the company, at first PR, then Marketing, Product Teams, Research & Development, Support, Engineering, HR, Legal, Sales, and of course the executive team, in fact, I’ve outlined how social computing impacts the whole product life cycle, only for advanced readers.

Social Media FAQ #6: Who Owns the Social Media Program
The answer to this question is “It depends”, and here’s how I answer it:

First, I discuss that the once solid lines of communication of corporate communications are now blurred at the edges of the company, where employees who blog, or Gen Y students who indicate they work for a company in their Facebook profile, or the product manager who guises as an expert in a third party product site participates –now everyone, in one shape or another can represent the brand online.

Secondly, I first share the three models of internal organization, the tower, tire, and the hub & spoke. After reading sharing this, I ask the audience which camp they currently are in, and where do they want to be.

Thirdly, I talk about the need for the roles of the community manager and the social media strategist, in fact there’s a report on it on the Forrester site. Roles are needed for success, in fact I was the former community manager at HDS –I’ve lived through this. (I’ve also developing the ability to quickly identify who these folks are in the room: by the questions they ask, head nodding during certain points, and when their eyes light up when I talk about connecting with customers)

Lastly, I discuss the air traffic tower, an internal tool and process where a cross-functional team assembles and communicates (the hub and spokes as I mentioned above)

I purposely did not directly answer ‘who’ owns the program (but something I would do for clients), instead, I’ve layed out all of the options, some goals, some roles that are appearing, that will help define where you should go. The thing is, each company will be different, although I clearly see some trends occurring.

Whew that was a lot, but each of those represent different takes of what’s happening in the external market and how they impact internal teams like Corporate Communications, Legal, HR, Sales, Product Teams, Support, and most of all… customers.

Social Media FAQ #5: How Do I Talk to my Executives about Social Media?


I’ve started a new series, called Social Media Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a collection of the top asked questions I hear over and over. I’m putting them here on my blog is a great place to help everyone quickly get educated, convince their boss, or be able to help their clients get over these hurdles, so please, pass them around.

If you’re seeking advanced topics, cruise through the web strategy posts (it goes back pages and pages)

Social Media FAQ #5: How Do I Talk to my Executives about Social Media?

I enjoy feedback, but was surprised to see a few votes come into my uservoice page, one suggesting I help convince management on how to deal with social media.

Your job: To convince your peers, stakeholders and executives that don’t use social media (or don’t believe in) on why social media may be important to your business.

I’ve actually written about this before, so I’ll highlight some of the previous posts that I feel are helpful:

Start with Technographics

First, obtain the technographics of your market segment (we’ve made a sample free), if your customers are using social media tools, then you’ve a strong business case. Secondly, we’ve already concluded that decisions are based on trust, and trust is highest among peers, not from marketers. This disruptive change is enough to kick start the thinking gears of your executive.

Ascertain if this is right for your company
It’s important to note that social media may NOT be the best for your market or company, if the inactives are a significant amount of your technographics, or you’re in a very conservative industry, you may be ready to deploy a listening program, but may not want to participate. I really believe that social media isn’t for every company, and you’ll have to do an internal reality check to see if this is the case for you.

Focus on value, not technology
Next, don’t focus on tools, instead focus on the end result: value. How To: Effectively Talk to Execs and Clients about Social Media. This post teaches you how to talk about the end results of what’s expected, ever lead with “we want to start a blog”

Learn how to talk to immigrants about natives
Getting Your Digital Immigrant Executives to Understand the World of Digital NativesFrequently, the decision makers, are my parents age, and often their technographics usage is very low. I’ve found talking about Generation X and Y as the new workforce a quick way to open their eyes about the changes in communication.

Be prepared for the business questions

Lastly, before you go to your execs, be prepared to answer the tough questions, the one Legal, the CFO, the COO will ask. Be prepared.

Hope this is helpful, if you’ve other suggestions, please leave them below.

Social Media FAQ #4: How Do I Launch My Social Media Program?


I’m starting a new series, called Social Media Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a collection of the top asked questions I hear over and over. I’m putting them here on my blog is a great place to help everyone quickly get educated, convince their boss, or be able to help their clients get over these hurdles, so please, pass them around.

If you’re seeking advanced topics, cruise through the web strategy posts (it goes back pages and pages)

Social Media FAQ #4: How Do I Launch My Social Media Program?

Companies unsure how to launch
Most companies are used to announcing products or initiatives using press releases, advertising, media influence, and even analyst influence. While many companies are toe dipping in the social media waters (The majority still have not, I’ve seen some adoption data from work) so there’s still many questions on what to do once you launch your blog, community site, podcast, etc.

Unlike Traditional Marketing
First of all, the term “launch” is the wrong way to think about this. Launch implies a single effort, getting a program in the air, and letting go, social media efforts are long term, and require a different approach, here’s how to approach it: think grassroots, not big bang.

The first thing to do is to remember this is unlike traditional marketing efforts. Remember that trust is highest between customers-to-prospect, not marketer-to-prospect. The next time you buy an item, think about who you trust more, a friend who has the product, or a marketer from that company. Therefore, the most effective way to announce your social media program is to get those in your community to announce it for you.

Tactics vary
In many cases, companies experiment internally with tools, and then launch a public social media program quietly, and let it build up momentum through natural word of mouth spread.

When a company wants to boost it’s presence, there’s quite a few ways to do this: 1) Link to the blogs, communities in your marketplace, add value from your own social media properties. 2) Join existing communities by leaving comments that add value, be an ongoing member of the community you’re trying to reach 3) For the sophisticated, provide special access to influencers in your market to announce, join, or co-create your social media programs.

The goal for this exercise is simple, your employees, using social media tools, is to engage your community by interacting with them, being relevant, and adding valuable content to them (which is often, not marketing content) to your community. The objective is for them to respond to you, and sing your praises on your behalf. We’ll explore more advanced goals in future posts.

While I think good things are going to come out of ebay’s social media effort, to some, going the route of mainstream media to announce a groundswell effort seems counterintuitive.

Social Media FAQ #3: How Do I Measure ROI?


I’m starting a new series, called Social Media Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a collection of the top asked questions I hear over and over. I’m putting them here on my blog is a great place to help everyone quickly get educated, convince their boss, or be able to help their clients get over these hurdles, pass them around.

Social Media FAQ #3: How Do I Measure ROI?

This question often creeps up at the end of a webinar or presentation that I give. While we often sing the goodness of social media tools, (and challenges) a web strategist will have to return to the workplace, and demonstrate to their management the value of any program –especially if it’s new.

Is it possible?
In 2005-2006 we debated if this was actually possible, the argument against the ROI of blogging was as difficult as measuring humans. In fact, until we can measure the impact of a conversation between an employee and a prospect at a coffee shop, it was difficult to measure social media. For me, that all changed when Charlene posted the ROI of GM’s Fastlane blog (this was long before I even thought about working with her).

What are you trying to accomplish?
Measuring “new” media isn’t as different as measuring “old” media, the trick is to figure out what your goal is first, is it to spread a message among a community? Is it to reduce support costs? Is it to learn from your community? In each of these cases you’ll have to then assign the right attributes to measure against.

New attributes for new tools
Next, you’ll need to realize that this new media actually has some new attributes (the limited page view attribute is no longer sufficient in this dimensional world), and there are some new attributes to think about (read the white paper I co-authored with Matt Toll of Dow Jones), such as authority, interaction, velocity, attention, sentiment, and actions. You’ll notice I left out the elusive engagement word, it’s used differently by everyone in the industry that it still hasn’t taken hold.

Lastly, you’ll benchmark your programs based upon your goals and those attributes, and you’ll come to some specifics. I’m actually leaving many, many steps out, but those are the high level tasks. You’ll likely need an expert, new tools, and probably a vendor (see my full list), doing it manually is very tedious.

More resources, posts, white papers, videos
Actually, nothing I’ve said here is new, I’ve written about it time (here’s a similar post with more detail) and time over, read all my posts tagged social media measurement.

Update: A few hours later I see this timely article from Computerworld on Life after page views: Web analytics 2.0

Social Media FAQ #2: What does it mean to be Authentic, Transparent, or Human?


I’m starting a new series, called Social Media Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a collection of the top asked questions I hear over and over. I’m putting them here on my blog is a great place to help everyone quickly get educated, convince their boss, or be able to help their clients get over these hurdles, pass them around.

Social Media FAQ #2: What does it mean to be Authentic, Transparent, or Human?

First, understand the fear of most companies ‘hide’ behind their brand. This means that the collective of all employee contrabiutions are often behind the shield, crest, or banner of a symbol. This is nothing new and goes back to the most primitive of cultures where bands and fiefdoms would form –in nearly every culture.

Things are different now, the internet allows for real people to connect with other real people and have discussions about anything that interests them –void of any shield, crest, or banner. Well to be specific, some people start creating their own individual brands (we see this on many blogs), but it’s at the core individual level.

I’m often asked by clients (part of my role as an analyst is to answer social media questions in what we call ‘advisory sessions’) how far they need to take this notion of transparency. “Can I build a community but outsource moderation?” or “Can I write a team blog but have it created by corporate communications?” or “Can I create podcasts but repurpose brochure content?” The answer I give them for all is “yes, you can…but it won’t be living up to your full potential”.

What does Authentic, Transparent, or being Human look like?

  • Training and entrusting employees to build real relationships using these tools
  • Admitting when you’re wrong
  • Asking the community for help, working with the community to build better products
  • Showing your strengths –and weaknesses –in a public forum
  • Showing more of unique side of the employees (that you invested in) in addition to your products, technology, and services
  • Realizing the brand is actually owned by the community and not just the MarCom brand police
  • Sadly, in most cases, many brands will not go the full distance to show their transparency and humanside –despite that customers are doing this –and will continue to hide behind the crest. But for those that go the full distance and trust employees to build real human relationships, they won’t achieve their full potential.

    Now back to you all, I know there’s a lot of Social Media Strategists that are wrestling with this internally or working with a client: How do you advise your stakeholders to be Authentic, Transparent, or Human?