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The Trick to Twitter - 1/4/2011 -

Here’s how one association publisher learned to achieve content depth for her members—even when the medium is shallow.

By Katelyn Wyszynski

When Twitter first surfaced I didn’t see the appeal of it. I wasn’t interested in what old, new, and current friends were having for lunch every day or hearing just how tired they were of the rain. Well, actually, let me back up a bit…when Twitter first surfaced, I had no idea what it was, much less how to sign up, create an account, etc.

But eventually my association decided it was time to join the social media wave and asked me to be the guinea pig. By the end of a single business day I had created LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, and was researching what other networking tools I could take a stab at. Most of them made sense right off the bat—those that gave page upon page of space to share one’s profile (be it personal or business) with whomever was interested. That interest was the key in what made sense because you could "friend” or "link” to pages and profiles that piqued your curiosity or aligned with your own goals and initiatives.

But Twitter’s "shallow” medium and rationed character count was a bit of an anomaly in the early days. I tried to follow friends and tweet and chirp as best I could, but it still wasn’t making much sense to me.

All of that changed when I realized that if I wanted Twitter to be useful to my organization, I needed to create a Twitter account that served my organization—not just me. So we created a Twitter feed named specifically after our Annual International Conference and began using it to help market our event. While at the event, we continued to use Twitter to keep members in the know about sessions and accompanying documents (posted to the website in real time) so those who couldn’t make it to the event in person could still feel like they were participating.

The idea was an immediate success, and Twitter was soon a savior to our association—another tool that allowed us to virtually serve our membership when fiscal restraints and the economy made it otherwise very difficult.

The success of our organizational Twitter feed actually helped me see the benefit of my individual account. Okay, so my friends and acquaintances were still using tweets to spell out what was for dinner that day or their movie pick for the weekend, but I had learned the trick: to follow organizations that I was invested or interested in (much like our members had started following us).

Before long, I was getting alerts from Starbucks about special midday sales I would have otherwise never known about, free cupcakes from a nearby bakery, and much needed traffic alerts that saved me a lot of aggravation on the trip home. Grateful to these organizations serving me through a meager 140 characters, I became a more loyal patron. I can only assume (or rather, hope) that the same goes for the Twitter relationship between our association and our membership: that they see our tweets and chirps as "short but sweet,” deeply valuable information in a confined newsfeed.

Katelyn Wyszynski is a publications specialist for American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Follow her on @kwyszynski.


 

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