Early last year I was one of those people who wondered what all the fuss was over Twitter. I just didnt get it. Not how to use it. Not its value. Not its possibilities.
Then, in April 2010, social marketing guru Ted Rubin taught me that Twitter is like a river. I live a block from the Hudson River, so that really resonated. The idea is that I might see a Carnival Cruise ship bursting with excited vacationers go by on a given Saturday. My friend might miss that, but she will see the fleet come in just as we enter Fleet Week in New York City and be dazzled.
OK, got it. The information keeps flowing on Twitter and sometimes people see it and sometimes they dont, but there is continuous movement. Thats helpful. And its a start.
After meeting with the patient and knowledgeable Rubin -- then chief social marketing officer at OpenSky and now sporting that same title at Collective Bias I took his lead on the patience front and waded into the river. Not only do I enjoy Twitter immensely now, but I frequently get news, ideas and feedback on columns from it.
Now for my disclaimer: I am by no means a social marketing guru. I do not have an inordinate amount of followers. I am not your go-to source for 10 amazing tips to bring your business to the next level on Twitter.
What I am is a phenomenal listener and a keen observer and as a life coach, I see real potential for people and companies to use Twitter in a way they may not have thought of or may have discounted as a waste of time. I get an awful lot of questions about what I see in Twitter or, in some cases, outright criticism for being some kind of lemming for engaging it. This is not for the haters, but for those who might be genuinely wondering how to use this tool in its simplest form.
Rubin has coined the term ROR Return on Relationship and that is my point of focus here. The relationship, though, is not necessarily one that needs to be built over time.
Let me give you a few examples.
Last month I went to the Blue Water Grill in Union Square for an early dinner with a friend. I had ordered a chopped salad and it had the most delectable light dressing. All I knew was that it was made with some kind of white vinegar. A few days later, I tweeted this:
Must confess since having a chopped salad at @bluewatergrill Saturday I've been obsessively trying to recreate the white balsamic dressing.
The same day I received this reply from @bluewatergrill on Twitter:
@nancola Thanks so much! Will see if I can assist with that.
Then later, these consecutive tweets:
@nancola Chef Matt Hughes will gladly share this one with you!
@nancola 1 part white balsamic, 3 parts blended oil, shallots and salt
How smart is this? I have since joyfully shopped for ingredients and taken a crack at preparing this dressing. My version is good, but you know darned well I will be going back to Blue Water Grill for that salad and will recommend it highly.
This is the art of relationships. Why arent more restaurants taking advantage of this free opportunity provided by Twitter? Probably because they dont know.
Another example of terrific customer relations came from a tweet I wrote on the day my iPad2 was delivered to my home:
Love the FedEx guy today -- iPad2 is in the house!!
Shortly thereafter, I received this in reply:
RT: @FedexDolores Hello this is FedexDolores enjoy your new ipad 2! We thank you for shipping w/ Fedex. Have a great afternoon.
This was so immediate and gracious that I wondered if it was the norm, so I floated a complimentary tweet about one of Federal Express competitors and waited. No reply. Theyre not on board yet.
Again, I emphasize, these are such simple gestures. Theyre not tweets I wrote to promote myself or my work, just everyday observances that bring balance to all those tweets that are indeed promotional. The businesses I mentioned heard me. I felt heard. As a consumer, that is so rare these days, isnt it?
As a life coach I see firsthand that tapping into others feelings of being heard can ripple into almost all aspects of our lives. Social media can assist with that. Those who think its a substitute for real human interaction are missing the point. It is, in fact, a way to meaningfully augment our real relationships and cultivate some we wouldnt normally have time to develop.
Newark mayor Cory Booker famously uses Twitter to conduct business, but he also doles out praise. A recent tweet: @CoryBooker Awesome. Safe summer team just stopped a robbery in progress on Spruce Street made the arrest and recovered a gun. Well done NPD.
Theres an instance of not just making people feel heard, but appreciated. I cant stress enough how much this makes people sit up and pay attention. After conducting a few interviews for Game Plan lately where my subjects opened up to me and revealed a lot about themselves, I had a conversation with a friend about why that might be so. He agreed that we are generally not used to being heard and that we can often tell when that listening is coming from a place of genuine interest.
Instead of assuming technology and all that it spawns are destroying our ability to connect, I see how Twitter opens up that possibility for strangers who arent even face to face. Its human interaction, for a fleeting moment, and sometimes with people who like your product or service. What an opportunity.
The river keeps flowing. Its up to us to stop once in a while, look at whats going by and maybe even jump in.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.