The Most Interactive Channel

TwitterThe graphic in the introduction illustrates what might be the scariest thing about Twitter for business. Whereas other platforms allow you to control the comments, Twitter often becomes a playground of ridicule and scorn for messages that rub people the wrong way. It happens to Rogers, Starbucks and even The Beer Store!

If you offer up a controversial blog post, you can close it to comments. Something provocative on your Facebook page? You can block feedback there too. If you’ve pissed people off sufficiently on either of those forums, they’ll likely jump on Twitter to call you out.

Despite the fact Twitter seems to be the most popular forum for venting, it’s also a highly contagious platform for positive engagement. With approximately 100 million registered users and the ease with which folks can retweet (share your message with their followers), the potential reach is enormous. That people increasingly find it more convenient to engage with businesses over Twitter – either through public posts or direct messages – means any brewery would be crazy to ignore it. And very few do. But some use it better than others.

I’ve heard Twitter referred to as a customizable radio station. You pick the programs you want to hear. Like radio, Twitter is about immediacy. It can prompt action. It can take requests and give shout-outs. It’s highly interactive. I personally relate to that analogy because I spent close to three years in commercial radio as an on-air announcer and promotions director; and two years before that doing college and university radio.

A large portion of my income came from doing on-location remotes, which were especially lucrative, paying more than three times my regular hourly rate. The reason the local Ford dealership paid a premium for my services every week was because I knew how to instill a sense of urgency over the air. If I inspired one new vehicle sale over my four-hour shift it was worth it for the client. I averaged three. I understood that dropping a phrase like “Get here now,” instead of “We’ll be here until 4:00,” would get people moving, rather than giving permission to make excuses later.

When would you want to build a sense of urgency around your beer? How about when your new bière de garde finally clears customs at the LCBO? The faster customers clear the shelves of your new beer, the more likely you are to see a re-order, right? You can humbly mention “Biere de Garde now in LCBO locations across Ontario,” or you could reveal “Limited quantities of Biere de Garde, in the LCBO today! [with a picture and a link to your blog post describing your bière de garde].” The first statement gives the impression your beer will be widely available on an ongoing basis – hardly a priority purchase. The second suggests a certain exclusivity about your special release and prompts action.

Whenever possible, talk directly to the listener (singular)

Another lesson from radio: Whenever possible, talk directly to the listener (singular). Compose the tweet with one person in mind. You’re better off saying “You’re going to love our new saison,” than “You guys are going to love our new saison.” The reader doesn’t care about everyone else. The reader cares about the reader. Personal is better than generic.

The jury is out on whether or not you need to follow back nearly everyone that follows you. At the very least you need to take a quick look at each new follower. If someone is tweeting about beer in your area on a regular basis they probably deserve a follow-back, even if it’s only Untappd check-ins you don’t care about. There are tools like TweetDeck (what I’m using) and UberSocial (for my mobile) that let you block out all the external noise and see only the accounts you actually want to hear from. Make one list of your clients, suppliers and staff; another for beer writers, competitors and others relevant to the industry in a broad sense; and one more for your friends or others you simply enjoy hearing from. Don’t display a column for the people you don’t really care about – they’ll never know. As long as you’re following them, they can still DM you, which is good. You should be open to feedback no matter how your customers choose to reach out.

You definitely don’t want to follow just anyone. If an account is primarily about binge drinking or amateur porn, you’re actually endorsing that account by following it, whether or not you’re reading its tweets. Be at least a little bit selective.

Beyond just cutting through the noise, another great thing about a program like TweetDeck is the ability to schedule tweets, so if you have a message you want to get out at a certain time – say, 30 minutes before the start of an event – you can enter it days in advance and still be on site to set up the tent when the message drops. The danger, of course, is coming across as insensitive if you’ve pre-programmed something cute when the rest of Twitter is alight with details of a plane crash. I hearken back to the need for an SMM to take responsibility.

One common irritant that comes with scheduled tweets is the monotonous, repetitive messages some accounts send out. I don’t see it so much with breweries, but I can think of one pub I like, but had to “mute” because its messaging was dominated, day after day, by the same list of reasons to support craft beer. I appreciate the substance of the messages, but the repetition was brain-stabbingly Orwellian. One time while sitting in that particular pub I saw a tweet for their featured beer, so I ordered it. That keg, it turned out, had run dry days earlier. Scheduling tweets does not give you permission to forget about them.

Be selective in your retweets

What else will prompt followers to tune out? How about the Twitter admin who spends approximately five minutes each day retweeting every ‘mention’ from the previous 24 hours, in succession, like it’s a task on a checklist? It’s better just to hit the ‘favorite’ star the way you might politely hit ‘like’ on the comment your well-meaning aunt posted to your Facebook wall. “Favorite” might be an overstatement for how you feel about the tweet, but at least it’s a polite way to acknowledge someone’s support without polluting your other followers’ feeds. Be selective in your retweets.

Another thing to consider is whether your business needs separate accounts if you have more than one location. I think of Bier Markt, which now has a primary Twitter account (@BierMarkt), and additional accounts for each location. Considering, combined, they don’t produce an overwhelming amount of tweets, there’s no need to carve up the audience. If I lived close to the Don Mills or Queensway locations, I might still head to the Esplanade or King Street if an event appealed to me. It would make more sense to have one Bier Markt Toronto account that can be updated from each location. The Montreal satellite should have its own account, as should Square One and the forthcoming Ottawa shop, but dividing the 416 customer base just doesn’t make sense.

Brewpubs with multiple locations in the same city should also consider whether they’re producing enough content to make it worth sectioning the audience instead of consolidating its messengers. Ottawa’s four Clocktower locations provide an excellent example of Twitter done well from one account.

Twitter Recap:

  • Considering how much negativity it attracts, be tactful with your messages.

  • Stay positive (start a personal account if you want to rant).

  • Use Twitter to inspire action and whenever possible format your message as though you’re speaking to an individual.

  • Spread out your tweets and schedule them strategically to make sure your message is reaching customers, even when you’re occupied elsewhere.

  • Be selective in who you follow, then even more selective in determining who is worth your time.

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