What you can learn about tweeting and social media

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By Sara Rider   |   January 27, 2014

Over the last several years, we’ve had lots of discussions with clients about what role social media should play in their marketing.  Some companies are avid social media followers and participants—others still aren’t comfortable with social media in their marketing mix.  Sometimes this reluctance seems to be based in a “how would my company benefit from that?” type of mentality.

At the end of 2013, the The New York Times took a look at how the twitter side of its social media efforts was going, to see what lessons they could learn.  Some of what they discovered can apply to a variety of businesses—not just a major news organization.

According to Michael Roston of The New York Times, the paper expanded its social media desk in 2013.  As of November, 2013, according to Twitter, @nytimes had over five million followers, with Google coming in second at about half a million fewer followers.  (Local note:  Whole Foods came in 5th with 2.7 million followers.)  Tweets on @nytimes usually link to other content on the paper’s website.

So what did The Times learn about its five million followers and how they responded to the paper’s expanded efforts in social media? Are they tweeting more often?

First they learned that people are glued to their twitter feeds during a breaking news event.  For example, the tweets on @nytimes played a major role in keeping people updated during the Boston Marathon bombing.  (Confession:  I was one of the people following @nytimes during the hunt for suspects.)

Next, @nytimes learned that getting to the story early meant that the retweet rate goes up.  They also learned that they could use Twitter to “grow the discussion.”  For The Times, this meant doing a Q&A session on Twitter with a reporter.

Two things from their other findings struck me as flying in the face of how many companies use Twitter:  first, they found that clarity trumped cute and clever.  The cute/clever tweet didn’t get retweeted as much as a tweet that was clear about the content it linked to.  Second, they found that retweeting their own tweets really worked well.  For instance, something they tweeted during the week could be retweeted on the weekend and the average click per tweet grew substantially.  They believed that the weekend retweets came at a time when people had more time to follow-up on the content linked to the original tweet.

Now, most companies aren’t The New York Times.  But a lot of what The Times learned can be applied in a variety of situations.  You can hold a Twitter Q&A with a staff expert on a topic that would generate consumer interest.  You can retweet on the weekends.  And if you have breaking news that involves your company, you can use Twitter to stay ahead of it—even if it’s not something of the magnitude of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Or you can use Twitter to announce new locations, new services, and special offers.  With a little imagination, you can increase your click throughs to your website and your retweets and grow your social media presence.


Sara Rider

About the Author

Sara Rider, Vice President at DeLaune & Associates, has written extensively for the healthcare, financial, non-profit, and technology industries for more than 30 years.

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