Something to Tweet About

Before there were computers, before the Internet, people built up around themselves networks of other people – friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances. Those people shared information with one another, offering advice on which blacksmith made the best horseshoes or which buggy repairman offered the best deals. It was called word of mouth, and it was the best and most popular way to disseminate news.
Today, that news spreads much more quickly.
Since 2002 and 2003, social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook and LinkedIn have allowed people to connect with one another via cyberspace over common interests, meeting other people who are from their hometowns, graduated from their alma maters or are religiously faithful to the same television shows.
In the beginning, these sites were used primarily by technophiles and computer geeks who are always the first on scene of a new technology, exploring and developing it. But since last fall, sites like these, especially Facebook and Twitter, which went online in 2006, have become the major marketing tools used by businesses – large and small – to connect with their customers and advertise their brands.
Myspace, Facebook and LinkedIn are all sites that allow users to create profiles with in-depth information about themselves, post pictures and build networks of “friends.”
Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows users to inform others of what they’re doing exactly as they’re doing it in fewer than 140 characters. Users follow one another and have access to those folks’ information. Information is forwarded and further disseminated in the form of “ReTweets.”
As the popularity of the site grew, businesses realized they could use it to market themselves, and beginning last fall, they did, posting promotions, connecting with customers and generating buzz about their companies.
Journalists and marketing professionals, too, have jumped on board, journalists using the sites to gather information as well as post news and marketers using it to promote their clients.
The sites have become so popular and such a mainstream method of conducting business that Schnake Turnbo Frank | PR recently hired a director of social media, former Oklahoman reporter Mike Koehler. Koehler lead the Oklahoma Publishing Co.’s efforts to utilize social media in their news gathering and reporting processes and has branded himself an expert in the field of social media.
The most attractive thing about sites like Twitter and Facebook (which have been the ones most utilized by businesses to connect with their customers; it’s all but agreed that Myspace has become obsolete to everyone except youngsters and musicians, and LinkedIn requires much less maintenance. Users post their resumes and only update when necessary) is that there is no cost of entry and businesses can connect with a lot of people at once.
The word Eric Marshall used to describe them is “viral.”
He put his business, Marshall Brewing Co., on Twitter about four weeks ago and has already seen the information he’s put out there spread far beyond him.
“To tell you the truth, in the beginning, I thought Twitter was kind of silly,” he said.
But at a conference of craft brewers in Boston, he kept hearing people talk about the site, and it was there he learned how Twitter could help him stay connected with people and abreast of what is happening in his industry. He’s also been able to use the site to help drive traffic to the restaurants and bars in town that carry his products.
Last month, he hosted a TweetUp, in which Twitter users in Tulsa gathered at his brewery, 618 S. Wheeling Ave., tour the facility, meet one another and network in person the way they do online.
Tulsa TweetUps happen the last Thursday of each month at various locations and are organized by Brad Vernon of Shark Media and the technological force behind the Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.
Strategic Communication
Koehler is just now learning his way around STF | PR, and soon he’ll begin consulting with each client to devise a plan to incorporate social media into his or her overall marketing strategy.
“Potentially, I’ll go from client to client consulting with them what online works for them. I want to really look at what their goals are and what works best for them as far as what they need to be doing online to get their message out and engage with their customers,” said Koehler.
“For somebody small, Twitter might be the best and only solution. For somebody big … (there are) blogs and the use of video. There’s so much out there,” he said.
And while he said he hasn’t heard of any other business in Tulsa adding a full-time social media position, he acknowledged that many local businesses are instructing their marketing departments to hone in on social media as a primary tool to get the word out.
Littlefield, a brand development firm, is also instructing clients on how to incorporate social media into their marketing and branding schemes. Last month, the company held a seminar for clients and media professionals, instructing them on how to best use sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Hetty Fore, director of Analytics at Littlefield, said it’s important for businesses to have an overall strategy for using social media.
“I talk to clients about how to use social media as a part of their mixed media communication plan, how to fit it in with their overall marketing and corporation objective,” she said.
Fore and Koelher also stressed the importance of companies monitoring what it being said about their brands online.
“In addition to teaching people to engage in this stuff, my goal, on the other hand, is also to teach them how to monitor it,” Koehler said. “If you have a brand that you value, then you need to be out there looking and seeing what people are saying about it. Because you can find potential customers, but you can also put out fires.”
At Littlefield, Fore said she and others help clients determine what their overall marketing strategies are and then decide which social media sites they should use to achieve their goals.
For someone who can’t afford to meet with a branding specialist before going online, Fore suggests reading all they can about social media sites and how to use them. She also suggests talking to people who are successfully using the sites and getting tips from them.
“Think it through,” she said. “Know what your goals and objectives are for these sites, and make sure they fit in with your overall business objective. Then monitor and measure what is happening so you know if you’re meeting those goals.”

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