The Fallacy Of Twitter Marketing Rules: Different Approaches For Different Objectives

Our little baby is growing so quickly! Just yesterday, well, in 2007, Twitter was debuted at SXSW. It was the same year the iPhone displaced the celebrities and politicians on the cover of Time Magazine.  By the time the vice presidential candidates debated earlier this month, over four million tweets concerning the debate were exchanged.

The rapid rate of growth of social media has led to an incredible amount of confusion of terms. Even old notions like community and engagement seem open to differences of interpretation.

It’s no wonder that when we speak of social media marketing, we’re often talking about very different things.

The Five Types Of Social Media Work

In my own agency’s work, we’ve found it useful to think of social media marketing in five different categories:

  1. Brand maintenance – listening and responding
  2. Community management – participating in and nurturing communities
  3. Influencer outreach – targeting and engaging with relevant influencers
  4. Reputation management – thought leadership and reputation work
  5. Big splash – large creative social media campaigns, like the Pepsi Refresh or the Old Spice Guy campaigns

It’s only natural that we use Twitter in different ways, depending on what approach we’re taking. It’s for that reason that when I hear of people sharing “rules” of Twitter engagement, I often find myself involuntarily cringing. After all, a good rule of thumb for one type of campaign may be entirely wrong for another.

Brand Maintenance

In maintaining your brand on Twitter, you’re basically posting a few times a day – just enough to keep the people who are only following a handful of friends from getting their streams filled up with your posts.

While not terribly exciting, the @chevrolet account is an example of this approach. It would be nice to see them responding to some of their fans in the exemplary way @DavidsTea does. With the latter, it seems no mention goes by without remark or thank you.

You might quibble and say that customer care can be described as brand maintenance, or even community management. Or, it could be a whole other category. Are customers part of a customer community? Or is taking care of them simply good brand hygiene?

Influencer Outreach

Influencer outreach might also be called professional stalking. Unlike the amateur stalking of the mentally questionable camera-toting celebrity hounds we read about, professional stalkers know how to make connections without anyone even know they’re trying. They do it with respect.

In less sophisticated attempts, a person retweets every single tweet the influencer makes. It comes off like the guy who laughs at all of his boss’s jokes, with the similar result of everyone else muttering insults.

While we might joke about it being a form of stalking, it’s really about making the right connections, and paying attention to the right people for your brand in a very particular space. If we were to borrow the metaphor of a lion stalking its prey, perhaps an antelope, imagine that instead of Old Lion inching her way through the tall grass, she’s hanging out by the water waiting, knowing that Old Antelope will be along any time now, because it’s that time of day.

Reputation Management

Reputation management  has been a mainstay of the Search Engine Optimization (notice the great big capital letters!) world since day one. In both SEO and social media, it can be either offensive or defensive. Of course, if your brand’s CEO has already been caught bribing the governor’s secretary or sending text images of his boxer shorts, you’ll be in defense mode – and those do seem to be the types of stories we think of when someone mentions “reputation management.”

In the offensive approach, the garden gates open into the realm of thought leadership. In this type of Twitter campaign,  the community managers can themselves get involved in Twitter chats, or coach employees so that they can join or lead chats. The entire narrative trajectory of the Twitter account can be carefully crafted to enhance a position of respectability within your sphere.

Big Splash

Finally, we get to the type of project that most closely resembles my cousin Jimmy executing his best imitation of a meteor hitting the surface of the backyard pool: the water explodes outwards, hitting all of the hitherto dry aunts sipping their ice tea in their lounge chairs. These are the campaigns that are written about in the advertising magazines, and perhaps even spread about like this season’s flu.

Twitter isn’t normally associated with those types of campaigns. Instead, they tend to be the bailiwick of Facebook and YouTube.  Where Twitter often comes into play, though, is in a supporting role, helping to keep the stories flowing from one medium to another.

Ready, Set, Plan!

When you hear about “best practices” in Twitter marketing, consider whether the advice applies for each approach described above. It’s possible that the advice might hold for one approach, yet not another.

It always pays to go back to the basics of “what are we trying to achieve?” Or ask your boss what it is you’d have to make happen on Twitter for you to be named Employee of the Month and win that free vacation to Hawaii.

You might focus on one of the approaches above, or some mixture of several. Or perhaps you’ve discovered some other categories? Hashtag Aloha!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Twitter | Twitter Marketing Column


About The Author: is the author of the DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual and Social Marketology (McGraw Hill 2012) and the ceo/co-founder of DragonSearch. He is a regular speaker for Google at their Get Your Business Online seminars. Dragon frequently speaks about the convergence of social media, process, information architecture, and sociology.


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  • chartist

    I see this as the most important point: I often find myself involuntarily cringing. After all, a good rule of thumb for one type of campaign may be entirely wrong for another.

    We try to standardize customers across industries like they have the same expectations. Like in socialist society we try to think of customers in buckets and I think we need to think about them as individuals.

    In the past I have come across a great video from Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library. He answered every email personally and it payed of immensely but his speach was highly motivational to everyone caring about their community. It is hard to replicate in bigger corporations but I think better to be small in content load and have great attention to individual needs.

    Great case study from Twitter was made by Delta Hotels. Jenn Seeley posted a Tweet on February 24th 2012 about missing her flight to Montreal. Delta Hotels replied to her tweet …and don´t you want to stay with us? They proactively searched for people they can help. She wrote a thank you blog post later about their service and this is a summary:

    “and when I am ready to book a room, I am going to remember my awesome, positive interaction with Delta on Twitter. They listened creatively and as a result, I am happy to tell the world how they engaged with me”

    And here is a short nine step guide how to work with unhappy customer on your twitter channel:

    1. respond quickly
    2. apologize
    3. empathize
    4. provide and easy way to connect
    5. make it right /if possible/
    6. follow up on any promise
    7. (over)communicate
    8. be and talk human /no corporate speak/
    9. provide reason to return or use product/service

    Have a great day all,


  • Ric Dragon

    Thanks @twitter-406605982:disqus ! Great little cheat sheet.

  • napkin marketing

    How would you classify a Twitter Contest set up? Big Splash?


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