On May 1st at approximately 11pm EST, I was engrossed in the events surrounding the demise of a man with a very long beard. Gandalf the Grey had just fallen to his death in The Lord of the Rings. I turned to my Twitter feed for an emotional distraction and instead learned Osama Bin Laden had been executed by US Special Forces. The Lord of the Rings quickly gave way to the Haven of the Hashtags. Twitter was a flutter. I realized it wouldn't take long for the debate between mainstream and digital newsies to begin – Had CNN officially been usurped by BBN - the Blue Bird Network?
It makes for a sexy story, a sequel to the revolutionary power of Twitter showcased during the Arab spring uprisings. But as is often the case with an appealing headline, it misses the most significant news. According to Mashable, 12.4 million tweets were sent per hour. 12.4 million 140 character or less missives infiltrated the digital space every 60 minutes. This is lightning fast social engagement literally on a global scale. Of course, not all of these tweets were read. But the ones that were did what traditional news outlets couldn't - they captured the public imagination. That is the social story of May 1st, not whether Twitter is poised to send Wolf Blitzer to the unemployment line. And it should resonate with managers of Twitter accounts far and wide.
What Makes Something Relevant in a 140 Character World?
For digital marketers and advertisers, this is the big question. It impacts every social media campaign. It may have seemed obvious before this Sunday but the events of that evening crystallized it. Making an emotional connection is paramount.
In fairness, historical moments like the Bin Laden execution or - on a lighter note - the Royal Wedding, don't happen often. The reactions they evoke are, for the most part, common and widespread. Everyone is engaged because the story is massive. It naturally found them. No targeting was necessary. By contrast, your next social media campaign is not likely to generate 12.4 million tweets an hour. And that's OK. It doesn't have to. In order for your next Twitter initiative to be successful, tweets have to connect with your audience. A tweet has to mean something to be tweetable. And not just to you.
I skim through hundreds of tweets a day. At the risk of speaking for Twitter followers everywhere, there is nothing retweetable about the fact that you just brushed your teeth. I wouldn't retweet this even if I were the CEO of Crest. How are your hygiene habits emotionally connecting with me? How are they connecting with others? Tweets like this engage the ego more than the conversation.
Forget CNN. Tweets Should Tap Into Our Collective ADD
As exhilarating as it was seeing history unfold in 140 characters or less, Twitter is not quite ready for primetime as a true news vehicle. The lack of a real-time fact checking buffer is problematic. But this is not an issue for social media marketers. It is actually a strength; the ability of users to influence brand awareness and purchases. The key is evoking a reaction with your tweet, which can be difficult when attention spans are rapidly decreasing.
It is important to note than an emotional reaction doesn't have to result in a flood of tears or hysterical laughter. It simply needs to be of interest to a specific segment of your audience. In keeping with the news theme, let’s say you are a local newspaper looking to build your online audience. If you plan to tweet a subscription discount to potential customers, make sure the majority of your Twitter followers are interested in area news. Again, you don’t need 12.4 million tweets to drive effective results.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed by 12.4 Million…
Being of the 140 character moment matters more. A targeted, relevant message tweeted to your dedicated followers will resonate with them. It doesn’t have to be worthy of a Presidential news conference to engage them. If it makes an emotional connection, it might get them to abandon Frodo and spread the blue bird word.