Yesterday at 4pm in the Exeter Conference Centre, WNW Design (Nigel Wilkinson, Philip Vellender and myself, Camilla Todd) attended the ‘Tags’ event organised by Scott Gould (on Twitter at @scottgould), Alistair Banks of Optix Solutions (on Twitter at @banksy6) and Dave Thomas of Bluegrass Computer Services (on Twitter at @bluegrass_IT).
It was a natural progression of the slightly less formal ‘Tweetups’ held in Starbucks recently, and for £1.40 offered those interested in social media a chance to ask (and answer) some questions and hear some experiences from those already immersed in Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
This is a recap of the event, with what I considered to be the most interesting points discussed (so there may be plenty of things discussed I have not written about here).
Exeter City Centre Manager
Exeter City Centre Manager John Harvey opened the event with a talk, outlining his experiences using Twitter for his work. John referenced one specific example of using Twitter to publicise his views on the ‘Carnage’ event (a massive organised pub-crawl) which led to a radio interview and further publicity, lending weight to his view. Although he admits Twitter alone could not have led to the favourable outcome he achieved, he strongly believes it played a big part in his campaign on that matter. John also emphasised how helpful Twitter is proving for communication between him and the residents and businesses in Exeter – enabling dialogue with people who otherwise may not have contacted him.
Certainly in the case of the City Centre Manager, Twitter seems to be providing clarity, communication and publicity – all things that would be advantageous to both John Harvey and to Exeter.
You can find John on Twitter @ExeterCCM.
Next the panel was introduced, and asked to introduce their current activity on social media and how they are using the various platforms.
Adam Stone from Rokk Media (you can follow Adam at @Rokkster) started proceedings, talking about the several accounts he runs on Twitter, including a ‘support’ account created purely to receive questions and Tweets from existing and potential clients. Content-wise Adam talked about how he tends to focus more on ‘expertise’ than ‘promotion’ when Twittering, and that originally he intended to use the medium for promoting his clients rather than himself.
Adam advised that in order to successfully market using social media you must first work out who you are targeting and find the medium best suited to this. He suggested Facebook was more family orientated and Twitter more suited to business, for example, so you would need to market where your customers are.
Martin Rothwell from World First Travel Insurance (you can find Martin on Twitter at @MartinRothwell) introduced his experiences next, reporting that he has found new business on Twitter through the networking aspect – networking with fellow professionals and finding potential clients through word of mouth and recommendation.
Martin also mentioned that they are using Facebook Connect on their website now, to encourage feedback on their website to be fed through to their various social media accounts.
Sarah Knight from Sarah West Recruitment (you can find Sarah on Twitter @SarahWestRec) discussed her experiences with Twitter and Facebook next, sharing how she has achieved two recruitment placements from Twitter, leading to around £6000 of business from social networking alone. Sarah discussed how she finds that Twitter can lead to an accelerated process of making sales, and lead to more in-depth conversations after that initial meeting on social media.
Twitter and Facebook are also well-suited to her business, as she can appeal to fans on Facebook to find people in search of particular jobs, and those with friends or family who need a job will be happy to aid with the publicity.
In-line with what Adam was saying about finding out where your customers are, Sarah also laid out how she feels the different medium are working for Sarah West Recruitment, with LinkedIn allowing for networking with other suppliers, Twitter for forging local relationships and Facebook for finding clients.
Managing Multiple Accounts
An attendee asked the panelists how they managed so many followers and Twitter accounts concurrently (a question which got some interested nods from the audience, so something evidently everyone was eager to hear about). Adam recommended Hootsuite as a piece of software that can make controlling multiple Twitter accounts easier, or Twitzap, and also answered that he mostly Tweets in the evenings and weekends, not so much during daytime work-hours.
In response to the same question Martin suggested Tweetdeck for controlling multiple accounts, and found that setting up different columns for watching friends, mentions, competitors, etc, worked well for him. Scott Gould also suggested Co-Tweet, which he uses.
There was some discussion on how to choose between a personal and a business account, with an attendee suggesting breathing personality into a business account with a personal one, and Adam presenting his particular case in which he has both a business and a personal account and ocassionally re-tweets between the two. Sarah Knight also talked over her new business account which she uses in conjunction with a personal one, and how linking the business account from their new website meant that clients were presented with a more consistently professional front.
There was some general discussion amongst the panelists on taking care with posting online, and remembering that everything is public once posted, and cannot be taken back. From a business perspective this is perhaps something to be particularly aware of.
An attendee raised concerns over the ratio between how many people follow you and how many you follow back on Twitter, asking if the panelists thought this was of importance. While some feedback indicated people didn’t give it too much thought, another attendee made the point that a huge ‘following’ number on someone’s Twitter account can actually scare them off – as they would expect reduced interaction from people who were following so many others.
The general atmosphere suggested that communication and interaction, not just content, was vital to a successful Twitter account; or “participation sweetens advocacy” as Scott concluded.
Getting Started in Social Media
An attendee asked what I think a lot of people wanted to ask at the Likeminds conference a few months ago – what should he do now he has an account, how should he get started?
Sarah Knight answered that finding someone with experience to guide you during your first steps is an excellent way to start, ensuring you understand the media and talk with others that have more understanding than you. Alistair Banks added that finding influential players on social media to assist your development and assist in spreading your message is vital. Another attendee suggested that chipping in on discussions brought together by the use of Twitter tags can help involve you on a larger scale, and help get you seen and find new followers.
Overall the 2-hour event was enjoyable, and provided some interesting information to take away, including encouragement to ‘experiment’ with social media and see how it will best work for your business, follow the example of those that have been successful, ask questions, participate, communicate, and be flexible in your approach.
You can view some photos from the event at the Maxam Photography blog (see Paul’s comment below if you want to use one of those photos), and you can keep up with Tags information and Twittering by checking out the hashtag #Tags.
[If any of the attendees, speakers or panelists want to get in touch about what I have written here please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Twitter]