Opinion

Column: Solving the mysteries of Twitter

"Still clueless about social media", I tweeted. And no one gave a toss. But if some people publish stuff like that, the BBC invites them in to summarise the news! Why? Luckily, a clever management consultant explained it to me

If we were honest, most of us would admit we don't entirely get this social media thing. The Elephant in the Room has whipped out his iPad and he's tweeting about the Emperor's New Clothes.

Well I'm not going to say anything; he's got millions of followers and somehow I've got to learn to emulate him. If you don't learn to tweet to a million followers, each time you have a bowel movement you'll be left in the technological wilderness.

A herd of analysts told me that and those people don't get it wrong.

Apart from on Token Ring.

And ATM.

And the ASP market.... But those are all product markets. Whereas social media is about people and we all know what great social insights the Herd is capable of.

So we must follow the social media experts, they seem to know what they're doing. However baffling their behaviour is. One social media thought leader, the author of several books on the subject and the man the BBC often turns to for comment, is a prolific tweeter.

"I'm on the train to London and it's raining," he'll tweet. I can't see the value in that. What's wrong with me? Another prominent tweeter, who is much further into the future than me, and disappearing into the distance, tweets stuff like, "Haven't decided what I'm cooking tonight."

"Love this wine!" tweets a mummy blogger to legions of followers.

I don't get this. Are they coded messages? Is this how Al Qaeda communicates? Does LOL have a secret meaning? Is somebody decoding all this?

Astonishingly, yes. Catherine Adam, management consultant with The Chemistry Group, has a possible answer to the mysteries of Twitter.

In the 1980s, doing business was about taking clients to lunch, getting them drunk and winning their business, Adam explains (those were the days).

In the '90s, it was about getting to know them and their families and making a deeper connection. "If they've seen pictures of your kids, they're going to feel guilty about not giving you their business," she says. 

These days, business relationships - like casual personal relationships and meaningless shags - are about what you can get from each other.

"If you give people something interesting, they'll follow you. They'll respect you. When you become really useful to them, they will start to take a personal interest in you," says Adam.

So your company Twitter strategy should be a good mixture of light and shade. People still buy from people. But the boring tweeters will soon be unfollowed.

Catherine Adam is worth following though.

"Hello, I'm out of Catherine Adam's class. LOL! Wish I was richer."

This was first published in December 2011

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