Let’s say you’re at a party. You don’t really know anyone, but you look around the room and see a lot of potential. People are chatting together, having conversations, and enjoying themselves. You’d really like to get to know a couple of them, but you don’t want to barge in.
How do you approach the situation? Do you walk up to them and interrupt their good time by forcing yourself into the discussion? What’s the normal reaction when someone does that? Maybe some weird looks and an instant feeling of negativity? Pretty much. People don’t like to be interrupted. They may be perfectly willing to let you into the group, but disrupting the normal flow of conversation is not the way to do it.
Even worse? What if you interrupted the conversation and started only talking about yourself? You tell them how great you are and how you’re better than everyone else. They might merely tolerate you for a while, but nothing is going to stick and they’ll probably think you’re a jerk. There’s a good chance they’ll avoid you in the future. Even if you actually are better than everyone else and having you as a friend is the greatest thing they could ever do, pushing yourself into the middle and immediately telling everyone how great you are is not the way to go about doing things.
The problem is that this is how many companies go about using Twitter. There’s no doubt that having a presence on Twitter is now mandatory and that you have to accept the invitation to the party, but as more companies are showing up, it’s becoming more and more necessary to not only attend, but to also know how to behave once you get there.
A much better way to approach the group of people would be to slowly approach them. Perhaps stand there for a little bit and listen. Wait for people to politely notice you. The circle will naturally begin to open up and you can become part of the group. (If it doesn’t, then they’re not interested in meeting new people, so move on.) Hear what they’re talking about and wait for a proper time to join in the conversation. “Oh yeah, I love that band.” “That sounds awesome; I would love to visit that country.” Soon enough you’re talking back and forth and you are now a part of the group.
Luckily, you also wore a shirt with your company logo to the party. Eventually someone will ask what you do (or go to your website later). Now you are not just another business trying to convince them to give you money. You are a friend who happens to sell something they might someday want. Perhaps they don’t need your product now. Maybe you don’t see them again for a while. But when they need what you sell, they’ll think about the nice person they met at the party, not about some “brand” that yelled at them about how much better they are than everyone else.
What if you’re at this same party and you see a very intriguing prospect across the room? This person is surrounded by people wearing shirts with logos of your competitors. This is someone you really want to meet. But everybody is already vying for their attention. You’d just be more noise.
Everybody is circled around saying, “Pick me! Pick me! I’m the best.” Eventually the customer wants nothing more but to get away from them. Well here you are, just standing nearby playing it cool (wearing your shirt with the logo on it, of course):
“Ugh, can you believe those people?”
“I know, it’s amazing they think that will work.”
“All I did was express an interest and they hounded me.”
“Oh wait, you also provide what I was looking for…”
“As a matter of fact I do.”
Boom. Sales lead. No yelling. No screaming. Just strategically being in the right place at the right time by listening, studying, and observing. That’s what Twitter is all about. It’s an enormous, on-going party filled with countless simultaneous conversations and we’re all invited (if not required) to attend, but just showing up isn’t good enough anymore. It takes nuance, humor, knowledge of pop culture, a way with words, sharp wit, the right decorum, and developing the right feel about when to make the right pitch to the right people. It’s a qualitative process that’s all about bringing quantitative results.