Using Twitter as a Community Building Tool

by Kristy Bolsinger March 7th, 2012 

Over the years I have met some incredible people on Twitter. Some of my best friends in the world right now are people I actually met ON Twitter years ago. As a brand-side strategist and external consultant I have both built communities and advised on community building. One thing that I've noticed, whether I'm communing with my friends, networking and sharing best practices with industry colleagues or building relationships and engaging with customers as a brand – the basic principles of building "community" on Twitter are the same. It's how you execute on each item that gets tailored for each audience and purpose.

Call them magical, call them silver bullets, or call them easy-make-tons-and-tons-of-money-online-all-day tricks if you want….Okay whoa wait – call them none of those things. What they really are – are common sense behaviors to building relationships that apply in nearly all aspects of your life. Specifically today though we're looking at them in the context of building community on Twitter.

Behold.

 

1) Be Personable

Tory Burch is a GREAT example of being personable and relatable. The account is run by none other than Tory Burch herself (at least that is how it's positioned). For those that love Tory Burch products and the brand this is a exceptional opportunity to engage with the personality behind it. You actually get to interact with her and get to know her as a person and not just as a label. How great is that? She does a great job of sharing content, responding to questions, and all without overloading the volume of promotional count.

Tory Burch on Twitter

2) Be Present…and Ready

Be there when you're needed. Customer service is a common use of Twitter by brands. Not everyone gets it right. In fact I'd argue that there are very few brands that are actively and successfully utilizing Twitter as a tool to deliver timely, high-quality customer service (and not just as a conduit and transfer station to the traditional CS channels).

Nordstrom is often touted for their exemplary customer service in the store. They have done an impecable job translating this capability to their social channels – specifically Twitter. They are responsive, polite and consistent with the follow through. If you're looking for a good example of customer service on Twitter – I'd look no further than @Nordstrom.

3) Stand Out

Being unique and interesting is a good thing. When you can stand out without crossing any lines you've got yourself some real magic. The DKNY Twitter account stands out to me in this way. The account, originally run by an unknown person from inside DKNY, chronicles the behind the scenes life at DKNY. Since the tweeter has been revealed as the PR lead at the brand it has only grown in popularity. Followers get a real behind the scenes look at what is going on at DKNY as witnessed by their fashion loving PR gal.

 

4) Have fun

One of my favorite brands on Twitter is Jack in The Box. It's hard to find a brand having more fun with the medium than @JackBox. The account is the official brand representation on Twitter and is run as if Jack Box himself were behind it. The account is witty, hilarious, often irreverent but always on-brand. The account reaches out to a huge number of people tweeting at and about Jack in the Box and with the #marrybacon campaign swirling and the bacon milk shake there is a ton of fun to be had. (Sidenote: I had a taste of the bacon milk shake recently. It tasted…..oddly enough, exactly what you think it would taste like: A bacon vanilla party in your mouth.)

I honestly tried to pick a few favorite @JackBox tweets to share with you and I simply couldn't decide. You just must go look for yourself. Follow @JackBox for some hilarity and a look at how brands can have fun and be irreverent – successfully.

5) Be a Connector

One of the things I would like to see more brands and companies do a better job of (THIS IS A CHALLENGE TO YOU!!!!) connecting the individuals in their community to one another. The more interconnected a community is the stronger it becomes. Fostering the relationships between individual members and helping them to grow and discover new like-minded people to include in their circles can help amplify the brand's value to the consumer base infinitely.

So for this example I cheated just a little bit. I'll explain. I chose King5 Seattle as the exemplary connector for this post. And they really do a great job. Hats off to Evonne Benedict who from what I understand handles a great deal of the the community work for King 5. I must say, that I've never felt more attached to a city I've lived in, especially one this large, as I do to Seattle – and this is largely due to Evonne's efforts connecting people in Seattle using social media both on and off of Twitter. The relationships and accounts are incredibly interconnected. (That's where the "cheating" bit comes in. Sorry :) )

6) Be a Good Curator a.k.a. Be Useful

There's no better reason to keep something around than the fact that it is useful. A good rule of thumb in life in general, but especially on Twitter is to strive to add value as often as you can. You may have to think both vertically and horizontally about how to best do this as a brand. What I mean by this is…for example you build and sell sail boats. Vertically would be to provide value and content around your sail boats, other sail boats and even the sail boat market. To think horizontally would be to address, create and share content on relevant and adjacent items: Life style elements around sailing, travel, leisure, etc.

One of my personal favorite examples of the adjacent content strategy is exemplified by Whole Foods. They share not only content directly related to their product (groceries) but also lifestyle content including general health, community and even cooking (FAV!). Give them a follow for great recipes – but like they say, don't follow hungry :)

 

So if you've read this far you're quite likely thinking – "Well, that was common sense." You are correct sir/madam. It is common sense. It's common sense because it's human nature. Relating to one another and building community is what us human creatures are born to do. Nothing has changed over the evolution of civilization other than the tools we use to do it. You'd also be right if you were thinking that many, many brands (and people for that matter) forget this and get it ALL WRONG.

So go forth – be human, and let me know how it goes. If you think I've missed some points or you think your brand/company is doing a great job – let me know in the comments. I'd love to see what you're doing out there and heck, perhaps this deserves a second chapter!

Disclosure: A couple of these are clients of Ant's Eye View, the company I work for. They have not paid for, nor asked for endorsement in this fashion. I'm simply bragging for them and highlighting the work they do as an example.
Kristy Bolsinger

Kristy Bolsinger is a Senior Associate at PwC in Seattle, WA. She has previously worked at Ant's Eye View (acquired by PwC in 2012), and RealNetworks (GameHouse). Prior to her time at RealNetworks, and Ant's Eye View - Kristy was working as a Social Media Marketing Consultant and completing her MBA at Willamette University. She maintains a social media blog and can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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7 Responses to “Using Twitter as a Community Building Tool”

  1. Jake SEO says:

    This was a good read. I like the part about standing out, although that to me may be the most difficult. I didn't see that you mentioned engaging with others on social networks and blogs. So far I find reading what people are writing and engaging with comments likes + and re-tweets seems to build relationships related to social networks and blogs. Can't say I have ever developed a real relationship outside of online media. Just like real life relationships its sometimes better to listen and talk about them.

  2. You bring up a very good point. And I completely agree. Engagement is right up there as one of the TOP priorities an account *should* have. The ability to build relationships is what fundamentally determines a brands success in social IMHO. That also enables them to take the value off the platform (Twitter, Facebook, whatever) and translate it into the ecosystem in which their presence exists. In other words – the relationships will carry.

  3. This resonates well with my new found fondness of twitter. I am glad to hear it's not all just about business. Connecting and getting to know who is behind that business name is equally important. Great to read this today.
    Thanks, Elizabeth

  4. Shan_Ali says:

    Building community through twitter is not an easy task as it is very dynamic and your tweets are lost in a second..but giving sometime…one can build it..

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