30 November 2009

Twitter Story: Marketing

I'm back from my blogcation, and continuing my Twitter tales. This one focuses on using Twitter for marketing.

Three exemplars of what can be done with Twitter to market your organization are:
  1. Dell
  2. Zappos
  3. California Tortilla
All three companies use their Twitter presence for a combination of marketing and customer service/interaction.

California Tortilla provides periodic free giveaways to their Twitter followers - everything from burritos if you say the secret phrase to Twitter-only coupons to periodic swag bags. The main Zappos account is tweeted by CEO Tony Hsieh. He drops in tidbits like "follow the link for FREE LIFETIME VIP CLUB status" (hey, that's a good offer - and there's still one day left!) amongst a little personal news and a series of interesting quotes from various famous people. Dell also shares a lot of online only coupons, pre-sales and other deals, in addition to running a CheapTweet store.

OK, you're probably not going to attract the 1.5 million followers Tony Hsieh has, or the 1.4 million Dell has. But you don't need to, because you probably don't have 1.5 million members. California Tortilla has more like 2200 followers, and they've done it through word of mouth because of their great deals.

What great deals could you offer? Could you offer a special discount to an upcoming event, or a free preview of a forthcoming publication, or information about a "secret" chat with an expert in your field to your Twitter followers?

What are you doing to market your association and your products and services through Twitter?

23 November 2009


The spouse and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with a week in The City That Care Forgot, and I am, consequently, not blogging this week.

I do encourage you to spend some time thinking about what you're thankful for in this harvest season, though. We all spend too much time running around striving mightily (particularly in the DC Metro area), and not enough time appreciating the good in our lives. Don't be that guy, at least not this week.

(Twitter stories will resume after the break.)

20 November 2009

Friday Top 5

My spouse and I are headed to New Orleans for Thanksgiving. The top 5 things I'm looking forward to:
  1. Being on vacation - last stretch of more than 3 days off (i.e., a long weekend) was in April.
  2. Thanksgiving dinner at Commander's Palace
  3. Big Al Carson & the Bluesmasters at the Funky Pirate
  4. Getting a Ramos Gin Fizz at Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone
  5. Rebirth's late night show at the Maple Leaf

19 November 2009

Twitter Story: Broadcast

Although social media can facilitate conversations and relationships, it can also be used pretty effectively as a broadcast mechanism, Twitter included.

One of the truisms of association management is that our members don't pay attention, don't read what we send them, and often don't know what's going on, even when it's something that *should* be really important to them.

Twitter can provide an additional platform to get the word out.

I'm going to call myself out here. I never seem to know when the ASAE calls for presentations for various conferences open and close. Yes, ASAE sends emails and posts the information to the web site, and yet, somehow, I always seem to miss it (see above re: not paying attention, not reading what they send me, and not knowing what's going on, even when it's something that's important to me). You know when I spot the announcements? When asaecenter tweets them out (i.e., Nov 9th tweet about AM2010 call, which I actually spotted and am currently working on a submission as a result).

Guy Kawasaki is the master of Twitter broadcasting. His use of Twitter is somewhat controversial, but he's up front about the fact that he uses it as a medium to broadcast his answer to the question: "What's interesting?" It's not a conversational mechanism for Guy.

This is not to say that it has to be all one or the other - I would hope by now that it would be clear that Twitter can fulfill a number of functions at once - but could your organization use an additional platform to get the word out about what you're up to? Could Twitter be useful for that?

18 November 2009

What I'm Reading

  • More ideas about what will be required to fix US health care. This particular article focuses on evidence-based care (treatment by what works as opposed to by everything your insurance company will pay for).
  • Some docs are tweeting from the OR to reduce stress for the patient's loved ones.
  • How to write a mission statement that isn't dumb. You know who you are. Go read the article, and then get yourself a quantifiable goal and go do it.
  • The harsh realities of social media marketing. Reality #1 - no one is reading your blog. Uh oh :)
  • Follow up posts to #smw09. (That aren't on this blog.) There are some interesting debates going on - you might want to check them out.
  • Another Always the Last to Know bonus: 22 cheap or free tools to improve the usability of your web site.
  • I just finished The Book Thief. I'm not usually a big fan of fiction around WWII/Nazi Germany for a variety of reasons, but I really liked this.
  • I'm currently reading Riven Rock, another TC Boyle joint. Reviews have called it his best book, but Tequila Curtain and The Inner Circle remain my top picks for Boyle goodness.

17 November 2009

Twitter Story: Member Engagement

We all know that the Holy Grail of Associations is member engagement. Engaged members care, participate, evangelize, volunteer, and, most importantly, renew. There are LOTS of ways you can engage your members, and you should do as many as your level of staffing and organizational culture can support, but Twitter can be one of them.

My favorite current example of member engagement through Twitter is the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Rather than having a faceless organizational Twitter account, they've chosen to have 3 staff people tweet officially for the association as individuals: AAPALynn, AAPABrooke, and chemonesiacjan.

Twitter is a good platform for AAPA because of the demographics of their members, who trend heavily to GenX and Millennials and work in healthcare, so they're on mobile devices all day rather than sitting at a computer. And Brooke, Lynn, and Janette certainly use the platform for other functions - broadcast, marketing, etc.

But in a recent conversation, Lynn Morton (AAPALynn) shared with me a few examples of how they're using Twitter to facilitate actual conversation and connection both between physician assistants and between the PAs and the association. My favorite? A PA student tweeted Lynn in a panic, not knowing what to wear to a critical interview. She re-tweeted it out to everyone who follows her, and the student got some useful advice to help her choose a good interview outfit. Sounds trivial, right? But I'll bet that PA now feels a deep connection to her association due to what, for her, was extraordinary customer service.

What are you doing to provide extraordinary customer service for your members and other constituents? Could Twitter help you create those magic moments that turn people into evangelists?

16 November 2009

Twitter Story: Chat

Is your association using chat at all to reach out to members?

NACHRI used chat, as embedded in Adobe Connect, rather successfully this past summer to host a discussion with a panel of experts on a critical, time-sensitive policy issue (for the curious, the idea of community benefit in hospitals and how it might affect their tax status). We were able to go from idea to hosting the chat in about 2 1/2 weeks, we had about 60 participants on the day, and the transcript was later posted to our web site (on the linked wiki that does require membership to access). All in all, a very successful event.

But there were a few downsides - you had to register in advance (and be a member even to do that) and have the client side of Adobe Connect set up properly. If you found out too late or had technical difficulties with the platform, you were out of luck.

What if that same task could have been accomplished without all the hoops?

It can - chatting through Twitter, a good example of which is #assnchat.

What is #assnchat? A large group of association pros regularly gather on Twitter (weekly, Tuesday, 2 pm ET) to chat about association related topics.

What do they talk about? Anything and everything. You know how great it is when you end up at the Right Table at lunch at a conference, or standing in the Right Group at the cocktail party, or you meet someone who's really smart and engaging and knowledgeable? That's what #assnchat is like every week.

Want to participate? Follow #assnchat on Tuesdays.

Feel like it would be too hard to follow from Twitter, TweetDeck or Hootsuite? Check out TweetChat next Tuesday.

Does your association use chat? If you aren't using chat, why not? If you are, have you tried it on Twitter?

13 November 2009

Friday Top 5

I've been in Chicago (OK, actually at the Hyatt Regecy at O'Hare) this week for meetings, and it reminded me of how much I love Chicago and how I never get to spend enough time when I'm here. My top 5 favorite things about Chicago:
  1. Probably the best, most interesting architecture of any city in the US.
  2. Great views from the tops of a lot of the buildings, and they understand that you put a BAR up there so people can enjoy.
  4. Fab live music scene.
  5. I love being in any city where people are as sports-obsessed as where I grew up. I don't feel so much like a freak.

12 November 2009

Twitter Story: Conferences

I am definitely not the first person - and I'm sure I won't be the last - to have my Twitter epiphany at a conference. Mine came at Great Ideas 2009.

I seem to have developed a tradition of being a relatively late adopter of social media technologies, and then caving to peer pressure at the Tech Conference. My 2008 cave? Facebook and LinkedIn. My 2009 cave? Twitter. After being pestered to get with it for at least 6 months, I finally did. But I wasn't quite Getting It until Great Ideas.

"I Get It!" #1 - I gave up on the Twitter interface and installed TweetDeck. If you're still using the basic Twitter interface to try to manage things, don't. Get TweetDeck or Hootsuite ASAP. Actually, there are lots of great apps that can help you manage (and have fun with) Twitter. But, if you do NOTHING else, at least upgrade your own user experience.

"I Get It!" #2 - Tweet the main points any speaker is making in any session you attend. Your own tweet history = instant session notes!

"I Get It!" #3 - I was tweeting away during a session given by Lindy Dreyer and Scott Briscoe using my shiny new TweetDeck install and I noticed that I had a new follower - @jeffhurt. And he was @ replying me a question for the presenters. And not only wasn't he in the room, he wasn't even at the conference. And I asked it and got an answer for him and @ replied back.

Now I know what you're thinking: if everyone can get the content through Twitter, no one will come to my conference. Nope. Because they still miss the networking and hallway conversations. As a matter of fact, if *some* of the goodness of your conference gets out on Twitter, it could potentially increase attendance, as more people see what they're missing.

I know what else you're thinking: what if people don't like the speakers and say mean things? And I'll be honest - that could happen. But we're back to the standard answer that's always given to the "what if they say bad things about us?" question: they're saying it anyway. Wouldn't you rather know? The real problem with the feedback mechanism is that most presenters (I include myself) lack the ability to pay attention to the crowd in the room, keep the flow of the presentation going, and pay attention to the Twitter stream, which might tell us that we're missing the mark before it's too late and the presentation is over and we get back our evaluations weeks later and it turns out, people weren't getting what they came for and if only we'd known we might have been able to make some adjustments. (Also, most of us save the really catty comments for direct messages :)

So how are you using Twitter to make your organization's meetings better and/or enhance your own experience as an attendee or virtual attendee?

11 November 2009

What I'm Reading

10 November 2009

Twitter Story: Advocacy

One answer to the "why" of Twitter: advocacy campaigns.

This past spring, a little issue popped up. You may even have heard something about it. "Health care reform" ring any bells? Sure, we all knew it was on Obama's agenda, but we didn't realize it was FIRST on his agenda. We figured he'd be busy settling in and house training Bo for a while, but the man can multi-task. Another concern? Kids and kids' needs were pretty much being ignored. Seeing as NACHRI is an association of children's hospitals, you can see how we might be a little worried.

Grassroots campaign to the rescue!

Now normally, in a situation like this, you fire up the ZIP-targeted direct mail for key Congressional districts and blitz people with email action alerts. Only our members are the hospitals. And it's not like we could start calling up members and asking, "Hey, we know you're really busy and stuff, but could you possibly send us the names, emails and snail mail addresses for every patient and her/his family you've treated in the past 3 years? Kthxbai."

So how else were we going to reach people? Power of social media, aka Speak Now For Kids.

You can check out the slides Caroline Fuchs and I did for DMAW to get the details on all the components of the campaign.

Twitter has been primarily a broadcast mechanism for the campaign to date. We didn't have any connection to the grassroots, but there are a lot of medical people, a lot of moms, and a lot of journalists on Twitter. The Speak Now Twitter account has served as a great way for us to bring attention any time a key vote or action is going on. We can't send you an action alert asking you to contact your representatives, but we can tweet it. It's also a great way for us to get the word out when new videos, pictures, and written testimonials are posted to the site or to our YouTube channel. It also allows us to share quotable information like the fact that 17,000 kids have died in the past 20 years from lack of health insurance.

Sure, we've made some mistakes. First of all, the Twitter handle is probably too long - takes up too many characters in re-tweets and via and @ replies. Early on, we weren't remembering to include the http:// on our URLs, with the result that they generally weren't clickable. And we weren't using URL shorteners to make our tweets easy to share. And we were using #speaknowforkids as the campaign hash tag (that's been shortened to #hcr). It's still mostly broadcast rather than conversation. But we're learning and fixing things as we go. And Twitter had allowed us to reach 2200 people we otherwise wouldn't have had access to and ask them to raise their voices in support of kids' health.

How is your organization using social media to support your advocacy efforts?

09 November 2009

Forget the "How" - Worry about the "Why"

Leslie White and I did a two hour (well, actually 1:15 after you took out the breaks and the fact that the predecessor session went long) session on Twitter at ASAE's social media workshop last week. We had planned to talk a little about the mechanics and a lot about what associations are actually doing with Twitter. But we got bogged down in the how - how do I set up an account, how to I protect/unprotect my tweets, how do I use re-tweet, @ messages, via messages, direct messages, URL shorteners, etc. I was not thrilled at the time, and upon reflection, I'm even more dismayed that we got so sidetracked, not least of which because I'm sure a certain percentage of participants were totally bored.

The biggest problem is that, if you lack a solid answer to "why," no matter how easy the "how" is, it's too hard. And if you have a good answer to "why," you'll figure out the "how."

When I asked how many participants had Twitter accounts, probably 75% of the room raised their hands. When I asked how many had tweeted within the last month, maybe 25% still had their hands up. When I got to how many had tweeted within the last day or hour, it was pretty much down to just the presenters.

Now why is that? Is it that it's SOOOOOO hard to go to www.twitter.com, compose a 140 character message, and hit "return"? No.

But if you haven't a good answer to "why am I doing this?" ANY "how do I do it?" is too hard. Because you know what's easier 100% of the time? Doing nothing. You need a reason to move. And without that, any "how" is too much trouble.

And the thing is, the "how" of Twitter is really, really simple. (And yes, I know I'm techno-friendly, but I'm definitely not a bleeding edge early adopter type. And I'm not a rocket scientist, by any stretch of the imagination. Which means that if I can figure it out, so can you.)

Step 1: Sign up for account.

Go to www.twitter.com. Click on the big green Sign Up Now button. Type in your name and email address, select a username and password, type in the captcha, and click on the Create My Account button. That's it. If you want to get fancy, click on "settings" to add a little more information about yourself, and maybe a picture, and decide whether or not to protect your updates (I recommend no), but to start tweeting - and, more importantly, paying attention to conversations - all you have to do is have an account.

Step 2: (recommended but not required) Set yourself up one of the alternative platforms.

The thing about the Twitter interface is that it's kind of like when you first got cell service. And you got a free cell phone. And you were really excited about that free phone, until you realized that all it did was make calls (if that). The alternate Twitter platforms are like smart phones - they make the basic functions of Twitter easier to use and provide additional features. Most people use either HootSuite (a web site you log into with your Twitter account information) or TweetDeck (a piece of software you download and install on your computer and log into with your Twitter account information).

Step 3: It's a cocktail party.

You wouldn't charge into a party where you don't know anyone and start making loud declarative statements, would you? (I hope not.) You'd start by listening to what's happening, getting a feel for the room, and then joining a conversation that sounds interesting. Twitter's the same way, only online and in 140 character bursts. Who do you follow? Start with this group, then see who they're following. You can also go to What the Hashtag and look for topics that are interesting to you. Follow any bloggers? You can do a people search on Twitter and see if they're there. Going to any conferences? Many organizations assign conference hashtags (like #smw09), which means you can follow what's going on at that event and, again, maybe find people to follow.

Oh - and all those "cool kids" comments? While there are some genuine social media rockstars (and no, I don't mean Ashton Kucher or Oprah), I'll tell you the secret to becoming one of the "cool kids" (and I won't even make you pinkie swear that you won't tell anyone): get on the social media platforms (blogs, wikis, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), talk to people, and say interesting things. That's it. It's a total meritocracy.

See? Easy how.

So what's the why? You have to answer that for yourself, but I'm going to try to help you, by relating some stories of ways I've used - or seen others using - Twitter to engage people and benefit their associations over the next few weeks. Want me to talk about what you've been up to? Email me at ewengel at yahoo dot com. And check back - I post 5 days a week, and I plan to focus on this (barring my Wednesday blog roundups and my Friday Top 5 lists) until I run out of stories to tell.

06 November 2009

Friday Top 5

So if you saw my tweet stream and/or Facebook this week, you saw I was looking for "heroic" songs for a playlist for something for NACHRI. Here are my top 5 favorite "hero" tunes in the playlist:
  1. Theme from Rocky (gimme a break - I'm from Philly)
  2. Nothing Else Matters (James Hetfield may be an ass, but Metallica ROCKS)
  3. Lift Every Voice and Sing (Mahalia Jackson version)
  4. Redemption Song (Bob Marley version)
  5. The Harvest Song
Don't know that last one?

Our hands will work for peace and justice
Our hands will work to heal the land
Gather round the harvest table
Let us feast and bless the land

05 November 2009


Hey! I'm at the ASAE social media workshop today and tomorrow presenting on Twitter with the fabulous Leslie White. Follow what's going on in real time via the #SMW09 hashtag!

04 November 2009

What I'm Reading

Super quick, as I get ready for #SMW09 tomorrow:

03 November 2009

More Google Awesomeness

Those smarties at Google are at it again! You can now export your docs, if you, say, want to send an attachment rather than inviting someone into your Google Docs area. 'bout time! (I wanted to include a cool screen shot, but it was coming up all fuzzy. Damn.)

And they're testing social search, which uses your public social network profiles to help display more relevant search results, at Google Labs.

02 November 2009

The Future of the Workplace

Jeremy Epstein (of Never Stop Marketing) interviews Adriana Lukacs (of much cool stuff) on social media, disruptive technologies, collaboration, co-working, innovation, and the future of the workplace.

(The vid is a little jerky, but stick with it anyway.)