NEW YORK, March 24, 2009 — Guy Kawasaki has taken Twitter to the extreme. Even with "only" 91,000 followers, his is one of the most well-known names on the social networking microblogging site. Through Twitter, Kawasaki has not only made a name for himself, but also for his Web site, Alltop.com -- a site that aggregates the top news stories from the most popular topics on the Web. It was only appropriate for Kawasaki to lead a keynote presentation here at this year's Search Engine Strategies conference on the topic of using Twitter as a marketing tool. After all, Kawasaki has become his own brand on Twitter and has pushed the envelope with his Twitter usage. Some might consider what he's doing to be spam -- in fact, Kawasaki admits, many have said so, outright -- but others consider it a new wave of marketing. Regardless, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist and former Apple marketer is a Twitter evangelist -- and has a following to support it.
On Twitter, Kawasaki told the ballroom overflowing with attendees, "nobodies are the new somebodies." (The crowd -- and its twittering -- was so intense that the confluence of Kawasaki's Twitter celebrity, the New York multimedia crowd, and the conference's search-engine theme may have contributed to a cascading series of Fail Whales -- Twitter's iconic error screen for overcapacity -- that recurred during his keynote.) He praised the democratization that exists on the site. "Whether you are [Apple cofounder and chief executive officer] Steve Jobs or LonelyBoy15, you get 140 characters," he said. Plus, Kawasaki said, it's free.
"Twitter is the most powerful marketing tool since probably TV," Kawasaki stated, before outlining the three generations of online marketing:
- Version 1 of online marketing involved Web sites;
- Version 2 centered on blogs; and
- Version 3 is Twitter.
Kawasaki revealed to attendees the crux of his success on Twitter. Some of it is controversial, he said, but most of it can be achieved by anyone. Here are Kawasaki's 10 Steps to Twitter Success:
1. Forget the A-listers: If you're making it your mission to get the Robert Scobles (@scobleizer) and Guy Kawasakis (@guykawasaki) to comment or blog about your stuff, you're wasting your time, Kawasaki said. Twitter is about finding the people in the community who aren't famous but love what you do. Those little-known people will stick by you and become your evangelists. "Instead of 'trickle-down,' it should be 'bubbling up,' " Kawasaki explained. "You don't know who the best evangelists will be for your service."
2. De-focus: Go beyond those intensely close to you and spread out. It's about getting a lot of followers, Kawasaki said. The numbers do matter.
3. Follow your followers: Kawasaki is followed by 91,000 Twitter users -- but he also follows 97,000. He stressed the need to follow those who follow you. Of course, Kawasaki uses automation to keep up with his follows and followers, but the principle behind the process is important. "I think it's inherently arrogant if you think that you are worth following, but the person following you is not worth you following," he said. "I don't want to send the message that 91,000 follow me, but I only follow 50. That's a message that only 50 matter." Plus, following those who follow you allows them to direct message you. You want to open up the lines of communication as much as possible, he said.
4. Measure your effectiveness by retweets: Retweeting (or the "RT," as it's known in the twittering parlance) is the act of reposting someone's Twitter update -- and giving the originator credit for it, of course. "Retweeting is the sincerest form of flattery," Kawasaki said. "When someone retweets you, they made a conscious decision that they like what you have done."
5. Be a copycat: Kawasaki highlights the brands Comcast (@ComcastCares) and JetBlue (@jetblue) as good examples of what works on Twitter. "These people aren't the CEOs," he pointed out. "They're not always toeing the company line, but they do company stuff and personal stuff which adds to the interestingness." Simply watching how companies engage with customers on Twitter is a good place to start. Web site Twibs.com is essentially a directory of businesses on Twitter. It tracks what companies are doing on Twitter and is a great resource for businesses looking to see what like-minded companies are doing on the site.
6. Search: Kawasaki presented an interesting Twitter use case: At a recent conference, someone told Kawasaki about searching for the words "brake job" on Twitter and responding to those people with relevant tweets, asking for the model and make of the car and, upon receiving the details, providing a quote for the brake job. He told Kawasaki that he closes one out of every 10 conversations like that with a deal. "That shows a power twitterer," Kawasaki said, adding that companies should search for mentions of their brands on Twitter to know what people are saying about them. Also, he said, companies should be searching and monitoring keywords that involve their products or services.
7. Use the right tools: Kawasaki uses TweetDeck for its condensed display of direct messages, "@" replies, and his preferred search column. He also uses Twhirl. He noted that there are tons of tools to help Twitter users get the full mile of their time spent twittering. CoTweet, for one, is a private beta tool, geared especially toward companies wanting to have multiple users on a Twitter account.
8. Squeeze the trigger: If you really want to make something happen on Twitter, you've got to take risks. "A lot of people are hesitant," Kawasaki said. "They think it's social networking and wrong to use for marketing purposes. I have obviously never had that limitation." He then went on to mention a controversial topic in the twitterverse -- automated responses. Kawasaki uses TwitterHawk, which he adds is seen by some as the "ultimate spamming tool." Essentially, with TwitterHawk you pay a nickel per keyword search. If you pay to track the word "hockey," the tool will bring forth all tweets mentioning the sport and prompt an automated message of your choice to be twittered back to those users: "I hear you like hockey -- check out my hockey Web site at Alltop.com."
9. Make it easy to share everything: "I highly recommend on your blogs and Web sites you have this 'Share on Facebook' and 'Share on Twitter' button," Kawasaki said. "I can't tell you how many people do that per day." Beyond the "share" tool, Kawasaki delved into a capability a bit more controversial. With the use of TwitterFeed, you can choose to run an RSS feed as part of your Twitter stream. For example, say you love @destinationCRM or @CRM. With the TwitterFeed service, you could opt in to retweeting destinationCRM.com posts or CRM magazine articles -- essentially evangelizing a brand or service. Kawasaki said that 590 people have signed up for the service, letting Alltop post content through their Twitter handles. Kawasaki admitted this is "Extreme Twitter": "If you do this, you might get some hate mail," he said. "On the flip side, lots of people tell me [that] because they signed up for the service, they have more conversations because [Alltop's] auto-tweets are more interesting than what they tweet."
10. Take the heat if you use Twitter as a tool: Kawasaki developed a new acronym for those who don't like what he's doing on Twitter -- UFM, or UnFollow Me. "Some people say, 'You're a spammer,' and 'You're not using Twitter right,' " he stated. "[They say] Twitter is for cats rolling over or for lines at Starbucks...but I do it a different way.... I do extreme things." For that, he said, he takes a lot of heat -- but without Twitter, he said, his brand wouldn't be where it is today.
NOTE: Kawasaki has collected some of the links from his keynote presentation and made them freely available online (http://sn.im/kawasaki-links).
[UPDATED, 3/26/09, 11.01a ET: Editors' Note: Earlier versions of this article inaccurately characterized the popularity of Kawasaki's Twitter account among followers, and, due to a transcription error, incorrectly referred to a pair of Twitter-related Web sites. The editors regret any confusion these errors may have caused.]
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