Building (Good) Stakeholder Communication on Twitter and BeyondPosted: March 6, 2014
Together with Annika Veh, a former Bachelor and Master student of mine and now PhD student HSU, I’ve taken up an interest in how stakeholder communication constitutes (part of) an organization. Based on prior works on stakeholder relationships (Kuhn, 2008; Koschmann, Kuhn, and Pfarrer, 2012), we develop the idea of a partial and temporary organization of stakeholder communication which, in turn, affects the constitution of the (for lack of a better word) ‘meta’ organization. More on the conceptual idea in a future post, though.
In our last little effort, we’ve looked into stakeholder communication on Twitter. Besides the theoretical concept and the empirical illustration, there are a number of rather practical implications for the daily use of Twitter in a corporate context. First, you need to know that Twitter is a network, which means that you must have others to connect to. Second, the practice of tweeting is much work and some play. And third, professional courtesy goes a long way. Let’s take a closer look:
Build a follower base
- Follow as many of your customers, suppliers, competitors, and other important actors in your industry as you can identify (and hope that they follow you back).
- If someone follows you, take the time to thank them for following you and that let them know that you’re looking forward to joining into a conversation with them.
- Address others that are important to you directly or refer to them in your tweets. For example, if you’re in the automative business, car enthusiasts are invaluable multipliers of good conversations with them.
- Keep your corporate policy on engaging with the public in mind. The old rules of public relations management still apply. Authenticity is key, be respectful, and don’t bent over backwards to make everybody happy.
A tweet a day
- Make it a custom to tweet frequently, at least once a day. Whether this is hourly or just once a day doesn’t really matter, what matters is that followers can rely on tweets on a regular basis.
- Tweets are not a one-way street of spreading information. You should see them as offers for further communication or, in other words opportunities to engage with your stakeholders. For example, information about a new project, product, or the like should invite your followers (and the larger public, indeed) to either retweet that information or join into a conversation. Be cautious not to ask directly to retweet too often. Retweets should be your followers’ choice.
- Tweets with links to further information attract more attention. If you’re including a link to a picture, makes sure it’s notable (i.e., do not use URL shorteners but rather let Twitter shorten the URL to something like pic.twitter.com/ABCD).
- Content does not matter as much as you would think. But know that a larger variety of interesting facts and figures serves a larger audience.
Professionalism on display
- Twitter is as public as it gets. If you are addressed directly by a follower or any other tweep—no matter if it is a question, a compliment, a flame, a rant, or whatever—always answer as quickly as you can. Depending on the business you are in (or that you want to be in), ‘quick’ means anything from minutes to hours. If there is one truth about Twitter, though, than it is that there are no business hours anymore. If you are flamed on Friday night and don’t care to answer until Monday morning, than you may well be reading about the full-blown crisis that developed over the weekend in the morning paper.
- People like to know who they’re talking to. If you have more than one employee maintaining your Twitter account, make an extra effort to indicate who’s behind a tweet. A good way is to spell out all tweeps in your profile (e.g., John Wayne \JW, Jane Doe \JD; backslash ‘masking’ initials are a good idea since they leave room for the more important tweets themselves) and have each one sign their tweets one way or another.
- Use a client to handle your Twitter account, it’ll make your life easier. Twitter provides an official client for all platforms, but there are many other out there. There is no obvious choice, it depends on what you’re looking for. From quick-and-easy handling of multiple accounts to sophisticated rules and procedures to automated tweeting, there is a client for everyone.
If you need only three words to nicely sum up all of the above: Make. It. Personal.
Let me know about your use of Twitter in stakeholder communication and beyond. Let me know, too, if you want to take a look at your tweets through the eyes of an organizational communication scholar. I’ve got good R code up and running.
- Koschmann, M. A., Kuhn, T. R., & Pfarrer, M. D. (2012). A Communicative Framework of Value in Cross-Sector Partnerships. Academy of Management Review, 37(3), 332–354.
- Kuhn, T. R. (2008). A Communicative Theory of the Firm: Developing an Alternative Perspective on Intra-organizational Power and Stakeholder Relationships. Organization Studies, 29(8–9), 1227–1254.