This is a series of posts (one a day so another one tomorrow!) on mistakes companies make when using Twitter for business. Entering online communities is easy (mostly) but working effectively is hard. This series shows the mistake and (hopefully) the fix. This particular post is on Velocity and Timelines in Social Media.

Optus, one of Australia’s main telecommunications carriers,  have made a classic social media error:

Social Media Timelines

Opening a Twitter account to promote something on the day of the event is not giving enough time for building engagement before entering campaign mode. A common error by the way, this not understanding velocity in social networks.

Optus_cebit opened an account this morning, the morning of the CeBIT conference. They have 2 followers.

click for larger image

But they are throwing out oodles of spam now hitting the #CeBit stream. The only chat they had on Twitter:
@Optus_Cebit Business Executives waiting to answer your Telco Questions. See if you can improve your efficiency and cost! Stand D15 #Cebit
@jasonsbradshaw @Optus_Cebit which executives?
@Optus_Cebit @jasonsbradshaw Agreed!

If the last comment didn’t make sense to you either, it was actually to an open tweet from @jasonbradshaw about skimpy clothing women on stands.

In one fell swoop Optus have alienated anyone they were friending on @Optus account with this spammy poorly-thought-through Cebit event based account.

Anyway, I threw some diagrams to show the rather obvious difference in timelines between a traditional campaign and a social media one.
Traditional vs Social Media timelines
Diagram 1 is Traditional media (where you throw a lot of $$ at a campaign to get traditional media interest). Of course, interest dies pretty quickly as soon as your News becomes Old News, and when you stop throwing money at it. Think of a movie promotion. In fact diagram 1. is a typical long tail – lots of interest in the short head. Big drop off at the end of the $$ cycle.

Diagram 2 is Social Media – start seeding but expect some time for the take up. I was recently – unfortunately – part of a social media campaign by a not for profit that gave everyone 4 weeks (and over Christmas/New Years break!) to raise money. Experienced fundraisers can pull on their connection and social networks but everyone else has to start from scratch. The diagram below might explain a little more why 4 week is rarely enough, though I can see the diagram itself doesn’t show the J curve very effectively.
Chain Reaction over time in social networks Diagram 3 can go either way. If you think of Best Job in the World – lots of traditional media marketing $$$ to promote the user generated content of the social media campaign. But a big drop off at the end of the double page spreads and tv crews leading to few comments on the Best Job blog or twitter engagement. Also think of the V (vodafone I think) campaign – 3 guys to tweet every minute from LA for 24 hours. None of them had much of a twitter audience before starting. Certainly nothing like Darren Rowse and his 100,000 followers. Media interest? Yes. Social Media interest? Not really.  Still, give me your traditional advertising budget and I’ll build a social network for you. And nah, it’s not really cheating. 😛 MarketingMix FTW!

Joining the day of the event with no lead up will leave you with 2 followers just like @Optus_Cebit. One of their followers is a spammer by the way.

Tip: If you are going to put your company on Twitter, think of it as a strategy not a campaign. Plan ahead. Give everything enough time. Think about engagement before during and after. Particularly after – what are you going to do with that database of followers who might actually like what you were tweeting about? What will be your marketing mix? PR , advertising, social media, education, SEM?

Question: even if they did get hundreds or thousands of followers, what are they going to do next week when cebit is no longer on? I mean, I know what I would do, but do they?

I’ll cover another common mistake companies make on Twitter tomorrow…