Laura Fitton on Curating Content and Building Community

Laura Fitton (@pistachio on Twitter) co-authored Twitter for Dummies and founded oneforty, a social business marketplace that helps users discover tools to help streamline their social media presence. Here, she shares her tips on sharing useful content and creating an effective online presence.

ISBB: What Twitter apps would you recommend for small business owners?

Fitton: There are a bunch! The tool we offer, SocialBase, lets any business combine the tools it needs and assign tasks. It has a list of built-in tasks and tools to make any business a social business. We also list other small business tools on our website.

What would you say to small business owners who say they don’t have time for Twitter and other social media tools?

I think that’s absolutely valid, and the key is to find the tools that make Twitter more efficient for small business owners. You need to provide value, and one way to do that is to create original content. But if you are just one person trying to figure it out for yourself, we recommend getting really good at curating content. Find really good articles you know your customers will love. Don’t worry about creating the content yourself.

But should you worry about linking to content created by your competitors?

If it’s relevant to your customers, then share it. Zappos is a great example of this. If someone calls them and they don’t have the shoes in stock, they’ll have the customer service rep research where they are and send the customer the link. In his book What Would Google Do?, Jeff Jarvis says, “Do what you do best and link to the rest.” If there’s something that will be really helpful with building trust with your customer base and it happens to have been written by a competitor, I have no qualms with linking to that.

Are you noticing businesses using Twitter in any cool or unusual ways?

There are some really cool things. For instance, a company in South America had locals tweeting to get a map to zoom in to find the prize. Once the map resolution was clear enough, people could zoom in. You had to get the whole town fired up and tweeting. The higher the hashtag trended, the higher the resolution on the map. It got a bunch of people excited, even people sitting at home nowhere near the event played along.

What are some Twitter do’s and don’ts for small businesses?

Don’t get obsessed with the number of followers. That’s really not important. Do pay attention to your effectiveness. Are people willingly following you and engaging? Having followed you, do they ever retweet your content or mention you with a Follow Friday hashtag (#FF)? If you’re a local retail business and you’re planning events, are people showing up? Those are good collective measures of effectiveness.

If you are focusing on effectiveness measures, you’ll know if your efforts are working. If not, you’re not going to see click-throughs or retweets. People aren’t going to talk to you. The other tip is: listen, learn, care, and serve. In that order you want to go through those things cyclically. Instead of listening first and getting a feel for the territory, people run right in there and say, “I’m building my brand.” But who are you building it for? That’s why you need to listen first.

About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in writing about business and personal finance. Her articles have appeared in or on The Boston Globe, Dance Retailer News, GetCurrency.com, Mint.com, PARADE Magazine, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and other places.
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