Tweeting for Dollars

Hey, business owner, think twice before avoiding social media sites, says USF Sarasota-Manatee management professor Delaney Kirk, who last fall was named one of the Top 100 Twitterers in Academia by Onlineschools.org. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and, locally, Fast Pitch and Energize My Biz, represent “a fundamental shift in the way we communicate,” she says.

How widespread and influential have they become? With more than 300 million active users across the globe, “If Facebook were a country,” she says, “it would be the fourth largest in the world.” 

Kirk, who came to USF three years ago from Drake University, teaches management, leadership, human resources and diversity classes in the business school. She is developing a course for USF M.B.A. students on social media that will start next year. “Universities are picking up that this is a skill we can teach our students to give them a leg up,” she says, “because a lot of companies are looking to hire people who can help expand their social networking presence.”

Kirk jumped into social media first in 2006 by offering teaching tips for college professors through her blog, delaneykirk.com, and started using Twitter in 2008. In November, wefollow.com listed her as the No. 1 most influential professor on Twitter, even though she had 881 followers—far fewer than many other profs on Twitter.

“I look at them as 881 research assistants,” she says. “I send a call for information and someone will respond with a link. It’s the same thing with your business: Put something out there and people will respond, but only if you’re part of the community. I just can’t spam them; it just can’t be all about me, me, me.”

Twenty percent of all tweets—600,000 per day—are directly related to products and services, she says. She calls Twitter “the water cooler of the Internet.” It’s immediate, brief—and free. A small restaurant owner, for example, can send a tweet about upcoming weekend specials. 

Kirk herself recently sent a tweet inquiring about a national builder from whom she was considered buying a townhouse in Sarasota. “Many people responded with comments, some good, some bad,” she says. “The builder themselves contacted me through Twitter after they saw my query and gave me their own references. I ended up buying.”

 

Social Networking

Do’s and Don’ts

Do set up Google and Twitter alerts to follow your company on the Internet. It’s a good way to manage your online reputation. “Other people are saying things online about your company,” says Kirk. “Don’t you want to know what that is?”

Don’t go in immediately for the sale. “Social media is about building relationships,” says Kirk. “Do it the right way: Build credibility and a relationship first.” A camera shop owner, for example, can start a blog on the merits of various cameras. People who come to rely on his advice will be more likely to buy from him. General rule of thumb, says Kirk: Use only 20 percent of your social media site for actual selling.

Do keep your blog current. “If I go to your blog and I see you haven’t said anything for three months, you’ve lost me,” she says. “You want to get on it at least two or three times a week.”

Don’t try to jump on the social media bandwagon all at once. Only do what you’re able to maintain. Start with one site, depending on your business and your comfort level with technology.

Do join LinkedIn if you’re a consultant or some other professional; more than 48 million professionals in 20 countries are registered. Kirk says her graduating students have found it to be an excellent job-hunting resource.

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