Sweet Tweets 2: How We’re Using Twitter at Ma.gnolia
The second of two posts on Twitter, where I’ll share how we’re using Twitter to enhance communication with the Ma.gnolia member community.
In the last post’s apologia petite (pardon my faux French) for substantial meaning in Twitter posts, I held that despite being tiny, Twitter posts can carry very significant meaning when read in the context of an established social relationship. That notion immediately suggests that micro-blogging is best done between friends and family who know each other well. It turns out though, that this isn’t strictly the case.
At Ma.gnolia, we’ve put Twitter to good use as a means of keeping in touch and staying relevant to a core group of our membership. Not all our members are using Twitter, obviously, but those who use Ma.gnolia every day are heavy web users, and as such are much more likely to be able to tame and enjoy Twitter with ease. So our expectation is not to reach all our members with Twitter, but just those who are very regularly connected.
It’s worth telling how we got started. During a big upgrade in January, we spent a couple of days getting the kinks worked out, but some of those kinks blocked access to the site from time to time. Since our blog and wiki are integrated pieces of Ma.gnolia, we couldn’t use those channels to keep members informed. And it’s not like we could send out a newsletter for each change, primarily because these momentary changes in status didn’t affect everyone and people would start to wonder if we’d lost it.
So we started using Twitter, making posts whenever there was a change worth reporting. We updated our standard error pages to point people to Twitter as a source of status updates. That got us through the rough parts, but it was a suggestion from factoryjoe that took us to making status updates a daily thing, and to maybe even throw in a cool link of the day.
All in 140 characters?
Messages for the Medium
Twitter demands that you be concise, a brown belt in prÃ©cis. It also demands that you be somewhat innovative with your words, not just to get in under the character limit but also to keep your communication interesting. Seeing ‘Status OK’ almost every day would be informative, but it gets old quickly. We try to mix it up by finding new phrases to say that all is well, and when it’s not well we have the fun of fitting an artful description into a tight space.
Adding the cool link of the day is the other part of our Status OK posts. We have two advantages here. The first is that Ma.gnolia produces a short link to each bookmark we save. The second is that Twitter takes that short link and makes it even shorter, getting us in under the limit almost every time. Moreover, we make a point of thanking the person who saved the bookmark.
Today’s post was a good example.
Ma.gnolia thinks that spring has sprung, and it feels great. Live large with today’s link http://ma.gnolia.com/zalayo (Thanks fabioassis)
And 3 characters to spare! Rock on. The feedback on how we’re using Twitter has been good and folks say they like a cool link of the day. Hunting a new link down each day is a great exercise for me because it’s one more chance to explore the community and see what people are up to, but with specific purpose – I need a cool link and I need it now! It makes me enjoy the fruits or our own work even more.
Of Course We’re Friends!
Almost as soon as we got the word out that Twitter would be a status update channel for us, people started to add us as friends. Though we hadn’t seen other companies using Twitter do the same, we almost immediately started to reciprocate. We made a point of doing so as soon as we saw the notification that someone had added us, as quickness is in line with the Twitter experience and it shows people that we’re here and engaged, and that they matter to us outside Ma.gnolia as well. Our approach produced an unexpected benefit in that Twitter is a two-way channel, and before long members began posting publicly and directly to us about service interruptions or other issues that needed attention. Without barely trying, we had opened up a lightweight support channel with a super-low barrier to use.
I’ll admit that it’s flattering to watch the numbers of friends grow, but for me that’s the lesser part of the fun. The real thing is in the posts that people share with us, and how it allows us to understand where they’re coming from.
I’ve already mentioned that Twitter opened up an unexpected way for members to let us know when the service needed some kind of attention.
A greater, though less tangible benefit, came in the insight into what our members are up to. Scrolling through the posts of our friends gives us a Gestalt of what they deal with, what excites and frustrates and amuses, what little successes and failures they face. In short, it enriches how we see our members and understand them as people. No specific features have changed or been planned in response to what we see. Instead, the payoff is that we can think and talk about our members in a more informed way.
What started as a need for a way to keep members posted through a rough update has turned into a vital extension of how we communicate with our members, and how they can talk back to us. All in 140 characters per post. Not too shabby.