Agency Leads Must Absolutely Use TwitterBy Gini Dietrich

A few years ago, I got in a major debate with some of my senior leadership team.

You see, we were growing like an out-of-control weed and, true to my nature, we had big plans to grow even faster. But we were stuck. We couldn’t grow as quickly as I wanted without doing something pretty drastic.

Our managing director suggested we start doing our own PR.

I remember the debate well. Really well, in fact. Probably because I was wrong.

She had suggested we do our own PR. I remember her saying, “Clients read PRWeek and other trade magazines. They want to work with agencies that are featured in those places.”

I pushed back and said our job wasn’t to do our own PR and I certainly didn’t want clients to think we were so busy promoting ourselves that we’d forgotten about them.

But her point was that we wouldn’t have any clients if no one knew who we were.

How Can You Know Without Trying?

Mic. Drop.

Kind of crazy to think about now, isn’t it?

I mean, would you ever recommend an organization not do PR in favor of focusing on doing the work?

Talk about a crazy, backwards way of thinking.

I clearly changed my mind and we set out to change the way we were bringing in new business—and doing our own PR was part of it.

Now our mantra is that we never suggest anything to a client we haven’t tried ourselves: Blogging, email marketing, lead generation, content creation, paid media, or social media.

We try it all first and take our learnings and apply them to that of our clients.

A few weeks ago, a client asked if we should try Twitter Lead Generation Cards for their business.

She’d read Giles Thomas’s guest post on how to build your email database and thought we should try it on them.

I agreed it’d probably be a good thing for them, but asked for a couple of months to let us try it on Spin Sucks first.

She agreed.

I mean, why wouldn’t you want your agency to test things out before spending your money? Particularly when technology changes so quickly that you have to try new things, but do so in as risk-free environment as possible.

Working with an agency that is constantly testing new tools seems like a really good idea.

Just Follow on Twitter? Say What?

This very reason—and the fact that social media has helped me grow this business in ways I never could before 2007—was why I laughed out loud when I read, “PR Agency Leads Should Only Follow On Twitter.”

(I’m not providing a link because I don’t want to give the story any SEO juice, but it’s pretty easy to find if you want to read it.)

You see the author, a lead at a very well-known firm, thinks those of us who run agencies should only follow people on Twitter—not engage, respond, or even tweet.

This is what she says:

Don’t get me wrong: I believe wholeheartedly in clients and influencers using Twitter to get the word out. But what I can’t for the life of me wrap my head around is why anyone in an agency — especially those working in PR, whose core responsibility is to help clients protect and amplify their brand voice — believes they should be out front adding their two cents proactively or using it as a publicity engine for their own means.

Agency Leads Must Absolutely Use Twitter

I can give you about 60,000 reasons anyone in an agency should be out front adding their own two cents proactively or using it as a publicity engine for their own means:

  • Clients won’t work with you if they don’t know who you are…and Twitter is a great way to flatten out the world and build relationships with those you’d never meet otherwise.
  • Agencies MUST know how the digital tools work and it’s impossible to know the nuances of each of them without using them yourself.
  • I, personally, am building a world-class team of people around the globe. Because we’re virtual, I have the huge opportunity to add the very best to my team without the cost of moving them to Chicago—something that is prohibitive to a small business. I wouldn’t be able to do that without Twitter or without this blog.
  • Twitter allows you to build lists of people who would make great partner clients. Follow them. Read what they write. Respond to their tweets. Build a virtual relationship. I promise you, you will get business from approaching it this way. You’ll also achieve other business development goals, such as adding on revenue sources like speaking and coaching and even authoring a book or two.
  • Yes, you can even generate word-of-mouth advertising and, I don’t care what business you’re in, every agency needs to grow. Even if you get all of your new business from word-0f-mouth, you do actually have to generate quite a bit of that.
  • You will learn new things. I suppose you can learn new things by following and not engaging or responding, but you’ll learn much more by having conversations and building rapport. Imagine if all you did was read and not speak to human beings. It’s a completely different life experience.
  • To that end, you’ll also get new ideas. The blog post I wrote yesterday about Google News Lab happened like this: I saw Google tweet their blog post. I clicked the link and saved it in my tabs to read later. Corina Manea then sent it to me and asked if I’d read it. That pushed me to pay more attention to it. She also found it on Twitter.
  • You will build a better brand. Thanks to Timehop, I can see what I shared on social media six years ago. It’s kind of embarrassing. I’ve learned SO MUCH in that time and become so much more sophisticated. That never would have happened if I sat on the sidelines and used Twitter passively.
  • Customer service gets a turbocharge because people have a new way to reach you. And it’s A LOT easier to respond to a 140 character tweet than a four paragraph email.
  • You can notify customers or fans quickly and easily without relying on third-parties to help you tell your story. Case-in-point, when Taylor Swift took Apple to task, she didn’t call The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal to tell her story. She wrote a blog post on Tumblr and she tweeted it. And THEN the whole world picked it up.

Yes, we must still pay attention to the traditional tactics, but the world is changing and expecting that you don’t have to participate to stay in business is really short-sighted.

If we were having this argument in 2009, I’d understand it (in fact, I did have this argument with Steve Strauss at USA Today in 2009).

But this is 2015.

Our job is to understand, intimately, how the tools work so we can do the very best job for our clients.

If you don’t use them, you may understand them at a very high level, but you will never understand them well enough to react quickly to a negative situation, to use them to grow a business, or to show a real return-on-investment.

image credit: Shutterstock

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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