Endings are hard, even when you’re talking about technology. But often it leads to better things. Here’s a little story encouraging you to take a second, or maybe even a first, look at Twitter to build better personal relationships in your own network of contacts.
Google recently announced it will pull the plug July 1st on Google Reader, its RSS (really simple syndication) feed aggregator. I’m a little sad to see it go, even though I haven’t used it for months now. Back in 2005 when Reader first appeared, keeping up with your favorite news sites and blogs was difficult. An easy to use interface quickly made Reader the top aggregator on the market and my tool of choice.
Of course in these fast moving times, things change. With the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other micro-blogging tools, Reader failed to keep up and lost its luster … it lost its users as well, which multiple sites are now trying to grab.
For my part, I vote to swap it out with Twitter feeds and Flipboard. I can almost see the shocked look on your faces – not Twitter! Bear with me; the pitch makes good sense, honest.
Aggregators are great because you can “listen” to a lot of information without having to seek it out yourself. Without them, it would be difficult to devote the time to visit one site after another trying to keep up with vast amounts of content. Instead, you’d just settle for a couple of favorite sites and stick with those. That’s what people do who don’t know about aggregators. Think of all the good content they’re overlooking; maybe you’re missing out, too!
So why Twitter? The technology forces users to post updates 140 characters at a time. Folks have become very adept at expressing succinct ideas within this limitation. It’s brilliant; I can follow a lot great minds and companies, and quickly tell if the content is relevant to me. With traditional blog readers and aggregators, I’d have to cycle through a lot of copy to tell if something’s worthwhile. Now, I’m saving time.
I suspect perceptions have given Twitter a bad rap in the business world; too many people see it as a way for someone to talk about what they had for dinner or what they are wearing. (If you have to know: I had chicken last night; and it’s business casual today, so jeans are just fine.) Those “conversations” do go on; but that’s not where my focus is. I’m seeking the great content that’s also out there. Every corporation, magazine or thought leader I can think of has at least one Twitter account; many have more. And since you choose the people, entities and topics to follow, you can easily avoid the “chicken dinner” talk if you prefer.
Another Twitter concern for people is how the need to tweet all the time is too much work, too much of a commitment; I agree. However, I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to just “listen” as long as you’re willing to promote the dialog and ideas. People who put themselves out there want others to be engaged. Give them props, help them become better, share their ideas … or, offer a counterpoint on occasion. You aren’t expected to have the same goals all the time.
So what does this mean for Relationship Management? You may not be tweeting yet, but your clients, prospects, and peers are. The information they share reflects what they care about and who they are. At the very least, you should be listening to what they say. You might find a good opportunity to connect with a suggestion to help them and their business. Better yet, become a “referral” of sorts and promote their ideas; people appreciate that a lot. You don’t even have to create a tweet; just click the re-tweet button and, if the content is really good or valuable, add a thank you at the beginning. As another helpful bonus, all the best Twitter aggregators have a share feature so you can pass on content to others in your firm or network with a simple button click.
If you’re looking for new ways to build relationships, Twitter has a lot going for it; don’t sell it short. Talk to others, or do your own field trial. You may be surprised at the results. In a few weeks, I’ll post again to highlight the aggregators I prefer and recommend some others you might want to consider. Until then, you’ll find me @toniminick.