The View

Managing in a Twitter universe

Tweeting is a content game and some just handle it better than others

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 October, 2015, 8:45am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 October, 2015, 6:17pm

When an AirAsia plane  crashed in waters off Indonesia earlier this year, the company’s chief executive, Tony Fernandes,  tweeted his condolences, saying his “heart is filled with sadness”. The response he got underlines both the power and risk in using social media.

 On the one hand, Fernandes’ personal touch enhances his profile and the Malaysian low-cost carrier’s image – he  has nearly a million followers, and many analysts felt his post-crash tweets were “sincere” and helpful.

 Yet in tweeting about an air disaster, Fernandes opened himself up to public criticism and trolling – and he got liberal doses of that as well.

 Using Twitter and other social media for work and in business is a tricky game but one that if, managed well, can greatly extend a company’s, entrepreneur’s or an individual’s profile. Donald Trump’s tweets have been said to have an impact on  the success of his presidential campaign; the Republican front runner has 4.4 million followers.

 Some users seem to have a knack for growing their profiles,  attracting large followings, getting retweets, or having their tweets cut and pasted on to new media reports.  

 Unsurprisingly, there are now corporate relations and public relations agencies that specialise in social media. For everyday professionals, meanwhile, there is a proliferation of crash courses one can take to improve one’s Tweetability.

 The US-based social media consultant and blogger Jeff Bullas, who offers one of those %seminars, says his Twitter account has driven a lot of traffic to his blog. Some simple Twitter tips he recommends: put up a personal picture with the account; use hashtags  (figure out how to use them effectively); follow as many others as possible; also, odds of getting retweeted go up substantially just by asking for a retweet. 

Using Twitter and other social media for work and in business is a tricky game

Ultimately, tweeting is a content game, and some just seem to nail the content better than others. This includes those who take risks – as Fernandes  does, by for instance using social media to take potshots at a Malaysian politician, especially amid recent corruption scandals. That said, risky tweets can also lose people their jobs or reputations.

  Asked  what its  in-house tips are on how to use the service for business, Twitter recommends:  avoid the hard sell, be conversational.

 It  also recommends experimenting with content, then using “Twitter analytics” to home in on what gets the best responses, such as retweets.

 The software on social media trends is ubiquitous. A media executive for a  tiny start-up %digital news site says it sends %out its articles in  three versions with  different headlines. It has software in place which tracks which headline is garnering the most hits, then the report  on the webpage and future sendouts automatically switch over to the most popular – or “clickable” – headline.

 Twitter also, naturally, recommends using promotions or Twitter advertisements. The service reaches more than 316 million monthly active users globally, and Twitter says it has platforms that extend into thousands of mobile apps, meaning a Twitter spot could reach more than 700 million unique users.

 Among regional firms that have used Twitter for advertising or promotions are Huawei, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, HTC, MassiveImpact, Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong Tourism Board and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

 Twitter says  the Asian-Pacific region is a growth engine for the company. Japan and Indonesia are among its top markets worldwide, while  India and South Korea are among  its fastest growing.  

 One no-go zone is China, where Twitter is  banned, and platforms like Sina Weibo reign. Taiwanese information technology venture capitalist Lee Kai-fu has 1.45 million Twitter followers – but more than 50 million on Weibo.

 Interestingly, the global arms of many mainland  businesses, including the media, use Twitter as well as Weibo. Indeed, in Hong Kong, the  state-run news broadcaster CCTV has one of the fastest growing Twitter accounts in the past month, according to socialbakers, a social media data firm.

 So far, however, few Asian executives have, like Tony Fernandes, created large profiles %on social media. There are a number of China-focused fund managers who get good traffic, but only a few and they tend to be Westerners.

  In Hong Kong, the businessman with the biggest Twitter following is a Filipino-Chinese fashion designer, Ben Chan.

Cathy Holcombe is a Hong Kong-based financial writer