Wednesday, November 28, 2007

twitter: org integration proposal

For the social media organizational integration proposal, student Erin Gentry suggested that National Geographic magazine integrate Twitter. Reading tweets from their journalists dispatched all around the world in itself is enough to get me excited about this proposal. A single account, rather than unique accounts for each article, might be easier to manage, though. The specific examples of what type of tweets the reporters should do & the explanations of how to reply (both in task & approach for stimulating conversation) are among the things that made this Twitter proposal stand out.

The proposal she turned in follows.

National Geographic Use of Twitter

Over the past years, National Geographic magazine has been facing a decline in readership in the U.S. Readers are becoming older and using the internet to gather information once found only in the magazine. To combat this, National Geographic has made its web site interactive including podcasts, videos and photos.

However, there is still a need to generate interest in the magazine. Terry Adamson, executive vice president of National Geographic Society said, “One of our challenges…is to continually find new, younger readers.” Younger people are using the internet. National Geographic needs to generate interest about its magazine where its publics are participating, on the internet.

Twitter is a social networking site. It allows users to create updates, or tweets, up to 140 characters long. Updates are delivered to users who have signed up to “follow” the updater. Updates can be sent and received via email, instant messaging, text messaging or the Twitter web site. Twitter is a service allowing users to keep track of what people are doing, thinking, looking at and feeling.

On July 18, 2007, it was estimated that there was 340,000 public Twitter accounts with an average of 2,000 new Twitter accounts a day.

National Geographic can use Twitter to generate interest in its magazine. Authors and photographers on site for an article could Twitter. Telling Twitter users what they are doing, eating, seeing and experiencing, the authors and photographers could generate interest based on what they did to produce the story.

National Geographic should set up a primary account that would be updated with interesting facts, news about articles coming up and special offers for Twitter users only. They should then set up accounts for each different article it wants to feature on Twitter. When choosing what articles to feature online, National Geographic should consider whether the location will allow for multiple updates and whether the journalist or photographer will be able to make the updates interesting.

Getting Started With Twitter

To set up the Twitter account:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Get Started-Join
  3. Choose a user name (e.g. Nat’lGeographic)
  4. Choose a password
  5. Enter an email address
  6. Click I accept. Create an account.

    Repeat these steps to create the accounts for each different article National Geographic wants to feature on Twitter.

    To send a tweet on the web site, log on to the Twitter account. Type in the message you want to send in the entry window at the top of the page. Hit update to send the message.

    It is also possible to register a phone and instant messenger to Twitter from. To do this, log on to the Twitter account. Under settings, click on phone and IM. Then, enter the mobile phone number and instant messenger name that updates will be sent from. To send a Twitter message from a mobile phone, send an SMS message to 40404. From instant messenger, message TwitterIM if using AOL or if using Jabber/Gtalk.

Using Twitter

A picture can be uploaded to each account. A standard logo should be used for the main account. However, for accounts following a specific story, a picture of the person or persons Twittering should be used. It would be more interesting if the picture was taken on location. This would provide followers with a personal connection to the people Twittering and the story they are covering. To upload a picture, log on to the Twitter account. Click on settings then picture. Hit the browse button and select the picture that will become the profile picture. Click save.

A twitter tweet must be short and interesting telling followers what is happening, how the Twitterer is feeling or pointing to an interesting link. Here are some examples:

Just arrived in South America…Buen Airez to be exact

The local cuisine here is interesting…fried crickets taste like potatos

It is raining…AGAIN

Just got back from a 40 mile hike, beautiful scenes but my feet hurt

Check out the local children (add a link to photos)

To make the Twitter account interesting updates should be made frequently, at least one new tweet a day. However, do not overburden followers with too much information. Do not update more than 10 times a day unless in extreme circumstances (e.g. a volcano erupting).

The account should also contain a lot of links and references. Link to pictures that have been uploaded to the internet, online recipes that describe local cuisine, weather forecasts and descriptions, examples of local artwork, etc.

References on Twitter consist of the @ symbol and the name of a fellow Twitterer (e.g. @eGentry). This occurs quite frequently and should be used as a tool to answer followers’ questions, promote other National Geographic Twitter accounts and participate in the Twitter community. Twitter is about connecting and having mini conversations. Do not be afraid to reference what someone else is saying. For example, if the follower MJcool writes “polar bears are awesome” do not be afraid to follow the link. Then, the main account could reference MJcool and say “@MJcool, polar bears are cool. Did you know their skin was black?”

Each Twitter account has a profile. A profile tells a little about the account user. A profile includes url information, one line bio and location. The profile can be changed by logging in to the account and clicking settings. The url for all Twitter accounts should be the National Geographic’s web site. The one line bio can tell about the company (e.g. Inspiring people to care about the planet) or the project being worked on (e.g. This is a article researching how people in the Amazon eat). The location should tell where the account is being updated from.

The background can be changed in Twitter. Anyone clicking on an accounts name will be taken to their home page which includes their individual background. While many users do not visit other home pages, this tool could be used to individualize National Geographic’s accounts. To change the background, log on to the Twitter account and click on settings. Click on design. Change the colors or click browse and add a picture.

The main account should link to all pictures, videos and podcasts National Geographic adds to its web site.

Employees should follow these guidelines when Twittering:

  1. Tell the Truth – never lie about who you are, where you are or what you are doing
  2. Use a human voice – do not use business talk or PR talk
  3. Have a thick skin – know that people will not always like what you say
  4. Respond to the people who reply to you – answer their questions responding back to them, be nice to the people who follow you and they will spread the word
  5. Never change the main twitter account’s name – you will lose followers if you do
  6. If you do not have the answers say so – not having the answers is human, but find them if you can
  7. Never lie
  8. Never hide information – even if National Geographic is not doing a good job, do not hide the fact. Say what is going wrong and what is happening to fix the issue
  9. Know who is talking about you

Making Twitter Effective

Followers need to have some reason to follow National Geographic’s twitter accounts other than the fact that it is interesting. National Geographic needs to reward its followers. Here are some suggested ways to do this:

    1. Give away special offers and codes only released through Twitter
    2. Create a special edition of National Geographic just for Twitters – this special edition could expand on the experiences of the photographers and journalists who Twitter
    3. Have a contest for the best story idea on Twitter. The winner would not only see his or her story produced and published, but would meet with the journalist and photographer who produced the story

Marks of Success

The marker of success for Twitter is the number of followers an account has. Followers receive the updates accounts send. All National Geographic twitter accounts should have more followers than accounts it is following. Following accounts can be useful. Most twitter users look at who is following them and will start following the accounts following them. If National Geographic has 300 followers in the first month, the Twitter account has been extremely successful.

Replies are also a mark of success. If twitter users are positively responding to what is said, then the account is a success. To view responses, log on to the account. Click on the sub-folder Replies under the update button.

National Geographic could also track success by following how many hits on its web site come from Twitter recommendations.

Note: this proposal was created for as a part of a student project in class (ADPR 5990) & is no way an indication of what the organization is planning on doing regarding social media. Students selected clients & social media tools on their own based on their personal interests.

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