Most businesses like to think they are special: They have a unique problem. They have a unique customer. They have a complicated offering. Businesses make excuses all the time for the difficulty they find with social media. Trouble is, most of the time, it's just not true.
This struck me as I saw one of the most complicated issues facing America today -- the fiscal cliff -- being discussed via a Twitter Q&A. That's right, the morass of political, financial and social complexities known as the fiscal cliff was being discussed in 140 characters or less.
Whether you agree with the politics or not (or even the validity of his tweets), there is much to learn looking at the live chat done by President Obama on this issue: some good takeaways if your business holds a Twitter Q&A. After all, can you legitimately say you are selling something more complex than a solution to the fiscal cliff? I doubt it.
Script the difficult questions. No doubt you already know some of the tough questions about your business. If not, you should be talking to your front-line employees, your customer service reps, your call-center people -- anyone who can tell you the tough questions your business gets. Be ready to answer those questions in 140 characters or less. Write some blog posts and link to those more expanded answers. Be prepared. You might not use all your preparation, but you’ll have it for down the road as well.
Have some fun. You’re gonna get some tough questions, but don’t be afraid to loosen up the Q&A. Take some time to show the human side of your brand. You already know the importance of showing the human side of your execs and your front-line employees. Here’s another opportunity to make it happen.
.@mica4life da bears still gotta shot, despite sad loss this weekend! plus rose will return for playoffs!!! -bo— The White House (@whitehouse) December 3, 2012
Ensure volume of traffic. Make sure you don’t just answer one person’s question. That’s a conversation, not a Q&A. President Obama was able to promote his Q&A just hours before the session. But, the White House also has 3.3 million followers. Promote your session a day or two in advance. Promote it at different times of the day to hit different audiences. Promote it on Facebook, Google+, Instagram. Promote it that you’re giving out a prize for the best question. Promote it, promote it, promote it.
Good to see lots of folks on twitter speaking out on extending middle class tax cuts. I'll answer some Qs on that at 2ET. Ask w/ #My2k –bo— The White House (@whitehouse) December 3, 2012
Make it visual. Don’t be afraid to show a photo or two. You might be able to use a photo to answer some questions, but you also might be able to use photos to show that real humans are answering the questions. For example, the Obama Twitter feed included a photo of the President's hands typing.
Bonus: ask your own questions. With 3.3 million followers, President Obama didn’t need to spice up his Q&A with his own questions. But, I’m guessing you aren’t the leader of a powerful industrialized nation. You might need to encourage the session and liven it up with some of your own questions. Combine a few of these tips for even more effectiveness. Post a photo and ask a question about it, and have some fun with your question!