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Business tweeting is a life-sentenceBefore you decide on a whim to register, activate, populate, respond, and promote your business or brand via Twitter, take a second to think this through. My first question is: why have you waited until now? My second is: why now? And finally: are you prepared to commit to actively tweeting in good times and in bad, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part? Is that your solemn vow?

Let me make this even clearer: this isn’t a marriage, this is partly like being a parent and partially like being a patient. As a parent to your bouncing-baby Twitter profile, you need to be attentive, creative, engaging, consistent, generous, a brilliant teacher and also a patient listener. As a patient, you’re had organ replacement surgery and you need to remember to take your medicine every day, without fail, for the rest of your life, or your pink new healthy liver will reject you; even more, you’re going to need to change your lifestyle, too. Why?

Well, now that you’re a parent to all of your followers and also a patient yourself, you’re going to need to start being a role model: consistent every day because one off-day in the limelight of your growing online brand celebrity can become much worse than a simple black eye. And since this child — these children — never sleep (like all babies seem never to sleep), this job cannot be limited to 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday — this is global, this is GMT +10 (Australia) all the way to GMT -10 (the Hawaiian Islands).

So, not only will you need to queue-up interesting self-promotional content and links to your posts, your press releases, or to mentions of yourself in the news, but you’ll need to spend another 80% of your time actually following the people you follow, responding to @replies, retweeting interesting content from other people, participating in conversations and utilizing relevant hashtags — and you’ll get extra points for following trends, sharing interesting content that doesn’t directly relate to your own company, products, people or services as well as for following industry-specific keywords in order to become part in other people’s relevant Twitter conversations. Even more, pursuing interesting people to follow, growing your community over time into something of a proper online community — a virtual family.

And I haven’t even started in on online monitoring, brand and reputation management, and using social as part or an Online Reputation Management (ORM) and organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy, either — that’s something else entirely and fully worth budget, resources, and more hours in the day, week, month — including nights and weekends.

Plus, there’s more: you can activate these people to become real friends, to participate in real tweet-ups and get-togethers. You can cross-promote these natural allies and compatriots or other funnels, such as email lists, blogs, Facebook Pages, Tumblrs, Pinterest, and Google+ — each of which will take just about as much time and energy as Twitter does if you don’t cheat and cut too many corners — though there are ways to make things much more efficient. To a point.

That said, I don’t want to start sounding like Anne-Marie Slaughter in her controversial article in The Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All — because in the world of social media, many hands make light work! And, if you’re the only person who’s responsible, you’re going to either need to distribute the work to your colleagues (this almost never works over the long run — and you’ll end up with the hot potato every time) or you’ll need to hire more dedicated Social Media staff (this can get expensive and it is really hard to keep the love alive as well as fire).

Even though this is never the popular choice, I recommend out-sourcing, either to the communications company or PR shop you already contract or by looking for a dedicated social media professional services company whose only job in the world is to cover the clock, keep and eye out, and work closely with you, the person who really cares and knows the company, to work on the best ways to juggle all of these things at once.

Because, unlike Anne-Marie Slaughter, you’re hopefully willing to try out day-care, try out baby-sitters, and even consider a nanny or au pair. It takes a village to raise a child and also to cultivate, engage, listen and respond to the thousands and thousands of people who will eventually think of you as an intrinsic part of their real community.

I don’t know how they do it, but the gang over at @thriftycars — Thrifty Car Rental — seems to keep a perfect tab on me and whomever and whoever is responsible for their Twitter profile really does an amazing job at keeping me in their minds and hearts — and I have yet to make a rental car reservation with anyone but Thrifty from the day, years ago, when they said hello to me, out of the blue, when I was driving my very own car — not even their car — across country. I may well have a crush on their quality of Twitter service or maybe I just like seeing something done right, personally, proactively, and happily — with a joyful voice — by a true global company (Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group (DTAG) is a Fortune 1000 company and has over 1,475 locations worldwide including more than 835 locations in the United States. As of October 2009, the company had about 7,000 employees, 700 of them in Tulsa).

Anyway, I hope you aren’t scared away by my post. I was just thinking about this as I listened to Krista Tippett talk about her new Twitter account, @BeingTweets, for her radio show, On Being, on NPR, and I thought: you’ve really opened a can of worms, Krista — you’re going to have to do this forever now. And then I though about Diane Rehm and how she’s been running @DRShow forever and it’s still really active and an essential channel for her program on WAMU, The Diane Rehm Show.

Good luck and let me know what you think about this post in the comments — I would love to hear your point of view on the value of Twitter and other social media channels circa 2012 and the idea of social media being akin to a life-sentence.

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Chris Abraham

About Chris Abraham

A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.

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