Making Friends in 'Twitterville'

Serviceable Tweets and 'Lethal Generosity' Key to Getting Your Brand on Top

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Every day another Twitter book hits the shelves. Most of them have been written quickly in an attempt to meet market demand, and they're mostly carbon copies of each other. Not so with Shel Israel's (@shelisrael) new book, "Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods."

A compendium of case studies crowd-sourced from hundreds of Mr. Israel's followers from around the globe, "Twitterville" is less about social-networking theory than real-world mistakes and successes; real influencers and engagements; real marketing threats and opportunities. This is about buying and reading one of the best insights into what is really going on in the Twittersphere -- not just a how-to handbook.

At the dawn of blogging (let's say 10 years ago), citizens were empowered with a means of "talking back" to companies, brands, journalists and politicians. And while it's true that "markets are conversations," as books such as "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and Mr. Israel's own "Naked Conversations" famously assert, those early blogs didn't offer many ways for companies, products, and services to engage on equal footing. Cue Twitter.

If I read "Twitterville" correctly, Twitter is the first platform that can empower companies to get their footing back; the first opportunity since Social Media 1.0 pantsed "corporate" that corporate can finally engage past, present and future customers where they live, powerfully and in real time. My favorite concept in the book, and the concept I share with folks on the phone every day as I evangelize this book, is that of "lethal generosity," what Mr. Israel describes as "a phenomenon used by the smartest of companies. In social media the greatest influence invariably goes to the most generous participants, not the loudest. So if you join a community where a competitor exists, or is free to join, and you give more to that community than the competitor, the other player is forced either to follow you or abstain from participating in a place where customers spend time."

Mr. Israel recounts the Twitter strategy of Jim Deitzel (@Rubbermaid), e-marketing manager at Rubbermaid, who entered the Twittersphere early on with strong intentions of service, hoping to connect professional home organizers and learn their needs and interests. He quickly made inroads with members of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO; yep, you read right) via tweets and Rubbermaid's company blog. Now, Mr. Israel argues any competitor new to the scene must "'out-generous' Deitzel to displace his prominent position" in the Twitterville of professional organizers.

If you're looking for a book to teach you how to tweet, whom to follow and what to say, check out the comprehensive and opinionated "All a Twitter," by Tee Morris (@TeeMonster), or the pedigreed "Twitter for Dummies," by Laura Fitton (@pistachio), Michael Gruen (@gruen) and Leslie Poston (@GeeChee_girl).

But if you're looking for a book that will catch you up on the many success stories (and the occasional #fail) Twitter has spawned, stop by Mr. Israel's town and spend some time with the locals.

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