Jon Thomas
Jon Thomas
Communications Director

Why “Tweet First, Ask Questions Last” Doesn’t Work

Brand Storytelling in Social MediaSocial Media hasn’t just exploded — it has taken off into the stratosphere. Companies and brands are stampeding towards WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter faster than someone with 100 Twitter followers can call themselves a Social Media Expert. But while you may be able to lead a horse to water you can’t make it drink. Simply leading a brand to HootSuite doesn’t mean they have anything great to say.

Before testing the social waters, brands need to answer some basic preliminary questions:


I’m the first to admit that I’m a social media fanboy. I spend countless hours tweeting, updating my status, checking in, and checking out, all from my iPhone and iPad. However, that doesn’t mean I believe EVERYONE should be on these platforms. Social Media isn’t a cult and I’m not serving up questionable Kool-Aid. Social media isn’t for everyone, but if it is right for your brand, it can be very powerful in creating a direct bond between brand and audience. It also helps build your owned and earned media channels.

Back to the question — why do you want to use social media? Is it simply because everyone else in your corporate park is using it? Or have you gathered real data about your audience that suggests it’s a good idea? Is your audience using Facebook? Is your audience active on Twitter? Are your customers clamoring for new content updated on a weekly basis (cough, blog, cough)? Answering these questions will help you not only decide if social media is right for you, but which channels you should embrace and which channels should be avoided.


Mike Sweeney wrote a fantastic post earlier this year entitled, Don’t Let the Social Media Tail Wag the Dog. This chronicled the common mistake that companies and brands make when they hop onto the very full social media bandwagon without any thought about what they actually have to say.

“While content marketing efforts are absolutely enhanced via social media marketing, content marketing can happen without social media marketing [Hyperlink not in original quote]. On the flip side, social media marketing loses a whole lot of punch without content marketing. Without content, social media marketing stops after 140 characters and only continues when you’re ready to answer the question ‘What’s happening?’ again, or listen to someone else’s response to that question.”

Quality content is essential in today’s marketing landscape. And without quality content that audiences find entertaining, useful, or both, it’s very difficult for a brand to establish a strong digital footprint within social media. There are certain types of companies that have found success simply by being there to listen to customers, but if you’re not a company with constant chatter from bewildered customers, social media channels can be lonely places.

I believe every company and brand has something to offer their audience when it comes to content. Whether it be a fun game to kill a few minutes or an engaging iPad travel application, it ultimately comes down to reaching your audience through quality content.

So what do you really have to say?

Comic courtesy of Tom Fishburne

  • tannerc

    Bravo! Many have tried to tackle the problem with businesses joining the fray in social media without actually having any reason to do so. Taking a step back, evaluating where your audience is, and setting goals, can ensure you’re not wasting time.

    Then again, how many of us are personally wasting time on social sites? What’s our personal strategy for using these sites effectively? It’s not only businesses that need to ask questions first and then tweet.

  • Laura D

    Interesting article! In general we need to stick to quality content as the number of characters is limited for tweets. That’s a definite advantage!

    It’d be great to get ideas to tweet quality content that also impacts the reader, calling their attention and making them interested in your company or business.


  • Jon Thomas

    Thanks for the comment Laura. I think if you’re offering content that makes some sort of a difference in your audience’s lives, whether that’s something educational or just something that puts a smile on their face, it will create that bond. That bond will inherently fuel interest in your brand.

  • Jon Thomas

    I think “wasting time” is being defined differently in those scenarios. It’s one thing if a company is making a concerted effort to be engaging on social media but they haven’t created any content to back it up. It’s another thing if their social media manager is on Facebook all day commenting on Spring Break pictures.

    We always need to stay cognizant of our time on social sites and make sure we’re using them as efficiently as possible. Chris Brogan talks often about “blocking” your time and dedicating specific blocks of time to social media, but ONLY those blocks of time. All other time should be spent actually getting work done ;)

  • Laura D

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for your reply to my comment. We offer translation/localizaion services, it’d be great to make messages content valuable but also catching. ;)

    That’s what I try to do! It’s hard, I hope to be doing it well. ;)


  • Richard Cordiner

    Thanks Jon, interesting post. I’ve written extensively on the power of stories from a brand perspective too:

    Keep up the good work.


  • Jon Thomas

    Looks like you found the right place then! Glad to connect. I’ve made sure to follow you on Twitter.

    We’re gathering brand storytellers at our Facebook Page, if you haven’t already joined us –