The blog is alive! Now, let's go tweet.

The Ottaway Online Editors blog is back! Ready or not, here we come in the name of audience development and other business causes. To that end, we've also invited Kari Richards to join us in blogging here, focusing on best practices regarding e-mail audience development. Look for her posts soon.

So with the formalities out of the way, on with the blogging! This post has actually been sitting in my Drafts folder for a month, so it's time to push it into the spotlight.

Check out BusinessWeek.com's slideshow "Tweet From The Chiefs" (maneuver through it via the thumbnails at the bottom of the introduction) and imagine the local possibilities. What personalities and dignitaries in your market are on Twitter? What are they saying, and how are they using this social media tool? Publicity? Customer service? Conversation? Chances are, it's some combination of those things and more.

Of course, better start by making sure your brand is represented and polished on Twitter. So far, we're doing pretty well along those lines: CapeCodTimes; HVMG; MailTribune; ThePoconos and PoconoRecord; Recordnet and 209Vibe; and SeacoastOnline. There appear to be accounts for sharpmag and southcoasttoday, too, though no activity yet.

Then experiment with ways to use the accounts in addition to pumping out breaking news. Engage readers, subscribers and advertisers. Promote your Twitter presence, so you can converse with existing members of those groups, all while drawing in more readers, subscribers and advertisers.

Next, encourage individual reporters to participate in locally based Twitter conversations by starting their own accounts and "following" the personalities that you've highlighted in your slideshow. Have them search for others using Twitter's search functionality (examples: https://twitter.com/tw/search/users?q=cape+cod or https://twitter.com/tw/search/users?q=stockton). Seek out brands that have physical presences in your market, too, such as Comcast, Whole Foods, Panera Bread (not much activity yet), and Starbucks. Peruse the Social Brand Index for more.

Once reporters get a feel for the medium, please encourage them to interact. Social media usage is only as successful as the relationships that are built on it. Reporting on a one-way conversation has never been as compelling or as thorough as what's derived from shared dialogue. One-way relationships rarely work out very well.

And isn't that the essence of what we're trying to accomplish as a company and throughout the industry? Jobs-to-be-done interviews, customer-focused product development and consultative selling are in the end a means of building better relationships with our communities and facilitating open and ongoing dialogue.

Social media tools like Twitter can only help.

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