Twitter what can it do for my business?
Twitter is a micro blogging platform that enables businesses to communicate with customers, suppliers, staff, competitors (yes I said it competitors) and friends. In this new world of online and mobile marketing we can, as business owners ill afford to let the power of social media escape us. Millions of tweets are sent each minute from millions of users at work, commuting, in the pub, at events, watching TV or even shopping.
Why is it important? Twitter has been called many things but my favourite phrase is “word of mouth on steroids”. You can use it to quickly share information with people interested in your company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about your company. As an individual user, you can use Twitter to tell a company (or anyone else) that you’ve had a great—or disappointing—experience with their business, offer product ideas, and learn about great offers.
So what do people say to each other on twitter? Well there’s a lot of techno chat from individuals who clearly spend a great deal of time on the internet, there are braggers and boasters who just want the world to know how wonderful they are there are people like us who have brands to promote and web content to drive people to. There are of course the celebrities who we find fascinating –
Actually my view on this is that with celebrities we already feel as though we know them. Stephen Fry @stephenfry for example has lived his private life very often the public eye and with his depression, huge intellect and wit makes him a “real” person that many feel they would like to count as a friend. So when he micro blogs about odd things we make an allowance based upon our knowing his character. Unfortunately too many “non celebrities” feel that they can share random moments from their day and expect others to be interested…it doesn’t always work unless you too can be entertaining.
How does it work?
One of the strengths and sometimes frustrations of Twitter is that it only lets you write and read messages of up to 140 characters. That’s good if you have a tendency to waffle but not if it takes you a long time to condense that message – it defeats the whole object of Twitter.
People who regularly use twitter have created strong networks of like minded individuals who share news, tips and help each other out with signposting when they have a specific need. There is also the additional entertainment value and friendship that can be gained via building such connections.
In many ways, despite being a new medium Twitter mirrors real life – we are mostly social creatures who like to belong to a community or network. Twitter allows this to take place in a safe and secure space, your space. You can control who is in your network and participate in wider conversations.
Where would you do this?
Traditionally via a PC or laptop but increasingly via smartphones and tablets using downloaded applications such as TwitBirdpro or TweetDeck.
When you combine messages that are quick to write, easy to read, public, controlled by the recipient and exchangeable anywhere, you’ve got a powerful, real-time way to communicate. And real-time communication is turning out to be a very useful medium for businesses seeking to convey key messages and tap into current trends.
Still Struggling to See How it Can Work for Your Business?
(I’ve highlighted this section in blue as it’s a critical point in understanding the tone and style of your tweets and twitter strategy)
For some time I struggled with the concept of twitter, was it texting with added features, PR for business, delivery mechanism for driving visitors to your website, networking opportunity, news & info gathering, chat room! Actually it’s all of this and more which is why so many of us, who like to have neat pigeon holes for our marketing tools have struggled to get a handle on twitter.
My light bulb moment with twitter came to me one day when at home with the kids having the usual battle to decide what to watch on TV. We have digital TV and 100’s of channels and it set me thinking about the proliferation of content and the absence of quality…funnily enough I made the connection with twitter. Each twitter account is it’s own mini interactive TV station, producing output and getting instant feedback but without the red button!– the mega tweeters are the equivalent of BBC, SKY, ITV etc.. the main channels then you work your way down to niche channels comedy tweets from the “Dave” equivalent or Sports – you can see where I’m going.
Think about your personal twitter account – what do you broadcast? Who’s your audience how much interaction do you receive and how many adverts do you send? Thinking of your tweets as broadcast media you begin to have a slightly different view.
The speed, accessibility and popularity of Twitter make it a very powerful communication tool. But to make the most of it you do need to observe some simple rules.
Firstly decide what your message is and who the ideal audience would be. For my main Twitter account I’m interested in “local” contacts that I can learn from and who will know people that will help me in my work. I’m also interested in people who are in similar fields. Competitors? well maybe but I don’t see it as an issue – the more open you are with your contacts the greater the experience.
I like positive souls – it’s funny to laugh at the “grumpy old”… shows on TV but we don’t really want to be subjected to the negativity day in day out. You can grow your own network by seeking those who are natural networkers; they’ll help you to get into new groups and areas. People who give of themselves without expecting a reward – people who treat people as they would wish to be treated – you may wish at some point to recruit and where better to start looking than the talent in your own network. Conversely you may be looking for work and again a future employer may be in your network.
In addition in my network and I would suggest worth looking at most business twitter accounts is the local or national media, TV Radio, newspapers, trade press and online news providers they may not follow you back but you can still send press releases in the normal mode and tweet to other followers. Typically you can send your 140 character tweet with a link to longer releases hosted from your website.
- We’ve all received e-mails from over enthusiastic sales people and they’re not very attractive, unfortunately in most networks you find a couple of narcissistic creatures who are purely in it for self promotion, you can unfollow or block their messages.
- Spam can take several forms but usually it’s offering free ipads, iphone 4s or some meaningless blurb, life’s too short – cut them out when you can.
- Flirts – common sense should apply – if we’re honest a little flirting would do no harm in most circumstances but, this is in written and recorded form, beware!
- Also there are those who want to get to the big numbers to impress everyone with how popular they are. Quality is the key not quantity for most although if you are a large organisation with a wide target market numbers can work in your favour, remember though this is about personality rather than corporation which can be difficult to maintain if you have several people on a single account.
- Celebrities – on occasion it can be nice to receive a response, one of my highlights being Astronaut Mike Massimo tweeting me whilst he was in orbit on the shuttle but generally when they have hundreds of thousands of followers it’s unlikely that you’ll get a response. But if you’re interested in what they’re doing you can follow.
- Avoid damaging your business by “dweeting” – tweeting whilst drunk or running campaigns that cause offence, Habitat ran a recent Twitter campaign using the hash tag. This is a way to get your tweets on a “trending” line. Trend topics get viewed far more widely than a networks tweets so by putting a popular trend and hashtag the message can be circulated far wider however it’s spam. Habitat had a discount offer it was trying to push and an over enthusiastic young marketer running the twitter account used a range of trending topics including #iphone, #Australianmasterchef and the #Iranianelection in a rather clumsy attempt to get their message out there. The initial heat of complaints has died away but as you can see its still be trotted out as an example of how not to tweet – don’t become a negative case study!
- If you’re completely new to twitter start with a small step and create an account.
- Think about your name it can eat into the 140 count if too long when people reply to you but too short and it may not be clear who it is.
- Be active, followers look for tweets
- find people who you consider to be “of interest” either personally or for your business and start to follow them. Upload a photo of yourself, consider creating a personalised “skin” or background to your account showing the company logo, contact details and services.
- Always shorten any hyperlinks eg http://bit.ly/
- Set aside a few moments during each day to check your account and give some thought to what you might say, what’s happening in your business, new products, services, new appointments, initiatives, remember that whilst you may trust your network the information may be re-tweeted out so be careful what you share.
- Always check mentions and direct messages – it can be easily overlooked and you don’t want to appear rude
- Don’t set up an automated direct message when someone follows you – far better to see who’s following you and send a message that is personal – far bigger impact just takes a little time, worth it though.
- Lists – as you grow your follower base you can organise them into specific lists and then access the list to see what that particular group is saying rather than be lost in the noise of the public timeline
- Get feedback from those who tweet a lot and find examples of businesses who’ve used twitter to positive effect. Don’t necessarily look at the big players, good practice exists within SMEs throughout the UK. The key is to engage with the networks and offer something of value – it isn’t always about your product – I recently provided someone with a list of National Trust sites in Derbyshire, others have provided me with contacts for video production and App design.
- If you have a multi faceted business it may be worth having a twitter account for each specific area. I work with a number of law firms and I would recommend that they have an account for each main area of law that they represent and have the key person fronting and running that account, with a little help of course.
- Keep it contained and don’t over promote – be careful not to wear your followers out with promotions. It’s not all about the business; it’s about a personality and a trusted network that you can be part of.
- Follow Friday – #FF is a good way to promote good contacts in your network and those that you feel have made a positive contribution.
- Check you’re listed on Twello –and ensure the profile is correct, it often automatically adds your account. Twellow is the yellow pages of twitter.
When should you Tweet for maximum benefit?
There has been a great deal of debate over the best time to Tweet. My view is that there are certain obvious times in the working day. First thing in the morning, lunchtime and about 4pm.
As for days, there are conflicting reports but the consensus appears to be Thursday/ Friday as peak days followed by Wednesday. Fewer tweets are sent at weekends and they tend to be of a more social nature. In our experience selling on a weekend tends to be frowned upon unless you’re a leisure business selling cheap tickets to an event/ restaurant offer etc…
If you have a number of influential followers it can be useful to know when they are “online” and ready to see your tweets. Keep an eye on their tweet timeline by visiting their profile and seeing when they tweet.
If you have a blog or important announcement you can schedule your message to be sent 3 or 4 times ina 24 hour period through Hootsuite
http://hootsuite.com/ this will ensure that your message gets as much coverage as possible. For general random tweets or conversations this is not necessary.
There are literally hundreds of applications to help you manage your twitter account and add value to the experience. The difficulty is in wading through the forest of solutions to find those that best suit your needs. Here are a few that we would recommend.
Managing multiple social media sites or business accounts:
Tweetdeck http://www.tweetdeck.com/ great for multiple views of multiple accounts
Hootsuite http://hootsuite.com/ – even more functionality and analysis but you pay for it
Seesmic http://seesmic.com/ neat app for keeping on top of multiple accounts
Smart Phone: –TwitBirdpro http://appsto.com/twitbirdpro
Searching to see who’s following/ not following – Justunfollow http://www.justunfollow.com/login.do
Analysis of your profile – Twitalyzer http://www.twitalyzer.com
Who’s talking about your business – Social Mention – http://socialmention.com/
Glossary – some of the terms you may encounter
“@usename”: A tweet sent to another Twitter user.
De-Friend. This is a common social networking term referring to the act of taking someone off of your friends list. De-Follow is a Twitter-specific version.
Dweet: Tweet sent while drunk
Hash Tag: The “#” sign. Allows Twitter users to group tweets by topic, making it easier to search particular conversations using Twitter Search.
Link: Including a URL in your tweet.
MisTweet: A tweet one later regrets.
Microblog. Twitter is often referred to as a microblog because it allows people to update their status using only 140 characters.
Mistweet. Accidentally sending a tweet to the wrong person or regretting the sending of a particular tweet. See Dweets!.
Nudge. An action reminding a user to update their status. You can only do this to someone who follows you.
ReTweet: To repost something that’s already in the Twitter stream. Usually preceeded by “RT” and “@[username],” to give credit to the original poster.
Twadd: To add someone as a friend or follower.
Twaffic. The traffic on Twitter.
Tweeple. Twitter users.
Tweeps. Twitter followers who are your friends potentially on multiple social networks.
Tweet – A message sent via Twitter
Tweeter/Twitterer: Someone who uses Twitter.
Tweetettes – inability to control random tweets
TwinkedIn: Inviting friends made on Twitter to connect on LinkedIn.
Twitterati: The A-list twitterers everyone follows.
Twitterfly: Twitter’s version of a social butterfly, marked by the extreme use of @ signs.
Twitterlooing: Twittering from the bathroom. Not recommended.
Twitterpated: Overwhelmed with Twitter messages.
Tweet Back. Bringing an older tweet back into the conversation
Twitosphere. The collective community of tweeters.
About the author – David Laud is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Chartered Marketer and member of the Institutes National Social Media Committee.
He works for i2i Business Solutions LLP a successful marketing consultancy that offers a broad range of support to businesses of all size and sector.
In addition to i2i David heads R2b Media Ltdan e-publishing and Apple App development company providing solutions to a wide range of businesses across the UK.
If life weren’t interesting enough for David he holds the position of CEO of regional law firm Samuel Phillips.
You can follow David on twitter by looking for www.twitter.com/davidlaud or by searching for @davidlaud
or e-mail email@example.com
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The information contained in this i2i guide is for information only and is provided as the considered views of one who tweets and twys to keep up with the ever changing social media environment. If you wish to have a more in depth discussion on the benefits and best practice of social media call i2i direct on 08456 446624
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