Twitter is a great tool for conversations, building community, finding brand advocates and reading the latest news. That’s why celebrities, athletes, your competitors—and hopefully you—are on Twitter.
The growth and usage of Twitter is not surprising. Compete.com estimates approximately 21 million unique monthly visitors, and a quick search on Twitter yields a variety of conversations from music, sports, politics, events and products.
For business however, there’s an art to using Twitter, and the most successful at it follow an unwritten set of rules. The following are 5 important tips to follow on Twitter; all lessons that I have learned while working for companies like HP, Yahoo! and Intel.
#1: Do Some Research
Research is fundamental. I suggest that marketers or small business owners spend a few weeks understanding what types of conversations are happening on Twitter and then formulate a communications plan before actually engaging. This will help drive consistency in the messages shared on Twitter.
#2: Determine Your Goals
Not all businesses use Twitter the same way. Some, like @ComcastCares, use Twitter merely for customer support. Dell uses Twitter to sell products or share company-related information. Often, I see smaller, more local businesses use it to build relationships with their constituencies to drive customer loyalty programs.
Whatever your goals are, it’s important to think about what you want to achieve with Twitter before spending your valuable time and resources on it.
#3: Specify Your Twitter Profile
There are many options you can use when creating a Twitter profile. You can create a company-branded account, a personal account or a hybrid account.
Every business is different, so whichever option you choose, there has to be a level of balance. Branded profiles are great for certain content—for example, industry news, contests, investor relations, etc. Personal profiles are more beneficial if your organization wants to leverage the employee’s personal micro-community or wants to have a more human presence.
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When I worked for Intel, I used two profiles to build community: my personal Twitter profile and one I created for Intel. I followed an 80/20 rule that seemed to work perfectly for the community that I engaged with. On my personal account, 80% of what I shared was conversational (i.e., asking/answering questions, sharing industry-related news, etc.) and 20% was Intel-specific content. The branded account was the opposite—80% of the content shared was Intel-specific and 20% was personal. This worked very well and click-through rates on links I shared were well above industry average.
#4: Build Social Equity
To be successful on Twitter, you have to build trust and credibility with your community. The end result is an increase in your social equity. That doesn’t always translate to the number of followers, tweets, or retweets you may have either. Rather, it’s more about developing a reputation as a trusted source of information or being seen as an expert in a particular subject.
You won’t succeed in building your equity by pushing out one way marketing messages about your business. Instead ask questions, be personal, and engage people naturally within the community. Otherwise, customers won’t listen to what you have to say and your equity may even decrease.
Buying Twitter followers is not recommended either. There are a lot of companies that will promise you thousands of followers for a very low price. The problem is that many of the followers will never read your content, click through to your links and they’re probably just bots spitting out a multitude of Bit.ly links. Besides, if it becomes public that you did purchase followers, you will be called out by the community and your reputation may be damaged.
It’s not worth buying followers just to increase your “perceived” equity and influence because that’s all it will be, perceived.
#5: Track, Measure and Iterate
Any small- or medium-sized business should invest in a paid tracking service like Radian6 or ScoutLabs to better track Twitter conversations, identify trends, measure sentiment and get a quantifiable snapshot of what’s going on in the social web.
If you want to measure sales, you can simply use a tracking code or coupon code specific for Twitter that will help measure conversions. If you want to measure how much money Twitter has saved your company, you can track how many issues you resolved, leads you gathered, and dollars you saved through Twitter engagement versus traditional channels. If your goal is to handle customer support issues via Twitter, it’s wise to check if there are any decreases in the call volume to your customer support center.
The great thing about using Twitter for your business is that it’s very easy to iterate your metrics and communications plan on the fly. It’s important, however, to remember that your plan should always map back to your goals and objectives so you don’t lose focus.
What Twitter tips would you add? Are you tracking your Twitter activity? Got a question? Please comment in the box below.