There are thousands of businesses on Twitter, and certainly many businesses are doing a fine job of connecting with their customers. Still, many organizations large and small, from Fortune 500’s to mom and pop shops, can reach farther and do better at communicating and building an audience on Twitter. Several are simply unsure of how or when to enter the network and what do once they are there. And many companies want to look at Twitter as a place to sell, when in fact Twitter is a communications tool, a place to build relationships. When companies set aside selling and employ Twitter for communications and relationship building, they tend to find long-term success.
A Twitter account is meant to be a place where you can network, communicate messages and gather feedback from the people most interested in your business. It’s also a place discover potential new clients and to inform followers and media to help spread word to those who have never heard of you. All too often businesses are not making the proper time investment in this important social network, thereby not getting the most out of Twitter.
Here are some basic rules of thumb to remember when entering this social network which may help you and your business connect better with your target market and the Twitter community at large.
By invest, I mean spend time, and we all know time is money, so this is your investment. Spend time watching how others use Twitter and spend time tweeting yourself. Or, spend time to work with an employee to get them tweeting in a meaningful way. A good time investment for a small business may be a few hours per week, and for a larger company it can range right up to a few hours per day depending on your business vertical.
Manage your account from a more robust application than the Twitter web interface itself. Tweedeck is a good starting place as a basic application. If you’re a smaller business or frequently “on-the-go”, working with a hand-held application such as TwitterBerry from Orangatame is great to keep your account up to date and relevant while on the move.
Follow ongoing hashtag #conversations with #Keyword and respond in a helpful manner, but not by hawking your products. Be a resource rather than trying to sell. For example, if you run an auto parts supply company, try #carchat and help debunk myths in conversations about car repair, or offer up suggestions on ways to handle auto-repair problems. Again, don’t look to sell, look to build relationships.
Listen to what your customers are saying about your company, services, brand or products. This is an opportunity to build loyalty. Offer responses and feedback in a meaningful way, either through public (@reply) or private (direct message) channels. Followers gravitate to true and honest customer service.
Listen to the content of other tweets. Twitter SEARCH!! – use the Twitter search function relentlessly. While it needs polishing in terms of overall functionality, it has a tremendous ability to help you mine data and measure sentiment and perception about your products, services and industry. One of the great things about Twitter search is it is pretty much real time, up to the minute indexing of tweets, so you have the opportunity to find some of the most current feedback about a subject. Beware of Tweetspam where spammers #tag popular subjects for the sake of getting clicks to their sites. A keen eye can quickly sift through the BS, and I’m sure Twitter will be working to remedy some of that over time.
Establish a voice. Create a regular “editorial calendar” for your account so that you have relevant content for your business which can be posted. Why not discuss the latest news from your events department? Recently finish a major project? Perhaps it’s worthy of a brief announcement. Have you established a new strategic relationship in your industry? Perhaps you can tweet their account and get some public synergy. Any big game-changing news in your industry? You can link to your company blog post where you discuss that. The opportunities for an editorial calendar are endless.
Optimize for Keywords
It’s worth it to include relevant keyphrases which users may search for in Twitter search to find related information. Others are listening to keyphrase conversations, so why not take advantage of that? Don’t go nuts with plugging in industry keywords into your posts and don’t keyword spam, but be cognizant of how you are phrasing your tweets. For example: “We’ll be speaking at upcoming conferences (link)!” vs “We’ll be speaking at PubCon, SES and other events this year! (link)”
A company is made up of people. Don’t be a afraid to say who you are or where your tweets are coming from. Even though you’re a company you shouldn’t be afraid to say who your tweets are coming from.
Don’t automate: Try not to automate responses or direct message replies, either. This wears thin on users and often turns them off and may result in someone un-following you.
Watch Twitter leaders and how they handle their networks. You can learn a lot and apply that back to your business. Some well executed business accounts are Dell, Zappos, etc. Watch how others form their tweets and the tools they use to handle various announcements, broadcasts or replies.
Grow your account following by creating awareness of where it is. It’s important to grow your account following and influence so that you can reach a larger audience. Not every business needs huge audiences (hundreds of thousands of followers), but you need an audience large enough to get word out and have an impact.
How can you grow it?
- Let your customers know you are on Twitter and what they can expect by following you.
- Place a Twitter badge on your website with a call to action prompting them them to click over to your account.
- Place a badge with a call to action in your email drops.
- Add the Twitter handle or address on your print material communications.
- Business Cards
- Special offers
- Show or talk about your Twitter address (where appropriate) in your media-buys, whether it’s online or offline in TV/cable/radio spots.
- Use search to follow others who are discussing your subjects related to your business vertical and follow them.
No matter your business vertical, whether B2B or B2C, there is fantastic opportunity to connect with your current and future customers on Twitter. Part of the success of Twitter is overcoming the fear, learning by trial and beginning to listen and act on the conversations taking place in this important social network. Overcome your fear of Twitter, be sure to make the time investment, reference these handy Twitter rules of thumb and your company will reap rewards over time.