Twitter has featured heavily in the news of late, from twitterers breaking news stories ahead of the news wires, to the power of the user community making and hurting brands.
Marketing professionals instinctively know they need to be in this space, but how; in what capacity; with what investment and what are the returns going to be? These are all valid questions and all deserve attention.
So, let’s take a step back and look at how Twitter is currently making an impact and some things to consider when deciding when to tweet.
The Golden Rules:
1. Don’t Sell
First and foremost, Twitter, like any other social media channel is about community. The individuals that are there are not there to be sold to. So, rule number one is: Don’t push sales through this channel. First and foremost, this place is about communication and community.
2. Get Involved
Although following users might provide companies insights into what the Twitter community is talking about, the point is to give information as well as receive it. Posting useful news about your brand or sector might end with your company gathering a host of followers that could very well become, depending on what you have to say, your brand advocates.
3. Add Value
The point of using Twitter is to offer information. If your friends are following you, you might feel comfortable talking about your morning walk into work. If a brand does that, users might find it a bit odd. So if you’re going to post information, which by all means you should, make it useful and relevant to your business, whether it’s about your company specifically or something relating to your industry. Twitterers tend to follow people that “tweet” about things they’re interested in, so keep information up to date and relevant.
Like most things, there are rules of etiquette that should be followed. When people follow you it’s because they’re interested in what you have to say. When they “re-tweet” what you’ve said it’s because they’ve found it valuable enough to share. When someone takes the trouble to comment on what you’ve tweeted, it’s only polite to respond, even if you don’t necessarily like what they have to say.
This is where the real opportunity for user engagement lies. You can set up alerts that go straight to your in-box letting you know when people are talking about your brand. Whether the conversation is negative or positive, you can use this as a tool to reach people on a real personal level. But whatever you do, do not try to stifle the conversation. Allowing people to have their say is what Twitter is based on.
5. Watch your mouth (or be ready for the consequences)
Last month an ad agency representative was flying into FexEx Global Headquarters in Memphis to present on digital media on behalf of their agency, Ketchum. Upon his arrival, he sent out the following tweet:
“True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say ‘I would die if I had to live here.’”
The tweet was picked up by a FedEx employee who promptly emailed it to all Directors and management within FedEx. The result was an angry letter to the offending twitterer regarding the amount of money spent with his agency and how offended FedEx was at the tweet.
The moral of this story is be careful about what you tweet and be prepared to react to any negative response.
6. Be patient, be persistent
Engaging in social media takes time and commitment and the effects are not always immediate. However, through adding value to the community, you can start to see the audience grow. What you mustn’t do is neglect this channel once you get started, otherwise, your followers will get bored and “unfollow” you. So, being consistent is important. Over time, you may see more and more individuals following what you have to say, responding to you and giving you insights into what is happening in your marketplace. So, direct financial ROI might not be apparent, but by being a long term contributor to Twitter, you can be doing your brand a world of good. (As long as you pay attention to rules one to five)
Other Elements to Consider:
One of the statements I’ve heard a lot is, “It sounds good in theory, but I don’t think we’ll get anything out of it. If I can’t get a direct ROI, I can’t justify the investment.”
I marvel at this attitude given that the volume of budget that is spent on traditional marketing where accountability is difficult (and in some cases) impossible to measure. With Twitter, you can monitor how many people are following you and set up alerts to tell you when your brand is mentioned.
You can add news pieces and blog posts to your tweets that can be tracked back to your site. Also, in some cases, people re-tweeting what you have to say can add to your overall link popularity if they include the URL. In addition, because Twitter is based on people following you because they are interested in what you have to say, it is permission based. Just don’t abuse this by trying to sell.
Being part of the Twitter community is about communication, engagement, value and trust. As long as you remember this when stepping into this channel, you can soon start to see the benefits of the rapidly growing network.