Twitter for E-mail Marketers

  |  October 15, 2009   |  Comments

Six tips for integrating Twitter and e-mail marketing initiatives.

Earlier this year, Google CEO Eric Schmidt referred to Twitter as the "poor man's e-mail system." So, what does Twitter have in common with e-mail, and how can e-mail marketers use it?

Like e-mail, Twitter is a messaging system that allows you to reach customers directly and gives them the ability to reply or forward (retweet) your message to others. Twitter is permission based. People follow, unfollow, or block you (similar to subscribing for e-mail).

What's different: Twitter messages are (mostly) in public view, not personalized and limited to 140 characters. It's also fleeting. I haven't seen studies, but my attention span is much shorter with Twitter than e-mail. I think time will show that Twitter can have great reach (especially retweets to reach prospects), but not have the same relationship building depth as e-mail.

Use Twitter for Community, Brand, and Business

Two clients that provide good examples of business tweeting are Whole Foods Market and Southwest Airlines.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods uses social media to make its brand feel more local. In addition to its corporate Twitter account with nearly 1.5 million followers, it also has a slew of local Twitter pages. The company also indexes these local pages on its Web site. These create a much more personalized experience, as these tweets from my local store show:

    Suffer from Inflammation? Know someone that does? Join us in our Cafe at 7pm for a FREE Health Talk on Nutrition for Inflammation!

    Fall is here! And our Fuji Apples are on sale for $1.99/lb! Try this amazing recipe for Pumpkin Apple Pie! http://tinyurl.com/pumpapple

    Looking for a new friend? Friends of the Oakland Animal Shelter has some cute & furry pals lookin' for a home at our store today! 11-2pm!

    We're running out of our Millenium Kombucha! Today it's buy 1, get 1 FREE! Same goes for full cases! Hurry on down!

Local tweet topics include store events, fresh produce that is seasonal by region, limited inventory items, and local charities. Being local is about product and community.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest stays true to its brand with the various Southwest associates who post on behalf of the company on Twitter. The land of the free drink ticket keeps it fun with contests like these tweets:

    To celebrate our new in-flight wine selection, tell us why "You'd Rather Be Drinking Wine than Working" #wineswa http://bit.ly/4sGoz0 8:12 AM from CoTweet

    Let's start Monday off right! Who's ready to win a trip to Napa, courtesy of Southwest and @napamarriott? http://bit.ly/4sGoz0 #wineswa 8:09 AM from CoTweet

Twitter Versus Facebook

In the ClickZ column "Twitter Surpasses Facebook as Top Link in E-mail", Bill McCloskey cited a Wet Paint study showing that companies with the highest social media activity increased revenue by 18 percent in the last 12 months, while least-active companies saw a 6 percent drop in sales.

I found this correlation between company growth and adoption of social media when comparing airlines' social media activities. The fastest-growing airlines (Southwest and JetBlue) are the ones with strong social presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Airline Revenue 2008 ($B) Annual Revenue Growth Facebook Fans (000) Twitter Followers (000) Tweets
American 23.8 4% 32.5 15.9 561
United 20.2 0% 10.9 37.1 424
Southwest 11.0 12% 79.9 754.2 3,430
JetBlue 3.4 19% 40.2 1,331 1,398

Bill also found that the integration of e-mail with Twitter and Facebook is growing. (Based on counts of links to Twitter and Facebook in marketing e-mails.)

Twitter Links in E-mail Facebook Links in E-mail
2007 215 729
2008 2,540 12,650
2009 41,399 41,052

In the column, "To-Do List for Facebook and E-mail Integration," I explained how to integrate Facebook with e-mail. Twitter is a different animal to integrate. Its 140-character limit and low-barrier application make it a more mobile phenomenon. Eighty percent of Twitter usage occurs on mobile devices.

Twitter for Business: Your Quick-Start Guide

  • Register your name. Beware of squatters, just like domains in the '90s. I registered twitter.com/GapMaternity in less than 30 seconds. If you registered a URL, then register the Twitter username. (If you work at the Gap, contact me. I'll turn it over. Everyone else, don't let this happen to you.)

  • Learn. Monitor how leading companies like Dell, Zappos, and SouthwestAir are using Twitter.

  • Listen to what Tweeters are saying about you. Many third-party Twitter readers, such as TweetDeck, will highlight Tweets that include your Twitter handle (example: @SouthwestAir), but you can also keeping a running search page open at Twitter Search. Refresh it periodically.

  • Plan for success. Define your goals and objectives. Dedicate one or more staffers to monitor and participate in conversations. Once customers find you on Twitter, many will use it for questions or comments. Think of staffing the way you do for inbound e-mail, but with an advantage: because questions are mostly public, you answer once for all like a forum. For marketing tweets, set up conversion tracking like you would for e-mail.

  • Create "shareworthy" content. What content could be exclusive to your Twitter channel? Understand what's useful, entertaining, or has perceived value. Make it easy to share or follow.

  • Integrate your Twitter efforts with marketing efforts in other channels, including e-mail. Promote your Twitter URL on your Web site, in e-mail messages, and other marketing materials. Explain the benefits of following you (such as insider info, special deals, advance sale notice, or flight delays). Promote this page just like you would an e-mail signup page.

    • Encourage subscribers to share your e-mail messages with their networks ("Share with your network," or SWYN). Explain what's in it for them. Don't just post links in an e-mail message. Make it easy to tweet and retweet.

    • Use customer tweets in your e-mail program, just as you would use some customer reviews.

Twitter Can Humanize Your Brand

When Twitter co-founder Biz Stone was asked about Eric Schmidt's comments, he replied that Twitter has some similarities to e-mail products but is really for discovering and sharing what is happening right now.

"We think it's important to introduce the power of a real-time network to even the weakest of signals around the world - as Twitter grows, we realize it's not about the triumph of technology, it's about the triumph of humanity," he said.

Use that insight in your Twitter program, your e-mail program and every other cross-channel program you have. Time to humanize your brand!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Henrich

Ed Henrich is vice president of professional services for Responsys, leading the company's creative, campaign development, strategy, and analytics teams to produce award-winning and profitable client e-mail marketing programs. Ed is a pioneer in the e-mail marketing industry, having joined Post Communications (now Yesmail) in 1997 when it was a five-person startup. For eight years, he was the company's vice president of client services, then president. Before that, Ed was a venture capitalist at Internet Capital Group and a senior consultant with McKinsey & Company. A former Fulbright Scholar to Australia in Control Systems Engineering, Ed holds a PhD and an MS from UCLA and a BS from Drexel University. Follow him at his blog, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

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