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Book Review: 'Twitter Marketing'

  |  March 5, 2010   |  Comments

A guide that's packed with case studies and practical exercises will help marketers get started or enhance existing strategies for the social network.

"Twitter isn't going to be for every company," warns Hollis Thomases, founder of Web Ad.vantage and a ClickZ columnist, in her new book, "Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day."

"Even if it's right for you, making it work for you requires at the very least the commitment of internal resources, mostly in the form of time," she writes in the 478-page book, published by Wiley, about the service that limits messages to 140 characters. With that precaution, Hollis provides an 11-week plan for marketers to get started on Twitter, including assessing why a brand should be on Twitter and getting corporate buy-in.

Marketers with experience on Twitter can bypass the basic primers (e.g., how to set up an account) to move ahead to material better suited for their needs: thoughtful exercises, examples of objectives (e.g., search engine optimization), lists of actions that can be measured (e.g., number of keyword-enriched tweets you generate), and descriptions of third-party tools and applications.

Of interest to all: case studies. While "Twitter Marketing" discusses what JetBlue, Comcast, Best Buy, and other well-known brands have done on the social network, it also examines approaches taken by smaller businesses such as Potomac Valley Brick, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, and 1st Mariner Bank. While these companies have not achieved the same visibility as the big brands, their experiences are more valuable to hear about. They demonstrate how small but creative organizations apply Twitter to their communications strategies.

For instance, 1st Mariner Bank, based in Baltimore, mixes it up with its followers. Just this week, it sent out playful tweets, including one offering to send crabs to a Wisconsin community bank in exchange for cheese. And other tweets are informational, such as one that points consumers to a bank executive's article about the impact that closing credit cards has on a person's credit rating.

While many examples are written as standalone profiles, scores of others are woven into sections of the book, covering topics such as strategies for retail, travel, and nonprofits.

Another plus: "Twitter Marketing" incorporates scores of black-and-white screen shots that show how various tools work, making it possible to read this book without being tethered to the Internet.

Any book about Twitter risks becoming outdated before the ink dries. Most susceptible: third-party tools and applications for tracking and analyzing Twitter conversations. To Hollis' credit, lots of tools are discussed - from popular applications like TweetDeck and CoTweet, which was acquired this week by ExactTarget - to more specialized ones like FileTwt, a file-sharing service, or TweetBeep, which sends out e-mail alerts of tweets based on keywords. Be assured, new tools will pop up and existing ones will fade away even by the time you read this column.

Hollis improves this book's shelf life by providing a comprehensive look at business uses of Twitter and anticipating future uses such as crisis management. Most important, she recognizes that change is unavoidable. The section, "Claim Your Brand's Twitter Name," points out that Twitter has considered charging for corporate accounts. "It's much easier to justify registering dozens of Twitter brand handles when you don't have to pay anything for the privilege of doing so," Hollis writes.

Twitter can also become a time sink, where participants get sucked into exchanging messages, tweeting and retweeting, and deciding who to follow. This multitasking, aka attention-deficit disorder tendencies, come at the expense of evaluating ongoing strategies.

So "Twitter Marketing" offers inspiration to step away from the daily stream of tweets to methodically consider what other businesses are doing to build their presence on the social network - and come up with your own takeaways and enhance your brand's social profile.

Got a question for Hollis Thomases? She's responding to queries from readers who tweet using the #TMHAD hash tag. She's also speaking at SES NEW York, March 22-26, 2010 at the Hilton New York.

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Anna Maria Virzi

Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.

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