Many marketers look at Twitter as just another platform to blast out their promotional messages. This overlooks that, at its core, Twitter is a communications mechanism to engage people in a conversation that occurs in real time as well as over time. (If you're a Twitter newbie, here are eight guidelines to get your Twitter mojo working.
While media entities and high-profile individuals have built seven figure followings and can be viewed as having created new media outlets, it's important to understand that this doesn't work for non-media entities. To achieve your business objectives requires more than chasing follower numbers. It is essential that you build your Twitter cred. You need an integrated Twitter marketing strategy.
To develop an effective marketing strategy, it's important to understand Twitter's underlying dynamics within the context of a maturing U.S. social media market. While Twitter's usage outside of the U.S. continues to grow, its U.S. unique visitors are down almost 30 percent since last September according to The Nielsen Company. Further, one out of 10 active Internet users visited Twitter last month making an average of six visits during the month. Bear in mind that these numbers don't include Twitter consumption on applications like TweetDeck and HootSuite. Obviously, the social media market in the U.S. is maturing as is content creator behavior based on Forrester's 2010 Global Social Technographics.
13 Tactics to Expand Your Influence on Twitter
Here are 13 tactics to expand your influence on Twitter.
Let's party. Curate or join a Twitter chat, which is an online conversation on a specific topic at a set time. After the chat, create a chat transcript to expand your audience (For example, BlogChat uses Hashtag to document the chat.)
Broadcast live events. Share presentation tidbits from conferences and events you attend. To this end, use the show's hashtag and the presenter's Twitter handle.
Increase your presentation's tweetability. As a speaker, promote the event's hashtag to encourage members of your audience to share your message, promote your Twitter handle in your slides, and incorporate choice sound bites into your talk. For example, Chris Brogan's "Listening is the New Black" at the DMA 2010. After your presentation, check what's been tweeted. If you're a conference coordinator, use Twitter to source questions and input from the virtual audience and show the Twitter slurp that shows everyone's tweets with your hashtag during the presentation. In addition, you can broadcast the event using Twitcam.
Join conversations. Like when you're at a cocktail party, you need to find the people on Twitter you want to follow and engage with. Follow people who are experts in your field, targeted media entities that announce news important to you via Twitter, research organizations that will keep you up-to-date on the latest findings in your field, and friends and colleagues. As you build your list, check who the people you respect are following to find new tweet streams of interest to follow.
Reciprocate by following back. With Twitter the goal is to build influence by having a conversation, not seeing who can amass the most followers. To this end, follow people back so that you can direct message them (aka DM.) This is an area where marketers often miss the boat.
Engage in the conversation. Follow conversations of interest, especially trending topics, to add useful and insightful information. Respond to questions from other people and retweet other people's and organizations' tweets. Create searches for words and names that are important to your brand and company. Bear in mind that promotional tweets should be only one out of 10 messages at most.
Share the love. Thank people publically for being helpful. Participate in memes like #FollowerFriday (#FF for short) in which users highlight others on Twitter who are worth following and #MarketerMonday (#MM for short) where marketers spotlight experts with callouts.
Expand your reach. Connect Twitter to other social media platforms, especially LinkedIn and Facebook to distribute new content, namely your tweets, to these platforms.
Add dynamic content to your blog and/or website. Install a widget to display your tweets, mentions, and/or other searchable information. (Here's an example of a WordPress content-streaming widget.)
Change it up. Twitter can handle other media formats. Use Twitpic and TwitVid. JKrums' tweeted photo of the U.S. Airways plane landing in the Hudson River is a classic example of this.
Get a personality. Extend your branding to Twitter. Include fun details about your company. Link to your site(s) and other social media profiles.
Make material easy to share. Add sharing tools to your content to help readers distribute your content. Tweetmeme is good for doing this. Keeping count of tweets acts like a bestseller list to attract more readers.
Measure your reach. While counting followers is easy and shows a reach trend, follower counts alone yield limited insights about your influence. (Here's information on HP's Twitter Influence Research.) This is critical for marketing unless you're a media entity distributing content. There are lots of tools to use to track different aspects of Twitter. Applications like TweetDeck and HootSuite monitor special accounts and mentions and allow future tweets to be scheduled. IceRocket is another option for real-time search. URL shorteners can show the history of how often and by whom your content is retweeted. To check your Twitter clout, use Twitalyzer. For more in-depth analysis, use a paid analytics tool targeted at social media such as Radian6.
Building your following and influence on Twitter takes time and effort. Since it's an engagement as well as a promotional medium, Twitter requires a marketing plan to achieve your business goals with a series of rather specialized ongoing tactics.
If you have additional suggestions, please include them in the comments section below.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.