Do you tweet? If so, you’re part of a fast growing trend. EMarketer estimates there were about 6 million U.S. adult Twitter users in 2008, 3.8 percent of U.S. adult Internet users. Twitter users in the U.S. are projected to grow to 18.1 million by 2010, representing 10.8 percent of U.S. adult Internet users. Surprisingly, Twitter users tend to be older than traditional Internet early adopters; 45 to 54 year olds, the highest-indexing age group, are 36 percent more likely than average to visit Twitter, according to comScore.
Deeper analysis reveals some other interesting insights that can help marketers tap into Twitter’s strength. Of the top 75 searched terms on Twitter Search, Hitwise found that roughly 30 percent were entertainment-related. Also according to Hitwise, Twitter Search, which works in real time, differs from a search engine in that it sends very few visitors to retail sites. This seems to be in part because users frown on explicit promotional tweets. Based on Hitwise’s tracking, Twitter sends 20 percent of its downstream visits to social networks and another 20 percent to entertainment-related sites. This is similar to the behavior of blog visitors.
What does this mean for marketers? Think about how information dissemination and participation in an open conversation with your prospects and customers will support your business goals. While the data show that Twitter readership leans toward entertainment-related topics, as its user base continues to expand and mature a broader array of interests will be present.
Five Ways to Use Twitter to Aid Marketing
When assessing how to add Twitter to your marketing mix, consider the following five options:
- Content distribution. Twitter is useful for time-sensitive information, such as:
- Announcing breaking news. The US Airway plane crash-landing in the Hudson and the Mumbai riots were initially broadcast via Twitter.
- Transmitting time-sensitive information. This includes last-minute flight delays by airlines like JetBlue and major traffic disruptions by LAFD.
- Positioning your company as a thought leader. This includes distributing original content to extend the conversation.
- Providing an alternative forum for comments. This also includes enabling attendees at live events, such as trade shows, to communicate with each other.
- Commerce support. Twitter can aid sales, but it can’t become strictly a promotional broadcast channel or many followers will leave.
- Disseminate last-minute deals to drive sales.
- Provide additional sales support to answer questions and help close deals. Like chat or a toll-free number, Twitter enables e-tailers to service prospects and customers. A few retailers already using Twitter effectively, including Dell, Zappos, and Whole Foods.
- Offer customer service via another channel and proactively alleviate customer issues. Comcast, a cable provider notorious for its customer service issues, has received positive feedback on its responsiveness via Twitter.
- Advocacy forum. Twitter is a platform from which to develop a following for you, your brand, or your company.
- Aid brand building. While many individuals use Twitter to enhance their personal brands, Twitter enables companies to participate in the conversation.
- Expand services with useful information cost-effectively, particularly for nonprofit and political organizations. The March of Dimes provides daily pregnancy tips in English and Spanish, while Barrack Obama‘s presidential campaign connected with voters (although as president, Obama’s tweets have become less frequent).
- Public relations support. Twitter provides another outlet to enhance PR-related communications.
- Enable reputation monitoring by tracking and participating in the conversation related to your management, brands, and company. Also follow what’s being said by thought leaders in your niche.
- Provide another channel to aid crisis management by getting your organization’s story out quickly in case of an emergency.
- Use for PR outreach to journalists looking for timely input.
- Research enabler. Leverage Twitter’s search functionality and ability to query and respond to an audience.
- Track new trends on Twitter to discover what customers and prospects are saying about your brands, products, and company. Unlike search engines, the conversation on Twitter takes place in real time.
- Participate by asking prospects their opinion about products and issues related to your firm.
Marketing Considerations When Using Twitter
As a form of social media, Twitter’s 140-character format means marketers must think about its unique characteristics. Twitter:
- Is about participating and contributing to the discussion, not hardcore product promotion. When using Twitter, have guidelines about the information acceptable to communicate and the level of personal detail you’re willing to provide.
- Requires consistent, dedicated staff to provide an ongoing presence that listens and participates in real time.
- Is device agnostic so that followers may use a computer, smartphone, or other handheld device.
- Has a user base that’s growing exponentially, so how it relates to your target market may be evolving.
Measuring Twitter’s Impact
As with any marketing initiative, it’s critical to have metrics in place to assess your progress against your marketing goals. Among the ways to calculate Twitter’s impact are:
- Followers. The number of people following you or your brand on Twitter gives you a general idea of your community’s size. Do your followers retweet your information? What percentage of your followers continue to follow you over time? According to Nielsen’s blog, over 60 percent of Twitter followers fail to return the following month.
- Conversations. This is an indication of how engaged your followers are with you. Consider the content of these exchanges. Have you been able to respond to prospects in a timely manner and change perceptions of your firm?
- Brand improvement. Beyond traditional measurements, assess whether public perception of your brand changed as a result of your Twitter interactions. Do consumers feel that your firm is more responsive to their needs?
- Lead generation/sales retention. Track the number of sales leads, purchases, or reduced customer complaints. This should ramp up as you build your Twitter following.
While there are a number of dedicated analytics and research tools available, as Twitter continues to evolve the related analytics will become more sophisticated.
Twitter’s recent explosive growth translates into an opportunity for marketers to engage with prospects and customers proactively in an open forum. To this end, think about leveraging the content and information within your organization to build your following on Twitter.
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