Twitter recently surpassed 200 million registered users who now post more than 110 million tweets per day. It’s a global communication phenomenon that not only reports the news but reflects the feelings and fascinations of an expanding global community. Whether its world events, sports, pop culture, or technology trends, Twitter is there to capture the blow-by-blow feelings and sentiment of its users.
Twitter is also increasingly a critical communication channel for brands to win customers, drive sales, find/solve problems, and manage customer service. In fact, hundreds of brands across every vertical market industry – including automotive, travel, sports, entertainment, finance, technology, food and beverage, and retail – are now actively building a Twitter strategy and integrating this powerful communication channel into the marketing mix.
However, establishing and building an effective presence on Twitter takes more than signing on and posting a tweet. It requires work, just like any other channel, to build a community of influential and engaged followers. So how do you get started?
- Establish your objectives and goals. Identify the key areas within your business that can be served by Twitter – e.g., customer service, tech support, marketing, and PR. Define your goals, objectives, and metrics for success.
- Listen and learn. See what consumers are saying about your brand and about your competitors and then look for opportunities to build value and to engage with these consumers.
- Build your public profile. Create a bio and include a clear description of your brand and your stream. Build an avatar and custom background to help reinforce and distinguish your brand within Twitter. Include a URL to your website or other official brand communities including other Twitter accounts in your bio. For example: @makersmark uses its packaging’s distinctive wax stamp as its avatar and features the bottle on its Twitter page background. @twplforce includes its objectives and type of content to be expected in the feed within its bio.
- Create content and conversations. Engage users by sharing relevant content and look for opportunities to provide unique value on Twitter, such as offering access to exclusive photos or promotions not found anywhere else. Continually test and respond to users in a timely manner – @mention, RT, and Direct Message followers when relevant and look to weave conversations across communities when appropriate. For example, @CastrolUSA shares racing news on Twitter but encourages users to join the discussion on racing results on Facebook.
- Grow your audience. Promote your Twitter community using all touchpoints – e.g., consider tags for TV commercials and include Twitter community mentions on call center hold messages and e-mails. Integrate your Twitter feed into your existing website and find people already tweeting about your industry and follow them. Engage influencers and build a dialog on the issues and topics that you have in common and are important to you. Most of all be transparent and real – let your personality shine, but be professional and mindful of your existing company’s policies. If you don’t have a policy, be sure to work with the appropriate departments to build and communicate one to employees. Additionally, publish Twitter lists to further extend your content and attract followers. Finally, list your Twitter account in directories and consider testing Promoted Tweets or Accounts.
- Manage and measure. Invest in a social media campaign management tool to streamline the process of creating, implementing, and analyzing tweets and Facebook posts. Campaign management tools also enable organizations to manage multiple users and track campaigns across multiple categories. Create benchmarks and leverage learning to optimize future efforts including what day and time is best to tweet for your brand or promotion.
Leverage the real-time nature of Twitter to solicit feedback and consider building metrics around customer satisfaction and service levels for customer service efforts. Use unique coupon codes or tracking URLs tied to shortened URLs to measure the impact of Twitter on your overall marketing efforts. Finally, take the time to understand the difference and dynamics between public and private tweets, and use direct messages to handle private or sensitive one-to-one conversations.
Twitter is a growing, vibrant, and influential channel, but leveraging this microblogging platform to win customers, find/solve problems, and drive sales requires work. To be successful, marketers need to galvanize their internal teams, build a compelling strategy aligned to corporate goals and customer needs, stay current on industry best practices, and maintain and grow their followers by building an engaging dialog that offers value to followers.
Finally, be mindful of corporate policies and be sure to set benchmarks and measure your efforts. By doing so, you’ll go a long way towards optimizing your efforts and making this burgeoning channel a critical component of your marketing mix for years to come.