Do you tweet? Are you on twitter?
If you know you should be, but aren’t, or if you have set up an account, but don’t know what to do with it, then this is for you.
Twitter is a huge fad these days. It’s all over the place, being talked about by many people in the marketing field, particularly those involved in social media and online communication. But most people still don’t know about Twitter – recently I was having supper with my family, and no one at the table knew what Twitter was or was using it. So if you aren’t on Twitter yet, don’t feel bad – you’re not alone.
There is a lot of information on the internet about how to get set up with a Twitter account, twitter etiquette, how to attract 10,000 followers in one week, and more. I assume you can find that information if you need it.
Twitter as a Marketing Tool
I am writing this for businesspeople who have heard of twitter, are not yet using it (or not yet using it effectively) and who want to know how to get started. I recently met with a franchisor who knew she should be on twitter, and had actually set up an account for her franchise, but wasn’t doing anything with it because she didn’t know where to start or what to do.
I spent five months doing direct Twitter experimentation. One the one hand, I shouldn’t admit it (Twitter is supposed to be a communication tool for the real you, right?), but honestly I needed to see what would happen if I took different actions. So I set up a number of different Twitter accounts and tried different strategies to see what would happen. (If you want to connect with my real Twitter account, follow me at www.Twitter.com/katrynharris). It was fascinating to see what really happens.
My assumption is that you are on Twitter because you think it will benefit your business in some way; grow sales, increase brand recognition, build strategic partnerships, get customer feedback, keep you in touch with the market, or some other business building strategy. I am assuming that you are not on Twitter just to be social and connect with friends (although even for a business account, that will become part of the experience).
I make no claim to be unbiased. As you will see, I think some of the commonly used Twitter strategies are poorly thought out or dangerous for companies to use. I recommend that before any company starts using Twitter, you first look at the question:
What do I want to Accomplish?
- Do I want to grow sales directly?
- Am I trying to bring traffic to the company blog?
- Do I want to learn about what my customers thinking and get product feedback?
- Is this a brand building exercise?
- Am I trying to find people who will make good strategic partners?
Just like goal setting and traditional marketing, to use Twitter effectively, you first need to decide what you want to accomplish. Then you can take the steps that will help you meet your goal. As you read through the next section, keep your goal in mind. That will allow you to quickly discard the Twitter strategies described if they will not bring you closer to your goal.
The main strategies that I have seen people use on Twitter are:
1. Twitter maniacs – These people get as many followers as possible, indiscriminately. I have a hard time seeing the value of this, unless it’s an ego thing; ‘I have 20,000 followers – look at me’. This is unlikely to add value to your business and I certainly don’t recommend it.
2. Niche ambassadors – You pick a niche and find people related to that niche & follow them; tweet information about your niche – get found by people who are interested in that niche. This can be useful if you have a niche business and are looking to attract customers or strategic partners – maybe people who share your interest in the niche and who offer a complementary service or product. The key here is to slowly increase the number of followers and people you follow so you can keep connections with the people in your circle. Ignore people outside of your niche area of interest who follow you and only follow people who relate to your niche. This can build strong interpersonal relationships in your area of expertise and can be very valuable in terms of building brand, strategic partnerships, and even customers.
3. Rounded Brand Tweeters – You start by building a profile around things you are interested in – this will usual be professional interests with a company account, but even with a company account, you want to have some of the personal interests showing through. Twitter is about interacting with people, so don’t have different people posting to a corporate Twitter account every day – your followers won’t be able to get a coherent sense of who you are or know what to expect. Building a profile around areas of interest can be very useful; for example, if you run a yoga studio & are interested in politics and international finance, you might follow people who are into yoga, political or news organizations and people talking about international finance. The blend of interests can help make your account seem well rounded, and will attract people with similar interest. This type of account is most likely to support a branding strategy where the goal is to get known and to build your profile and build relationships. It may lead in an indirect way to sales but that is more incidental than causal.
4. Sweet Tweeters – Tweet lots of quotes and inspirational sayings. This will get you followers and lots of retweets. However it is unlikely to lead to growth for your company. It does work to some extent for people who are sole practitioners focused on drawing traffic to their blogs / websites. If your tweets make people feel good, they will associate positive feelings with your Twitter account, and are then more likely to read and follow links that you post.
5. Twitter-educators – Select a niche & tweet lots of information (links, news articles, other people’s tweets, events, etc) that will be of interest to people in your niche. Many marketing experts recommend this as a way to establish an identity as a brand leader in your space. This is ideal for people who already have a public profile that they can leverage so that they get a number of followers right off the bat, but even regular companies can follow this path. It takes some regular time to keep providing valuable tweets, but this is a strategy that can certainly bring you lots of online traffic if you are consistent about it and have frequent links back to your company blog/website.
6. Controversial Tweeting – Some very high profile people tweet in such as way as to create controversy and get talked about online in an ongoing manner. By having people attack them, and then attacking back, they build up a base of very loyal followers. The downside to this (and the reason I would never recommend it for a company Twitter account) is that you also get a large group of people with strong negative feelings about you. This is a good way to ‘stand for something’ but very dangerous to any sales efforts you may have underway.
7. Twitter Salesbirds – These are usually very clearly company accounts that have regular posts about their company products / benefits / special offers / events. They can gather a number of followers, but it is slow going since most average people don’t get huge value from hearing about how wonderful a company considers itself to be. It’s very easy to breach twitter etiquette with this type of account. These can be effective in generating sales if you have a very obvious value proposition and, usually, relatively low ticket items that do not require any kind of ongoing relationship. In that case, your tactic may be simply to drag as many one-off visitors as possible to your website / links, and now worry about providing ongoing value.
Twitter is hopefully one sales / marketing tool among many. Remember, the keys to success are knowing what success looks like for your company, then using that knowledge to select your strategy, implementing and then measuring using your key metrics, and changing direction if necessary based on your results. With a good plan, Twitter can be a great boost to your business, and a lot of fun along the way.
Join Open Box on twitter: www.twitter.com/katrynharris or visit our blog, read our stories about experimenting with Twitter and share your Twitter stories and questions in the comments section of the blog.
Best Practices, Business Growth, Communication, Franchise, Marketing, Twitter Experiment