Like Marmite, Twitter has a real ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ following…either way, if your business in not on Twitter, you are missing out on interacting with it’s ever growing 280 million users who tweet 95 million times each day.
Twitter can be a little difficult to understand at first with all its shortcut symbols like ‘@’, ‘#’, ‘RT’, so we have put together a list of top tips to help you understand how it works, and how to use it effectively to successfully communicate with your customers.
So to kick off; let’s begin at the very start…
What is Twitter?
According to their ‘About Us’ page, Twitter is the “best way to discover what’s new in your world”.
It is a real-time information network that connects it’s users to all the latest information which they have selected to find out about by ‘following’ other users, brands, or topics.
What is a Tweet?
A ‘Tweet’ (or message) must be no more than 140 characters. Think of them as the headline of what you want to share with the world.
Why Should I Use It For Business?
Using Twitter, businesses are able to economically connect with customers all over the world in real-time. It allows businesses to quickly and easily share information with people interested in their products and services (otherwise known as ‘followers’), gather feedback, and build strong, engaging relationships with customers and influential people.
How Can I Build a Following?
Although your tweets can be searched for publicly, you will need to build up a following of users who actively subscribe to your content as this will become your community and the audience you truly engaging with.
Part of the culture of Twitter is that users generally follow back those who follow them, but here are few things to also consider;
- Include the Twitter icon with a link to your Twitter account on your website, your email signature, marketing materials, or anything else that might get exposure.
- If you have an email distribution list, or a product newsletter, invite them to follow you on Twitter.
- You might want to consider providing an incentive for anyone who follows you, such as the chance to win a free product, coupon or a discount. Bear in mind that your incentive should be relevant to your target audience and make sure you have a good content strategy to keep your new followers engaged and interesting in what you have to say.
- Use the ‘Who to Follow’ link on Twitter for suggestions
Best Practices and Top Tips
1. Direct Messaging
Allows you to send a private message to anyone who follows you.
2. Public Tweets
If you want to publically reply to any user’s tweet, you need to make sure you include the ‘@’ symbol before their username in your message. This will then appear in their personal feed, and anyone who follows them will also be able to see your message. Use direct messaging if you only want the person you are messaging to see your message.
If you want to share what someone else has tweeted, click on ‘Retweet’ and include the letters ‘RT’ at the beginning of your message. Retweets are just as important as Tweets because they show fellow users that you are listening to them and that you find what they are saying interesting and worthy of sharing.
Rather than just ‘retweeting’, it is also good practice to include your own thoughts about what that person said in the message.
4. Hash Tag
To make your tweets search friendly, use hash tags (the ‘#’ symbol directly followed by a keyword).
The hash tag is used to categorise tweets by placing it into an appropriate category. So for example, if your post is about Manchester, you can include the hash tag “#manchester” and your tweet will be categorised with others that have used the same tag.
Many conferences and events use the hash tag system to inform followers of special announcements or updates during the event. Post-event, you can search for the hash tag and see all the related posts, assuming users who tweeted about it used the tag.
You can see what hash tags are most common (or ‘trending’) on your toolbar.
Some common Twitter hash tag’s that you may see are #FF or #FollowFriday. Use this only on Fridays with the names of Twitter accounts you find valuable. For the travel industry specifically, there is a #TT or #TravelTuesday. Don’t forget to thank anyone who mentions you in these too.
Use a URL Shortener
Don’t spend your precious 140 characters on a long web address. Services such as Bit.ly or TinyURL will abbreviate these for you at no cost.
Bit.ly is excellent because it gathers valuable metrics you can use to monitor the success of your Tweets. For example, you can see how many clicks your shortened link got and where in the world those people who clicked on it are.
Provide Value and Engage
We have all heard it before: social media is about engaging in conversations and providing value to those people who you have connected with you BUT as marketers, another reason we get involved is to promote our brand’s products and services BUT here is a warning! There is a very fine line between how much you should use Twitter as a medium to announce news about your brand, and how much you should use it to provide value to keep your audience interested.
Twitter isn’t just about self-promotion, it’s about building relationships and providing a clear picture of what your business is about. Retweet interesting Tweets by others to support them. Share news, helpful tips and advice from your industry as well as general conversation to keep your followers engaged.
Aim for no more than half of your tweets to be self promotional.
Make People Laugh
There is certainly a place for humour and wit in your Tweets. All you have to do is look at the top 10 most retweeted tweets in 2010 to see this…
- StephenAtHome, Stephen Colbert. “In honor of oil-soaked birds, ‘tweets’ are now ‘gurgles.’ June 16, 2010
- alqaeda, Al-Qaeda. “Just noticed Twitter keeps prompting me to “Add a location to your tweets”. Not falling for that one.” Sept 14, 2010
- shitmydadsays, Justin. “Don’t focus on the one guy who hates you. You don’t go to the park and set your picnic down next to the only pile of dog shit.” June 28, 2010
Ask Questions. Seek Advice
Twitter is a great tool for finding out valuable information for your business. Ask your customers what they think about certain topics related to your industry.
You might find out valuable information for your business.
Enrich Your Messages with 3rd Party Applications
Although Twitter was founded on the concept of providing public SMS like text messages, you can now also use applications such as TwitPic or Yfrog to send photos or video clips out via Twitter.
Applications like Txtpoll will connect your tweets with polls to really engage your followers and integrating Twitter with a location-based service like Foursquare can also be quite valuable – say for example if you were exhibiting at an event in London, you can bring attention to this fact and someone nearby may notice.
Getting More Experienced…
If you need to view and manage more than one Twitter account, there are programs such as Tweetdeck and HootSuite which let you do this. They also allow you to manage multiple Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Foursquare accounts.
By creating lists and filters, you can highlight the most relevant content and then use Tweetdeck to post updates to various networks at one time.
When is the optimum time for your tweets? It’s not guaranteed, but several apps can help you schedule your tweets for maximum impact. Tweriod will analyse both yours and your follower’s tweeting times to work out who’s online when.
A few things to avoid
Don’t auto-tweet, auto-DM or auto-follow
Let’s imagine a scenario. Your brand is all about French food. You live it, breathe it and therefore you want to connect with lovers of French food. You set up some programme to auto-follow users who mention ‘French food’ and then you discover you’ve followed 10 people who’ve tweeted ‘French food is the worst’. They’re confused and irritated that you’ve followed them and you look a fool. Your communications should be personalised every time. Leave the automatic programmes to the spammers, and do it yourself.
Using ALL CAPS is not best practice. Don’t forget to consider grammar and spelling, too—even if it’s casual, it’s still important to be professional although this can be tricky when you are trying to fit what you want to say in 140 characters.
Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t repeat yourself.
It’s annoying isn’t it? Don’t tweet the same thing over and over again. You’ll just annoy and bore your followers.
- Like all social media, to see the real value takes time. It’s not instant, nor will you have a huge increase in sales as soon as you start tweeting BUT if can be an excellent marketing tool if used correctly.
- Twitter is a great way to build brand recognition and customer loyalty. But you need to be patient.
- Don’t forget to provide value. Of course you want to tell people about your new services and products, but dont overdo it. Think of Twitter like a dinner party. Would you find the person next to you interesting if all they did was talk about work the whole time?
- Spend time building your community of quality followers. No point having 10,000 followers if no one is engaging or taking in what you are saying.
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