June 2nd, 2010

Twitter and Your Business

by Mike Duncan

In the past year, social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook have shifted from kid stuff to major marketing tools. With about 5,000 new accounts created each day, Twitter is the fastest growing social network on the Web and the third largest.

Twitter is a great way to reach out to your target audience for conversation, marketing, and customer service. But social media outlets require a big time investment, and with ROI still not certain, many businesses choose to invest their time elsewhere.

Here are some of the key points for business owners who want to use Twitter to their advantage but are short on time:

Determine a strategy.

Twitter allows users to follow information in real time. That means instant access to your customers to listen to what they’re saying about your brand, share information with them, and offer instant customer service. Decide which of these objectives you want to accomplish, and develop a strategy to achieve it.

Choose your audience.

Build a network of customers, competitors, strategic partners, experts, colleagues, and other people within your industry circle. Start following them to get their attention, and maintain constant conversation.

Choose your tone.

While traditional marketing is formal, Twitter allows you to converse with your network casually and personally. Don’t just focus on marketing and PR, and don’t automate your conversation. Automated direct messages and tweets make followers think you’re a robot. Social media works best when it involves people connecting with people. Talk to your customers, listen closely to what they’re saying, and keep it casual.

Decide who will represent your brand online.

Twitter and all social media is an online representation of your brand. Be careful when choosing who will represent your business and how. Whether it’s the CEO, an employee, or an in-house community manager, be sure they’re putting the right face on your company.

Start talking.

Initiate conversation about your brand, listen to what people are saying, and be proactive in responding to @ replies and direct messages. Offer information that customers and other people in your network will find interesting — not just marketing and PR messages. Don’t toot your own horn too much, and don’t bombard users with links or repetitive marketing messages. Just like any conversation, these common mistakes will make you boring or annoying to followers.

Twitter tools

Build your network:

Twitter Search (search.twitter.com) – Search for your brand name and key phrases associated with your industry to find users who are interested in you and your products.

We Follow (wefollow.com) – User powered Twitter directory helps you find users that may fit in your network.

Just Tweet It (justtweetit.com) – Another Twitter directory where you can find followers.

Mr. Tweet (mrtweet.net) – A Twitter networking client that helps you discover new people in your industry, find relevant followers, and track usage stats.

Use Twitter:

Tinyurl.com, bit.ly, is.gd and countless other URL shortening services shrink long URLs to Twitter-friendly sizes.

Monitor your conversation & brand:

TweetDeck (tweetdeck.com) – The Twitter client of choice for many busy users, this free program allows you to track your feed, specific searches, and replies in one window.

TweetScan (tweetscan.com) – Alerts you when users mention your brand and related keywords.

TweetBeep (tweetbeep.com) – Google alerts for Twitter. Set it up to tell you when people are talking about your brand or industry.

Twollow (twollow.com) – Auto-follow users who mention your brand or products to build your network.

Qwitter (useqwitter.com) – Notifies you of the last tweet you sent before losing followers. Great tool to find out what you could be doing to turn off followers.

Twitterless (twitterless.com) – Graphs your followers and tells you who stops following you.

Engage your users:

TwtQpon (twtqpon.com) – Create coupons for Twitter to give users incentive to follow you.

StrawPoll (strawpollnow.com) – Poll your followers to find out what they think about your brand and pertinent questions related to your industry.

TwitPic (twitpic.com) – Share photos of new products, office antics, and other cool stuff they may find interesting.