Rule #1: Planning Matters
One of the best metaphors for Twitter is the fact that it’s a bar. Unlike Facebook where you know interact with ‘friends’, on Twitter you can engage with almost anyone. There are an incredible number of simultaneous conversations happening on several thousand topics. It can be overwhelming. It can also be enlightening.
The open nature of Twitter is really what makes it so compelling as a expected tool for business. However, businesses that think they may be able create a free account and begin marketing on Twitter (or: spewing sales pitches) have been in for a rude awakening. Not only will that strategy fail, the Twitter community could turn on the company and create a public relations nightmare for the business.
Marketing isn’t about pushing products. It’s about understanding of market needs, analyzing competition, identifying the positioning ‘sweet spot’, creating awareness and credibility, developing and supporting a community of loyal customers and more. Twitter can be used for any or a few of these marketing objectives. In fact, one of Twitter’s unique strengths is its ‘discovery’ capabilities.
What do you want to accomplish? Exactly what are your goals and how will you know that you’re successful or going the right direction? You can start Rule #2 before having these fully completed, but you need to have your Twitter objectives nailed down just before start tweeting.
Rule #2: Listen First
Remember how we said Twitter is like a bar? How would people react if you walked into a bar (or coffee shop or other public location for socializing) and you started shouting about whatever was on your own mind? Best case they’d ignore you. Very likely, you’d be thrown out – and maybe never allowed back.
The same is applicable on Twitter. Don’t spam. Relevance is important. The Twitter community is judge and jury. It can be tough to recover from a bad reputation therefore it is best not to get one within the first place.
If you’re just getting started on Twitter, be sure to listen (read) for a while before you start posting or replying. There’s nothing wrong with being a voyeur. Whether or not you’re already on Twitter, take a step back and just listen once in a while. Do so on a fairly daily basis. Twitter is evolving quickly.
So what are you ‘listening’ for?
- What are the hot topics, most popular links from tweets, or most popular users?
- Exactly what are the types of tweets that get re-tweeted most?
- Exactly what are the users in your industry or target audience tweeting about?
Rule #3: Find Your Voice
When you were listening in the previous rule, you certainly noticed many different types of tweets. If you didn’t, you should go back and listen harder.
While there is absolutely no right or wrong answer for what your Twitter style or voice should be, there are definitely considerations to make before you decide to start tweeting. You need to make certain that your voice is appropriate for the objectives that you are trying to achieve together with image which you wish to portray. You should document the characteristics of the chosen voice and why these are typically important – that is especially useful if you will have more than one person tweeting for your organization or you intend to hire ghost writers.
So exactly what are the characteristics that you need to consider? One way to think about the characteristics of the Twitter voice is to map out several vectors with different extremes for each end then decide where your ideal position would be for each vector. For instance, would you like your Twitter stream to be fully automated or fully manual? Professional or casual? It’s unlikely that you will be at either extreme, but the vector will allow you to definitely easily visualize your voice.
Rule #4: Look Alive
Creating an account on Twitter and keeping the default profile photo and background is a sure-fire way to show Twitter users that you’re not seriously interested in Twitter or the Twitter community as a whole. There is absolutely no excuse for not investing into the small effort so it takes to create a rich profile page and profile photo.
Have a designer create something that integrates well with all the Twitter profile page. Your whole Foods and Zappos examples below should give you some ideas. Look at your competitors and do something better! If you do not have the skills in-house, there are lots of freelance designers that can create something totally custom without spending much. Of course you’ll want to complete the profile information and include a URL – consider a specific landing page on your own website.
There are a number of couple schools of thought on profile photos. For businesses, more and more logos are turning up. In our opinion, logos are not in the right spirit. Twitter provides a unique way for businesses to provide a human touch. Our recommendation is to utilize a great quality, properly formatted photo if you can. There are lots of articles in the topic. Do a quick search to have more information and suggestions.
Now you’re ready to promote your presence on Twitter. Promote your Twitter user name on your website, in email signatures, direct mail pieces, business cards, etc. If you’re tweeting regularly, consider displaying them on your website or blog. There are plenty of tools that allow it to be easy.
Rule #5: Grow Your Flock
Several strategies exist to help grow your flock on Twitter. Some are a bit controversial. We’ll save those for later. Hopefully we don’t need to explain the advantages of having plenty of followers. The real question is, “Are you attracting the followers you’ll want to get to your goals?”
Rule #4 covered the very first step. Letting your existing clients and partners know how to find you on Twitter will get you some followers. The second strategy is to adhere to companies and individuals within your industry and/or region. Some will follow you in return. But there are other benefits.
Many tools glance at the relationships between users (who’s following whom) while making recommendations according to that information. As a result, following users with certain characteristics can actually help you attract followers. Genuine engagement (Rule #6) is also key to achieve followers and builds off for the users you follow. Another totally acceptable way to gain followers is to adhere to interesting people. If you see someone who tweets interesting things associated with your company, see who she follows, and follow her.
Auto-following users based on them following you or using third-party tools (some listed below) is where you start to get into a gray area. Tools are usually starting to show up that glance at the ratio of followers to friends for ranking and other purposes. It’s probably not a good idea to get your ratio completely out of whack. “Follow many but don’t auto-follow everyone” is probably the greatest approach.
Rule #6: Engage Genuinely
Look before you leap when considering to Twitter. You are embarking on a journey. It can not be viewed as a one-time event. You need to nurture and support your efforts. If for example the initial level of activity starts to wane, your followers will notice and will feel a sense of abandonment. Begin with a comfortable, sustainable level of engagement. Engagement on Twitter is such as the inverse of product pricing – it’s very easy to drop prices and easy to improve Twitter engagement, but doing the opposite is exponentially more difficult.
To get started, use search.twitter.com or any other Twitter search method to see that is talking about you, your brand or a keyword related to your industry. Read up and then engage when you have something informative to say. If you are looking for your user name you can simply see your replies in Twitter if someone starts a tweet with ‘@(your twitter name)’ but sometimes people will put @yourname in the center of their tweet. By searching “to:yourname” it will find any tweets that included your user name.
Using good judgment combined with Rules 1-5, you should be in pretty good shape. The greater time you spend on Twitter, the greater efficient and reliable you’ll get. Below are some tips gathered from various Twitter users around the web on just how to optimize your Twitter time and avoid potential Twitter landmines:
- Clients like Tweetdeck and Twhirl allow it to be less complicated to manage Twitter while making you more efficient.
- Understand and make use of direct messages (DM) (private), replies (public) and re-tweets (RT) correctly.
- You do not have to read every tweet or reply to every DM, but don’t ignore all of them either.
- Use URL shortening tools like TinyURL, tr.im as well as others for cleaner tweets and more characters for you.
- Comment on others’ tweets and re-tweet what others have posted to build your place in the community.
Rule #7: Track Your Results
When you have everything in motion, you’ll want to keep an eye on things to trace your progress and to see whether it makes sense to spend more (or less) time on Twitter. It is simple to go overboard with measurements. Here are our recommendations on the ‘must haves’ and the ‘nice to haves’.
In Rule #1 you set your Twitter objectives. What do you will need to measure to help make sure you’re headed into the right direction? These are your key performance indicators or KPIs. When you know exactly what your KPIs are, you’ll be able to figure out what tools you’ll need.
For instance, if for example the goal is to find visitors to your website and also to sell an item, you’ll wish to know how many visitors are coming to the site from Twitter, how many of those visitors buy your product and how your conversion rate compares to visitors off their sources. Web analytics tools from Yahoo, Google as well as others (see Resources below) can get this information for you. Obviously that is simplified. You’ll likely have multiple goals and more KPIs for each goal, but it’s important to understand what metrics you actually need and why they are important – what do they tell you and how can you use that information? You’ll need to track your KPIs on a typical basis and make use of them in order to make adjustments to your strategy as required.
Twitter is changing the way people communicate and search for information and it hasn’t even scratched the surface in regards to its potential reach and influence.
Twitter can be used for fast, effective and inexpensive research, customer support, public relations, lead generation and more – but your efforts will almost certainly backfire if you do not stick to the explicit and unspoken policies in this vibrant and rapidly growing community.
Whether you are self-employed, a small business owner, a multi-national corporation or a government agency – a high-tech company, a manufacturer or a coffee shop, Twitter provides huge opportunities and risks.