So You're On Twitter. Now What?
Over the last several months the number of business users on Twitter has grown exponentially. According to ComScore, the global leader in measuring the digital world, Twitter’s Web site attracted a total of 44.5 million unique visitors worldwide in June. What does this mean for marketers? It means they need to get up to speed on not only using the platform, but understanding how to get value and drive results. Even with its explosive growth, a common sentiment I hear when it comes to Twitter is “I don’t get it.” That’s because people look at Twitter’s prompt “what are you doing?” quite literally when in fact they should be answering the more interesting question of “what’s got your attention.” Savvy users are using the platform to share original thoughts, provide industry insight, highlight awards, alert customers and prospects to speaking events, and analyze thought leadership content. Twitter has become so popular because it allows users to respond quickly, increase their knowledge and cultivate conversation among a widespread and diverse audience.
However, managing a corporate account is different than maintaining a personal account. It’s important to have a strategy, understand brand messages, and establish best practices for communication. By understanding the medium, the art of conversation and how to meld the two, business users can establish credibility, increase the effectiveness of their marketing communication, help meet company goals and impact the bottom line.
Twelve Twitter Tips Everyone Should Know When Managing a Corporate Account
- Understand it is a commitment. Participating in Twitter can take as little or as much of your time as you’re willing to devote. The goal is to listen, learn, communicate and cultivate relationships. Plan on checking in at least once a day to share new information, reply to a conversation “thread” or respond to someone that has sent you a direct message.
- Be prepared to control your message and your brand. In more traditional forms of communication, it’s easier to control messages being conveyed as well as who is receiving them. In a digital world, customers, prospects, employees, shareholders and anyone connected to your company can participate in a conversation on behalf of your brand. Because of this, it’s important to establish designated spokespeople and develop message points that support the company culture and brand image. Make your corporate user name easy to remember, reflective of your brand, and incorporate a Twitter page background that speaks to your brand identity.
- Determine company spokespeople. Similar to conventional media relations, it’s important to designate individuals who are well-versed in key messages to speak on behalf of the brand. Today’s company spokesperson is no longer communicating with just the press. They’re speaking directly to customers, clients and contemporaries. Think about your brand voice and make sure it resonates with your target audiences.
- Establish best practices. Decide who will manage the account, how frequently you’ll post, and what it is you want to say. When people follow you, show them you’re interested in the relationship and follow them back.
- Have a communication plan. Develop an editorial calendar that supports overall marketing initiatives. If there’s an exhibit planned at an upcoming trade show, a tweet can be used to direct followers to the booth. Have some scripted 140 character replies to address common compliments and complaints. Prepare spokespeople with scripted Q&A documents to ensure consistency of message.
- Establish a social media policy. The HR department is typically responsible for other policies for the organization, and while corporate communications may have control of official spokespeople, all employees are able to participate in social media. Therefore, it is important to have clearly defined guidelines that ensure people are aligned with the corporate values and mission. Realize this will evolve as new technologies and social networking platforms emerge.
- Learn the lingo. A tweet is a 140 character post or status update on Twitter. A DM is a direct message that can be seen only by the sender and receiver. Hashtags (#) are used in front of keywords to make it easier to search for a particular topic. A tweetup is a real world meeting between Twitter users and Tinyurl shortens long Web addresses to comply with Twitter’s character limitation.
- Take advantage of Twitter Tools. Third party applications make managing a corporate account easier. Applications such as TweetFunnel and CoTweet are designed for companies that want to have more than one person contribute to a Twitter stream. TweetFunnel enables users to stockpile and schedule tweets for future use and has a feature that allows for approval of posting prior to publishing. HootSuite is also useful for managing multiple accounts and makes it easy to toggle between Twitter handles to monitor and update them. It has search tabs that make it easy to monitor what is being said about a company or brand and enables users to save keywords for future searches. Twaitter also allows users to schedule tweets and then broadcast them later when the time is right.
- Join the conversation. Just like in the real world, there are appropriate ways of participating in a conversation. Social media is about fostering relationships and participating in a community – not just selling products and services. It’s just as important to listen as it is to share information. Be sure to get your facts straight and remember that posting is similar to shouting from a roof top – you’ll never know who can hear you and you can’t take back what you’ve said. Be genuine and add value to the communities you inhabit.
- Monitor your corporate brand. Use the tools mentioned above to not only communicate with your constituents but to monitor your corporate messages. Monitoring your brand online ensures that your messages are being effective and reaching your intended audience. Regularly search for what is being said, who is saying it and be prepared to respond appropriately and adjust messaging as needed.
- Monitor your competition. Knowing what the competition is saying and what is being said about them can help you understand how to fine tune your messages for maximum impact. Monitor competitive brands, their followers and who they are following.
- Conduct analysis of your efforts. Understanding your online reputation is a key to managing it. On Twitter, you can get an idea of how far your messages travel by the number of followers you have and how often your message is re-tweeted (RT for those up on the lingo). However, the most effective approach is revisiting your goals and objectives to see if your strategy is delivering on its intent. Is traffic being driven to your Web site? Are you experiencing an uptick in sales as a result? Are customers telling you they’ve learned about your product or services from conversations on Twitter? Take the time to link social media efforts to business results.
As with anything, the more exposure and experience you have with Twitter and its associated applications, the easier it is to understand and unleash its power and drive results. Twitter has fundamentally changed how we communicate and connect. Isn’t it time you joined the conversation?