So Twitter’s great, but what am I supposed to do with it? – Getting to grips with Twitter

Posted by Shelley Grell on January 20th, 2010.

Have you noticed that you are reading anything remotely connected to Twitter lately? Previously the domain of celebs, teenagers and hip consumer brands, businesses from every sector have jumped on the Twitter band wagon. Indeed, for marketing professionals around the globe it has become some what of a right of passage. No communications strategy is complete without a chapter dedicated to Twitter’s promised land.

And rightly so – as a communication channel it simply cannot be ignored. And this, for many businesses still hovering on the side lines or with one toe in the water, is part of the challenge – “I cannot ignore Twitter, but I have no real idea how to use it to its best advantage”.

Should I even be on Twitter?

First things first, Twitter is a communication channel and in principle can be analysed in the same way. The key difference, and beauty, of social media is that in contrast to traditional forms of media, the communication is real-time and truly two way, making it more powerful in every respect. So, when thinking about Twitter, consider:

• Who do I want to speak to?
• Are the people I want to talk to using Twitter?
• If so, what do I want to tell them?
• What would be interesting or useful to them?
• What do I want to learn from them?
• How will I measure the effectiveness?
• Do I want this information in the public domain?

There may be different answers to each question for each area of your business. By far the hardest starting point, and it is why many businesses dismiss Twitter or quickly become disenchanted, is beginning with the premise that you want to raise your company’s profile using Twitter. The aim is too broad for this type of medium and frequently results in off-putting company flag waving. Imagine monopolising a conversation with a colleague by telling them how fantastic you are, what exciting new thing you’ve just done and what your social calendar looks like. That colleague would certainly never progress to a friend and would be very likely to go and moan about you to 3 other people. On Twitter, you can magnify that situation by a 100 at the very least.

Instead, consider how different parts of your business could use Twitter. Product Development might want to build a community of analysts, journalists and technology partners to swap ideas and exchange information. Marketing may want to aid CRM programmes or User Forums by building more informal relationships with key customers to encourage better feedback.

How do I use Twitter for PR?

From a PR perspective, a great use of Twitter is to engage with it as your company press office. Some businesses choose to make this their default company Twitter, as it allows control over what corporate information enters into the public domain. Set up a Twitter specifically for your press office function, naming it as such, and use it as another distribution channel for press announcements, case studies or opinion articles. By following key journalists and analysts, you can circulate not just your own interesting, useful information, but hook into other industry news using tools such as Twitterfeed. Twitterfeed allows you to feed your Twitter account via self-selected RSS feeds, providing relevant, topical news. You can fine tune the feeds using key word searches, though be aware that as well as posting informative, news-led tweets, you could also be tweeting links to a controversial industry topic.

Tools such as Twitterfeed can also be used to feed company blogs through to Twitter, and clearly, there is much to be gained from this type of activity in terms of supporting web search engine optimisation and carving out a thought-leadership brand position.

Is it right for my business?

The trick for businesses, is to move away from the Twitter as “minute by minute update of what I’m doing”, through to “how can I use this medium to engage with my customers, influencers and prospects in a mutually useful way?”

But don’t forget the golden rule of any marketing communications activity – measure it! Twitter is free and powerful, but it costs your company time to use it effectively. Measure it in the same way you would measure any investment in any other communication channel. Set clear goals for what you want to achieve using Twitter – is it about learning? Encouraging customer referrals? Increasing traffic to the company web site? Lead generation? Building a market leading brand position?

If the people your business wants to talk to are out there on Twitter, use it. Just spend some time thinking about it first to avoid any tweet-haps.

Useful links – an introduction for first time users – the world of Twitter applications to customise your Twitter experience – more Twitter apps, good for advertising and analytics info – how to tweet something useful without actually tweeting – organise your Twitter universe – find what your most interested in from the tweeting world – manage multiple Twitter accounts, automate follow actions

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