Thursday, April 09, 2009

Beginners Guide to Twitter

Having a profile for your brand on the popular microblogging site isn't enough. You have to create a real presence. Our expert shows you how.

It is important to recognize and understand the nuances of Twitter as a communications channel. The genius is in its simplicity, but it's still a tool that consumers and businesses can leverage many ways.

My team conducted an exhaustive and extensive survey of the Twitterverse and how consumers use the platform for their needs. Check out some of the ways people use Twitter.

It is significant to note that 56 percent use it in some professional, marketing, or work-related capacity.

Conversations on Twitter happen quickly, and there are many benefits to your brand. Below is a tweet from Scott Monty from Ford on the value of Twitter as Ford sees it.

So how can and should your brand use Twitter? And more importantly, what are the most common mistakes and pitfalls on Twitter that could have a negative impact on your business or brand?

Let's take a look.

You need to have a unified experience consistent with your brand so as not to confuse consumers. Your Twitter profile is where people go to quickly discover how you are using Twitter and learn more about your business. Make sure that you get your brand or business messaging across using the 140-character descriptor field.

It is acceptable to tell them how you are going to use this Twitter channel and set expectations. For example, if your account is strictly for distribution of an RSS feed and there will be no human interaction, tell them so. Companies like SUN and Dell have multiple Twitter channels -- each specifically geared to deliver niche content to a target audience.

Tip: Update your Twitter page background with an image that conveys the positioning of the brand. A good example is Dunkin Donuts.

Notice how the company uses a visually branded background, page font, color, and an icon that are all consistent with its brand. Also note that the bio is descriptive, concise, and links to the Dunkin Donuts' homepage.

"Bio: Dunkin' Dave here, tweeting on the behalf of the DD mothership. I'm an American and I'm certifiably running on Dunkin."

Twitter effectively allows you to be the "fly on the wall" at a cocktail party. When an opportunity presents itself to join a conversation and interact, you should be ready. But you have to listen in order to do this efficiently.

Listening is a critical part of using Twitter if you want to be relevant and add value for the people who matter the most to your business. You can search Twitter as a lightweight form of brand and reputation management. Go to to set up a number of persistent searches for your brand, as well as keywords that your users might be tweeting, and monitor them so you have the relevant knowledge of what is being said. This will allow you to respond and react accordingly in a timely fashion. You can also set up these searches as an RSS feed to monitor with something like Google Reader.

When users tweet @yourcompany, they are specifically reaching out to you and expecting some sort of response. User expectations are that if a brand or company is on Twitter, then it is there to interact. Failure to respond can have negative ramifications and is most commonly looked upon from a consumer's perspective as a sign that you don't care enough to respond. This is not what you want to have happen.

Responding in a timely manner and in a public fashion can have a very positive impact, as your followers and the followers of the person that you are interacting with will see that your company is engaging.

The bar has been raised, and the expectation for response from your brand has been increased dramatically. Now is the time to take this opportunity to increase your brand's engagement levels.

Most marketing people create a "message" and push it to multiple distribution points. That tactic does not work well in the Twitter ecosystem. While using Twitter to push press releases or automatic distribution of an RSS feed from your company blog might be appealing, the consumption model is minimal. Only linking to your website in your tweets will quickly become boring to your followers.

When you have people follow you, they follow for a reason. They have effectively "opted in" to hear what you are publishing and sharing. Focus on adding value and giving them what they want. Use this channel as a way to communicate industry news and trends -- insights that are valuable to your target audience.

Interaction is the key to building influence on Twitter. Share openly and don't only talk about your services. Find a way to mix it up and be interesting and human in your interactions.

Tip: Focus on adding value to the people who matter most and you can't go wrong.

There are several ways to measure the ROI of your efforts on Twitter. You need to choose clearly defined metrics for how you will measure and rank key criteria. The easiest -- but least valuable -- metric is how many people follow you. While this is a general indication of "popularity," it is not a good metric of influence, customer interaction, or customer satisfaction.

You will want to measure the number of interactions, the number of people you touch, and the net outcome of those interactions and conversations. For example, did you take an initial negative brand detractor and move that person to a higher satisfaction level, or to the point where they have become a brand evangelist?

You might also want to consider looking at the number of mentions of your brand as a general way to measure buzz or velocity as a topic of conversation in the ecosystem.

Also, consider the number of times your content is re-tweeted (noted on Twitter as "RT @yourbrand") and pushed through the network by multiple people. What is the effective "reach and influence" of the people that re-tweeted your content? This is actually an important metric when you look at how often people find your content interesting and "sharable." Interesting and valuable content is more likely to get re-tweeted by your followers.

You should also track the landing page of your site and how many people come from Twitter and what they do once they are on your site. This will help you to determine the behavior of the people that come from Twitter and what they are interested in.

It is important that, somewhere on your main site, you have a "directory" of people from your business that tweet on behalf of the company. It is also important that these people's bios are descriptive.

Companies like Dell use the word "Dell" in the user name (richardatdell, lionelatdell, etc.).

Kodak employees clearly identify themselves on Twitter via a visual branding profile image. Note the brand logo on the lower portion.

Many marketers make the rookie mistake of setting up an account on Twitter and not clearly defining how it will be used. Just because you are "on Twitter" does not mean you are using it in the most valuable way.

In fact, your company might need several different Twitter accounts that align with the target market and desired communication/business outcome. The low-hanging fruit that most companies are using it for is customer support or brand and reputation management. This is far from the only way that Twitter can be used.

As an example, Ford has six different Twitter accounts. Each account serves a specific purpose as a communication channel to address different market segments:
• FordTrucks
• FordDriveOne
• FordDriveGreen
• FordCustService
• FordMustang
• FordRacing

Here are just a few examples of how you might want to use Twitter:
• Customer support and service
• Brand reputation management
• Polling and product feedback mechanism
• Lead generation
• News distribution
• Brand awareness and establishment
• Product promotion and launch
• Humanizing of a brand
• Public relations