How to best use this popular messaging service
Twitter is so popular at the moment. It’s so good at attracting buzzwords that I can’t decide whether to call it a microblogging service or a social-networking web site. But it doesn’t really matter what you call it, what matters is that users are taking to Twitter in massive numbers. And your business should be there, too.
Does this mean that plumbers need to start posting messages about what they had for breakfast in order to drum up sink-repair orders from desperate Internet hipsters? No, but you can and should use Twitter to connect with your customers, clients, and fans in a way that you couldn’t do before. Here are some tips on how to use Twitter effectively-and a few warnings.
1. Don’t automate it
First warning, if you’ve got a blog that’s connected to your business (which you should), you can use a service such as TwitterFeed to directly channel your new blog posts into Twitter posts. Sounds nifty, doesn’t it? Well, don’t do it. Your business’s primary Twitter feed ought to be hand-fed. If you publish a flood of impersonal links, your Twitter account will just seem like a faceless promotion account and that’s not how to engage people on Twitter. Link to the very best stuff on your blog, as well as relevant stuff you see elsewhere on the web, and also post items that don’t contain links at all. (Don’t forget to use a URL-shortening service such as tinyurl, is.gd, or xrl.us for your links.)
2. Be conversational
Your business’s Twitter account should talk like a person-even if it’s a collective “person” representing your company or brand. If you feel like it, take it to the limit: Use the first-person (“They’re putting my stuff on sale again!”), invent a personality. Or just use the royal “we” and “our”-“Our editors have the latest on so-and-so.” But be chatty.
Some companies prefer to disclose members of their team when they’re tweeting from the company account.
3. Follow people who are relevant
From your Twitter account, follow everyone on your staff who uses Twitter. Follow colleagues in related companies and in your industry. Follow relevant brands and journalists and pundits in your market, even those who compete with you. It’s polite to follow people. And by following people you are creating an ecosystem-people will see who you are following and consider those as suggestions for users they should follow as well.
4. Make sure your people are on Twitter, and refer to them
Individuals tweet different things than companies. It’s okay for your company’s employees to talk about making waffles or going out for drinks, as well as what they’re working on. Not everyone will embrace Twitter, but many of them will-and even the most personal stuff that leaks on to Twitter can help make stronger personal connections with colleagues and audience members alike.
This being said, you need to be aware of who your employees are-and make them aware that everything they write on Twitter (unless they’re using a “protected account” that limits access) is public. If there’s someone who works for your company whose Tweets are a bit risque, you should consider whether or not you want to refer to them from your company’s account. An alternative is to ask employees to create two Twitter accounts-one for work matters and one for their personal lives-and keep them separate.
Once your people are on Twitter, they’ll be able to mention what they’re working on-and reference the brand via Twitterspeak. For example: “Just wrote a cool story for @8bm about the Social Media.” That will drive followers to your company’s Twitter account.
Likewise, your brand’s account can drive followers to your people. For example: “Our very own @vacuumguy thinks the new Dyson is awesome: tinyurl.com/example”
5. Answer your mentions
People will refer to your company’s account as if it were a person. You should reply to tweets that mention you, when relevant. This will give your account more personality and will make those people feel engaged directly with the brand. For example, a person might ask you a question directly: “@8bm Hi. Do you know when my new website will be released? Thanks.” “@javin216 it’s all set to be released on the 16th Dec, it looks awesome!”
6. Use Twitter to ask your customers questions…and get good answers
Twitter is a great way to get answers to questions. Trying to figure out what your customers want to see or are interested in? Use Twitter to ask them. Sure, it’s not a scientific survey, but it can give you an immediate snapshot of the zeitgeist. This can be both instructive and productive.
7. Be a good Twitter citizen
Can you persuade your Twitter followers to promote you to their followers? Sure, but be mindful: He who has the most followers doesn’t necessarily win. If you get people to promote you to their friends in order to win a prize or enter a sweepstakes, you may end up creating a harmful backlash. The etiquette of Twitter is still evolving-be wary.
Even if you’re not the type of person who uses Facebook or Twitter yourself, there’s no denying that these new forms of connection and communication are powerful and becoming increasingly important. That’s why your business should be on Twitter now.