Led by Twitter, microblogging is big and growing every day. Twitter allows members to talk about literally anything, provided they communicate in allotments of no more than 140 characters. There are millions of people who currently use Twitter, by some people's estimates 5% of people with a computer are on Twitter, the majority of whom use the service to communicate information about their life.
Participants vary greatly in their frequency of use and popularity. The President has more than one million followers, Ashton, Oprah and most recently Eminem are all Twitter superstars. Although using cryptic Tweets to promote the latest hip-hop release to Millenials makes perfect sense, there appears to be some confusion about how to make Twitter work for small business. Here are a few steps to help Twitter neophytes put the power of Twitter to work for small business.
Complete the Twitter profile page and make sure that it contains all the right information (ie fill out your profile section and post a good picture). Register all the variations of your names with Twitter. (as with domain names if you don't register the name someone else can).
Finding People and Listening
Find and follow people who are related to your business. Find people who are talking about topics that are relevant to your business and start following those people. If you wade through all the noise, listening in on microbloggers can provide a candid snapshot of what consumers are thinking in real time. This information can enable you to manage and even preempt consumer concerns.
Bad news travels fast through viral networks, and addressing complaints as they emerge can go a long way to protect your company's reputation. You can address a negative comment directly with the person who made the post, or you can post on your company's site.
There are many free tools that you can use to monitor what people are saying about your business, (Google Alerts, Google News, Yahoo Alerts, Technorati.com, BlogPulse.com). BoardTracker.com measures the world of online forums, Keotag.com monitors what's going on in the social arena and there are numerous paid services are also available.
Frequency of Messages (Tweets)
Post your message through Twitter's web site, or a host of mobile and computer applications. Begin with something like basic information on a new product. Tweet at least once per day and up to 3 or 4 times per day, be active enough so that your followers do not forget who you are but not so active that they begin to ignore your tweets.
Simple Marketing Techniques
Content is key, Tweet interesting or informative information, talk about what you do, provide general tips and helpful information. Include things like trade shows you plan to attend, good news about your company, promotions, or even offering discount codes for your products. The idea behind using Twitter to promote your business, so share things people would want to know.
To get noticed by search engines, use your company and product names in your Tweets. Use RT (retweet something that someone else tweeted). RT will help you to get noticed because people like to see their posts retweeted. Send an auto direct message to welcome your new followers but always remember to communicate with people and not at them. Occasionally post links, but always try to make it relevant to your audience. Use tweets to highlight a blog post or link to an interesting article, make sure to indicate a brief summary of what the article is about.
An analysis of 3651 random Twitter accounts suggested that to get more followers for your business you should have a Bio (82.3% of unsuccessful Twitter accounts have their biography information missing). You should also try to provide more than 3 links per 20 tweets and post more than 0.960 updates per day. If you are unable to provide more than 3 links per 20 tweets, then try to post more than 5.857 updates per day. Finally this analysis suggests you will need more than 222.5 days of usage to get an adequate amount of followers.
Twitter can be both an effective listening tool and a medium to communicate with customers. Twitter enables businesses to recruit followers and disseminate messages, it is also a great way to create urgency. As a social network, Twitter not only involves listening it is also about communicating. Interact with people, reply to people, be personable. This is a social network, get to know others and let others get to know the person behind the business. Despite the informality, never use unprofessional language. Remember Twitter is a public record, be sure that whatever you tweet will not tarnish you or your businesses reputation.
Twitter is not without challenges and problems. To add followers and communicate effectively requires the right message. Ultimately the goal of any business is to drive sales and driving sales involves using the right Tweets. Tweets are by definition very short communications, therefore the challenge is to include both the message and a call to action within the allotted space of 140 characters.
According to a recent AdAge.com interview with online developer Matt Mayer, "the main problem is the nature of Twitter itself, which, of course, fosters "discussions" that are by definition piecemeal, and are therefore often opaque to those joining the discussion late, or just attempting to eavesdrop."
To address this problem, Matt Mayer created a clever new site called What the Trend, it crowd-sources brief explanations of Twitter trends, Wikipedia-style. Perhaps the most glaring problem for Twitter is that even though they are now 3 years old, they do not have a revenue model. However as Mr. Mayer's site illustrates, "the whole community of developers out there [is] making huge numbers of tools and clients to interact with Twitter, they can just sit there and see these other people effectively build extra value for them. So while obviously everyone knows that Twitter doesn't really have a business model at the moment, they are certainly building an impressive system."
Celebrities are leveraging Twitter to the max. For musicians Twitter is a great means of engaging fans. AdAge reports that Eminem's album is the most highly anticipated hip hop release of the year, thanks in part to his marketing team's use of Twitter.
Dennis Dennehy, head of marketing and publicity at Interscope, said Twitter has been the perfect platform for Eminem. "By the nature of the way the information came out, you've had a trail of breadcrumbs to the album." Eminem's use of Twitter has yielded impressive results. Eminem.com reached 113,868 unique visitors during April, and at least 41,704 people within just one week, he was also the most-talked-about artist on Twitter the week before the album's release. Elliott Wilson, founder and CEO of RapRadar.com, said, "To me, he is taking album marketing to a whole new level," he added. "It truly is an event." And Eminem is not alone, Trent Reznor's marketing people developed their own cryptic Twitter strategy.
What these promotional efforts demonstrate is that Twitter can build anticipation as part of a holistic promotion. Brands need to diversify and use different tactics for different purposes and microblogging is an increasingly important part of the mix. However, despite it's popularity, Twitter will not magically increase your sales overnight.
Stars like Eminem can capitalize on their celebrity, but for small businesses, search is the key to making microblogging work. Twitter continues to improve their search engine, it can now crawl the links people add in their tweets, not just the text they tweet and it will sort search results by Twitter users' reputation, not just by chronology. Even though the Twitter search feature allows you to search for anything in the millions of Tweets posted every day, scanning keywords related to your business can be a highly time consuming task.
But as reported in AdAge.com, a recently launched technology will make search manageable by enabling businesses to cull information from amidst billions of tweets. Developed by Glam Media, its called Tinker and where Twitter is based on following people, Tinker is about following events. This system can automatically find, aggregate and display positive Twitter chatter about your brand. It can also filter out almost anything including profanity and competitors. Tinker is the place to go to see what events people are Tweeting about. It collects all of your brand chatter and assembles all the conversations on your brand in real time.
Twitter is a great way to communicate messages like the launch of a new product, or a sales event. And with its ability to instantly put together all the chatter about your company, Tinker makes the task of microblog monitoring and tweeting much more manageable.
Peter Hershberg, managing partner at Reprise Media said, "It's like 2000 all over again and we're going to look back in 10 years and laugh at how people viewed Twitter and others -- and laugh at how they were blind to the bigger picture."
Microblogging and other social media are fast becoming fixtures, learning to work with these tools will help your company to stay current in the rapidly changing marketing landscape. Small business owners really have no choice, because if you do not control the message, somebody else will.
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