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Sick of Explaining Twitter for Business? Directions Here.

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There have been a multitude of blog posts I’ve read on how to use twitter, but most are basic overviews.  The explanations I’ve explored do not help you understand how to develop a valid presence on the site.  I have seen many small business owners begin using twitter, lack understanding, and give up on the tool before they see any true value.

This is a comprehensive breakdown of how to begin implementation of a twitter strategy and maintain your presence.

I’ll walk you through the process of:

  • Choosing a twitter name
  • Creating your profile
  • Who to follow
  • How to setup and manage twitter with use of online tools
  • What to tweet about
  • Customer engagement
  • How to make your tweets clickable and trackable and why this is important
  • Measurements for twitter success and how they relate directly to your overall online presence.

First, it is extremely important to note that Twitter should not be your company’s social media strategy.  It is only an element of an overall social media strategy your company should consider exploring based on your unique business needs.

Let’s get started.

Back To The Basics

1. First off, to be on twitter, you must sign up for a twitter account.

2. Picking a name

i.      Picking a valid twitter name is important.  This name reflects your brand and image online and offline.  (It’s like picking a business name.  Note: Do it right the first time; it’s best not to change the name down the line as this may cause consumer confusion of your brand’s image.)

ii.      Pick an easy name to remember.

iii.      Try to refrain from having numbers at the end of your name, such as SalleysHair1234 (Reason? Looks spammy and there is less trust in twitter users’ eyes of validity of your account right off the bat.)

iv.      If you have copyrighted your name (usually with larger companies) and someone has taken the twitter handle you want, contact Twitter and see if they’ll release the name for your use.  Example: A “name-squatter” might take the company name “Oracle” (kind of the same concept as “domain-squatting”.  If you’re Oracle, you probably want that name.  Ask and you are likely to receive (within reason).

3. Creating your profile

i.      Make sure to list your website in the URL box.  Twitter is a great way to direct traffic to your site (and if you don’t have the URL there for people, they’re not going to know where to go!)

ii.      Bio should be interesting, engaging, and relevant to increase validity of “why” you are following people or why people should follow you (someone following you equates to their interest in what you have to say).  Some ideas of what to say in your bio are: industry you are in, what you do, and topics you are interested in.

iii.      You are talking to your customers in your bio, therefore your bio should feel warm, engaging, and welcoming.

This is a great example of a twitter (@graffEats) profile description that works.

blair

iv.      You are on twitter to promote your company and brand.  Do not “protect your tweets”, or make your profile private.

Who Do I Follow?

This is a big question for new twitter users.  Who DO I follow?  It’s extremely hard to get into twitter without finding the relevance of it, therefore make your twitter account relevant from the start.

You want to follow thought leaders, influencers, industry folk, customers, competitors, persons that are following your competitors, peers, employees, and persons who are engaging with you and your brand online!  We dive deeper into how to find these people on twitter in the coming paragraphs.

How Do I Setup and Manage Twitter?

Assumption: Managing twitter is too much work.  False.

I highly recommend insist that you install a desktop client like Tweetdeck or Seesmic.  Let’s use Tweetdeck as the example since it is what I use.

The greatest features of this product?  Groups and Searches.  Use them.  Abuse them.

Let’s assume you are not following anyone and want to solve the first problem of who to follow on Twitter to make Twitter relevant to you.

Setup search columns in Tweetdeck.

Use the search columns in Tweetdeck to find relevant persons talking about your industry and your company, then, follow them!  If a conference is coming up, find out what hashtag is being used to track conference chatter (example, Web 2.0’s hashtag is #w2e), see who is talking and who interests you, then, follow them!  After following a good amount of folk (I would say you find relevance after about 50 to 100 persons that you’re now following, the streaming chatter is now relevant to you, and assumingly people you see chatting in your “All Friends” column are talking about what you want to hear or monitor.

Another important item to note: do a little research before you start following people by clicking on their profiles and getting an idea of who they are.  You want to do this preliminary research so you can get a feel of who you will be potentially engaging with in the near future.  You also want to start thinking about what” groups” can be formed out of these persons you are following.

When assessing the validity of a person’s relevance to your strategy, remember not to disregard persons who don’t have extensive bios or very many followers… you never know how they influence your product or service offline.  They are worth stalking watching.

Now is the time to create lists in Tweetdeck.

tweetdeck

Example: create separate list for analysts, customers, employees, friendly folk, etc.  This separation of chatter will help you be more effective at targeting and strategically positioning yourself in the future (and makes scaling your twitter presence so much easier).

*Awesomesauce with Twitter lists- now you can view these Twitter lists and it might save you some hassle of setup.  More about it here: http://ping.fm/L7s5e

Twitter and Tweetdeck maintenance

Initial searches should be maintained for relevant topics such as the ones mentioned above and additionally for products, topics of interest, competitors, and industry buzzwords.  You should use these columns as a continuous monitoring tool checked on a consistent basis as well as actively delete and add search columns as necessary.  Here’s where your creative mind comes into play.

Now, based on your company’s decision of level of engagement/monitoring, turn on Tweetdeck or Seesmic on a scheduled basis, monitor, and engage!  I would recommend monitoring Twitter one to two hours a day until you find a balance and gain full understanding of the tool, but your interaction with Twitter should be highly based on how large your audience is on this social site.  Also, in using online tools like Tweetdeck and Seesmic, you’ll find you receive a lot more relevance from being online versus using the twitter web application alone.

What Do I Tweet About?

Think of twitter as a large conference or room full of people.  You’re standing there with your mouth open, so something interesting should fall out.

Note: Unless you are ready to maintain a consistent presence online, don’t start tweeting.  (Consistency is key- so people know what to expect.)

Topics to tweet about can range from:

  • Industry news
  • Company news
  • Daily going-ons in your company
  • What you are passionate about (related to your company/twitter)
  • Retweets from interesting folk
  • Relevant personal advice for others in your industry

How Do I Engage?

While tweeting about items such as the ones suggested above are important, customer engagement and building strong relationships online are even more important.

While I have seen some folk writing about Twitter give a ratio of engagement versus posting information, I believe there is truly no ratio you can allocate to how much you should focus on poking people versus posting item (the ratio is different for everyone, and it is something you need to figure out for yourself).  If you feel more comfortable with giving yourself a baseline to adjust from, I’d suggest a rough initial 35:65 poking to posting ratio.

Basic engagement takes two forms: @ replying and retweeting.

Simply @ replying someone is a form of direct engagement (perhaps that person said something interesting and you want to respond to their tweet).  @ replying someone is a great way to engage with customers who might be talking about your brand on Twitter.  It lets them know you exist and also gives them a sense of ownership to your brand.

A great example:  I tweeted about my TomTom (the brand of my navigation system) being broken after just 3 weeks and the TomTom team responded to me almost immediately and asked how they could help.  Not only was I surprised at the response, but I tweeted about how great it was that TomTom was on Twitter and wanted to tell all my friends… on Twitter.  Where else can you get that level of support and that level of brand evangelism?  This is a great example of how one tweet can affect your brand virally, and in a positive way.  The sustainability and brand ownership I feel towards this brand stands to this day, and that simple interaction TomTom invested in via Twitter empowers me as a customer to stand up for that brand if I see any of the people that I am following talk poorly about TomTom.  Different touch levels create different types of ownership and empowerment to your brand, and it is up to you to measure how much this is worth to you.  If you, however, create a breathing and living harmonious community (like on Twitter), you have to do much less footwork because your customers are doing it for you.  Oh, and they fixed my TomTom.  Apparently all it took was the coordination of a reset button while the darn thing was plugged in to my computer.  Go figure.

Retweeting is another form of engagement.  Retweeting someone acknowledges that you are interested in what they are saying and it puts you on their radar.

Clickable and Trackable Tweets?  What?

It is important to make your tweets clickable and trackable so you can measure the success of your presence and campaigns.

This is one of the key elements of a twitter presence that most newbies do not understand.

(Show examples and improvements)

Aside from engagement and finding information relevant to you, Twitter is about providing others with useful information, including information about your business or brand.  Therefore, when you tweet, you should provide links in your tweets when possible to make them clickable.

Providing links, however, is not enough.  How do you track the amount of interest generated?  Free url shortening tools are plentiful (bit.ly, ad.vu, etc) as well as inexpensive social media campaign tools such as http://peashootapp.com/ (my personal favourite after seeing the in depth tracking information they provide).

The very basic functionality of these tools allow you to measure the number of clicks per url.  Again, this is important so you can judge the success of a tweet (whether it be number of total clicks or number of conversions on your site) as well as the success of a marketing campaign as a whole.

Products like Peashoot allow you to do so much more than track simple url clicks such as creating personalized shortened urls, tracking total number of tweets, tracking tweets on an individual twitter account level, seeing where and when individuals clicked on your url, and allowing you to enter in goals to track conversions and the revenue generated from a campaign.

Measurements for Twitter Success

So, now that we’ve reviewed the basics, the question you should be asking yourself is what are the measurements for my company’s twitter success?

Let’s take a simple conversion example:

You are a tech company who strictly wants to use Twitter to gain brand recognition (although I’d recommend other goals to achieve a more solid ROI, for the purpose of simplicity, let’s just stick with this).

Determine how much your company values brand recognition and how much it is costing a person to tweet.  Let’s say you believe each tweet is costing your company $1 in effort, and someone viewing your site brings you a $5 ROI.  Your break-even point is then 1 click per 5 linked tweets.  (Note: this is assuming each tweet you send has the link in it, which I do not recommend.  Building trust and creating engaging relationships on twitter so the links you tweet out are more likely to be clicked on or appear valid.)

Using a url shortener/tracker as discussed above would help you track your success.  I’d recommend taking the average over a week to get more solid data.  It’s then important to study how these users are behaving on your site and monitor things like your bounce rate (to make sure people are not simply clicking and leaving- are they actually interested?)  Again, this is why it is important to specify other goals you’d like to achieve (ie. Signing up, purchasing, downloading something, etc).

You must determine your own measurements for your company’s twitter success.  There is no solid formula, but hopefully these notes have helped you begin.

Take a Deep Breath!

Phew!  I know this was a bit long, but it’s in-depth enough for you to get started and understand the ins and outs of twitter and engagement on the platform as well as how to measure success.

Once your social media strategy becomes a bit more advanced, using a tool like Scout Labs will provide a much more global monitoring strategy across the socialmediasphere.

Also note:  Creating a community on any social media platform such as Twitter and empowering your customers and partners allows you to accomplish more exponentially each tweet.  With building trusted relationships empowers others to do the work/standing up for you and encouraging other customers on that platform.  So, if you build it, they will come.  And day by day, as you accomplish success on one platform, you will see it grow for itself.  But like any small seeds, you must start somewhere, baby it, then be happy when it’s all grown up.

Happy Tweeting.