May 16, 2008
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that costs nothing for users to access and little effort to keep in touch with busy friends. It can also help you build your brand or brand you as an expert.
Here’s a guide to help you get started “tweeting.” Includes 10 strategies to market your company and 5 to market yourself, plus lots of useful links.
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that can be accessed through your account on their website, on your desktop, by instant messaging and mobile phones. Hundreds of thousands of people and companies, including several presidential candidates, reportedly, are users, although the firm won’t release that information.
What is known about Twitter is that its traffic is increasing rapidly, although it’s still considered a niche site. According to data from Web analytics firm Hitwise, visits to Twitter have more than doubled in the past 3 months and were up 60% in April. Twitter ranked #439 among Social Networks and Forums in late April, but its size is difficult to measure because it has so many ways for access, primarily cell phones.
JetBlue Airways and Carnival Cruise Lines joined the Twitter community within two months of each other last summer. Both travel companies say they’ve had many successful interactions with users since then.
“It’s a source of communication,” says Stephanie Leavitt, Social Networking Strategist, Carnival Cruise Lines, and creator of the company’s Twitter account. “It’s another way of getting the news out there.”
Joining was also about brand protection for Jet Blue. “Someone can easily show up claiming to be an entity,” says Morgan Johnston, Coordinator of Corporate Communications, JetBlue, and the exec who set up the company’s Twitter account. “It’s important to retain your brand presence.”
Here are 10 easy steps and 5 strategies to help you start “tweeting.”
Marketing on Twitter
It all starts with creating a Twitter account. Just enter a username -- the name you want to appear next to a picture at the top of your profile page. Or enter your brand name if you want your page to be the official voice of your brand.
Then enter a password and email address. To upload a photograph or graphic and design elements, click on “settings” in the top right menu bar. For companies, uploading your logo will make it look official.
That’s it, pretty much. You can then begin sending text messages in a 140-character-limit text box (about 25-30 words). Twitter says all messages revolve around the question: “What are you doing?”
Twitter will check the contacts in your email account to see if any of them are Twitterers, so you can start chatting right away. Here are 10 steps to follow to get the most out of the site.
-> Step #1. Observe first
Like with any social media site, it’s important to be aware of the appropriate etiquette. Make sure you understand the way people use the site before bombarding it with messages. Twitter users see the site primarily as a way to converse in real time with friends, relatives, coworkers, and industry gurus.
-> Step #2. Think about the content
Think first about what you really want to say before you post anything to your profile page. Think about what would be of value to your customers or what feedback you’d like to get.
Companies use Twitter to post:
o News announcements
o Links to press releases
o Links to special deals, programs, promotions
o Links to blog posts
o Links to videos, podcasts
o Messages to Twitter community
o Survey questions to Twitter community
o Requests for feedback on website redesigns and beta sites
-> Step #3. Post daily or less
You might get the urge to post every hour or even more often, but early-use marketers say frequent posting is overkill. It could tarnish your reputation among the Twitter community if you create an account that dumps ads every five minutes.
“We’re not frequently posting,” says Johnston. “As news and events happen, we play it by ear [in determining] whether or not it’s something the Twitter audience cares to hear about.”
Leavitt posts once daily during the week, not at all on weekends.
-> Step #4. Inject personality into your posts
Don’t simply post product or service details and a price or discount. Use a conversational tone. Carnival Cruise Lines posts things like: “Who would've thought the coconut monkeyhead drinks served onboard would cause so much excitement.” Then it linked to the most popular public forum on its site, the Coconut Monkeyhead Club.
-> Step #5. Follow those you know
A good way to begin building followers is to search for users you know. Besides searching your email contacts for friends, Twitter has a people search box in the bottom right of your profile page. You can enter a name -- first or last or both -- and it will search all members.
To follow someone, you just click on the “follow” button under their picture.
-> Step #6. Follow those who follow you
It’s part of Twitter culture to follow those who follow you. It grows virally.
“We feel it’s important if someone subscribes to you, you should subscribe back because if they listen to what you say … it’s really important to listen to what they have to say,” Johnston says.
-> Step #7. Always answer replies and direct messages
Carnival has a “must answer” policy when it comes to Twitter, Leavitt says. Anytime they get a direct message or a reply from someone, they answer them in a timely manner. Twitter likes to keep communication going.
- You can check replies by clicking on the “replies” tab in your profile.
- People reply to you by putting @username in the text box followed by the message.
- You can reply to them using the same method or direct message by clicking “direct messages” above the people search option to the right.
Direct messaging is best when posting a reply that you don’t want the rest of the Twitter community to see.
JetBlue finds the ability to respond immediately to direct messages and replies very useful. In fact, the company has used Twitter to direct travelers in airports to customer service desks and/or hotlines when flights are canceled or delayed.
“To respond to [a Twitterer] and help him out is a huge win,” Johnston says. “He might post that we helped him, tell others we’re listening … then he becomes an evangelist for the brand.”
-> Step #8. Check the site daily
There are a number of ways to check Twitter messages, replies and direct messages:
o Check via your profile on Twitter.com
o Set up an RSS feed that alerts your email account
o Use one of the many Twitter widgets -- tools to set up alerts to your desktop, mobile phone or IM.
Tip: You can use Twitter Search to find out if someone tried to send a message but did it wrong, or just to find out who is talking about you or your brand. You could follow them, and they could end up being your next follower.
-> Step #9. Use widgets and tools
You can set up alerts to your desktop or Tweet from your desktop using tools like:
o TwitterPost (for Mac)
o Twitterrific (for Mac)
Other useful tools:
- Twitter Groups - allows you to tag followers into different groups and send direct messages to a group.
- Tweet Volume - compare how often different brands/companies/words/phrases are mentioned on Twitter.
- Twittown - The Unofficial Twitter Community, click on Twitter Forge (tab in the top right corner) for a listing of Twitter plug-ins, tools, mashups and services.
-> Step #10. Track Twitter referrals
Keep an eye on users who read your blog. Carnival Cruise Lines monitors Twitterers coming to its blog by using a function on WordPress that shows referral sources, Leavitt says.
JetBlue’s Johnston says: “If we post URLs on our Twitter feed, we do include a tracking number so we can track if they’re coming from Twitter to our site. It’s an addendum to the end of the URL.”
Personal Branding on Twitter
To set up an account for personal branding, follow the same basic steps as when you market your company. But there are some slight distinctions and strategies to follow:
-> Strategy #1. Use familiar username and picture
Keep your profile pictures and usernames on various social media sites uniform so people recognize you from one site to another.
-> Strategy #2. Don’t start following until you post material
Post before you follow users.
“When you set up your Twitter account, you probably don’t want to go and start following 200 to 300 people until you actually start posting … because, if I’m a user and I see you follow me, I’m going to go and see what kinds of things you’re talking about, and that’s when I discern if I’m going to follow you or not,” says Brian Chappell, Senior Social Search Strategist at Ignite Social Media.
After you have a page of content, search for people interested in the same topics in your industry and follow them. Use Twitter Search for terms used often in your industry. Or just go through your industry contacts and search by name in Twitter. Follow them. Then browse through their followers to discern if you want to follow their followers.
-> Strategy #3. Don’t follow too many people
Following too many people could overload you with Tweets, which could disturb your work day, for instance. Find a balance. If you work on more than one computer monitor, for example, set up your Tweet alerts on the screen farthest from your field of vision.
-> Strategy #4. Keep posts at minimum per day
You don’t want to seem spammy. Some people will post 10 or more messages a day, saying things like “boarding the plane” or “getting a coffee.” But image-conscious Twitterers post less often and try to post things their followers find valuable.
Remember: You are trying to brand yourself as an authority in your field. You want to build a positive reputation among your peers.
-> Strategy #5. Keep posts valuable
Find out what interests other Twitterers. Some examples of possible posts:
o Link to blog post you created or found interesting/useful
o Link to cool tools you find
o Alert to new software, new applications, new websites, etc., in relation to your field
o Bits of useful information from conference, summit, speech you attended
o Useful tips, tricks
o Links to news in your industry
If you have a question, make it worthwhile. Make it something your followers might benefit from knowing as well.
Tip: Instead of just posting a link to your latest blog post, pose a question with the link to drive Twitterers to comment on your post. Getting comments gives you a presence. It means people are listening to you. You have some influence in the industry.
Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from Twitter:
Carnival Cruise Lines:
Brian Chappell’s blog:
Ignite Social Media:
Apple's Twitter Post: