“Brevity is the soul of wit,” wrote William Shakespeare. And it also appears to be the heart of the microblogging phenomenon, Twitter.
Microblogging as a marketing strategy is bound to thrive, and sooner or later you’ll find it’s just smart business to communicate with your customers 140 characters at a time.
“Twitter is a great way to position yourself as an expert and go-to source in a particular field,” says Julio Ojeda-Zapata, author of Twitter Means Business: How Microblogging Can Help or Hurt Your Company. Ojeda-Zapata says people have found jobs, hired staff, promoted books, and been written about by major media outlets by blogging on the popular site. And while most business owners have heard of Twitter, relatively few are taking advantage of its power to promote their businesses.
The irony is that while blatant self-promotion and marketing on Twitter can be a recipe for failure, there are other uses that make it a back-end marketing and public relations bonanza. Here are three Twitter strategies every company should consider.
1. Search and respond: To see what your customers are saying about you, follow the advice of Tim O’Reilly, author of The Twitter Book, and search for your name, your company name, your Twitter name, and your brand or product. A few useful search engines include Twitter Search, TweetGrid, and Monitter.
Jason Keith of Vistaprint, an online print shop, says his company regularly searches Twitter for mentions of the company name (and various iterations of the name) and reaches out when appropriate. “We’ve had customers mention on Twitter that they haven’t yet received their order, so we’ll reach out to them directly to check on the status of the order and see if there is anything that can be done,” says Keith.
Vistaprint has also used customer feedback found on Twitter to issue refunds for orders that weren’t up to specifications, answer questions about the design studio, give status checks on existing orders, and even just thank happy customers for a tweet they might have posted about how good their experience was with the company.
2. Educate customers and be an expert: Natural Food Exchange in Reading, Massachusetts, is an independent, natural food store featuring the largest gluten-free stock of supplies in the state. Lisa Kalner Williams says the company uses Twitter as a way to distinguish it in the whole/natural food marketplace by tweeting useful information about celiac disease, a condition where a gluten-free diet has produced positive changes in those afflicted. Occasionally the company will do promotional tweets that mention gluten-free products available in the store.
The following are a few things to consider when positioning yourself on Twitter as a thought leader, a credible source, or an expert in your field:
- What is your strongest area of expertise?
- What kinds of short tips can you post on your area of expertise?
- Do you have other longer posts or articles relating to your area of expertise that you can direct your Twitter followers to? What links to other resources within your area of expertise can you post about?
3. Engage in conversations with customers: Of all the misconceptions that business owners have about Twitter, the biggest one is thinking of Twitter in terms of a monologue rather than a dialogue. “Old-school, one-way marketing is at best quaint and at worst annoying in this two-way world of social media,” according to Steve Mulder, director of emerging interactions at Molecular, part of Isobar, a global network of digital marketing companies. To turn your tweet stream into less of a broadcast and more of a discussion, take another tip from O’Reilly’s The Twitter Book and focus not on what you can get out of social media but what you can contribute to it. Here are a few simple ways to do that:
- When people make a comment or ask a question on one of your tweets, respond.
- When someone does you the favor of retweeting you, thank them. Retweeting is the act of forwarding a Twitter post written by someone else and giving them credit for it.
- If someone gives you a shout-out or recommends following you, thank them.
- If someone tweets something you find particularly useful or interesting, let them know or retweet them.
- When you want to engage more directly with the people that follow you on Twitter, try posing a question and then acknowledging the responses. For example, actor Leonard Nimoy (yes, Mr. Spock) posed this question on his Twitter account: Can a camera truly capture a moment in time when it is unable to capture itself or its user in that moment?
If you find yourself thinking that you don’t have any spare time to spend on Twitter, keep in mind that long after Twitter has passed from being the social media darling of the moment, microblogging as a marketing strategy is bound to survive.
Karen Leland is the president of Sterling Marketing Group and the author of Time Management in an Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day and the blog As Soon as I Finish Carving the Ice Sculpture: True Confessions of an Overachiever.