Tweeting for Business

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So twitter huh? Well if you have not heard of it by now and mentioned it in at least one conversation you must have been living a media free life! If you are a business owner or perhaps somebody within a business that may at some point be asked to take a look at using twitter in an attempt to promote the business, there are many things that you have to consider before taking the plunge. I am going to run through what I feel are the major considerations, hopefully somebody out there finds this useful!

1 – Decide what you want to achieve!

Many a business has made the mistake of opening up a twitter profile, firing out a few tweets and before they know it they run out of things to say and lose any initial engagement that they may have gained. You have to work out what you are considering using twitter for.

Your first thought may well be – ‘I want to use twitter to drive traffic to my site and of course increase sales revenue’ sounds ideal right? Well achieving this will be much harder than you think. You should work around a basis of raising awareness of your business/product/service, but what else can twitter do for you?

  • It can open up a new customer service outlet for you, one that allows your customers and potential customers to engage quickly with you (they will of course expect a quick response!). Now obviously your customers can complain via your twitter so make sure you respond quickly and publicly to any criticism and ensure the matter is resolved.
  • Brand awareness – your twitter profile will give you a strong presence in the online sphere if you use it well and regularly
  • Word of mouth and advocacy – people can easily pass on your tweets via re-tweeting meaning your messages can be viewed by their followers and the twittersphere in general and spread like wildfire should you hit the right note with somebody
  • Of course if you play your cards right and blend interesting tweets with well thought out promotional messages you can achieve sales from your twitter activity. How to go about that is a whole different blog but a well practiced method is using twitter exclusive promo codes to attract trackable sales and spread some noise.

2 – Find your voice

Your brand is a living breathing thing and it should have a voice. Deciding your tone of voice on twitter is very important, it should reflect the ethos of your business and consider your target market/audience, how do they expect to be spoken to by you?

Try this exercise – A tweet is 140 characters long, try to describe your business in an engaging fashion and a way that reflects its outlook and aims without using more than 140 characters.

Not easy huh? When you set up your twitter profile you will be asked to complete your ‘One Line Bio’ which can be a very important tool in attracting people to interact with you on twitter. This can be up to 160 characters long so you have a little bit more leeway than the 140 characters (this is the maximum length of a tweet) I got you to use above. By doing this I think it gives you a strong idea of how your tone of voice should take shape as the bio will sum up the essence of your brand which you should be looking to reflect at all times.

US organic food store Whole Foods has a very nice tone of voice and with over 1.2 million followers are a superb example of how to use twitter for business. Check out their profile here

So you have thought about your tone, now you need to work out what you are going to say. An endless stream of promo messages is highly likely to be ignored, the twitter community is not a fan of spam and over advertising. You need to create a blend of tweets, perhaps link to web content that relates to your business or try to educate the audience. How you play this is up to you but make sure everything you do reflects your twitter aims in some way. Consider using twitpic to post images that will resonate with your audience or perhaps give them a glimpse of life within your business. Once you have worked this out, begin to work in some clever promo messages, try different approaches and make sure you make them measurable!

A golden rule – if you don’t have anything interesting to say, say nothing at all. Don’t tweet for the sake of tweeting.

So who is going to tweet for you? Well you need to have somebody in control of your profile that knows your business inside – out and understands the tone of voice you have chosen. Is that going to be your CEO (or equivalent?) or your worker on the front line? Only you know who the best public figure for your business is. I would recommend starting with one person and over time considering devolving your stream to others within the business. Twitter users need to feel they are talking to real people from within your business so avoid templated responses /messages and show the character of your brand.

So to sum up the above:

  • Find your tone of voice and make sure it reflects your brand
  • Work out what you want to say and how you are going to say it
  • Chose the right person or people to interact with your twitter audience
  • Be human and engage well!

3 – Go set up your profile

Setting up your profile is quick and easy and before you know it you will have a tool that allows you to broadcast to millions of people. I feel it is important to create a tailored profile that reflects your brand and visual identity. I am a fan of the simple colours and use of text in the Livestrong charity profile. By creating a tailored background you can display more text than your bio allows, but take care not to put too much on there, the twitter world is a fast paced environment and users don’t want to have to read too much.

Make sure your use of colour reflects your brand and of course include your logo (don’t over do it!). Take some time to have a look around twitter and take note of those that you like and use them as inspiration. If may be worth your while using a background service such as twitterbackgrounds.com to ensure a nice looking profile.

4 – Integrate!

Make sure you let people know that you are now on twitter. Allow them to follow you easily via your official website. Consider implementing your twitter feed in to your site so people can get a snapshot of what is being said about you. If you are running blogs, forums or have presence on other social networking sites such as Facebook or flickr look to use them to direct people to your twitter profile, join it all up for a rounded social media business sphere.

5 – Start the conversation!

So you have worked out your twitter aims, tone of voice and what you want to say, now is the time to start talking and gaining followers.

Make sure your first tweets are introductory and tread softly, don’t overdo it and make it interesting! The basis of twitter is ‘following’ you need to attract followers to your profile who will be able to view your tweets as and when they happen. These are the people who will make or break your twitter legacy so treat them with respect and make sure you follow them back and thank them for following you.

You may want to find people to follow before they have engaged with you. Be very careful here and do not under any circumstances just shotgun follow people. Use the twitter realtime search function and search for your brand name/products and follow people that have mentioned you in their tweets. Of course you may not have anybody talking about you on twitter, in this case think of search terms that you can use based around what your business does for example if you are a hotel in Chicago, look for people talking about taking a break etc in Chicago. Once you are using twitter make sure you use the search to track what people are saying about you on twitter!

When you do start to build up a dialogue with people on twitter make sure you maintain a steady pace of response and conversation. Once you are in this arena people expect you to stay there so treat it as a long term relationship and not a fling! People do want to engage with their favourite brands or businesses that they have used and have had a good experience with, so don’t think you have nothing to say to the millions of twitterers out there, the chances are you do!

Take some time to think about all of the above and map out what you want to achieve from your twitter strategy…

Prepare to engage!!!