Twitter is one of the golden technologies of the moment. It’s an ideal resource for companies, celebrities, journalists and, indeed, any individual who feels the need, to build an online presence and engage with their customers or fans. For businesses, maintaining a Twitter account is increasingly important. We’d even go so far as to say it’s essential.
The micro-blogging site has become so well-established that not being a member of the Twitterati can make your business appear unprofessional in the eyes of some customers. Being able to provide instant feedback on your products or direct complaints to a listening ear is an invaluable service.
In these tough economic times, it’s important that you use every tool available to you to maximise revenue. With an increasingly literate and tech-savvy customer base, not having a Twitter presence is akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
Simply registering with Twitter isn’t enough. You also need to properly manage your presence, and ensure that you’re responding to any tweets directed to your company. Twitter is also the one medium where the old adage that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ doesn’t always ring true; there are plenty of examples of gaffes that have cost companies dear.
Earlier this year, for instance, an employee of a US ad agency tweeted: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no-one here knows how to ******* drive.” Chrysler, one of its clients, failed to see the funny side; the agency lost the account.
Such incidents happen more than you might think, but this isn’t the only way in which tweets can do you or your company a disservice. Boring or repetitive tweets won’t gain you any followers, for example, and there’s no point in you talking when nobody’s listening.
Here, we explain how your business can build and maintain a useful Twitter presence.
Step 1. It’s possible to see what other people are tweeting without becoming a member of Twitter yourself. However, the service is free to join and, once signed up, it’s much easier to navigate the site. Head to twitter.com to register. Choose your account name carefully – you want customers to be able to find you.
Step 2. Publicise your Twitter account anywhere you can in order to attract more followers. Key areas include your website, blog and email signature, but you should also add your Twitter address to your company letterhead, business cards, advertising and any other marketing materials you may produce.
Step 3. Make the most of your Twitter feed. Provided that the majority of tweets are relevant, consider adding a feed to your blog or home page. Getting this to work might be a simple matter of using a predesigned bit of code. If you use WordPress, for example, you can drag a Twitter widget into your blog.
Step 4. Where possible, link to your company’s feed using the @ tag (such as @PCAdvisor). You can also use the @ tag to grab the attention of particular Twitter users. This is a subtle way of showing other members that you take Twitter seriously; use it well, and they may be more inclined to follow you.
Step 5. If several members of staff are logging into the same Twitter account, ensure that they understand Twitter etiquette and know what is and is not acceptable to tweet. Drawing up a policy is a good start and will make clear your expectations of them. Explain that sanctions will apply if the policy isn’t followed correctly.
Step 6. If a bad tweet gets posted, damage limitation is in order. Deleting the tweet will remove it from your own feed, but many of your followers will have already seen it and some may have even retweeted the post. Apologise profusely. Say you’ll do something about it, and make sure you’re seen to do so.
Step 7. Squeeze as much information as possible into your tweets. Although URLs will appear shortened, the longer version still uses up to 20 characters of a tweet’s 140-character limit. You may therefore wish to shorten them yourself. A URL-shortening service such as bit.ly will leave you more characters for your tweet.
Step 8. Be concise and clear. Include generic terms that other users may be searching for. For example, we managed to squeeze ‘digital camera’, ‘photo’, ‘photo frame’ and ‘images’ into the tweet “Our new photo frames come in multiple colours and sizes. Great for digital camera photos. Show off your favourite images in style.”
Step 9. If your company is showing off its wares at a convention or other event, use hashtags to attract people who are interested in or visiting that event. A hashtag is a generic search term prefaced with the ‘#’ symbol. Clicking a hashtag within a tweet will call up all tweets that contain it.
Step 10. Crosslink your website and Twitter feed. Regularly mention your blog or website, as well as any products of particular interest. Note, however, that your followers are likely to drop you if they think you’re interested only in marketing. Also remember that your tweets are searchable on Google: choose your words carefully.
Step 11. Keep abreast of new products in the market; tweeting about them may help you attract relevant followers. For instance, our fictitious photo frame seller monitors new digital camera models. By including product names in their tweets, they hope to attract photography fans who may also be interested in frames.
Step 12. Tweet regularly. If you want to keep hold of your followers and hopefully attract new ones, you must maintain a strong presence. That might mean tweeting daily, although you should ensure your tweets remain relevant, lively and engaging. Don’t simply repeat the same bland tweets day in, day out.
Step 13. Schedule your tweets. Rather than uploading a number of tweets at once, spreading them out will help your company stay at the top of your followers’ feeds for longer. TweetDeck offers this feature, but there are lots of alternatives. Just remember to be available to respond.
Step 14. Engage with your followers. Twitter is a two-way street. Respond to your followers’ tweets and they may mention you kindly to others. If someone complains about your service or products, or asks for your help, a response is essential. Monitor mentions and @replies regularly and take appropriate action.