Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thoughts on Brands Engaging on Twitter

Today I was putting together some thoughts for one of our customers who is thinking about getting started on Twitter. As you know, I'm a big fan of not trapping information in an e-mail so I've posted a cleaned up version of my recommendations below. Obviously there are probably 100 other things to think about but I didn't want to overwhelm. If you want to add in the other 94, I won't stop you (that's why God invented comments).

For starters, I'm bullish on Tim Walker of Hoover's online "Twitter primer" deck since it's so chock full of great recommendations. Tim's deck is more of a "how to get started/what you should think about" for individuals but there are tons of valuable lessons any business could learn as well.

Also, I thought it might not hurt to provide a list of 40 well-known brands on Twitter that friend, Jennifer Van Grove, put together for Mashable. Considering the fact that it got 200 comments, I'd say it did its job.

Without further ado, here are some Twitter best practices for that I’ve amassed from my nearly two years (and 15,000+ updates):

  • Be human. That doesn’t mean that you have to tell jokes or swear but it does mean that you should talk to people on Twitter like your customer service reps or store reps would talk to customers. Try to avoid using this as a corporate broadcast system.
  • Follow all real people back. Yes, it will be hard to keep up with everyone over time (there are tools that can help you manage this process, like Tweetdeck). For one, this shows that you care about having a conversation with your constituents and two, if people want to direct message you (many will to ask customer service related questions), this is the only way they can reach out to you privately.
  • Make sure you LISTEN. Twitter search is a great way to see who is saying what about your brand (and your competitor's brands). You might consider following back anyone that mentions you. DO NOT lash out at folks that are talking negatively about you. Reach out to them privately if possible (via direct message). If they aren’t following you, let them know that you’re available to discuss the matter if they’d like to take the conversation offline.
  • Engage in the conversation. Ideally, the conversation involves topics that are germane to your company. However, don’t be afraid to support social causes or pat other companies or people on the back that are doing the right thing.
  • Measure, measure, measure. There are a couple of ways to do this. For one, track all of the URLs that you publish using a service like Budurl. Second, keep track of your follow growth rate (look for spikes around big announcements, offers, etc.). Third, watch for inbound traffic that you drive to your site. You might also want to keep an eye on the "velocity" of conversation around your brand i.e. keep an eye on the rate of daily mentions of your brand on Twitter search.
  • Keep up your momentum. One of the worst things you can do on Twitter is set up an account, tweet a couple of times and then let your account sit fallow. Try to commit to updating at least a couple of times a day (and don’t just point back to your site). This should be easy if you look at the URL next to “Listen” as there are already conversations going on about you that are begging for you to engage in.
Is your brand using Twitter? If so, what types of results are you seeing? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of SoloSEO

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