The internet is all a-flutter over Twitter these days, and the consensus is that its here to stay. The tool helps companies promote thought leadership, improve reputation and monitor brand. That is, of course, if you know how to use it. For most marketers, Twitter seems too amorphous of a tool to really harness. Truth is though, its really not that hard. Here are the basics to getting your company Twitter-fied:
- Sign up as your company. Create your twitter name as the same name your company has for a URL. This is how people will search for you and also secures your Twitter presence as the official company profile. While a lot of individual users, like the CEO, CMO, CTO or whatever other personalities you may harbor at your company may also have accounts and presence on Twitter, you should not make the mistake of having any of them as your official voice. Individual accounts will no doubt get cluttered with messages to and from people in that individuals life – from old college friends with inappropriate memories, creepy cousins, and the random troll from your last job. While entertaining, conversations will digress from your business. Keep your official presence all about your company.
- Maintain a constant presence. Twitter can seem intimidating to some companies because of the time it takes to maintain. In today’s world, everyone is strapped – how can a marketer justify dedicating headcount to monitor something like Twitter? In today’s internet landscape, it may be better to ask how can you not justify it? Twitter offers companies an invaluable tool to help navigate leads and improve customer service. Prospects that may not have reached out to you yet ask their peers before contacting sales – you have the opportunity to find them and convert to a lead. Leads evaluating your product or customers considering renewing again may indicate to their friends and colleagues about problems they are having, and you have the opportunity to provide assistance proactively to help the sale or save the account. In short, Twitter is a sales tool. So, As a generic company account, remember that this account can be monitored and updated by a team of company spokespeople from marketing to sales to tech support. Spreading the work around may help to keep up with constant activity. Another common fear is how much time to spend trolling on Twitter. You can mitigate this too to a manageable level. In fact, rarely is it important for you to respond in minutes. While impressive, nettiquette is closer to the daily level, so build it into your daily routine for when you check out news or go through your email inbox. To make doubly sure important tweets aren’t missed, sign up for TweetBeep, and get alerted by email whenever a specific word or phrase is tweeted, such as your company name or product name. Send the alert to an internal email alias so more people are kept abreast of the types of tweets that are happening and can respond. And don’t hesitate to follow your competitors terms as well – any problems with people trying to use their products could be an opportunity for you to reach out to them to offer an alternative, as well as help keep abreast of current concerns in the market at large.
- Make your Twitter page professional. Your twitter page isn’t part of your core website, but you should think of it as an extension of it. Spend the time to create a web design that is consistent with your website. Add your website URL, and company description to the page and be sure to include ‘contact us’ information. While the only clickable text is the standard Twitter fields, don’t hesitate to use the background image for additional information. Check out how software provider, Hyperic, uses the custom image background to enhance their Twitter page with sales and product information.(Editors note: Hyperic is a former employer of mine, and a current client.)
- Follow the leader. Twitter is a useful tool to proactively find prospects and problems, but to use it as a thought leadership and news tool you need to have a following to be speaking to. Follow the people you want to follow you. Go through your main contacts and see who they are following – you may find media contacts, other related contacts in their company, or thought leaders on your industry out there. On a weekly basis, check out all your new followers and see if they have any more followers you want. Twitter notifies the account owners whose new and following them, which will bring to their attention that your Twitter presence is out there. Also, a growing trend is to reach out and thank new followers for selecting to follow you. Use the @ reply to make sure they get the message, and personalize it for their interest. All your posts are public, so a generic greeting is pretty transparent. Another alternative is to direct message (DM) the new follower in private, but then you miss on promoting the new relationship and publically welcoming the new follower. And don’t forget, they may choose to re-tweet (RT) your message and comment on it. So in general, its best to treat all twitter messages as public.
- Monitor your popularity. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t allow you to see your number of page views or tweet-views. Followers is a good measure of how many people are interested in your company, but link views is a really good measure for how useful your twittering actually is. Use links in your tweets to other content to measure how often your tweets are clicked. TweetBurner is a free service that helps you shorten your URLs, freeing up precious character space, and measure how many times your links were clicked. Design your tweets to reference other content – from blog posts, to product documentation, use it to generate interest in larger content as well as measure how interesting your content actually is. Set goals to increase the average click-throughs over time, and keep an eye on what content works, and build followers to up this number.
- Advertise your Twitter feed. Make sure people visiting you the ‘old-fashioned’ way know about your Twitter feed. This works well to show that you are a modern company, and that you are easily accessible. The name of the game is to get followers, so you can build a regular dialogue with a community at large. Advertise your corporate Twitter page on your website, email signatures, and company newsletters. Make it easy and obvious for people to check out your feed, and subscribe.
In short, by making Twitter a company-wide initiative, you can easily harness all the benefits of reputation management, prospect building, lead conversion, customer support and competitive intelligence with minimal effort. It does take some diligence, but the benefits can be outstanding. Try it, you’ll see.
Stacey Schneider is a marketing consultant who specializes in helping companies transform their internet presence into a sales tool that helps lower cost of sales and improve pipeline performance. Schneider has over 12 years of advising companies of all sizes on sales and marketing automation, public relations and website development. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sparkystacey.