Using Twitter for Your Business

Mary Gormandy White
Access Twitter on a Smartphone

There are a number of ways Twitter can be a beneficial marketing tool for businesses. Bernard Perrine, CEO and co-founder of SocialCentiv states, "Twitter is an essential part of a company's marketing mix because of the nature of the platform. People turn to Twitter to talk about what they're currently doing or how they are currently feeling, so you're able to catch up with potential customers in real-time. Essentially, you can catch them during the process of their buyer's cycle and sway their purchasing decisions."

Twitter Advantages for Businesses

Michael Hussey, CEO of StatSocial points out, "Every business, large or small, should have a Twitter profile, even if they aren't actively tweeting. One not-so-obvious reason is that Twitter profiles rank very well in Google search results and will help your business gain additional free exposure."

Boosting search rankings is not the only reason for a business to use Twitter. Hussey indicates, "Setting that example aside, every business ought to take a serious look at incorporating Twitter into their marketing mix, even if they don't have a lot of followers or if their target customer is a niche market. Why? Because it is easy to find and network with people who can and should be your customers."

Getting Started With Twitter Marketing

Join Twitter

Before you can begin using Twitter, you will need to set up a Twitter profile for your business. Choose a Twitter handle that represents your business and fill in all requested profile information.

Perrine emphasizes that you should be sure to "include the link to your website in a visible place on your Twitter, such as in the bio" section. He states, "This is an important step for driving traffic." You should also include a profile picture and cover image that support your company's brand.

Follow Key Twitter Users

Michael Hussey, StatSocial CEO
Michael Hussey, StatSocial CEO

Hussey states, "Once you join Twitter, the first thing you should do is listen. Begin with following other Twitter users." Hussey advises, "Search for profiles of businesses and people who are relevant to your company, follow them, and look at the topics they are interested in."

Perrine suggests, "Follow other companies in your same industry. Not only will this give you inspiration and useful information for your own strategy, but you will begin to become associated with these accounts. Twitter often suggests users for people to follow based on the people that they are already following, so the more similar businesses you can follow and align yourself with, the better."

Monitor Relevant Conversations

Donna Cravotta, Social Sage PR
Donna Cravotta, Social Sage PR

After you begin following key users, you should find and monitor relevant conversations. Donna Cravotta, CEO and Social Visibility Expert with Social Sage PR, LLC, suggests, "Identify a few hashtags that represent conversations that are relevant to your industry. Set up streams in HootSuite to follow and 'listen' to these hashtags and the conversations around them."

Join the Conversation

Next, Cravotta urges you to "simply join in." She states, "This will land you in active conversations with your target market and also help you to gain a better understanding of who they are and what they need." Perrine advises, "The best thing to do when establishing your Twitter presence is to become very active very quickly. Decide what kinds of things that you will post and how often, then begin pushing content - both your own as well as other companies' content - immediately."

Cravotta states, "Show up as a solution to their problem/issue rather than a sales person and you will quickly and easily build incredibly valuable relationships." Hussey adds, "If you have something valuable to contribute to the conversation, jump in. It doesn't take long to get the hang of it." Perrine adds, "Due to hashtags, trending topics, and the public nature of Twitter, companies joining in on conversations is expected rather than invasive."

Building a Following and Driving Website Traffic

Find Your Audience

Andrew Meyer, SEER Interactive
Andrew Meyer, SEER Interactive

According to Andrew Meyer, Account Manager for SEER Interactive, "The key to driving traffic to your website via Twitter is to really hone in on your audience and know them well. Your time is valuable and if you're wasting time on an uninterested audience, you're wasting time that could be spent on the 'right' targets."

Share Engaging Content

Meyer states, "Once you have determined your target audience, create engaging content that actually helps the users. Find the hole in your industry and invest time in creating a value-driven, helpful solution."

Perrine agrees. He says, "The best way to use Twitter to drive traffic to your website is simply by sharing content that your target audience will find useful. Share articles, sales or any type of fun information that you know they would be interested in learning more about. These should not be just from your website, although if you have a blog, sharing your blog posts would be a great use of delivering relevant content."

Add Context

Tweeting effectively requires going beyond sharing links to quality content. You just provide a context for the information you are tweeting, so readers can decide whether or not they want to click through. Ulrik Bo Larsen, CEO and Founder of Falcon Social, states, "We know you need to be concise on Twitter, but when posting links, don't just pull the headline. Give it more of a context of what the click will give the user, or even better, some opinion about why it's important."

Diversify Posts

It is important to diversity your posts. Matthew Givner, ePR Specialist for Agency 33, states, "One of the fastest ways to lose followers is to only tweet one kind of post. For businesses, this often manifests itself as tweets that are 100% promotional in nature. If every tweet you post is just about trying to get your followers to buy something from you, they will not remain your followers for long."

Matthew Givner, Agency 33
Matthew Givner, Agency 33

Givner advises, "Instead, keep your tweets diverse to keep your followers interested. One well-regarded rule of thumb (sometimes called the Golden Ratio of Content) is for 30% of your tweets to be helpful and interesting content generated by your company, 60% of your tweets to be helpful and interesting content curated from other relevant individuals and organizations, and 10% of your tweets to be promotional."

"This is not set in stone, but it can be helpful when it comes to planning your content calendar and choosing what types of content to post."

Perrine clarifies, "I know it seems strange that sharing content from other websites can drive traffic from your own, but if you are delivering information that a consumer finds useful, they are going to want to go to your website to learn other ways that you can help them. Similarly, they are more likely to retweet this information so that more people will see it and want to learn more as well."

Be Creative

Tweets don't have to be limited to text and links. Adding images to your posts is a great way to make your message stand out, and you don't have to stop there. Larsen points out, "Twitter just added photo filters, and video editing will be coming soon. Even if Twitter is known for text, images and video get high engagement. Make them original, high quality, and striking enough to stand out in a busy feed."

Perfect Your Timing

In addition to posting the right content, you also need to time your tweets appropriately. Meyer recommends, "You can use tools like TweetDeck or Followerwonk to determine the optimal time to tweet and get the best return on engagement." These tools can help you determine what times of day and days of the week your tweets perform best.

Measure Your Efforts

Measurement is also important. Meyer states, "Measuring your performance and making changes to your strategy based on the data is vital. Hussey recommends, "Start with a free tool to monitor your Twitter stream. Twitter Analytics is a free tool that can help you determine what's working well." Hussey adds, "TweetDeck and Hootsuite are popular options."

Meyer also emphasizes the importance of A/B testing. He states, "Make sure to test various titles, order of wording, links vs. images, timing of tweets, etc. to find the sweet spot."

Cross-Promote

You have to fully engage in the community rather than just being self-serving. Cross-promoting other Twitter users is a way to do this. Givner states, "Businesses using Twitter should take care to retweet content posted by other relevant users. Not only does this help take some of the pressure off a business's marketing team to constantly come up with new and exciting content, but it also helps businesses establish mutually beneficial relationships with relevant individuals and organizations."

Givner urges, "Whenever possible, businesses should try to find and cultivate opportunities for cross-promotion so they can access members of an audience they otherwise would not be able to reach on their own. Retweeting is a cheap and easy way of beginning this dialog."

Perrine also mentions the importance of using 'favorites'. He states, "Favorites and retweets can go a long way. Favorite and/or retweet tweets that are relevant to your business, and you will become more visible on Twitter. Also, in many cases, the account that you did this for will want to return the favor."

Make a Call to Action

Meyer points out the importance of incorporating a call to action (CTA) in some of your tweets. He suggests, "Ask your community to help share your content if they like it!"

Pay Attention to Trending Topics

To best utilize Twitter, you'll need to pay attention to what's trending. Givner states, "Twitter makes it very easy to see what people are talking about by including a 'Trends' box right on your home screen, which you can even customize to a certain extent."

He points out, "Sometimes trends spring up overnight, requiring businesses to be nimble and flexible with their Twitter posting so they can take advantage of new opportunities to communicate with a large audience. Other trends are more regular and can be anticipated."

"For example, one popular hashtag, #TBT (Throwback Thursday) is a very popular weekly holiday on Twitter, and is used by people sharing old photos of themselves. Trending hashtags such as these can be anticipated and planned for in advance, and businesses which successfully take advantage of such trends by tweeting relevant and interesting content will quickly see their followers grow."

Driving Sales With Twitter

Tweet Sales Promotions

Tweeting about sales promotions and special offers is a great way to drive sales. Perrine advises, "Over 90 percent of Twitter users say that they follow businesses on Twitter to get discounts and promos. So, in order to drive sales, give the people what they're looking for!" Keep in mind, though, that your promotional posts should be mixed in with other types of content.

Use Keywords to Prospect for Customers

Searching Twitter using keywords is a good way to find prospective customers. Izso states, "One of the most valuable aspects of Twitter is that it is searchable. You can find customers if you're clever with words and phrases that people would use in looking for a business like yours."

Perrine states, "Taking that a step further, social listening comes into play. With apps like SocialCentiv, you can search for users on Twitter who are already expressing interest in your products or services and reach out to them to share your special offer. By doing so, you are reaching new people that may not have found out about your promotion otherwise, and you are offering them what they want. It's as easy as that."

Reaching Key Influencers

Givner indicates, "Twitter is a fantastic way for businesses to develop relationships with what are called 'key influencers' - individuals who are seen as experts in their areas of expertise and who command a large and loyal following of fans. As a component of public relations, businesses should research the major key influencers in their industry and tweet at (@) them whenever they have interesting and relevant content."

"Key influencers are always on the lookout for content to share with their audience, so businesses that can provide them with good content will often be rewarded by having the key influencer retweet their posts, thereby exposing the brand to a new audience of potential clients and customers."

Consider Advertising

Advertising on Twitter can be a good way to leverage the social media site to drive sales. Hussey states, "Twitter does a great job supporting small businesses. Even just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in Twitter advertising can go a long way to helping you connect with potential customers."

He states, "For advertising campaigns, Twitter offers a pretty simple dashboard that helps you track how well your campaigns are working, how much you are spending, etc."

Using Twitter for Customer Service

Meyer states, "Social media, and Twitter specifically, can be a great way to connect with customers. Depending on response times from your customer service team, Twitter can be a better avenue for customer communication than fielding calls or emails due to the ability to personalize the user experience, respond quickly to issues and even give customer service to people that aren't actually customers yet."

Immediate Response

Jay Izso, the Internet Doctor
Jay Izso, the Internet Doctor

Twitter provides for real time feedback from customers, though companies need to remember that Twitter users expect to hear back right away. Jay Izso, the Internet Doctor®, states, "If used correctly, Twitter can provide faster and more immediate responses than waiting for someone on the phone.

In order to use Twitter as a customer service tool, Izso points out that "the business needs to make sure they're staffed with the right people who are comfortable responding on Twitter, and can do it immediately. If there isn't someone monitoring nearly 24 hours a day, then there's little advantage over the phone, because Twitter should be about immediacy."

To-the-Point Response

The fact that Twitter forces brief responses can be a positive from a customer service perspective. Izso states, "Since Twitter only allows 140 characters, it has the potential to be more effective at solving problems since one must focus on the solution in a very succinct manner."

"At the same time this can be a negative if the problem requires a walk-through, such as a computer issue or a more complicated problem requiring more dialogue. If there is a direct line that can be provided after making initial contact, this issue can be overcome."

Monitoring

Businesses need to be aware of what is being said about them on Twitter, and this requires monitoring. Givner states, "One of the things that sets Twitter apart from the other social media platforms is how easy it is to listen in on conversations taking place on the platform. By searching for specific keywords and hashtags, businesses can effectively eavesdrop on people who are discussing a particular topic. This premise represents a tremendous resource for businesses, as they can bypass traditional customer satisfaction methods and go directly to the source."

Personal Response

Twitter provides a way to personally reach out to customers who share feedback via their tweets. Meyer points out, "Who doesn't like a personal response directly from a company you're looking to work with? Twitter can help you to retain your customers and can also be a source of less-expensive customer acquisition. Depending on your niche, you can also use Twitter search combined with advanced search operators to help find new customers and offer help where you can, whether it be faulty products or competitor services, disgruntled customers from other competitors or people looking for answers to questions."

Additional Best Practices

Involve Your Employees

Meyer sates, "People like the interaction that social media and Twitter brings. If you don't have one yet, I'd recommend setting up a custom list or dashboard for all your employees' tweets; TweetDeck works great. This allows you to view your employee Twitter activity and enables you to interact with their tweets whether that be favorites, retweets, responses, etc."

"Get your employees involved with your social media account and try to make it a holistic company experience if possible. Another way to get employees involved is to offer incentives (gift cards, coffee, etc.) for those that provide tweet ideas each month."

Reaching News Media

Givner points out, "Journalists and other members of the media overwhelmingly use Twitter. In this sense, Twitter can be an incredibly useful component in a business's public relations strategy. Research journalists who report on topics relevant to your business and tweet directly at them using the "@" symbol whenever appropriate. You'd be surprised how often this can lead to a follow-up by the reporter and, potentially, a valuable piece of earned media coverage."

Promote Your Twitter Presence

Givner advises, "Promote your Twitter account in all of your business's marketing materials. Make it as simple as possible for your customers, clients, and website visitors to find and follow you on Twitter. Give them every opportunity to do so." He advises:

  • Include social media buttons on the header and/or footer of your website.
  • Install a Recent Posts widget on your home page. He states, "Twitter makes this super easy. Simply go to Twitter settings, click on Widgets, and then Create New, and Twitter will generate all the code you'll need to add."
  • Place social media icons on your business cards, on your brochures, in your e-mail newsletters, and in the signatures of company emails.
  • Add social media sharing buttons to your blog and all relevant content pages on your website.

Twitter Mistakes Businesses Should Avoid

It is also important to avoid mistakes that can harm your brand.

  • Don't insert your company where it doesn't belong. Givner states, "Businesses should not try to insert themselves into conversations they do not understand and in which they do not belong." To illustrate this type of Twitter blunder, Hussey mentions the time Entenmann's used the #notguilty hashtag the day the Casey Anthony verdict came in to promote its sweet treats. Givens advises, "Before your business decides to tweet using a particular hashtag, make absolutely sure that you understand the context in which that hashtag is meant to be used and have something interesting and relevant to contribute to the conversation."
  • Don't ignore negative tweets. Hussey points out that "ignoring criticism of your brand" not a good thing to do. He states, "Companies should engage with someone who might be dissatisfied to see how they can help."
  • Don't post without providing value. When sharing links to blog posts via Twitter, Izso states, "You better have something that people want to read! Some social media strategists and gurus refer to this using a nebulous term called 'value.' If you don't have something people want to read and you keep posting links to blogs that people are not interested in, eventually they'll ignore the links to your blog posts."

  • Don't treat Twitter like other social media platforms. Givner states, "One common mistake I often see businesses make on Twitter is posting tweets that were not written specifically for that platform. When businesses use mass scheduling programs like HootSuite or CRM programs like HubSpot, there's a tendency to write one post and blast it out across all the company's social profiles. The problem with this is that, since Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet, a lot of these posts end up being cut off without saying much of anything before linking to content. Readers have little idea of what that link is pointing to, and are therefore much less likely to click on it. When posting to Twitter, businesses need to write posts that get the message across succinctly and in such a way as to convince readers that the link you want them to click on is worth their time."

  • Don't isolate Twitter from other marketing efforts. Givner advises, "Do not operate your Twitter account in isolation from your other social media and general marketing efforts. Businesses should define a comprehensive digital marketing plan that incorporates all of the company's owned media assets." Givner has written an eBook on this topic that you can download free.

  • Don't focus too much on the number of followers. Larsen states, "Getting followers shouldn't be your goal. You should be using Twitter to engage with current fans, as an additional platform for customer service, as a marketing channel, etc. If you do that well, then the followers will come. At the end, followers will help your brand occasionally, but it's not a business goal by itself. That's because the quality of the follower is far more important than the quantity."

Responsiveness Is Key

Across all its many uses, responsiveness is a key to using Twitter successfully for marketing purposes. Givner emphasizes the importance of responsiveness. He states, "If someone takes the time to mention your company on Twitter, whether it's to praise or pillory your brand, it is vital that you respond in a timely and professional manner."

Responsiveness has real benefits. Givner states, "Businesses that excel in responding to their followers, especially with personalized messages tailored to the user's exact comments, are sure to be rewarded with increased customer loyalty. A well-timed and well-written response can even turn a hater into a brand advocate."

Using Twitter for Your Business