Marketing With Fewer Than 140 Characters

September 7, 2011

Twitter Bird LogoThe latest facet of my practical business education at DesignHammer involves social media. Virtually every business has an online presence these days, and most consumers rely on the Internet for information about products and services. It is crucial for a successful 21st century business to utilize social media to reach out to clients and the general public. I’ve been exploring and observing how companies use services such as Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter. Today, I want to share my findings on Twitter, the marketer’s dream social networking platform.

Why Twitter?

Twitter, for those that don’t already know, is a micro-blogging platform that allows users to share their thoughts with the world in fewer than 140 characters. Businesses use Twitter to network, gain exposure, and build a loyal fan base, as well as add personality to a potentially impersonal online presence.

The real marketing gold of Twitter, however, is its public nature. Every tweet is visible to everyone, meaning a business can easily read users’ comments on its products or services. It’s a great way to get feedback, positive or negative, from customers and the general public. And, unlike searches of the Web in Google, Twitter posts are available in real time.

I’ve heard several stories about disgruntled customers who use Twitter to rant– a Comcast customer complained on Twitter about thirty six hours without internet and unsatisfactory customer service, only to have one of the company’s executives call twenty minutes later to rectify the problem. It’s important for a business to pay attention to clients’ comments, and Twitter is a great way to do so.

What Should You Tweet About?

Example of Tweeting About Others

Ultimately, the goal of being on Twitter is to gain more followers and eventually more business, right? That’s perfectly fine, but using a Twitter account exclusively to sell products or services and promote yourself will often hurt as much as help your prospects in the Twittershpere, where many users are turned off by traditional marketing, PR, and sales. Instead, get creative with the content you post.

  • Go ahead and celebrate good things happening in your business, but be careful when walking the fine line between celebrating and bragging.
  • Spend time pointing out or promoting the good things other people are doing.
  • Post articles that you think your followers will find engaging, related to your industry or not.
  • Tweet about your blog posts, or someone else’s blog posts.
  • Company news is always relevant, and pictures are a plus.
  • Follow leaders in your field and retweet interesting content they post.
  • Ask questions to engage other users and solicit feedback.
  • Tweet about and promote upcoming events in your company.
  • To connect with local Twitter users, tweet about what’s happening in your hometown.
  • Have a healthy serving of both business-related and non business-related content.
  • Tweet about anything you think your followers will find intriguing or useful.

Etiquette on Twitter

Example Tweet Etiquette

Just as in any other online or public forum, people formulate their opinion of you based on what you post. Being polite, gracious, and courteous only improves others’ opinions. Always respond respectfully to a customer’s complaints or criticisms and say thank you whenever appropriate. While these tips may seem obvious, it may not appear so upon viewing the feeds of Twitter users who are careless about manners.

Gaining Twitter Followers

Twitter Contest

Without followers, you will have no audience to read to your ingenious, witty, and enlightening tweets. It is important to build a foundation of followers if you would like to be heard. To meet other Twitter users, try the following:

  • Participate in group twitter conversations.
  • Tweet about others. They'll be more likely to retweet your content and follow you.
  • Start conversations. It can be as simple as asking how someone is doing.
  • Offer contests or giveaways to draw attention.
  • Link your Facebook, Twitter, and website together to direct traffic to all three pages.
  • Respond whenever others tweet about you or your business.

Don’t Let Twitter Consume Your Time

A Twitter feed can be a black hole of tweets if you let it consume too much time. To avoid pouring endless hours down the drain, time management is key. Having a schedule is beneficial; allot a few minutes every day specifically for social media so that it is neither neglected nor overused. For example, dedicate ten minutes to half an hour before lunch or first thing in the morning to Twitter alone, then move along with your day. While it is important to pay attention to what people are tweeting about you, by no means feel obligated to respond to, or read, every single comment. It’s also helpful to plan future tweets, or at least general ideas, to avoid running out of inspiration.

Go Forth and Tweet

Building a significant following on Twitter is a lengthy process, so be patient and persevere. If you run out of inspiration, learn from what other companies are doing on Twitter. @zappos and @WholeFoods are good examples of corporate tweeting. Also, feel free to give us a shout out on Twitter (@DesignHammer). Good luck!