Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Twitter for Your Business - Part 3 of a Comprehensive Twitter Guide

Over the last three weeks or so we've covered a lot about Twitter. If you're interested in knowing what are the @word, #word, RT, what to tweet about, how to tweet interesting material you find without leaving that page or even if you simply want to know "why Twitter," then I strongly recommend that you read those previous articles.

Twitter for Business
I didn't want today's article to cover all the different tools out there, which you can use with Twitter. There are simply too many of them out there. I stopped counting at 200 and gave up. I do have a few I call my favorite, but that's for a different day. Instead, I wanted to write today about how to use Twitter for your business. Granted, Twitter launched "Twitter 101," which is aimed at businesses. Unfortunately, Twitter 101 begins with the bare bones of the service, with a dictionary of the lingo and instructions on how to sign up and tweet for the first time. Although a bit bias, I do feel that our series concluding with this-here article offers a much more comprehensive guide to Twitter, and is a better Twitter 101.

It is worth mentioning, however, that the real meat of Twitter's 101 is the best practices and case studies from companies like Dell, JetBlue, and Pepsi.

Social Media Bandwagon

Most of you know (businesses or not) that Twitter can be used for much more than just announcing the mundane tasks like when you had coffee, when you went to bed, etc. (I personally can do without seeing such mundane tasks. They are a pet peeve of mine, really). Many of you already know you can still take Twitter further and use it to land a job interview, market your business, grow your network and gain free publicity — all in 140 characters or less.

It's true that Twitter is what you make of it. Some people publicize their daily activities, some make it about link love, some share quotes all day long. People using Twitter for business mix it up. Here are some ways on how to use Twitter more effectively in your business.

    Share Expertise to Build Credibility

  • Help others with problems.
  • Share tips related to your business and work-life balance.
  • Share photos (Twitpic makes it easy) of conferences, travel, products and other interesting finds. In some cases, it might be best that you host your own images and simply provide a short-URL to the images. That way, you maintain the rights to your product images. I reserve Twitpic for ad-hoc shots I take with my camera phone, etc. There are image hosting services out there, which are free, available as well like ImageShack.
  • Provide selected highlights from a conference or event.
  • Report industry, company, world and other news that's related to your business, together with some commentary.
  • Link to articles and content posted elsewhere (not yours) with a summary of why it's valuable.
  • Post original thoughts on your topic, industry and business.

  • Grow Your Network & Connections

  • Ask about other locales so you can make the most of a trip, or meet up with Twitter friends.
  • Connect with friends from other social networks. Can you name one person who has only one social network account? (Elders in your family on Facebook don't count.)
  • Join industry and topic groups related to your business and career on sites like www.twibes.com and the previously mentioned www.wefollow.com.
  • Feed your tweets into other social networks like FriendFeed. Although consider carefully before integrating your Twitter feed into other profiles, like Facebook, as a stream of tweets can overwhelm your contacts.
  • Participate in Twitter chats related to your industry or business on a regular basis. Although you should beware that the stream of tweets from chats can overwhelm contacts that aren't participating in the chat, so consider using a separate ID for chats.
  • Research prospects before meeting them. You can gain a lot of valuable information just from scanning their tweets, profile and contacts.
  • Discover trends. You can use Twitter search for this purpose. Mashable also has a list of tools that you can use for tracking trends on Twitter.
  • Stay in touch with friends and colleagues. You never know when a friend or colleague might have a lead for you. Although, I personally keep colleagues and business contacts limited to LinkedIn --I like keeping things separate whenever possible; but that's just my personal style.
  • Get referrals.
  • Give referrals.
  • Ask questions.
  • Answer questions.
  • Recommend other Twitter users to your network including reasons to follow them — by sharing goodwill you will encourage others to reciprocate. I strongly recommend that you look into such trends as #followfriday.
  • Use Twitter's search feature to find topics, keywords and locations. Use user-names to limit results to responses mentioning a person. You can use Twitter's search for hashtags (#), but I strongly recommend hashtags.org.
  • Spread your tweets throughout the day, rather than posting them all at once, as people check Twitter at different times of the day. It's pretty much always prime time on Twitter.
  • Find vendors and contractors.

  • Marketing

  • If your site's down or not working, or you're suffering from another problem, then give updates on Twitter so customers know what's going on.
  • Find "experts" to invite as a guest blogger on your blog or as speaker at your event.
  • Seek sponsors for a contest or a program.
  • Hold a contest using Twitter: it can spread like wildfire. Squarespace's iPhone contest, back in early June, 2009, made the trending topic list.
  • Use applications and tools like clickablenow.com and twittercustomizer.com to enhance your Twitter background and profile.
  • Put together a virtual mastermind group.
  • Track conversations mentioning your name or your brand by using Google or Yahoo! Alerts.
  • Respond to tweets talking about you and your brand (be careful with this. It could be a PR nightmare if you're not).
  • Link to your content wisely and sparingly to avoid looking too promotional.
  • Do market research and gain knowledge with polls and surveys.
  • Share those survey and poll results.
  • Publish your Twitter ID on all marketing collateral, including business cards, email signature, email newsletters, web sites and brochures, so prospects can learn more about you. It will also come in handy, as mentioned above, when your web site is experiencing technical difficulties.
  • Share what you're doing so people learn about the type of work you do. I advise doing this with the important highlights of what you do; like a preparing for a conference, hyping up a new launch, etc.
  • Avoid hard-sell tactics: focus on relationship building.
  • Write honest and valuable recommendations for your contacts on sources like Mr. Tweet.
  • Link to your presentations and videos (perhaps your YouTube Channel).
  • Mention when you're attending or speaking at an upcoming event.
  • Announce the publication of your newsletter's latest issue, along with a brief description.
  • Post discounts, coupons and package deals. You'd be surprised how effective this will be when done right.
  • Announce job openings to find qualified talent.

  • General Tips: Do the Right (and Fun) Thing

  • Share information that is useful for prospective clients or employers to enhance your reputation.
  • Be nice even when you have a difference of opinion.
  • Save the “Thanks for following me,” “Thanks for the RT” or similar tweets for direct messages (DM).
  • Use Twitter often to improve, tighten and sharpen your writing.
  • Remember to laugh and have fun because it inspires you to innovate and be creative in your job.
  • Make your goals public to compel you to reach them.
  • Start your day strong: some people find Twitter interactions put them in a good mood.
  • Use keywords on your profile and a fun fact to earn trust, add personality and enable you to be found.
  • Dump the default Twitter avatar and use a photo of yourself or a suitable image (like a logo, perhaps?).
  • Follow experts, companies, competitors and leaders in your industry.
  • Limit Twitter automation, because it comes across as phony.
  • Think of your followers in terms of quality not quantity.
  • Be authentic, genuine and real. In other words, be yourself.
  • Mix up the tweet types to include retweets (RT), @replies, original thoughts, and links to other people's content (not just your own).
  • Don't get overwhelmed by the number of contacts you have. Organize them into groups using third-party applications like Tweetdeck, Twhirl and Seesmic.

There are many tools for businesses out there. Savvy startup CoTweet has come up with a magic formula for Twittering brands (like BestBuy, JetBlue, and Ford) that is one part CRM and one part marketing tool, that they hope companies will want to pay for. CoTweet, currently in private beta and specifically designed to help businesses maximize their Twitter ROI, tweaks the Twitter experience to match that of a more sophisticated CRM solution allowing companies to manage multiple accounts from a single dashboard, support multiple editors for each account, track conversations, assign roles, and create follow-up tasks.

Of course, there are sure to be many other things to do, and not to do, on Twitter for your business; but these should help get your started. If you have your own, share them with us in the comments.  ▣

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