Check out Trada’s other posts in our online marketing series: How to Market Your Business on Facebook, How to Market Your Business on Twitter , How to Market Your Business With a Blog , and How to Market Your Business with Video.
Yesterday, SmallBizTrends wrote about how 47% of SMBs don’t use social media in their marketing arsenal. That might be you, and that’s ok. We’ve interviewed some of the smartest people we know using Twitter to help their businesses. This interview gives you the low down on how to start using Twitter, ways to be effective and how to measure your success.
Meet the Experts:
- Grace Boyle is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Kapost, an online newsroom and content management platform. Previously, she worked at Lijit, an online advertising network. Read her blogs at Grace(full)plate and Small Hands, Big Ideas. You can find Grace on Twitter at @gracekboyle and see her in action at @kapost.
- Kaitlin Pike is the community manager of Web 2.0, one of the top Internet conferences in the world. Plus, she’s a friend from SXSW. Follow her for personal tweets at @kcpike and business tweets at @w2e.
- Lauren Preston does PR and social media for Qdoba Mexican Grill, and is a former co-worker. Follow her personally at @laurenpreston and for amazing culinary tweets you can find her @QdobaMexGrill.
- Ef Rodriguez is an organizer with Ignite Boulder, one of the largest Ignites in the world. His full-time job is helping craft interactive strategies for one of the top advertising agencies in the world. Go and find him on Twitter at @pug and see his magic at work at @igniteboulder.
- Natasha Khan Kazi runs social media for ModCloth, a beloved apparel company known for mod and retro clothing. In her spare time, she works on SAPNA Magazine. You can find her at @natashakhan and @modcloth.
How do you find people to engage with on Twitter?
Lauren Preston: At Qdoba, we actively track our brand’s mentions, direct and indirect, on a daily basis. Through this continuous monitoring, we are able to actively engage with the folks who are already talking about our brand on Twitter. People are generally surprised and happy to know that brands are listening and willing to engage with them on their preferred platform, so we find this is an effective way for us to find people to follow.
Additionally, we like to engage with people in our industry (restaurant/food) on Twitter like bloggers, Yelpers, foodies, traditional media, other restaurants, brands, etc. Not only are we able to keep a pulse on what’s going on in our industry via Twitter, it also gives us a chance to start conversations with a niche group of folks who are influencers in the space.
Grace Boyle: I started first, by seeing everyone in my e-mail address book who had Twitter (Twitter does this for you). If you’re a business, this can help with customers or vendors. I also search by keyword to find people talking about the specific industry you’re in. http://search.twitter.com works for this. Ironically, you can also find people offline to Tweet with online. If you have a storefront or a newsletter, include your Twitter link and handle so customers can find you.
Natasha Khan: When we participate in any community, it is important for us as a brand to understand the demographic, what type of content that users want to see, and what the proper etiquette is for that particular community. Authentic participation and content that delights is our strategy for being effective on Twitter.
Kaitlin Pike: If you’re fairly new to Twitter, there’s always the easy-as-tweeting-about-fish-in-a-barrel approach: Twitter’s “Who to Follow” page, specifically Find Friends and Browse Interests tabs. It does a decent job of thinking for you.
Beyond that, if I’m trying to find a conversation about a particular topic – let’s say community management – I first think about top influencers. Connie Bensen comes to mind, as do Thomas Knoll, Maria Ogneva, Jeremiah Owyang, Amber Naslund, Tamar Weinberg… you get the idea. With any business or topic you’re passionate about, you likely already know who the cool kids are. You’re reading their blogs or buying tickets to conferences they speak at, and maybe you’ve bought one of their books.
After that, I look at who they follow and talk to. This can easily turn into a deep rabbit hole of a research project, so be patient.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I keep an eye on what terms and hashtags are in vogue. For community management, you can join the weekly Community Manager Chat by searching for #cmgrchat. I’ve followed and talked to a few people participating in this chat because I found what they had to say useful, and it was easy to engage with them because we shared a common and obvious interest.
Of course, you also want to check out who’s talking about and interested in you. For Web 2.0 Expo, I always keep an open tab of search results for our brand terms (#w2e, Web 2.0 Expo, Web2Expo, etc.) to make sure I can engage in a timely fashion with someone who tweets about us.
Ef Rodriguez: It’s helpful to think of different scenarios where your brand may be relevant. If you think of your product or service as a solution for X, and you always search for mentions of X to find relevant conversations, you’re likely missing out on Y and Z. They may only be tangentially related to what you have identified as your core audience, but they’re probably just as crazy-go-nuts about your brand as the first group is. Maybe.
What tips and tricks do you use to be effective on Twitter?
Grace Boyle: I love creating Twitter lists. Lists help you group together groups of people and you can follow that specific Twitter stream succinctly. This is great for businesses because it compartmentalizes your work. Here are a few ideas for lists to build: competitors, customers, thought-leaders and marketers you respect or learn from.
Listen. I describe Twitter as a push and pull mechanism. If you’re not successful, it’s likely because you only pushed your product or service and didn’t listen. Use tools like http://topsy.com/, http://socialmention.com/ or http://tweetreach.com/ to find people talking about your product or even looking for what you might offer. Most marketers miss the mark by not listening, there’s a big gap to fill and it’s exciting, because social media tools are mostly free.
For small businesses, the Twitter for Business resource from Twitter itself is also useful: http://business.twitter.com/.
Ef Rodriguez: I find greater value in being creative over being consistent. There’s a programmatic slime on too many Twitter accounts that grosses me out.
Lauren Preston: First and foremost, we believe it’s crucial to use Twitter as a marketing tool, but most importantly as a conversation tool. We like to have a blend of unique content, like photos, videos, links, etc. mixed with proactive outreach and reactive individual engagement, including online customer service. And not every conversation we have or information we relay to our followers is solely focused on our brand or our particular message, if at all. We’ve had great conversations with our guests about what their favorite restaurants are in markets we may be visiting, what music they may be listening to on any given day or what events are happening over the weekend. This allows us to truly get to know the folks we engage with online on a personal level, not just as our customers, but as individuals.
We’ve also found Twitter to be an extremely useful platform to get feedback from our guests, whether it’s on a new product, what menu item they’d like to add to the menu, etc. In addition, we like to use trivia and fun, simple contests on Twitter to reward some of our most loyal guests with a free entrée and have seen great response from this.
Lastly, we continue to use Twitter to help us manage any potential customer service issues online. Many Twitter users have come to expect that brands will be listening on Twitter and we try to ensure that we can reach out to any guests that may have had a less than satisfactory experience at our restaurants. We always try to resolve the issue as best we can on Twitter, the guests’ preferred platform, versus forcing them to contact us another way. That said, in some cases, 140 characters just can’t do justice to get all of the necessary information needed and only then do we take that conversation to another medium.
Kaitlin Pike: Effective Twitter management requires the right mindset:
Be tuned in. Checking in only once a week means you’ll miss all the action. Use monitoring tools like Radian6 or any number of free tools out there (goodness, there are a lot) if you need help. Or, like I do, just leave a tab open to a platform such as Seesmic and occasionally drop in throughout the day. I have several Twitter Lists organized that I can check, and I keep a few search result tabs open at all times (I currently use Monitter). Listening to the conversation is vital.
Be swift. If you see a conversation brewing about your brand or topic of interest, jump in! Waiting means you’ll miss the boat. You don’t always have to lead the discussion; participation can be anything from retweeting with a comment to asking a relevant question.
Be interesting. If you learn anything about being a good Twitizen, it’s to not be a bore. Make sure the person running your Twitter account “gets” content. Baratunde is a great role model of how to do this right. Check out his keynote “There’s a #Hashtag for That” for his take on what’s qualifies as interesting Twitter content.
One not-so-secret weapon to stay on top of your Twitter account is to schedule tweets. I use Social Oomph, which is free.
What are the most creative ways you’ve seen companies using Twitter?
Ef Rodriguez: I’m a fan of all that surprise and delight stuff. Didn’t the World Wildlife Fund (@WFF) give people pet pandas for a week? If they didn’t, they totally should.
Grace Boyle: I love Zappos.They’ve turned their Twitter following into a live customer-service help desk and FAQ. Whenever I have an issue or question, I get a Twitter response within a few hours and they immediately win my brand loyalty. They also have a human behind the brand, they often say who is on “duty” for their Zappos customer service tweets. They also reward their Twitter followers. For example, I tweeted about loving Zappos and in return, they made me a Zappos VIP where I can get overnight shipping for free. A small gesture, but immediately wowed me.
I also like following Downtown Boulder. They serve as a news resource for Boulder residents and visitors. They’re prompt to respond and I love how they retweet other local Boulder people to help share events and happenings in the area. Sharing and retweeting (other than your company news) is a great way to gain followers and Twitter respect.
Natasha Khan: We recently did a Twitter pep rally with @seventeenmag, they have a vibrant community that enthusiastically participated in the chat and contest. We loved how Seventeen used sites such as TweetChat and Storify to really create a richer experience for their audience.
Lauren Preston: While it’s becoming more of the norm, I think brands that reward followers through giveaways, contests, etc. still reside well with Twitter users and helps get your product into consumer’s hands. Brands, like Zappos, that allow and encourage their employees to be active on Twitter as themselves and as a representative of the brand are still very unique in that they are able to leverage their evangelists while creating a “face” for their brand. Old Spice’s Twitter questions turned YouTube responses by “The Old Spice Guy” is still one of my favorites and one of the most innovative ways I’ve seen Twitter used to date.
It’s also really interesting to watch the continued integration of Twitter through other mediums, like popular television shows and their characters. For example, NBC’s “The Voice” integrated live Tweeting into their show via contestants and their celebrity coaches, and Jimmy Fallon creates a segment each night on his TV show via his Hashtag game on Twitter – content that’s based solely on Jimmy’s favorite responses from his followers to the unique hashtag topic.
As a marketer, how do you determine if Twitter is successful for your business?
Grace Boyle: Social Media ROI is a big topic because it’s often the intangibles of Twitter that make it so successful (e.g. the personal touch, connecting with customers, etc.)
However, some metrics to determine success are: overtime follower increase, total mentions @ replies, anecdotes from customers expressing they love your Tweets and interacting with you (favorite these or use as a testimonial on your website) and finally, sales / conversions. I use Salesforce as our CRM and under Opportunity, we have a Lead Source that is Twitter/Facebook. For monthly reporting, we track how many leads come from social media.
Ef Rodriguez: A big one for me is the moment at which people tell *you* something without being asked. Either a tip or an observation. That signals that the brand has gotten through, at least with that person.
Kaitlin Pike: This is the most important question marketers need to consider before launching into social media. If you can’t track ROI, you can’t tell if your efforts are fruitful or wasteful.
For us, it’s a fairly straight-forward answer: tracking codes, discount codes, and a few free third party tracking tools (paid is fine if you need it!). Check out this tweet:
For starters, I’ve used a bit.ly link (http://bit.ly/llV4p9). If I want a quick analysis of how it’s performed, I simply paste that URL, add a + at the end, and hit enter (see http://bit.ly/llV4p9+). I can now see that 676 people clicked on this.
If you go to the landing page the link leads to, you’ll notice this at the end of the URL: “?_discount=twt”. I can now see in my web analytics report how this converted.
Also on that landing page is a discount code – if someone registers with that code, I’ll know they found us via Twitter. There’s more analysis going on here, but that’s the short of it. Additionally helpful is the fact that we use Twitter’s Promoted Tweets. They provide a good dashboard of how our Promoted Tweets perform.
Natasha Khan: We look at a lot of things to determine success on Twitter: engagement, traffic to ModCloth, brand awareness/virality, and revenue.
What are the most common mistakes you see companies make with Twitter?
Natasha Khan: The most common mistake I see companies make is focusing on quantity over quality. It is important to create experiences (engagements and contests) that attract your core customer, not the general public that just wants free stuff.
Kaitlin Pike: The most common mistake I see is companies talking but not listening: Tweeting about products and services versus engaging the community and creating a discussion. Other cardinal sins of Twitter include
- not responding to complaints or questions (or not doing so quickly enough)
- tweeting things no one wants to read – including the person who tweeted it
- using inappropriate language for your audience – this is relative, of course, and could just mean you’re using the wrong lingo, not that you’re cursing
- ignoring the potential evangelists of your brand/not reaching out to thought leaders
But the root problem here is that the company hired the wrong person to manage their social media campaigns. When I consider someone for a social media or community management role, I couldn’t care less if they’re up on the hottest new Twitter related toy. I care if they have good judgment. Do they have a good editorial eye? Do they know how to deal with trolls? How to create conversation? A social media marketer with sound judgment and a firm understanding of community building is worth her weight in gold.
Ef Rodriguez: I really dislike seeing chat-room shorthand in tweets because people can’t write succinctly. When brands type “u” instead of “you” and “r” instead of “are.” It makes me want to hide somewhere and weep well into the night, longing for the days of yore or whatever.
Lauren Preston: #1 – When companies only use Twitter as a shouting platform to only push out their messages – never engaging with their followers.
#2 – Companies that automatically make you take the conversation to a new platform to resolve any issues. Biggest pet peeve is when brands tell you to take it to a DM (direct message), but it takes you 3 more tweets to make sure they are following you in order to send the DM.
#3 – Not following up and seeing an issue through to resolution. The simple act of apologizing and saying you’ll correct something isn’t enough, you have to follow through and ensure that it’s done.
Grace Boyle: Using Twitter solely for self-promotion. A lot of small businesses will tweet something obvious and just about themselves. For example, if you’re a company that provides electric and heating they might (unfortunately) tweet: “Come check us out for the best electric and heating!” Well now, that’s too obvious. Something along the lines of how many customers they currently have, interesting facts about the company, a Twitter-only business promotion or a blog post about tips to save on your electric bill each month would be savvy Tweeting.
Anything else you think social media marketers should know about using Twitter?
Kaitlin Pike: Not having a firm social media presence today is like not having a website 10 years ago. The conversation is going to happen with or without you, and you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t properly engage with the Twitterati. Consider it a savvy investment to spend time developing your Twitter strategy.
Lauren Preston: In order to be an effective marketer on Twitter, I think you have to be an active consumer and user of Twitter. Be in tune to what brands or individuals catch your attention (in a good or bad way) and be aware of how you personally engage with people and companies on Twitter. Being an active user allows you to keep abreast of the trends and ins and outs of the platform, and will help you to be a more effective marketer to consumers like you.
Ef Rodriguez: They should read books about writing. Social zeal doesn’t always equate to solid, versatile writing. I use sentence fragments all the time, but that’s because I know what they are and can wield them ferociously like a honey badger when cornered.
Grace Boyle: At Lijit (the last startup I worked for) and now for Kapost, Twitter is a huge source for lead generation and a way to communicate with customers who already spend hours online (almost 200 million users worldwide). I think the power of those 140 characters shouldn’t be overlooked and no matter your business, there is a place for leveraging social media for growth.