Founded in 2006, Twitter’s 140-character bite-size updates have transformed the world’s access to real-time information. Its simple interface allows for sharing anything from breaking news to sports, to great content, to worldwide politics. In a time when we’re oversaturated with media, Twitter also allows us to access what we need to know. Much of the reporting from the Arab Spring uprisings was done directly through Twitter. Through all of this, brands are joining the network not only to promote their messages, but also to quickly and succinctly address the needs of their customers.
Key stats and demographics
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How are people using Twitter?
Twitter has become a tool for everything from facilitating the collapse of governments to showing off your newborn. Through Twitter, athletes have added sideline commentary and Hollywood has dialed up the drama. Consumers use the service to share and find content. For many, Twitter has replaced their RSS subscriptions and traditional news media.
Due to its mostly public nature, Twitter’s most powerful use is connecting people. The platform allows complete strangers to come together over common interests and ideas and to participate in conversations that range from the relatively mundane to the incredibly important.
Participate in Twitter chats relevant to the interests of your brand’s customers. You’ll find like-minded people to help expand your network.
Save searches for common interests or popular hashtags to find people talking about those topics.
Use tools like Followerwonk or Twellow to find like-minded users. Also look at who they interact with and get engaged with those communities.
Tools like Xobni and Rapportive integrate with Outlook and Gmail to help you uncover social profiles of people you already know.
Twitter’s Discover experience can help you dive into different conversations. Also, check out Twitter Categories, which lets you browse the best accounts on a wide variety of topics.
Some users may choose to essentially live-tweet their day, while others limit their contributions primarily to content sharing. Your goal is to identify what types of users you’ll be looking for and engaging with and gain an understanding of how and why they’re using the tool. By understanding their motivations behind using the site, you’ll be better able to target your efforts and content in meaningful ways.
Strategies and tactics for success
Your success on Twitter depends on your specific goals, of course, but there are some universally applicable strategies that can start you off on the right track. By continually keeping these tactics in mind, you can speed your progress toward your own goals.
Branding and voice: Being aware of who you are and who you aren’t is critical on Twitter. You only have 140 characters to communicate your thoughts, so every word matters. Your company’s brand and voice seeps into every interaction, passive or active, that you have here. As you grow, you will naturally get a good sense of whom the idealized brand representative should be. How would they talk? How would they respond to conflict? How would they joke around? Questions like this may initially seem silly, but it’s better to answer them ahead of time than to create answers based on your mood or the amount of sleep or coffee you’ve had in a given moment. Consistency of voice is important, as people like to know what to expect in their interactions with you. Over time, this consistency will help you build trust and confidence with your audience.
Also, ensuring your account name and profile are filled out according to your brand guidelines is critical. Think of these fields as your “first impression.” Many people will visit a Twitter profile only once to decide whether or not they want to follow you. Your bio should be on-point, and your handle branded and appropriate. Your location should accurately reflect where you are. Your follower count may come into play here as well. Controlling your follower:following ratio can help you further establish credibility, showing that you care enough to follow your community members back.
Utilize tracking and variables in all of your shared links. This will help you to better evaluate the success that individual content pieces have. Look at the day and time your audience is most active, the types of content they engage with most frequently, and the style and tone of your language. From there you can better understand how to share and engage with your community.
Be interesting: There’s nothing worse than boring tweets. “Boring” is understandably subjective, but you should strive to be interesting to your target audience. Streams that constantly push promotional messaging get old very fast. How do you establish brand loyalty when the only thing you say is, “Here’s 50% off [something]?” There must be more than that you can say about your business, and if there’s not, you may need a new lens with which to view your organization.
Add value: It’s important to be consistently present, but not so loquacious that you tweet simply to hear yourself speak. Every tweet you send should add value in some way. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself why you would want to see this information if you were a follower.
Responsiveness: Due to the condensed format and quick pace of Twitter, it’s essential to respond to your community as swiftly as possible. The platform makes it easy for people to find your brand, and you’re sure to get many customer service requests that need your immediate attention. If you ignore a critical tweet for too long, you may find that one person’s voice is soon amplified by their followers. Also, don’t just respond to emergencies or questions—make sure you also say hello and respond to kudos given to your brand. As you grow, you’ll have to figure out how scale, but too much tweeting is a great problem to have.
Measurement: The beauty of Twitter is that data is plentiful; the tricky part is setting up those measurement frameworks and dashboards so that they align as closely as possible with your business objectives and goals. Data is what really influences your bottom line in social; it helps you tell your own story and find both opportunities and successes.
What success looks like
Developing hordes of followers is no small feat and, providing enough value to keep them engaged can be tricky. Companies consistently earning the attention of the Twitterverse are worth keeping an eye on; here are a few particularly impressive examples:
Taco BellThe fast-food chain is quickly gaining a reputation for their spicy snark (no pun intended). Consistently funny, engaging, and sometimes a little irreverent, Taco Bell is completely on-brand, and it works quite well for them. From a content development perspective, give them a follow and take a look at how they reach out and engage with their audience.
Whole Foods MarketWhole Foods, an organic grocery store chain, uses Twitter to really reach out and engage their consumers around relevant content and interests. Not just about their in-store experiences, but also about their experience with food in general. Take a look at their weekly Twitter chat, using the tag #WFMdish, where the topic varies weekly, but centers on healthy foods and cooking. This is a great example of expanding your thinking about content and engagement horizontally, not just vertically.
Charity: WaterA wildly popular non-profit movement, Charity: Water largely gained traction on Twitter. In three years, they raised over $15 million dollars to bring clean water to people around the world. Charity: Water relies heavily on engaging content to get their message out. This includes video, impactful images, and consistent branding on Twitter backgrounds and profile images. By artfully telling their story and building connections between the audience and its mission, they created true momentum and support.
Etiquette tips and guidelines
Like any social interaction, Twitter has its own set of best-practices to follow in order to be successful. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Don’t spam: This should be a rule across all of your marketing efforts, but it bears repeating here. There are many new accounts popping up with marketers behind them having the best intentions, but no matter how you slice it, spam is spam. Jumping in on irrelevant hashtags to market your product is unhelpful. Likewise, relentlessly mentioning every person in your feed to draw their attention to a piece of content or offer is typically received as annoying. Be sure to keep your tweets relevant, helpful to followers, and spam-free.
Direct messages: DMs are great when you need private information, like a shipping address. Traditionally, you can only DM people who follow you and vice versa. If you have a verified account through Twitter, you can select a special setting to allow anyone to DM you. However, you cannot respond via DM unless the person DM’ing you follows you.
Never send automated DMs as it’s considered spam. Do not, under any circumstance, send auto-DMs to your followers. Auto-messages aren’t engaging, and you aren’t reaching out personally for relationship building. If you’d like to reach out to every single person that decides to follow you, do so in a personalized and unique way.
@ replies: When you start a tweet with an @username, only people who are following both you and @username will see your tweet. If you want more people to see it, just put a period or other marker in front of the username. Or you can always just rephrase your sentence.
Hashtags: By using #hashtags, you’re exposing yourself to a wider audience. Many people follow conversations using various hashtags, but possibly won’t be following you. Hashtags are meant as a shortcut to explain what your tweet contains or to show you’re part of a conversation or event. If your brand’s jumping into a hashtag, you should make sure that you’re contributing value to the conversation instead of just promoting your business.
Retweet (RT): There are two ways to RT, manually or through Twitter’s native RT function. RT’s a great way to boost your community’s members content, make them feel good, and say “you’re awesome!” If there’s a link you want to track or a grammar/spelling issues you want to fix before RT’ing, you can edit the tweet and post it as “RT @username: Puppies are cute!”
Scheduling updates: A variety of tools help people schedule out tweets. Scheduling updates is the community manager’s very best friend as you are not always online or otherwise available to update Twitter when you need to. You create the tweet, set the time and date, select the account you want to send it from, and schedule. Scheduling allows you to publish content when your community’s most active.
Make sure to watch your scheduled posts. Scheduling posts can be an incredibly useful tool that allows you to scale your energy. However, pre-scheduled tweets can be detrimental in times of crises, e.g. global disasters, national tragedies, etc. It’s important to quickly turn any scheduled posts off even if these crises are not directly related to your brand; global events can erupt, creating an inhospitable environment for off-topic content. Worse yet, your posts may unintentionally become the source of controversy during a crisis. For example, LiveNation went horribly wrong with Twitter, during a horrific accident at a RadioHead concert, which they were liable for. Be sure to keep an eye on your scheduled posts if you choose to do so.
Shortening links: Twitter now auto-shortens your links, but you should consider using a separate shortening service with built-in analytics, as it will allow you to track clicks of your content that don’t point back to your own web properties. Bit.ly, Buffer, and HootSuite are all good options. Your may even consider buy a customized shortened domain.
Twitter lists: Making lists of users can help your targeting efforts when you’re trying to reach industry influencers or join in conversations relative to your niche. If you’re making a public list, remember to be empathetic to people who aren’t on it; it’s best to stay away from lists that qualify or rate people or their services. Making the lists private avoids this issue.
Use Twitter handles: If you’re talking about someone who’s on Twitter, use their @username. It’s just polite, and your community wants to know when you’re talking about them, as it’s an easy ego boost. This also encourages the people mentioned to share what you’ve posted or further engage with your community.
Followerwonk: Admittedly, we’re a little biased about our own tool. Followerwonk takes a data-driven approach to measuring an account’s audience, but bias aside, we think you’ll love it too. This tool helps you identify demographics, growth, interests, what time your followers are most active, and even tells you what audience members you share with competitors. Followerwonk helps you explore the social graph and really understand who Twitter users are.
HootSuite, Social Engage, and Sprout Social: These apps allow users to manage their Twitter accounts more effectively. With varying degrees of control and functionality, you’ll want to take a look around and figure out what works best for your needs and your team. These tools all do essentially the same thing: help you engage, measure that engagement, and interact with your followers on Twitter in ways the web interface sometimes makes difficult.
Crowdbooster: Depending on the size and number of accounts you are monitoring, this can be a free tool. It offers a fast and lightweight view on growth and what’s working from a content perspective.
IFTTT: “If this, then that” allows you to set up rules for your online activity. Essentially, macros that work across your social accounts and even your website to create conditional triggers for events. Helpful for many activities beyond Twitter.
Twitter for Business: Twitter’s own one-stop shop for hitting the ground running with your business. It’s a great resource for those just getting started with the platform.
Simply Measured: This rich analytics tool allows you to measure follower growth, engagement, reach, and even figure out who your influencers are.
Twitter Cards: By setting up your web content with the right metadata, you can make rich content appear every time someone tweets a link to it. There are currently several varieties of cards, including templates for articles, photo galleries, apps, and even products.
Additionally, Twitter launched Lead Generation Cards, which go the extra mile in helping businesses drive conversions. They include rich content and a clear call to action, allowing new customers to engage with your content in a single click.
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