Download the agency overview...
View our Agency Overview
Agency Overview

Expert Resources

Using Twitter as a Business Tool

Twitter is one of the most popular social media sites in the world.  Described as a “micro-blogging” platform, Twitter allows users to answer the question, “What are you doing right now?” and broadcast the answer to their Twitter followers (friends) in a short text message of up to 140 characters. It’s seemingly simple design and application has taken the social media community by storm. It is quick; efficiently enables communicate with a large group of people; and can quickly and seamlessly integrate into other tools, applications, and third party websites.  Still, many businesses are struggling to define a role for Twitter within their organization, especially as it relates to accomplishing business goals.  In this article, we will explore how Twitter is being used to:

  1. Communicate messages directly to your audience
  2. Build an emotional attachment with your audience
  3. Virally market your message

Understanding how Twitter can help you accomplish these tasks will help build a strong business case for using it as part of your online marketing strategy.

1. Communicate Messages Directly to Your Audience

The most common application of Twitter is communicating with large groups of individuals who “follow you”.  Aside from the ability to carry-on personal conversations, Twitter also allows you to communicate your messaging to a targeted audience, manage your reputation and brand more effectively, and develop link building relationships with bloggers.

Targeting Through Twitter

Twitter is an opt-in list.  So in order for you to send a message to someone, they have to ask for it.  Therefore, when you acquire followers, you know they are interested in listening to your message and are more likely to take action, if prompted.  Promoting your Twitter account and developing a large list of followers creates another great marketing vehicle for blog posts, company announcements, event invitations, and customer service announcements.  Sounds familiar, but there are other important functions that Twitter’s messaging capabilities have that differentiate it from email lists and other forms of group communication.

Manage Your Brand

Twitter is a hub of conversation and much of it is word-of-mouth interaction between users.  Being able to monitor these conversations through tools like http://www.TweetScan.com, can give companies incredible insight into customers’ opinions of products, marketing campaigns, customer service experiences, etc.  To my knowledge, there is not another tool that can give you this kind of real-time feedback for free.

Network with Bloggers

Since many people on twitter are bloggers, another great advantage to participating is that it allows you to communicate and develop relationships more effectively with the blogging community.  These relationships can be leveraged for links, votes on social media sites like Digg, guest blogging opportunities, and advertising opportunities. Twitter is a great networking tool to foster relationships, limited only by your imagination.

2. Build an Emotional Attachment with Your Audience

As you use Twitter, it is important to understand the importance of personalizing your posts. The personal versus corporate nature will increase the likelihood of gaining and retaining followers, and they will be more likely to listen to what you have to say.  If every tweet is a URL announcement or company message, the content of your Twitter channel becomes pretty dry.  That’s why it is important to use Twitter to build an emotional attachment with your audience.  Business is all about relationships, and using Twitter as a method of communication to further develop relationships is one of the primary benefits of this technology.  Including tweets about what you’re doing in your free time, minor frustrations with life (“I just spilled coffee on myself”, “I’m stuck in an airport”, etc), personal accomplishments (“I just won my office pool”), and funny observations (“my co worker is wearing two different colored shoes”), puts a human touch on your messaging and makes it more likely to be well received. Showing your brand personality and building an emotional attachment with your audience is a key tactical element to maximizing the effectiveness of your Twitter campaign.

3. Virally Market Your Message

When it comes to accomplishing business goals, Twitter has the ability to virally extend your message.  Viral marketing on Twitter can occur in a couple different ways.  The first is to directly ask your followers to re-tweet something you wrote.  If you have followers who are passionate about your message, this can be an extremely efficient, and cost effective, way to dramatically increase the “word of mouth” marketing around your message.  The other way that people use Twitter to virally market their brand and message is to use “lifestreams”.

A lifestream refers to any mechanism that displays the activities of your followers across a given site or network.  For example, logging into Facebook brings you to the “News Feed”.  The News Feed and all the other tabs are lifestreams.  At MySpace, the lifestream is called “Friend Updates”.  Because lifestreams are the first thing that many people see when they log into social network sites like Facebook and MySpace (two of the biggest portals on the Internet), the messaging and updates that appear in lifestreams get a lot of attention, and therefore, a lot of click activity.

Lifestreams are a huge catalyst for viral promotion.  Part of your overall blog promotion strategy is to create as many lifestream events as possible.  A life stream event is defined as, “any time in which one of your activities causes an entry in a lifestream.”   Updating your Facebook status using Twitter is a life stream event for Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, and Digsby.  Creating as many lifestream events as possible will maximize the number of touch points you create for your audience within their social media activity.

Additionally, when your followers interact with your lifestream, it appears on their lifestream and is visible to their set of followers…and so on and so forth.  This kind of behavior illustrates the potential for viral marketing using lifestreams. While the majority of social networks like MySpace and Facebook provided lifestreams within their site, Twitter differs by expanding the messaging beyond just the Twitter network.  To illustrate this scenario in action, we will look at the following hypothetical example.  Company X sets up a Twitter account and a Facebook page, and enables the Twitter application on their Facebook page to enable Twitter to update their status.  Every time they send a tweet through Twitter, it updates their status, which causes a lifestream event to appear.  When their followers see the status message, they have the ability to make comments on it.  When they do, the comments appear on your lifestream, and in the lifestream of the person who made the comment.  Therefore, all of the commenter’s followers are exposed to the comment.  The original status message now becomes visible to an entire NEW network of people.  Assuming the message of the original tweet is of interest to that new network of followers (relevant blog post, event invitation, discount or sale, etc), then additional viral opportunities are created.  This is especially effective for bigger brands that have a wide appeal among all users, but it can certainly be effective on any scale.

Conclusion

Twitter is a wonderful new tool for businesses to communicate with users.  Whether it’s the benefits of direct communication to a targeted list, establishing an emotional connection with your website users, or virally marketing your message through re-tweets and lifestreams, Twitter can help your organization or brand accomplish a number of business goals and can provide a pretty amazing return on investment if leveraged properly.