What’s Twitter for business? No, it’s not about buying Twitter ads for your business. Rather, it’s about how a business can use Twitter as a means to create conversations about its company, brand and products.
This topic — “Twitter for Business” — was the title of a great session I attended at Marketing Land’s SMX West conference this week. It was geared toward the community manager at a company charged with making Twitter work for business reasons.
The session was presented by Ric Dragon, CEO of Dragon Search and the author of Social Marketology, a hands-on guide that aims to add process to social marketing for businesses.
Ric started his presentation at the beginning with Twitter, literally. He noted that Twitter was first unveiled at South by Southwest in 2007. It’s amazing what’s happened since then. He recalls that MySpace was still the king of social media – Facebook hadn’t really made a splash. The first iPhone hadn’t yet been produced. Now I feel old.
A Twitter Glossary
Listening to Ric, I was surprised that he spent so much time on the basics, but then I realized that the audience was largely new to Twitter. Sometimes, as practitioners and managers, we forget that there are still people out there who don’t really know how Twitter works, and that a basic discussion such as this is actually very valuable.
So the tracing of the evolution of Twitter and its ecosystem, from tweets to follows and now to advertising, was actually very instructive. And I did love Ric’s characterization of the Twitter ecosystem when he used one of my favorite mixed metaphors, “it’s not rocket surgery.” Nice one!
The basics included a solid and quite useful glossary:
- Name: real name
- Handle: Twitter user name)
- Hashtag: a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. (By the way it’s Chris Messina who’s widely credited as having invented the hashtag)
- Retweet / RT: reposting or forwarding a message posted by another user
- Modified Tweet / MT: a retweet that was truncated or edited in some way)
- Via: Using this work within your original tweet is a way to crediting the person who originally tweeted about a subject or person. Attribution is important! Ric also pointed out that favoriting tweets is like giving the tweeter “a little gift.” Well put!
In Ric’s slides at the end of this article, you can also see illustrated examples of these terms.
Profiles, Tools & Etiquette
Ric also covered the basics about Twitter profile pages. Companies should pay attention to the background of their profile page – brands can use them effectively by adding logos and humanizing the brand – see GEICO for a good example. Also, in your Twitter profile, use hashtags in profile – good tip. Oh yeah, and the profile picture is another good place for company logos and/or pictures of real people.
We reviewed a number of tools in this session as well. Namely Commun.it, a freemium CRM tool for Twitter, and Twiangulate, a research tool where you can input 2 or more twitter user names and see who they follow in common, who they are followers of, and their respective reach. Also we looked briefly at hootsuite, a handy tool that solves some my earlier complaints by making it easy to filter your news feed.
It was refreshing that Ric also talked about Twitter etiquette. Because Twitter is such a “wild west” environment, it’s helpful to have guidelines, if not standards and best practices before you jump in and start tweeting. Make your tweets engaging, interactive and informative.
Here are some of my favorite tips that Ric offered:
- Use more @ tweets: Use Twitter to communicate directly with others.
- Don’t automate your tweets: the payback isn’t worth the risk of something going wrong and ruining your credibility.
- Add value in what you tweet: think of it as story telling.
- Don’t self-promote: Be authentic.
Advanced Twitter Tactics
Ric also covered some more advanced Twitter tactics for businesses, namely using lists, tweetups, and twitter chats. These topics require quite a bit of work and care to get them right, so I wouldn’t recommend embarking on any of these strategies right away, until you’ve definitely got the basics down. We’ve certainly seen success in Twitter chats, particularly when we choose our chat partners carefully.
But back to community managers, the target audience here. I had a chat with one attendee who did ask the question “what is a community manager?” and we talked about the community manager as being the voice of the brand. I added that at our company we have not only a community manager but also an industry outreach person who participates, as herself, in the conversation around the industry. The strategy is to credibly increase awareness of our products and services in our industry, with the goal of having others (influencers) tell our story for us. It’s exciting when it works!
Rick threw out an interesting statistic (I didn’t catch the source) that indicated that 25% of tweets are not worth reading, 36% are worthy, and 39% are “meh,” just so-so.
My personal experience is that the vast majority of tweets are worthless and only a small fraction of what I see is of any value. Maybe I’m just cynical, but this seems to me to be a real and growing problem for Twitter. I love the platform, but the signal-to-noise ratio seems to be low and sinking.
Regardless, Twitter is large and growing, thanks in no small part to the proliferation of mobile devices. Ric points out the marriage between Twitter and mobile is a perfect one. True.
So all in all I thought this was a very solid session. Ric took us from the very basics of Twitter to the semi-advanced. To me, the big ironic takeaway was that one of the main themes in Twitter (and social media in general) is that it’s important to be human and authentic in our communication. Imagine that, using machines and technology to be more human and authentic. Strange days indeed…
Twitter For Business: The Slideshow
View Ric’s entire presentation below:
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.