Using Twitter for Your Business

When I talk to people about getting on board Twitter for their business, they have two main concerns; they worry about doing it right, and they worry about how much time it will take them.

This article will take you through the steps on how to do it right, and will give you some tips and techniques to keep your time investment as small as possible.

The first thing that you should do is to start monitoring Twitter to see what people are saying about your company. People are going to be having conversations about your company online whether you participate or not. Having a Twitter social media presence gives you the option of responding.

For example, during the most recent Toronto International Film Festival, a film goer made a comment about bedbugs at a theatre. TIFF responded and addressed the concern. If they had not, then there would have just been negative publicity.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/tiff/the-tweet-that-sent-tiff-into-a-bedbug-frenzy/article1691242/

So to make the most out of social media, you have to participate! Here’s a great example of day to day interactions from the Home Depot’s twitter feed @HomeDepot:

Kipper319 Keith Frampton
Waiting at the Home Depot customer service… Questionable service? :(
21 Oct

This tweet was not addressed directly to Home Depot, it was just an idle tweet while a frustrated customer was waiting in line. Home depot was obviously monitoring for the key words “Home Depot” on Twitter, as they posted a response directly to that user on their feed right away:

HomeDepot The Home Depot
@Kipper319 Hi did you get the help you needed? ^Sheronda
21 Oct

By including the user’s twitter handle, @Kipper319 at the beginning of the tweet, this response showed up in that user’s twitter feed. Note that the person monitoring the Home Depot feed added their own name to the end of the tweet as well. Anything you can do to personalize your tweets will help them connect with you.

Kipper319 Keith Frampton
@HomeDepot yes I did get help from the service lady at returns. I was really pleased after my wait.
21 Oct

HomeDepot The Home Depot
@Kipper319 Excellent! Let us know if you need anything ^Sheronda
21 Oct

So the Home Depot quickly and easily turned a negative situation into a positive one. Without this intervention, Kipper319 might not have tweeted about his eventually positive experience, and he would have left a negative experience sitting on his twitter feed for all to see.

So start off by creating an official company Twitter account and keeping an eye on any news related to your company.

To make this easier, you can automate this, as you don’t want to spend an hour every day typing searches into twitter.com.

Hootsuite Social Network Stream View

Hootsuite Social Network Stream View

A great tool for this is Hootsuite. You can sign up for a free account at www.hootsuite.com. After you create your account, you will click the “Add Stream” button, and add key phrases that you want to look for. Include your company name, your company’s twitter handle, and any other important information you want to keep an eye on. You can set it to make a sound every time a Tweet matching your criteria is found, allowing you to respond quickly without having to check it all the time.

You can also use Hootsuite to monitor Facebook, MySpace, WordPress, Foursquare and LinkedIn as well, so you can get all your social media information in one spot.

Whenever someone mentions your company in a way that needs a response, make sure to do so in a timely manner. You can help shape the discussions by adding information wherever you can.

So now that you are responding to other people on Twitter, what original information should you publish there?

Platforms used to share news bar chart

Platforms used to share news

Social Media sharing has overtaken email as the primary way that people share and discover news items. According to a recent study by CNN, 43% of online news sharing happens through social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Email trails at only 30%.

Source: http://mashable.com/2010/10/07/cnn-news-study/

Your company web site probably has a “News” area of some kind on your site, start with that. Any time a news item is posted, post a tweet about it with a link.

Put a link on your company’s home page and news page inviting people to follow you on twitter. Those who are interested in news from your company will do this, and will now be more likely to notice when you post news items.

To save you time, it’s best to automate this Tweet so that you don’t have to do anything to make the tweet go out. WordPress and other popular CMS platforms have plugins that can do this for you.

The next step after responding to people and publishing basic company communications is to start contributing in your own way. What kind of Tweets should you post? According to a survey by ExactTarget in August, 2010, here are the top reasons people follow companies on Twitter:

Reason to Twitter Company or Brand (% of US Twitter Users)

Reason to Twitter Company or Brand (% of US Twitter Users)
Reason to Twitter % of Users
Get updates on future products 38%
Stay informed about company activities 32%
Receive discounts and promotions 31%
Get updates on upcoming sales 30%
Ger free samples, counons, etc 28%
For fun or entertainment 26%
Get access to exclusive content 25%
Learn more about company 25%
Show support to company to others 23%
Share ideas, provide feedback 20%
For education about company topics 14%
Recommended 14%
Get direct message from company 10%

Source:
http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=133837

The key things to think about here is that you want to provide value and connect with your customers.

One of the most important way to provide value is to send information on products, discounts and promotions. This survey and many others have shown that these are the top reasons people follow companies.

You can also provide value by sharing links to interesting things in your community and industry.  Write a few words about why you like the link, why it is relevant.

Give people other reasons to connect to you. Find people who are talking about your industry, and join in that conversation. Find ways to include your employees’ interests. Post congratulations about their achievements, post information about causes they support, and activities they are engaging in. By showing the human face of your company, your customers will be more likely to find a connection, which will increase their loyalty.