How to Use Twitter for Business Purposes
Twitter, one of the most popular social networking services in the world, is a microblogging platform, which allows registered users to post, and send to other registered users, short messages. These short messages, limited to 140 characters, are called Tweets. The Twitter platform can be accessed through a website interface or a mobile app. Tweets can also be sent or received via SMS (text message). Unregistered users can search through and read tweets, but cannot send them. Major search engines, such as Google and Bing, have indexed Tweets to make them searchable.
Twitter was founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone, and in March of that year, counted only a few thousand users. Yet after several years of meteoric growth, there are, as of July of 2014, an estimated 645 million users in July of 2014, sending approximately 58 million tweets per day.
In this article, we look at 1) the purpose of Twitter, 2) the benefits of Twitter, 3) setting up a Twitter account, 4) ways to use Twitter to increase business, 5) terms specific to Twitter, and 6) a case study of how American Express uses Twitter creatively.
THE PURPOSE OF TWITTER
Co-founder Jack Dorsey originally conceived Twitter as a method to use SMS messages to communicate to a small group. The project code was initially twttr, and later became Twitter. Today, Twitter is used by people to update their friends, celebrities to interact with their fans, political organizations to mobilize users around specific issues, businesses to share information with consumers, and more. Indeed, there are many tangible benefits for firms to add Twitter to their digital marketing mix to increase and enhance their business.
THE BENEFITS OF TWITTER
Like many forms of social media, Twitter is not just for social networking. As part of a well-thought out marketing plan, firms can use Twitter in order to benefit from:
- Sharing information with consumers and the public at large;
- Interacting with their consumers;
- Driving consumers to participate in promotional activities.
- Amplifing their marketing messages beyond their target market and generate leads;
- Enhancing their brand; and
- Monitoring their own brand as well as the brands of their competitors.
In other words, Twitter can help you achieve your strategic marketing objectives. And it’s fairly simple to get started using it.
SETTING UP A TWITTER ACCOUNT
Twitter is easy to use, but as with most new endeavors, it takes some time to master. To start with, you will need to set up a profile page for your company and/or your specific marketing campaign. You can do this with these easy steps:
Step 1: Visit Twitter.com
Step 2: Verify Email
To the right of the page, you should see a form with the header “New to Twitter? Sign Up.” Fill out this form using the name and email of the staff member who will be associated with the account, as well as a self-selected password. When your account is created, Twitter will send you a confirmation email to the email address you list here.
Step 3: Create Account
You will be taken to a page that asks you for a username. Your username can be a maximum of 15 characters and should be something readily identifiable with your firm and/or your marketing campaign. Once you do, read the Terms of Service, and click the “Create My Account” button below it. Congratulations! Your account has now been created. Don’t forget to check the email address you listed and follow the instructions in Twitter’s confirmation email.
Step 4: Start Following
After setting up your account, Twitter will prompt you to follow ten users based on its own recommendations, and to import your contacts from your email address book.
Step 5: Personalize
It is probably a good idea to return to your profile page by entering www.twitter.com followed by a backslash and your username into the address bar and personalize your page first. You want to put your best for forward before following others and inviting registered users to follow you.
To do so, click on the “Edit Profile” page. This will allow you to personalize your profile page. You can add a header profile and add a profile photo, by clicking on “Add a header profile” and “Add a profile photo” respectively, and uploading the desired files. One or both of these should be your company logo. Towards the left side of the page are form fields for a bio, your firm’s location, and your website link. All of these should be completed. This helps users find your firm. Below these fields is a widget, which will allow you to adjust your theme’s color to one of your preference.
Understand that as a registered user, the only Tweets that you will see (without running a search for keywords), are those of you and your followers. You want to begin to follow other Twitter users. Below, we will discuss whom you should be following.
Step 6: Start Tweeting
At this point, you are ready to start Tweeting. On the website interface, you will see a feather icon in the upper right-hand corner. Select this and begin typing your first tweet into the form field that appears.
When tweeting, keep the following in mind:
- Tweets should be frequent, with a variety of informational updates and direct marketing tweets.
- React to changing news and events, by either tweeting about them or retweeting them. This can give your followers a good sense of what is important to your firm. It also communicates to followers and potential followers that your updates will be current and relevant.
- You can and should have conversations with followers. This shows other followers that you care about your consumers.
- Include links, pictures, video, and hashtags to increase engagement with your Tweets.
- Map out your tweets. Draft and automate content for holidays, product launches and other events already on your calendar.
- Look at your data (RTs, mentions, followers, etc.) periodically, and adjust your Tweet content accordingly.
WAYS TO USE TWITTER TO INCREASE BUSINESS
Once you’ve created a profile page that appropriately reflects your firm and/or its marketing campaign, you’re ready to harness the power of this social network to increase your business. How? You can use Twitter to network with influencers, you can use Twitter to drive traffic to your digital assets, you can use Twitter to create unique and Twitter-specific promotions, and you can use Twitter to stay connected with your existing consumers.
Twitter is a powerful tool to use to spread and amplify your brand messages. First, you need to determine which Twitter users can best help you spread that message. Your first step should be to start with individuals who are well known in your industry. Put together a list of experts, journalists, and companies and follow them on Twitter. Next, look at your existing consumer base. Follow them and engage them (more on this later). Finally, once you have done this, you can start to look at amplifiers, those users who are likely to retweet your content. You can use a third-party tool like Topsy to find these users.
Once you are following these users, you want to invite them to connect with you. Often users will follow those who follow them. However, some Twitter users are more discerning, and have spent time carefully curating their networks. You can draw the attention of discerning influencers by retweeting (and amplifying) their content. Mentioning them in your Tweets is also a good way to attract their attention and invite them to want to check you out on a regular basis.
You don’t have to follow everyone who might interact with your brand. Focus on gaining followers who have broad followings of users, and/or influential industry positions, and who regularly retweet your content. When you have the right network in place, you can effectively spread your direct marketing, brand awareness, or other marketing message via Twitter and grow your business.
Twitter can be used to drive traffic to another one of your firm’s digital assets, such as a website or other social network. Though limited to 140 characters, your updates can contain HTML, specifically hyperlinks. You can use one of many URL shorteners, such as Google’s URL shortener, to reduce a URL to a more manageable length and then insert it in the body of a tweet. You can also use a service like TwitPic, which allows users to post photos to Twitter. Content with links, photo, and video have a higher rate of retweets then pure text Tweets, according to Twitter.
Some firms allow Twitter users to automate their Tweets. These include, but are not limited to: HootSuite and Buffer, each of which allow you to manage multiple social media platforms through a single interface, schedule updates in advance, and auto-schedule updates based on when your users are engaging with your content most; as well as Revive Old Post, a WordPress plugin which retweets older posts to increase your traffic. Beware over-reliance on automation. Your followers may be turned off if you repeatedly push similar content, or fail to respond to them when they engage with it.
You can also cross-post Twitter content to other social networks such as Facebook, but again, beware overreliance on doing so. Many other social networks will note when content is cross-posted and where it is coming from; even when they don’t, the 140 character limit is a dead giveaway.
Twitter can also be used for promotional activity. You might offer a special incentive to a consumer who retweets a specific Tweet or answers a question on your firm’s Twitter feed. Incentivizing retweets and comments not only increases Tweets about your brand, it can also increase the reach of your content. It can also create real excitement about your brand.
You can also hold what is known as a hashtag campaign. A hashtag is a keyword or short unspaced phrases preceded by the #sign, used to organize Twitter data. By searching for #hashtag you can find most if not all about a given topic or campaign. In a hashtag campaign, you ask members of your target market to use a specific hashtag during a set period. An application of this might be a contest, wherein you ask your followers to use a particular hashtag during a sporting event, which each participant being automatically entered in a random drawing for a prize. This can create excitement for a brand and engagement with users who are not current consumers of your product.
Another key aspect of business Twitter usage is communication. You cannot only share information about your firm, you can engage in two-way communications with consumers. Consumers can reach out to you directly through Twitter and ask questions, and provide feedback in a manner less formal than through a customer service line. Responsiveness in this medium can help bolster consumer connection with your brand.
You can also search Twitter for mentions of your brand and see what others are saying about your firm in real-time. This can be a critical source of business intelligence. You can gauge the success or failure of a product launch, your customer service, response to a crisis, or other key aspect of your firm and course correct if necessary.
TERMS SPECIFIC TO TWITTER
Like most social networks, Twitter has its own special vocabulary. Here are a few of the most commonly used Twitter terms:
RT: An abbreviation for Retweet. It is common to ask people to retweet your content by preceding your tweet with “RT…” or “Please RT…”
Mention: A tweet containing your Twitter username, preceded by the @ symbol. Firms can search Twitter for mentions by entering @username into the Twitter search bar.
Hashtag: A hashtag is a keyword or unspaced phrase preceded by the # symbol, by which messages are grouped.
CASE STUDY: HOW AMERICAN EXPRESS USES TWITTER CREATIVELY
Social media and Twitter in particular, lends itself to creative promotional endeavors. One innovative use of Twitter came from American Express, when in 2013, the credit card firm allowed its customers to purchase products and services on its cards by Tweeting hashtags. Here’s how it works: American Express customers sync their credit card account with Twitter. Upon tweeting a specific hashtag associated with a specific product, the American Express customer receives a confirmation hashtag and email, and shortly, the product they have ordered.
Another example is a virtual birthday party the firm held last year. To mark its 163 birthday, the firm held a hashtag campaign using #163candles that “resulted in nearly 6M impressions on Twitter and more than 500 mentions of @AmericanExpress in the six hours of the “party.” American Express’ use of Twitter has not only increased its user engagement, but also netted the firm industry recognition and awards.