Unless you’re Rip van Winkle and awakening from your 20-year nap, odds are you’ve already heard about Twitter. The latest communications craze, it builds on our desire to send impactful, brief messages to target audiences.
This concept isn’t new, as Twitter is the electronic version of smoke signals, Morse code and telegrams. You start by posting your responses to the standing question “What are you doing?” at www.twitter.com in fewer than 140 characters. And while your immediate reaction might be why, you have to take a gander at other seemingly upstart communications tools - such as instant messaging and mobile phones - to see why not!
Social networking tools – such as LinkedIn, Facebook and now Twitter – abound. Yet, it’s the last of the three that remains shrouded in mystery, especially for business users. Let’s examine how to get started on Twitter and why you should be using it to promote your company.
- Set up your Twitter account by logging onto www.twitter.com from the Web or your mobile phone. You’ll want to establish your Twitter “handle” (such as your company’s name) and a password to accompany your email address. Select your time zone; enter your Web site or blog address and your primary language. Twitter also gives you the option to insert a one line bio (fewer than 160 characters) and your location. Be sure your profile identifies who you are as a person as well. It’s easier to establish trust when people can see you both as an individual and in your professional capacity.
- Now, upload a photo or logo for your account. This isn’t the time to break out the 3MB version of the corporate logo – Twitter is only friendly to smaller image files.
You have the option of protecting your profile – that is, to keep your Twitter updates and who follows you out of search results. But that would really defeat the purpose of what we’re trying to accomplish here! When people can see what you’re saying, they’re more likely to follow you.
Once your account is set up, you can search for others by name or user name, invite them via email, or import contacts from other networks. Another means of identifying who you want to follow is to opt for “find people” at the top of the screen and enter keywords. For example, if you’re keen to follow a topic, such as Customer Relationship Management, enter CRM to view a wide range of pundits and publications using Twitter to share their CRM news.
Starting to post updates – or “tweet” – requires two other important tools. The first is located at http://budurl.com and it enables you to take a longer URL and condense it to fewer characters. This is particularly crucial when seeking to maximize the 140 character limitation inherent in Twitter. The second tool might not seem important on “day one” but over time, you’ll be glad that you signed up for www.socialtoo.com. SocialToo lets you know who is following you (and unfollowing you), plus it gives you the ability to set a friendly autoresponder thanking people for following you on Twitter.
Following others and having garnered a following means it’s time to tweet about your business or relevant industry news. That might seem implausible, especially if your business is involved in marketing major change management initiatives. Never fear, Twitter can be effective for largest or smallest of businesses. Consider this example:
New York City-based Folica is an online ecommerce destination for hair care devotees. Folica started to tweet in Q4’08, as a lead-in for the holiday season. Tweets engaged and entertained followers with questions about hat hair and celebrity styles. Each tweet gave followers the opportunity to click through on “Twitter only” special offers, such as discounts on straightening irons to free shipping on orders totaling more than $50. The result: within weeks, Folica was able to clearly link a steady revenue stream to its Twitter activity. And, best of all, the corresponding margin was high, since the “cost” of Twitter is minuscule compared to expensive print ads and online banners.
You might be saying to yourself, that’s great, but that’s business-to-consumer. How can Twitter help my company generate business-to-business sales leads for professional services or six-figure enterprise software? By using Twitter to promote thought leadership. Planning a webcast? Be sure to tweet about it to increase registrations. New white paper available for download at your Website? Tweet with key industry analysts and luminaries while they listen in on vendors’ earnings calls and use the opportunity to weigh in with your subject matter expertise. Have you enlisted the support of your co-workers to make sure that they’re “retweeting” your tweets? This will help foster an unstoppable synergy within your company. Pretty soon your cadre of followers will be increasing, your company’s brand will be escalating in visibility and you’ll be getting “direct messages” from Twitter followers seeking your counsel and participation in their RFPs.
Equally interesting about Twitter is its ability to be the great equalizer. On Twitter, everyone is important. You’re welcome to connect with The New York Times, author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki and actor Kevin Pollak. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see who decides to follow you.
Jeanne Achille founded The Devon Group in 1994, and made sure it was one of the first public relations agencies to establish a Web presence. Her firm focuses on leveraging social networking and Web 2.0 technologies to get its clients noticed. Follow The Devon Group on Twitter @devongroup.com.