More and more businesses are looking to get onto Twitter – in this post Michael Gray shares some tips on how to get set up effectively.
As the popularity of micro-blogging continues to grow, it’s going to become a tool used by advertisers and marketers. In the same way that running a corporate or business blog is different from running a personal blog, running a corporate or business twitter profile is different from running a personal twitter profile.
Secure Your Name
Your username on twitter is limited to 15 characters, if your company name is 15 characters or less, or can be reasonably abbreviated to 15 characters or less secure it as soon as possible. Avoid using hyphens or underscores if possible, they almost always cause complications down the road. Even if you aren’t planning on using it right away, secure the name, as many people have had reported twitter is less than expeditious when addressing trademark issues.
If you have a large company and are going to have multiple people representing you, decide if you will be using one account also called a role account, or using multiple accounts. If you are using multiple accounts use a naming convention like IBMJoe or DellKathy. If you are using one account for multiple people don’t hide that fact. If it makes sense sign the tweet “@marysmith thanks for the tip ~john” or “@johnsmith thanks for letting us know ~ms”.
Avatars Backgrounds and Profile Links
Most people on twitter use and prefer to see an actual picture, for a corporate profile this is less important. A role account should almost always use either the official company logo or an appropriate logo derivations. You can feature an employee in a t-shirt or baseball cap with the logo if you want to give it a personal touch as long as the logo is identifiable.
While it’s not mandatory having a custom or professional looking twitter background is a huge plus. Keeping a consistent color palette and incorporating other recognizable visual elements from your main website or blog will help contribute to the the overall impression of the brand.
Most corporate brands link their twitter profile back to the main company website or company blog. An alternative would be to create a twitter landing page. Having a contact email or a contact phone number on your twitter profile page is another way to give your profile a more professional feel.
Replies, Tracking and Automation
Using the replies tab on twitter is IMHO one of the most important things everyone on twitter should be paying attention to. Check your replies tab to see who is talking to you or asking you a question. Try to answer them in a reasonable time-frame and as honestly as possible. Sometimes twitter users will talk about your company but not to your company, to keep on top of you’ll need to monitor keywords.Knowing what people are saying about your company or your high profile executives is a key facet of life on twitter. You can use the twitter search engine summize to search for your company name, product name, or any vanity terms. You can also subscribe to those searches via RSS. Sometimes summize isn’t up to the task, I also use tweetscan and tweetbeep. Unfortunately one service never seems to get me 100% coverage for the keywords I’m interested in monitoring. I get some overlap using all three but right now IMHO it’s a necessary evil.If you are on twitter for any length of time there will time when you wan to send a tweet at a specific time but unfortunately you wont be in front of your computer. I use the combination of Twittermail and LetterMeLater. Twitter mail allows you to set up a “secret” email address that will post to your twitter account. LetterMeLater allows you to send an email at a specified day and time. using the two together you can send a pre-written tweet at a specific time to your Twittermail secret email address. The 140 character limit is still in place and you should always test it before using it, as twitter functionality can sometimes be less than perfect.
Give a Little to Get a Little
Deciding to participate on twitter is more than tweeting links to your latest blog post or press release it’s about engaging with your community or customers. If there are generic industry questions, these are a great way to build some good karma for your profile. You can use any of the automated search functions mentioned above to look for keywords or phrases that are related to your industry that you can answer in a non self serving way. For example a travel company could monitor for phrases and questions about passports and reply with the appropriate links to government or state websites. If the majority of your contributions aren’t self interested people will be a lot more tolerant and accepting when you do drop a link about yourself.
Damage Control and Knowing When to Respond
If you are monitoring your company name eventually you will encounter a negative tweet from someone else. In many cases this represents an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive by fixing a customers problem. However sometimes the best response is no response at all. Knowing when to say nothing is often more difficult part to learn. The US Air Force has a presence on twitter and in a recent interview they showed a blog assessment chart they used to decide when to respond and when not to respond, it’s worth taking a look at.
Twitter is a social medium and occasionally the people you follow will have conversations about sensitive topics such as politics, religion, relationships, or who was the best Star Trek Captain. Unless it’s part of your organizations mission statement and goal (ie someone like Cato Institute or PETA ), it’s best to remain out of the debate. Additionally, you should refrain from posting as many “cat tweets” about what you had for lunch as possible.
Have a Sense of Humor
Sometimes when you are monitoring your keywords you’ll come across the opportunity to show a little personality and have a slight sense of humor. As long as you can do it without insulting or hurting someones feelings, it’s OK to have a little fun every once in a while. Here’s an example of what one person tweeted
Building an effective business profile on twitter isn’t hard, but you do have to take take it seriously. Here’s a quick wrap up to help keep you on track:
- Claim your company, product, and appropriate brand names.
- Keep the profile honest, and don’t resort to trickery with fake social media avatars.
- Build a synergy between your twitter profile page and website.
- Consider building a twitter landing page on your official website.
- Answer people who directly ask you questions.
- Monitor keywords related to your company and respond when appropriate.
Try to be a helpful member of the community by answering other people’s questions.
- Keep it professional and avoid sensitive subjects and debates.
- Take the opportunity to have fun and show some personality every now and again.
Lastly twitter is a free form social media platform, and ultimately there isn’t a right or wrong way to use it. There are things that help you meet your business objectives and things that don’t, and you shouldn’t obsess about “breaking the rules” now and then. Oh and for the record without a doubt Captain Kirk was the best Star Trek Captain.
Michael Gray has been a regular speaker at many SEO conferences including PubCon, SMX and Search Engine Strategies. With over 10 years in internet marketing and website development, Michael is able to help companies with increasing their presence on the web. Michael’s blog can be viewed at www.wolf-howl.com and companies looking to begin viral marketing campaigns should visit viralconversations.com