What is Twitter and Why should you use it?
Twitter is a ‘microblogging’ system that allows you to send and receive short posts called tweets. Tweets can be up to 140 characters long and can include links to relevant websites and resources.
Twitter users follow other users. If you follow someone you can see their tweets in your twitter ‘timeline’. You can choose to follow people and organizations with similar academic and personal interests to you.
You can create your own tweets, or you can retweet information that has been tweeted by others. Retweeting means that information can be shared quickly and efficiently with a large number of people.
Why use Twitter?
Twitter has become increasingly popular with academics as well as students, policymakers, politicians and the general public. Many users struggled to understand what Twitter is and how they could use it, but it has now become the social media platform of choice for many.
The snappy nature of tweets means that Twitter is widely used by smartphone users who don’t want to read long content items on-screen.
Twitter allows you to:
- easily promote your research, for example by providing links to your blog stories, journal articles and news items
- reach a large number of people quickly through tweets and retweets
- follow the work of other experts in your field
- build relationships with experts and other followers
- keep up-to-date with the latest news and developments, and share it with others instantly
- reach new audiences
- seek feedback about your work and give feedback to others
- follow and contribute to discussions on events, for example conferences that you can’t attend in person
- express who you are as a person.
What should you tweet about?
The type of information you tweet can depend on whether you are tweeting as an individual or as an organization, project or group.
If you have a personal Twitter account you may want to mix tweets about your research with tweets about other things that are of interest to you, for example hobbies, news stories and general observations. Insights into non-academic aspects of your life can help make you an interesting person to follow.
If you are tweeting on behalf of an organization, project or group then you may choose to only send research-related tweets. Twitter is a relatively informal communications tool so don’t be afraid to embrace a personal, friendly and humorous approach to tweeting.
Examples of things you can tweet
- Details of new publications or resources you’ve produced
- News items that feature your research
- Links to any blog posts you’ve written
- Thoughts on conferences you attend
- Questions to invite feedback
- Interesting news items you’ve found
- Interesting photographs
- Replies to other people’s tweets
- Retweets of other people’s tweets
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. There are several third party tools that help 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 increase 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 un-spaced 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 un-spaced 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 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.
If you follow these tips, you will go above and beyond the basics of setting up a Twitter account and following random people in hopes for a follow back. Try to focus on using Twitter to engage and grow your brand.
Do you have any awesome Twitter marketing strategies that have helped your business? Let us know in the comments!