As far as social media platforms go, Twitter definitely stands out. First of all it’s a micro-blogging platform, meaning that you get precisely one hundred and forty characters to make your point. Not words: characters. In this light Twitter can be seen as either a restrictive and awkward platform for marketing your business. Or you can see it as one of the best marketing platforms for your business. You see these short posts have to be concise, to the point and eye catching… and isn’t that everything marketing should be? Yes, it is and, while it is not easy to craft the perfect twitter account and keep it up to date it is possible.

The basics

It is refreshingly simple to make a Twitter business page as all you have to do is set up an account the way you would any other No special process; simply put the name of your company down instead of your own and off we go! If your exact business name is not available then choose a name as similar as possible and avoid punctuation where possible as, ideally, you want this name to be as easy as possible to type on mobile devices. Rather like Facebook, Twitter allows you to have two photographs representing your brand. Your profile photo is a small square image that appears at the side of every tweet and, as such, should be recognisable. The profile header is a large, background image that you can use to represent your company, for example an image that represents the ethos of your business. Many companies seem to plump for having their business name as the account name and an image of the businesses owner or staff as the profile picture to add a personal touch to the page.  Twitter_logo_blue

 

Consistency is key; your twitter account should match up as well as possible with your other business accounts so that any clients or customers who are crossing over from other pages will recognise the layout and design quickly. Creating a steady and recognisable image for your brand is key to any form of marketing; consider Waitrose, that trademark lime green is on and in everything and, despite being such a small thing, it does create a feeling of continuity. For the technology savvy creating a seamless addition to your brand is possible; you can customise the background that people see when they visit your page by creating a graphic image and uploading it under ‘Design’ in your profile settings.

As with any other marketing strategy it is absolutely key that your profile is complete before it is seen by your customers and, as such, you should spend real time setting it up. Sit down with a cup of tea and a clear idea of what you want and make it perfect. Your bio allows only one hundred and sixty characters, it should, therefore, be concise; save the mission statement, just let people know what your brand is all about. It’s also key that people know where to find you: the address of your physical premises and of your main website should be provided. It’s definitely a good idea to have this link take people to a special Twitter ‘landing page’; ideally this should be a separate page on your official website that has been designed to inform those who come to it from Twitter. This is very easy to do on sites like WordPress as you need only add a page, however if you use another platform, for example a blogging site, you could create a specific post with the same function. Your landing page should act as a kind of “social media passport”; welcome them to your page and give details of other profiles or pages that represent your business, a brief overview of what it is you do, your business contact information and a summary of the kind of subjects you usually tweet about. This will provide more information than generally shows on your page and may convince uncertain potential followers.

Twitter is one of the few social media platforms that has an inbuilt spam deterrent system that highlights and deals with what they call “aggressive following” (indiscriminately following many users) and “aggressive follow churning” (repeatedly following and unfollowing users to gain attention). While this is great for you as a business page proprietor, no-one likes being spammed after all, it does mean that you should be careful how many people you follow when you first start up your page. Take care to only follow those people who share interests with you or your business as you are effectively buying a front row ticket to their online life. Generally speaking the people you should be following are: your customers, business partners, suppliers, vendors and members of your professional network.

There are five types of twitter messages that can be utilised to maximum effect. The first is, obviously, the tweet; a simple, one hundred and forty character message that can be used to update your followers, give notice of an event or even provide a link to an interesting article or video. Replies and mentions are messages that directly, but publicly, contact another twitter user; while a reply is, unsurprisingly, a response to a question or comment made by a follower or user, a mention is a tweet which, for example, gives credit for good advice or notes a users presence at a company function. A direct message, however, lets you contact someone you follow privately, for example to query prices with a supplier; not something you want to do in public. Finally a retweet is the sharing with your followers of another users tweet.

Building your following

What is it that you should say on Twitter? And how?

These are in fact, the holy grail of questions and for every business the answers are different. What you, essentially, have to do is find the halfway point between what your customers want to hear and what you need to say. You must be brief and your message must be eye-catching; study the headlines of newspapers for examples of this style. A good tip, nonetheless, is to focus on giving  useful information and answering questions; interaction is a good way to keep people feeling valued. By volunteering information about your products and process you will set yourself up as a valuable part of the community, too. Don’t just answer queries, however, ask questions, engage your followers and start debates. Yes the space for doing this is limited but an interesting article can start a good debate and notch up interest in your page. Twitters URL shortening tools will even allow you to get a short message in with that article link! Likewise well applied images can be eye-catching; why not post a picture of recent events in your industry and ask your followers what they think of such events or of recent developments in the industry.

Valuable content is, of course, a good start but not all you followers will be online when you post such gems and often your tweets will be lost in an avalanche of daily updates so retweet any messages that you’re certain are helpful and spot on. You don’t even have to do it yourself; Twitter has a function called ‘Buffer’ that effectively lets you queue tweets to encompass the possible times zones of all followers. It will even decide what time is best to put out new tweets for you, if you choose to let it do so. This is truly a fantastic function because, with tweets being so short, it is imperative that a business post more than once or twice a day in order to keep interest levels high. In fact some of the most successful Twitter accounts tweet ten or twenty times a day; there’s even a Twitter called Willy Shakes which tweets a Shakespeare quote every ten minutes. It does so by using an automated system that runs through all of Shakespeare’s works on a continuous loop. This unique method has garnered old Willy Shakes thousands of followers and, while you need not post so often, this shows that constant engagement with your clientèle is a good way to gain a following.

How does Twitter fit into a marketing strategy?

While Twitters inbuilt marketing tools may be scarce it is important to remember that, unlike other sites, Twitter practically is a marketing tool in and of itself. Such fast paced, short, catchy posts as are required by Twitter can, in fact, be little advertisements all on their own. Twitter is a part of a marketing strategy, not a whole strategy on its own, and it’s main function should be to direct new fans and followers to your brands main website or premises; think of it as the billboard of the day.

This said there are additional features that can be put to use; features like Social Mention. Social mention is a social media search engine that allows you to type in certain words or terms and see where they are being mentioned. This essentially lets you see what people think of your brand, what they are saying about services and your company; best case scenario, you see that everyone loves your products and business. The worst case is that you see previously unheard complaints; don’t panic, though, Social Mention even has assessment skills. By using four categories, Social mention lets you gauge how serious an issue is! It measures the likelihood that your brand will be mentioned  under the “strength” category, the ratio of positivity to negativity under the “sentiment” section. The “reach” section shows you how far your influence extends by measuring the number of unique mentions and the “passion” section measures the amount of individuals who are repeatedly mentioning your brand. By using this tool you can see what is working for you and, hopefully, capitalise on this knowledge.

The key thing to keep in mind is that Twitter is a small but practically essential part of an online marketing strategy, use it like the knight on a chess board; with the precision and care required of it’s unique capabilities.