5 Steps for Putting Twitter to Work for Your Brand

Twitter can help you win customers, drive sales, find/solve problems and manage your brand. If you don’t have a Twitter strategy, you need one.

The previous sentences are a combined 140 characters, the maximum length of a tweet. They perfectly capture the power of this relatively new short-form messaging system.

Twitter can help you win customers, drive sales, find/solve problems and manage your brand. If you don’t have a Twitter strategy, you need one.

The previous sentences are a combined 140 characters, the maximum length of a tweet. They perfectly capture the power of this relatively new short-form messaging system.

Coming on the heels of a recent $200 million investment and $3.7 billion valuation, Twitter has firmly cemented itself as a force to be reckoned with. A critical communication tool for leading brands, marketers are flocking to this burgeoning social media platform, adding more than 65 million tweets each day. However, establishing and building an effective presence on Twitter takes more than grabbing a name and sending a tweet. It requires work, just like any other channel. With that in mind, here’s a checklist to get you started:

1. Establish your Twitter objectives and do your homework. Spend the necessary time up-front to identify areas of your business that can be served by Twitter — e.g., customer service, tech support, marketing, PR. Define your objectives and metrics for success. Do your homework by conducting a competitive analysis. Read case studies and learn from industry experts and your peers by attending Twitter industry events.

2. Build your presence. Create and complete your bio. Include a clear description of your brand and your stream. Create an avatar and custom background to help reinforce and distinguish your brand. Include a URL to your website or other official brand communities in your bio. Check out @twelpforce if you need help.

3. Develop compelling content and dialogues. Start by listening before speaking. Investigate how your brand/products are organically mentioned and look for opportunities to establish a conversational feed with brand advocates. To engage users, share relevant content and look for opportunities to provide unique value on Twitter, such as offers or photos not found anywhere else. Test content themes such as trivia, historical facts or challenges, and reward your loyal followers with prizes.

Over time, consider establishing multiple accounts to streamline content or interest areas. For example, the NBA uses its primary Twitter account for game updates, offers and breaking news. However, it launched a separate Twitter feed dedicated to historical facts: @NBAHistory.

Also, remember to listen and respond to customer inquiries quickly. Weave conversations across communities. Many brands, such as @CastrolUSA, share news on Twitter and invite followers to join the discussion on their Facebook page.

4. Grow your audience. Promote your communities using all touchpoints — e.g., TV commercial tags, call centers, email. Consider integrating your Twitter feed into your existing website, and experiment with Twitter feeds and advertising units in contextual environments to peak interest and increase followers. Find people already tweeting about your subject and follow them. Identify key influencers, showcase them and encourage them to retweet or @mention you.

Publish Twitter lists to further extend your content and attract followers. List your Twitter account in directories and test sponsored tweets and/or promoted accounts.

5. Manage and measure. A recent study by R2integrated found dedicating time and resources to be the No. 1 issue for marketers when managing their social media presence. Create a team micro-blogging strategy to help keep your social operations nimble and responsive.

The good news is that many people and groups across your organization are interested in learning more about Twitter, and they’ll all benefit from a successful Twitter presence. Get them involved and consider investing in a social media campaign management tool to streamline the process of creating, implementing and analyzing tweets and Facebook posts.

Campaign management tools also enable organizations to manage multiple users. Create benchmarks around key metrics such as customer satisfaction and service levels. Leverage the real-time nature of Twitter to solicit feedback. Be a stickler about channel attribution by using unique coupon codes or tracking URLs tied to shortened URLs.

Finally, take the time to understand the difference and dynamics between public and private tweets, and use direct messages to handle private or sensitive one-to-one conversations.

Twitter isn’t only a new ecosystem, but a constantly evolving one. While a great deal of its evolution is driven by its users, the recent influx of $200 million and focus on making money is certain to increase the opportunities for marketers — advertising and beyond. For marketers to effectively embrace this channel, however, they need to galvanize their internal teams, build a compelling strategy aligned to corporate goals and customer needs, stay current on industry best practices, and maintain and grow their followers by building an engaging dialogue. In the end, some things never change: same marketing fundamentals, different channel.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: 3 Great Things I Learned at the email evolution conference

I attended the Email Experience Council’s Email Evolution Conference in Miami earlier this week. Besides meeting many of my “virtual” contacts in person, doing some great networking, gathering content for our e-newsletters and acquiring leads for future cover stories, I learned the following the three great things from the show:

I attended the email experience council’s Email Evolution Conference in Miami earlier this week. Besides meeting many of my “virtual” contacts in person, doing some great networking, gathering content for our e-newsletters and acquiring leads for future cover stories, I learned the following three great things from the show:

1. Microsoft will launch its Outlook Social Connector this year. In his presentation, Jay Schwedelson from Worldata mentioned that this new addition to Microsoft Office 2010 will seamlessly bring communications history as well as business and social networking feeds into Outlook users’ inboxes.

LinkedIn will be the first networking site to support the Outlook Social Connector. As a result, LinkedIn/Microsoft Office users will be able to keep up with their LinkedIn connections right from their inboxes, email them directly from Outlook and keep building their LinkedIn networks directly from Outlook.

2. Make it easy for prospects to subscribe to your emails. Sure, you may be thinking, “duh, tell me something I don’t know,” but the message was delivered throughout the conference — especially since email acquisition is expected to increase as the recession wanes. Austin Bliss, president and co-founder of FreshAddress, for example, made the case that marketers should ask for consumers’ email addresses everywhere — on every page of their websites, during every phone call and on every paper form.

Lawrence DiCapua, director of interactive marketing/CRM for Pepsi North America, also discussed the importance of having email sign-up capabilities on your social networking pages, or links to your website’s sign-up pages there.

3. Don’t assume management buy-in. Sure, we all know how wonderful, inexpensive and results-driven email marketing is, but in many cases upper management just want the facts, ma’am. Jeanne Jones and Katrina Kithene, email marketing managers for Alaska Airlines, explained how they showed their executive staff the importance of their email marketing programs to the company’s bottom line. As a result, they were awarded with the resources they needed. They used four techniques to get their message across:

  1. defined the value of a marketable customer;
  2. presented regularly scheduled progress audits;
  3. focused on ROI; and
  4. presented detailed plans for higher conversion.

All in all, it was a great show!

Does Your Web Site Have Performance Issues?

According to just-released data from JupiterResearch (www.jupiterresearch.com), your Web site may not be performing as well as you think it is. And, these performance issues may be causing lost sales.

According to just-released data from JupiterResearch (www.jupiterresearch.com), your Web site may not be performing as well as you think it is. And, these performance issues may be causing lost sales.

According to statistics released by John Lovett, a senior analyst at New York City-based JupiterResearch‑at a panel given at the Internet Retailer Web Design08 conference last week in Miami‑ 48 percent of 121 executive at business-to-consumer companies surveyed by the search firm last October said that their peak traffic and/or unexpected load caused performance problems on their Web sites in the prior 12 months.

In addition, 40 percent experienced an unplanned outage of their primary Web site, and 38 percent said content or images failed to render.

But that’s not all.

According to the research, 29 percent of responders said transactional application experienced problems or downright failed; 25 percent said certain areas around the country did not have access to the Web; and 22 percent said their customer relationship management systems were down during business hours.

Finally, only 14 percent of business-to-consumer decision-makers claimed no performance issues.

Are you having performance problems? Do you know? Its probably a good idea to find out.

To do this, JupiterResearch’s Lovett recommended using performance monitoring options such as Web site and application monitoring tools (from companies such as AlertSite (www.alertsite.com), Gomez (www.gomez.com), or Keynote Systems (www.keynote.com); content delivery networks (from companies such as Akamai (www.akami.com), CDNetworks (www.cdnetworks.com) and EdgeCast (www.edgecast.com); or customer experience management tools (from companies such as Coradiant (www.coradiant.com) and Tealeaf (www.tealeaf.com).

There is a lot to choose from out there, so tread carefully. Do your research, find out which tools are best for your company, and then take the plunge

You’ll never know how much business you may lose from performance issues without them.