Fan Funded: The Most Exciting Thing in Marketing Today

There’s a type of marketing being done today that is changing the way companies are built, and not nearly enough people are talking about it.

The Site:1 speaker from Princeton Audio was marketed and launched entirely through social media and crowd funding.

There’s a type of fan funded marketing being done online, especially on social media, that is actually changing the way companies are built, and not nearly enough people are talking about it.

One of the things that’s really worked well to get my attention as a consumer has been Facebook ads. Marketers have been able to dial those in to my personal interest with shocking accuracy. A lot of the time companies reaching me via Facebook are ones I’ve never heard of before. And often, they don’t even have a product to send me yet. … But they can still sell it to me!

That’s the really exciting thing to me. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow companies to launch without a product, without a lot of funding, and essentially presell enough product (with add-ons and kickers to boost order value) to guarantee the success of their first product.

In fact, one of the most successful of those for me has been for a product that doesn’t even exist yet, but I was very ready to spend $300 on: The Site:1 speaker from Princeton Audio in Wisconsin.

I didn’t actually end up buying one of these speakers, but only because the best speakers I currently own are probably the ones in my TV, so I’m not the kind of audiophile who can justify (to his wife) spending $300 on a speaker.

The marketing was done entirely through social media, Indiegogo, and word of mouth, and it had me totally sucked in. I was an inch from pulling the trigger, and I still might.

That marketing campaign created over $62,000 in funding, all of which represents various kinds of presales of the main speaker and various perks/upgrades. That’s more than enough to reach their goal and launch the company.

Think of what Princeton Audio did there. Too often we look at crowdfunding as nothing more than a donation engine. But that’s not really what’s happening here. This is the new face of social marketing, call it “fan funding,” and it is so powerful that it can actually let you use marketing to launch the company.

That’s really a 180-degree turn on the traditional way start-ups grow. Usually you come up with an idea, bring in a partner, bring in angel investors, then venture funding … all the while trying to develop your product and make some revenue on it. Marketing is secondary because your early goal is to get investor funding.

Fan funding lets you do the opposite. Instead of investors, you attract a fanbase, and that’s a marketing foundation that can carry your company for the long run.

The power of the fan funding/social media marketing platform in this case was enough to get to me, a guy who sees thousands of ads a day and doesn’t even own a stereo, to seriously considered buying one of these high end speakers. (I would love to know what in my Facebook profile tugged their ads in my direction.)

Princeton is hardly the first company founded on crowdfunding that’s gotten my attention, either. Just a few months ago I did buy into a product called Cthulhu Wars by a man named Sandy Petersen.

‘Social Media’ Is a Useless Idea

Sometimes it seems like the whole thing is a big, distributed CRM vending machine. But it’s not one thing. Social media is in fact many things, and they’re not really that similar.

Social Media TrendsI talk about social media A LOT these days.

That’s not because “likes” are some great indicator of marketing success. It’s because the interaction model of marketers and customers/prospects on social media is one of the most interesting and quickly changing fields in communications today. Things that a few decades ago had to happen in person or by mail now happen instantaneously with people you never even see, and many of them may actually be computer programs.

Sometimes it seems like the whole thing is a big, distributed CRM vending machine.

But it’s not one thing. Social media is in fact many things, and they’re not really that similar.

That’s why “social media” suddenly seems a useless idea. And perhaps it always was.

In the world where most of our interaction is happening online, are Facebook and Twitter really any more similar than mail and TV?

I don’t think they are. The strategies, creative and interaction on both of them are completely different, not to mention the advertising. Facebook is a gathering place, Twitter is a micro broadcasting platform. Instagram is for sharing your pictures, Pinterest is for sharing images you find around the Internet. LinkedIn is how you want to be remembered, and Snapchat is for the stuff you don’t want to remember.

It’s time we stopped talking about these different media channels as the same thing simply because they emerged from a vaguely similar time frame and technologies. Each one takes the kind of individual attention you give to executing your email program.

And if that’s the case, the singular idea of social media really isn’t useful anymore.

Like the traditional media channels, you don’t need to be on all of them. But the ones you do use must be respected as the unique platforms they are.

All About eMail 15: The Great Twitter Roundup

Here’s the deal, fam: This past Thursday was the All About eMail Virtual Conference, the live virtual event that brings together the best and brightest minds in the industry for a full day of sessions, resources and chats that are (say it with me now …) all about email.

Here’s the deal, fam (and if you read my last blog post, you should already know this): This past Thursday was the All About eMail Virtual Conference, the live virtual event that brings together the best and brightest minds in the industry for a full day of sessions, resources and chats that are (say it with me now …) all about email.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the show for its full course, and walked away from my desk stuffed full with new email tips and strategies, and a heaping side of downloaded resources to peruse even after the show had ended.

If you didn’t get to check it out, don’t you fret — the show and all its content is available on demand until Feb. 16. Click here for immediate access!

I also got to scope out the social scene during the show (try saying that 10 times fast). Lots of great activity in the #AAEM15 hashtag, and I thought I’d share a little roundup of bite-sized takeaways and observations from the show I found on Twitter.

A-five six seven eight!

Of course, there’s only so much 140 characters can tell you about 6.5 hours of content. So if you’re hungry for email expertise, be sure to sign up to check out the show on demand. I think these tweets do a good job of showing why it’s worth your while. Hope you enjoy!

And now for a little announcement unrelated to virtual shows or tweets. Recently I’ve taken over as marketing manager for one of Target Marketing’s sister publications, and it’s been an exciting and fulfilling whirlwind but, as you can imagine, busy and demanding. That being the case, I came to the difficult but necessary decision to put this blog aside for the time being.

My hope and my intention is to be back and better than ever in 2016 once I’ve gained my sea legs with this new undertaking, gotten all my ducks in a row, and other various water-related metaphors for “gotten my **** together.” Just think of it as … taking a short caffeine break! (Waka waka!)

Thanks so much for all the fantastic support so far — hope to see you back here in 2016!

Assume Nothing

It’s completely coincidental that the mayor of Las Vegas and I share the exact same name … including our middle initial. But unlike me, that Carolyn G Goodman was elected to office and has a huge following in cyberspace. Unfortunately for her, I acquired the Twitter handle @carolyngoodman before she even discovered Twitter

It’s completely coincidental that the mayor of Las Vegas and I share the exact same name … including our middle initial. But unlike me, that Carolyn G Goodman was elected to office and has a huge following in cyberspace.

Unfortunately for her, I acquired the Twitter handle @carolyngoodman before she even discovered Twitter. And unfortunately for me, Madame Mayors’ followers (journalists, critics, and other LV lovers) tweet and reference Mayor Goodman by referencing my twitter handle regularly.

While I enjoy her spotlight for a nano-second, I always reply to the offending tweeter that they’ve referenced the wrong twitter handle, and they usually apologize and quickly do their homework and issue a correcting tweet.

It serves, however, as a great reminder that when pushing content, sending emails, lasering direct mail packages, etc., etc., you should assume nothing.

  • Don’t assume I know who you are when you call me to follow up on an email introduction or direct mail letter you sent. Over 800 emails a day land in my in-box. I don’t read them all, and if I do, it’s probably because they’re client or employee-related. Start the call by introducing yourself. Quickly state your business purpose and then move into your relationship building techniques. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to remind me about the email or direct mail package you sent me because clearly I didn’t see it/read it/absorb it.
  • Don’t assume I want a follow-up call from a tradeshow booth chat within 24 hours of the event. While you may want to “jump while the iron is hot,” I am overwhelmed with other issues since I’ve been away from my desk for a few days. Give me a few days to settle back into the routine and then call (if indeed I expressed an interest in your product/service and didn’t just stop by to drop off a business card to win the free iPad).
  • Don’t assume I want to be your friend on Facebook just because we do business together. Facebook plays a key role in my personal life, and I post regularly with family updates, photos of my dog and things I’m doing locally with friends. If you’re a business colleague, let’s stick to being friends through LinkedIn. Period.
  • Don’t assume I want to be added to your email/newsletter list just because I met you at a conference/trade show/friend’s party and we exchanged business cards. Spamming is no way to start a relationship.
  • Don’t assume I follow the genderization rules of your software program. While the name Carolyn is most likely female, all too often folks named Pat, Leslie, or Chris are offended by being addressed as “Mr.” in your direct mail letter or email. Just ask a boy named Sue.
  • Don’t assume I have interest in or empathy towards your organization/product/service. Starting an email or letter with factual information about your company is meaningless and more than likely to trigger an instant finger on the delete button or a careless toss in the recycle bin. Lead with a story, a benefit statement, a problem/solution … just don’t start by talking about yourself. To paraphrase the great Bob Hacker, all the reader cares about is, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Finally, don’t assume that I have a problem and I’ve just been waiting for your sales call in order to solve it. Do your homework. Understand my industry. Look for case studies within your organization that solve issues that I’m probably facing, because I’m in the same industry. Don’t start your call by asking me “a little bit about myself and my company.”

Net-net? Stop assuming and start doing your homework before you decide that I’m responsible for the woes of Las Vegas. Because if I am, I should be writing the script for The Hangover, Part 4.

Using LinkedIn for Sales Leads: Getting More Response

Getting more response from sales prospects. It’s what we need. LinkedIn is helpful for lead identification and qualification but getting response from decision makers (on the approach) remains difficult. Using LinkedIn for sales leads can be tough. “Warming up” prospects using social media is a must and can be a game changer. By combining lead targeting with a practical listening system you (or your team) will increase email and voice mail response rates by becoming super-relevant. Here are quick tips on making it happen for you.

Getting more response from sales prospects. It’s what we need. LinkedIn is helpful for lead identification and qualification but getting response from decision makers (on the approach) remains difficult. Using LinkedIn for sales leads can be tough.

“Warming up” prospects using social media is a must and can be a game changer. By combining lead targeting with a practical listening system, you (or your team) will increase email and voice mail response rates by becoming super-relevant. Here are quick tips on making it happen for you.

Streams of Insights
Are you taking advantage of the “streams of insight” your prospects are putting out onto social platforms? You should be. These are the ways to breakthrough to grab the attention of prospects and hold it. These are ways to figure out what matters to prospects in real time.

Every day, prospects are telegraphing their fears, frustrations, ambitions, hopes and goals on these platforms. Probably a lot like you do!

Last year, I profiled how business process outsourcing provider, ADP is netting leads with Twitter and LinkedIn. I’ve also profiled sales rep Ed Worthington, who’s figured out how to get copier sales leads. Each of these success stories has a common theme: Avoiding “going in cold.”

Let’s return to that example and vividly examine how you can get moving on “going in warm” (if not hot) with new prospects.

It all starts with using LinkedIn for sales leads in combination with a practical listening element.

Step 1: Include Listening in Qualification Research
When organizing your research on a given prospect be sure to include a “listening” field in your contact management system. This will allow you to keep things like Twitter handles, LinkedIn groups (that your prospect participates in), Google+ profiles and other “social streams of insight” in one place.

Be sure to take advantage of “streams of insight” where your prospects are telegraphing their fears, frustrations, ambitions, hopes and goals. This includes LinkedIn updates and Groups they participate in. These are the places where prospects signal opportunities to savvy sales reps.

So, when organizing your research on prospects, be sure to include a list of their social streams.

Step 2: Monitor the Streams
I know, I know. No kidding, Molander. Well, are you doing it? Are you using free tools like Hootsuite, Google Alerts, TweetDeck, Twitter search or any number of others? Take advantage of the organizational power of these tools by setting up a group (or Twitter uses “lists”) within your current set-up. Monitor your prospects. Call your grouping “Prospect streams.” Do it today!

Step 3: Listen for Demand
Many of us listen on social media for vanity purposes or to monitor discussions about a topic. Yet we can also listen for demand for our products and services. Are you?

Are you using Twitter search to discover prospects using phrases like “recommend a new supplier” or “switch to a new _____ provider” (prospects asking their network for a recommendation) … or “I need a new ____.”

These kinds of tactics sound obvious and they are. Are you (or your team) monitoring for these kinds of expressions among known and unknown prospects? Are you listening for near and long-term demand in social streams?

I monitor my active prospects across Twitter, LinkedIn, personal and professional blogs and Google+ streams.

Where to Start: Knowing What to Listen For
In most cases sellers already know what to be listening for. Good sellers know how customers express themselves on issues related to what they sell. The rest is simply organizing a listening approach and methodically “checking in” with the streams you’ve put in place—monitoring for insightful, actionable thoughts or expressions.

Start by writing down all the ways you already know customers express themselves. Think in terms of how they express thoughts and feelings about how they buy, consume, use, re-purchase or upgrade from what you sell. Think in terms of sound bytes or keyword phrases.

Then get to work being patient. In most cases it takes time to find the diamonds in the rough. Be diligent and patient as you continue to mine prospects’ social streams.

Good luck!

Hashtags: #smartnewmarketingtool or #riskymarketingmove?

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags. The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags.

The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Of course marketers have smelled an opportunity to leverage the hashtag because what could be better than having consumers talk about your brand—especially if the brands themselves sparks the conversation?

Within the last 20 years, there’s been a huge change in advertising CTA’s (Call-to-Action)—especially in television. First, many commercials ended by showing an 800 numbers, and that was quickly followed by the vanity 800 number. With the advent of the web, marketers substituted URL’s for 800 number. After it was discovered that the consumer didn’t know what to do once they landed on a website home page, the MURL was invented (www.nameofbrand/specificpage). When Facebook exploded on the scene, brands wanted you to visit and like them on their Facebook pages. But now, it seems, all of that is old school.

Many of the most recent Super Bowl commercials didn’t end with phone numbers, web addresses or any mention of Facebook. Instead, a hashtag was offered up in front of a pithy subject line as a way to get viewers engaged in a dialogue about the commercial itself (and, ultimately, the brand).

I find it interesting that during the Super Bowl this year, millions of dollars were spent on each 60-second spot, and yet several marketers risked it all by using a single CTA: a predetermined #groupofwords. I could understand if the hashtag was in addition to other CTA’s, but in most of the instances I observed, it was the standalone close on the spot.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never even bothered to look to see what topics are trending on Twitter. Maybe I’m not cool enough to care. But I’m not 100 percent confident that throwing a hashtag in front of a topic will generate a POSITIVE conversation about my brand. So why would you place your brand at risk after you’ve spent hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Creating “brand evangelists” has always been a core goal of any brand—people who support your brand, talk about it, recommend it to others and basically act as your mouthpiece by providing personal endorsements. But does doling out a hashtag topic guarantee that a positive conversation will ensue? Not in my book. #marketinghashtag

Forget Real Friends, Just Fake It

If someone “likes” your brand on Facebook, or gives your website or blog posting a “thumbs-up,” is that a meaningful metric as a marketer? If your Twitter followers keep increasing, does that mean you’re publishing valuable content and helping position yourself as an industry thought leader? I used to think so, but I was disappointed to learn how disingenuous the entire process has become.

If someone “likes” your brand on Facebook, or gives your website or blog posting a “thumbs-up,” is that a meaningful metric as a marketer? If your Twitter followers keep increasing, does that mean you’re publishing valuable content and helping position yourself as an industry thought leader? I used to think so, but I was disappointed to learn how disingenuous the entire process has become.

In pre-Facebook days, if we liked a brand/product/service, we would talk positively about our experiences. We’d gladly refer colleagues when asked, or write an email or letter praising the organization. If we were truly brand ambassadors, we’d proudly pontificate and evangelize at the drop of a hat.

With the creation of the digital “thumbs-up,” a click of the mouse records your endorsement or disagreement in a split second. And, as marketers, we greedily record and compare those statistics as a justification for the impact that our brand might be having on the target market.

Every time I post a tweet, I can’t help but glance at my increasing “follower” statistics and wonder what 140-character pithy remark prompted them to start following me. It also adds a bit of pressure to make sure I keep my followers interested and engaged with my marketing insights.

But on several occasions, when scanning a discussion group on LinkedIn, someone has created the challenge: “Like me/our company on Facebook and I’ll like yours!” My reaction is swift and from the gut… “Like you? I don’t even KNOW you.”

Perhaps I’m naive, but I was under the impression that if your brand provided quality products and services that were deemed useful to your target audience, or you posted information that was helpful/funny/smart, then your reader/user gave you the good old “thumbs up” as a reflection of their approval. So imagine my surprise when I found a site where you can buy Facebook “likes” or Twitter followers!

For a few bucks you can add hundreds or thousands of “likes” to your page, or increase your Twitter followers instantly … all with the goal of seemingly increasing your brand popularity and, in turn, helping your site move up in rankings and search results.

Who thinks up this stuff?

Clearly an entrepreneur who has figured out that anything worth having is a business just waiting to happen—even if it means that what you’re selling is a tool to help companies scam potential customers.

And what about those companies that purchase “likes” or Twitter followers? Perhaps if they spent more time and money on running honest and helpful businesses that customers truly liked and felt good about, they wouldn’t have a need to purchase fake “friends” to boost their fake popularity.

I know how hard it is to build and sustain a business in a world filled with ruthless competitors. But I can promise that your business won’t get ahead by faking friends.

Applying Paid Search Optimization Techniques Beyond the Search Engine Results Page

In 2010, Forrester’s The Future of Search Marketing report predicted that “search marketing will become an umbrella term that applies to using any targeted media to help an advertiser get found.” Forrester was right. It’s now clear that search isn’t limited to being a channel.

In 2010, Forrester’s The Future of Search Marketing report predicted that “search marketing will become an umbrella term that applies to using any targeted media to help an advertiser get found.” Forrester was right. It’s now clear that search isn’t limited to being a channel.

Search is the science of understanding intent and acting on it to efficiently connect people to your brand — no matter if that connection is made on a search engine, social networking site, display network, affiliate network or other emerging medium. To foster these connections, search engine marketing best practices can be extended well beyond the search engine results page.

First, I’ll consider how traditional paid search techniques can be applied to display advertising to drive new-to-file customers. Like search, biddable display provides advertisers with targeting capabilities to find the right customer at the right price. While search marketers create segmentation via keywords to find the right audience, display marketers create segmentation via data sources.

For example, during back-to-school season this past year, one of Performics’ apparel retailer clients sought to efficiently boost year-over-year daily sales though performance display. Like we do with search campaigns, we restructured the retailer’s display campaign at a more granular level (31 different ads in 2011 versus 6 ads in 2010) to support product/offer testing.

The restructure revealed deeper audience insights, helping us buy only the impressions we wanted (i.e., the right placements at the right price). We also increased relevance through site retargeting (i.e., serving display ads to people who visited the advertiser’s website but didn’t take action). These strategies resulted in a 211 percent year-over-year increase in average daily sales at a 120 percent return on investment.

Likewise, paid search techniques can be applied to social media advertising. The obvious paid search/Facebook similarities are that Facebook cost-per-click ads are bid based, keyword triggered by likes/interests in users’ profiles and optimized through copy/creative testing. The obvious paid search/Twitter similarities are that Promoted Tweets are bid based, triggered by Twitter users’ search keywords and optimized through copy testing.

There are also less obvious similarities. For example, using paid search campaign structure best practices to boost Twitter followers via Promoted Accounts, which enable advertisers to recommend their account to particular Twitter users who may be interested in following them. For an advertiser’s account to be recommended, the advertiser targets Twitter users via keywords and bids on a cost-per-follower (CPF) basis. One of Performics’ clients sought to use Promoted Accounts to increase followers at a low CPF.

Borrowing from paid search, Performics restructured and relaunched the client’s Promoted Accounts campaign. We increased the account’s size from one campaign to 11 campaigns to include more granular, demographically relevant keywords. Like in paid search, more targeted keywords caused Twitter’s algorithm to recommend our client’s account to a more relevant Twitter audience. Post-optimization, the client achieved a 1,473 percent increase in followers at a 69 percent decrease in CPF.

Search will surely continue to evolve well beyond typing keywords in a search box (think asking Siri to find you an answer or using a mobile augmented reality app to see product reviews while walking through a store). Notwithstanding this evolution, time-tested paid search optimization techniques relentlessly focused on structuring campaigns to deliver the most relevant audiences at the lowest cost will always drive performance.

10 Tips to Help Grow Your Twitter Followers

This past Labor Day weekend saw Republican presidential candidates hit the campaign trail, and Twitter was buzzing with location updates, photos and 140-character sound bites. While many of the candidates boast huge Twitter followings, several have come under criticism for the authenticity of their numbers.

This past Labor Day weekend saw Republican presidential candidates hit the campaign trail, and Twitter was buzzing with location updates, photos and 140-character sound bites. While many of the candidates boast huge Twitter followings, several have come under criticism for the authenticity of their numbers.

In fact, a recent review of Newt Gingrich’s followers by PeekYou, a social search company that matches online identities through publically available information, found that only 106,055 out of 1.1 million of his followers were legitimate. Similar results were found for other candidate’s followers, but at much lower rates. Mitt Romney was found to have 26 percent real followers, Michelle Bachman had 28 percent and Tim Pawlenty had 32 percent. With that in mind, here are some best practices for keeping it real when it comes to growing your number of Twitter followers:

1. Mine the database. As always, the best place to start is with your customers. Leverage the knowledge you have about existing customers and prospects in your database and reach out to them communicating the benefits of following your brand on Twitter. Consider sending an email campaign to acquire new subscribers. Remember to tag all existing promotional campaigns, newsletters and service email communications with your social communities.

2. Listen and follow. Leverage listening and monitoring tools such as Radian6 to find out who’s already talking about your brand. Follow them to keep the dialog going and be sure to recognize and thank those that retweet or @mention you.

3. Leverage social tools. Look for and engage key influencers to help spread the word about your brand. Helpful tools include wefollow.com, which helps you to find key influencers within your industry or topics related to your brand. Use Klout and PeerIndex scores to identify who are the most influential. Also look at Twitter’s “Who to Follow” tab for some contextually relevant suggestions on an ongoing basis.

4. Hashtags, advertising tags and Twitter ads. Include hashtags pertaining to popular topics and conversation threads to ensure users interested in similar topics can easily find you. Tag TV, radio and print advertising with your social communities. Use that opportunity to highlight exclusive content prospective followers may find there.

Twitter has and will continue to develop new opportunities to help marketers call greater attention to their brand. The most recent announcement includes Twitter’s expanded advertising program, which allows brands to display ads to Twitter users who are following a particular type of company within a vertical niche. This program is similar to promoted tweets highlighted in a user’s timeline.

5. Directories. List your Twitter account in directories such as Twibes.com, TweetFind.com and Twellow.com. Consider building lists on key communication streams so potential followers with similar interests can find you easily.

6. Search tags, bios and backgrounds. Create a bio with a clear description of your brand and the kind of content you plan on posting. If you have several Twitter accounts serving different purposes, make it easy for users to find those as well by listing them or creating a custom background with the address. Add social links to paid search terms to increase visibility and visitation for your social communities. In addition, be sure to promote your social communities on your website. Include your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and other communities on each platform. Better yet, use the strengths of each community to create a conversation flow — e.g., break news on Twitter and ask folks to join the conversation on Facebook.

7. Partnerships and sponsorships. Leverage and cross-promote key partnerships and sponsorships. Retweet, @mention and build a dialog with these partners; become a resource for their followers as well.

8. Unique content. Offer followers unique content they can’t find elsewhere. Grant followers “first to know” status, which will keep them tuning in and engaged. Consider building Twitterviews if you have access to individuals that will resonate well with your followers. Challenge users with trivia and reward those who actively engage with recognition. If possible, offer the chance to win prizes.

9. Engaging conversation. As we all know, the best way to grow your followers is to engage your audience with entertaining and valuable content. Ask and answer questions; encourage people to tweet their thoughts and opinions on key issues; address concerns; ask for feedback and input; and be sure to thank those that engage your brand by either direct messaging them or giving a public shout-out for their contribution. Build a communication calendar around engaging content ideas and find a unique voice. By showcasing your most engaged followers, you’ll create an army of advocates for your brand that will help accelerate your growth.

10. Analyze and focus. Leverage social campaign management tools to analyze consumers’ reactions to your content. Create content categories such as news, articles, events and promotions to track responses. Adjust the mix of these categories based on the feedback you receive from your community.

In addition, use your social media campaign management tool or free tools like friendorfollow.com to see who you may be following but isn’t following back. This will help you keep your follow-to-following ratio in check. With a little analytics and creative writing, you can optimize your voice and ultimately your results.

Twitter remains an evolving medium. While most brands have their share of followers who are inactive, there’s much they can do to grow and improve engagement. By paying careful attention to best practices and creating content that’s valued by consumers, you’ll be well on your way to creating a vibrant and engaged community of brand advocates.

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.