This article was originally written in 2009 when Twitter, founded in 2006, by Jack Dorsey was just 3 years old. At the time many in the marketing profession thought it would fail. We didn’t, though please judge for yourself.
By December 2014 Twitter had amassed over half a billion followers. It has become a mass medium. Twitterers include most media companies, such as CNN, the BBC, the Guardian and the marketing press. A red carpet full of celebrities; Katy Perry @katyperry) has the largest following (63m (Jan 14)), politicians; @BarackObama has 53 m (Jan 14), and many of the media brands dominate the top 150. The followings of these folk are increasing so quickly that you should follow the links to check the latest numbers! Twitaholic publishes a summary of the top sites too!
Businesses have now embraced the medium big-time but they still have further to go. Top corporates include @samsung, the mobile and electronics company (ranked inside the top 100 (Jan 2014) but with far fewer followers than many celebs. Click on the Samsung link for a surprising insight why it is one of the top companies. Other corporates include Starbucks, Cadbury and Dell. These appear in various guises such as products, CadburyDairyMilk (@DairyMilk and @GoneFairtrade) and @Cadbury_Gorilla and as channels or customer service centres. Dell’s presence spans outlet stores such as @delloutlet in the USA, customer service representatives and a growing number of staff.
So what are the business benefits of the twitterverse to help you make the most of it?
Here’s a summary of the benefits that Twitter provides:
More customer reach: Twitter’s more open nature is a plus to reach new markets. Most attract a very internationally diverse audience. While Twitter users initially had a much older profile than Facebook our research suggests that it is seeing growing numbers of teen adopters, though they are now moving off to the next big things (Snapchat, Instagram). All is fuelled by the growth in smart phone penetration, faster bandwidths and supports Twitter’s and social media generally, evolving into the mainstream.
New promotion vehicle: Twitter allows both mass and individual customer (or follower) communication and engagement to the web and mobile devices. It can also amplify your social media messages as it integrates with platforms including Facebook, Linked In and Instagram. Twitterfeeds can also be exported to websites and blogs.
Brand engagement: The short nature of the messages is more casual and less corporate thus removing a barrier to communication and that many consumers see in engaging with businesses. The mobile nature of the medium also enables live messaging, such as live news, information and picture sharing from events, product launches, presentations etc. Brand awareness and engagement can enhanced through innovative content such as humour and thought leading ideas. During the Wimbledon 2010 tournament, @andy_murray promoted a tennis player snack game (John MacEnrolo, Martina Haggis). This helped soften his image, prompted many retweets and followers.
Opta the football information company (for example @OptaJoe) always adds a final quirky and cryptic sign-off to their football coverage. This is helping them develop a football celebrity and almost cult following.
Search engine enhancement: The searchable nature of tweets means that it can play a key part in driving traffic to your website. Our experience is that traffic to The Marketing Directors marketing consultancy website from @themarketingdirectors was around 20% of the total in 2009 though this has reduced to around 2-3% today. While adding topical content, we’ve also found that adding a live twitterfeed to our home page increases bounces and reduces our overall search engine ranking.
New sales channel: Twitter works like an add-on to the web. By embedding links into tweets, followers (and the Internet population at large) can be directed to your website. Either to collect names for direct marketing or drive direct sales. Dell, for example, has over 80 corporate twitter accounts which promote a range of ‘unique to twitter’ offers.
Competitor and trend monitoring: Twitter can form part of your corporate early warning radar system to help spot opportunities and threats. Some companies only appear to follow competitors, for example, Cadbury follows other chocolate firms.
Customer relationship building: To follow you is to get to know you, and potentially like, trust and buy from you. Twitter lends itself to both casual mass communication and personal communication with specific individuals. It can be used to answer questions and enter into dialogue. As Dell has discovered it can turn detractors into friends such that its employees are now encouraged to open accounts.
Customer research: The research department will also find it useful to ask your customers questions, monitor brand mentions, identify trending topics and analyse your own followers (www. tweepler.com)
Job hunting: There are lots of employment agencies out there!
Creative challenge: The main downside is that messages have to be encapsulated in 140 characters and this includes links. On the upside you have to be brief and clear!
Commercial models: While there are lots of good practices, the rules for making money using twitter are still evolving. The marketing rules however remain the same as they did at the time of the dot com boom. Insight and ingenuity are both required.
Management time: While little time is required to set-up a Twitter account ongoing management is time consuming. Using automation software such as socialoomph.com can lift the load. As with the web, there will always be time wasters and spammers. These issues can easily distract or overwhelm but can be dealt with through simple technology fixes, such as anti-spam or human verification software.
Unofficial brands: The seeming lack of regulation on Twitter means that there is a risk of unofficial twitterers occupying your turf – so aim to mark and protect your brand! One of our favourites is @Queen_UK (who pre-empted HRH Queen Elizabeth who was a late follower in 2014)!
Marketing Inspiration: Twitter is emerging as a high reach communication medium. It can be a boon to businesses, and both the marketing and research department. The barriers to entry are low and the upside potential remains high. As with all new technologies, further change is likely and this should mean further improvements (in theory). Image and video tweets are now possible as is advertising.
1. Messaging and commercial strategy; Think carefully about content and define your voice – both are differentiators and vital to engage. Once you’ve decided on your strategy stick to it so as not to alienate followers. In our early days we tweeted a couple of jokey messages very early one morning and lost half a dozen followers! Twitter is ripe for new business models and some of the world’s hottest news stories start here.
2. Targeting; Think carefully about who you want to target, and define your target using keywords. Following your competitors is a good place to start….
3. Measurement: Successful marketing starts with measuring your social media effectiveness. There are many free tools to measure your growing follower count (Twittercounter.com), your friends and followers (FriendorFollow.com), your influence (Klout.com), mentions (Socialoomph.com) and embedded link clicks (bitly.com). Try and measure sales conversion or ROI too!
4. Then just open an account, watch, learn and experiment….
For the best advice to get your message across in the most cost effective way get in touch. The Marketing Directors is a strategic marketing consultancy. We devise messaging and media strategies, and teach marketing communications. While entirely media neutral we’re founders of the Handmade Digital Cooperative and provide specialist expertise in over 40 digital disciplines.