What is Twitter? Is it an effective marketing tool? How do you measure its ROI? All of these are questions worth addressing.
Basically, Twitter is a next generation instant messaging tool. But how does it add value from a marketing perspective, instead of just a personal communications standpoint? The answer lies in attracting enough of the right followers and creating dialogue among the group you develop.
Instant Messaging Amplified
Like much of social media, it’s a relationship building medium and an additional channel to implement and test. The 140 character limitation does pose challenges and, of course, in our over communicated world, relevancy plays a key role in your tweeting success. Twitter users don’t necessarily want to be sold or marketed to, so you need to be mindful that your tweets are not overly promotional.
Here are a few examples of how marketers are using Twitter:
· Rapidly disseminating timely information to groups that are in disparate locations or from live events – I just presented at a conference and the organizers used Twitter to inform participants about what was happening within the sessions and to communicate logistical details. Recent news stories that broke via Twitter include the US Air flight 1549 that went down in the Hudson River, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ announcement of new products.
· As an extension of PR efforts – You can provide quick news updates, product announcements and informative opinions. Celebrities offer a model that can be translated, if businesses are able to attract the right followers and maintain their interest.
· Personal branding and Twitter are a great marriage – Assuming the people in your group want to hear from you, it’s a fast, easy way to stay connected.
· Enhancing a blog or Web site by making it more real-time and more interactive – You can alert your followers to blog updates by teasing with headlines that entice readers to dig into the more in-depth blog post.
· As a direct marketing promotional tool (carefully) – Savvy retailers can take advantage of its immediacy by offering sales information or very limited time offers/discounts to the group. Because it’s real-time, a sense of urgency can be created quite effectively. For example, Dell sold $1 million of equipment, offering steep discounts through Twitter in 2008. Marketers noticed. If you plan to do this, set up a separate account for this purpose so followers know what they are opting in for.
· To provide continuous updates – It’s a good tool for people who want or need a constant stream of information. For example, President Obama used it quite effectively during his campaign. During an emergency, it can be used to quickly communicate a situation and how it is being handled. Ford used it recently to help with its PR efforts.
Proceed with Excitement…and a Bit of Caution
Keep in mind, there are also downfalls to Twitter.
A recent study determined that while Twitter is hotter than the Arizona desert in August (its user base doubled in March), it fails to retain the new users into the second month, losing an astonishing 60% plus in month two. Therefore, building a base of followers is harder than it might seem.
To get started, you can use Twitter’s search tool and enter keywords that are pertinent to your target audience. Follow others in your industry and those you respect. Then, join in the conversation when it seems appropriate. However, you can’t assume everyone who follows you pays attention to all of your tweets. Again, relevancy is critical.
Twitter is permanently transparent. You need to be aware that there is a record of your every tweet that is searchable on the Net. And, everything you say is “on the record” and can be retweeted.
Speaking of retweeting, it’s viral marketing at its best, and a good measure of value. If someone thinks enough of your comment to pass it on, that’s relevant.
Open Source Enables Many Useful Add-on Apps
Add-on applications play a significant role in both maximizing your use of Twitter and measuring its effectiveness. These include the likes of TwitterFox and TweetLater that enable you to manage and view your account more easily. TwitterAnalyzer, TwitterGrader, Twitalyzer, Bit.ly, TweetStats, TwinInfluence, Re.twit’d and many others offer measurement. As this medium matures, we will likely see more and more of these analytical tools.
In order for Twitter to be an effective vehicle, it’s important to consider it as an additional channel in your integrated mix. You should set goals and create a plan for achieving them by using it.
Like measurable marketing itself, this new media makes things exciting and fresh. However, remember that it’s not about you. It’s about your customers and prospects. Because Twitter is such a personal tool, one could easy get caught up in a me, me, me scenario, instead of focusing on what followers might find interesting.
Twitter seems to be making marketing that’s too-fast already shift into an almost frantic mode. As the tweets are short and frequent, attention spans with tools like this become even shorter. Remember, your followers may also be following dozens or even hundreds of others, so communication frequency will skyrocket among avid users. Just because someone follows you, it does not mean they will respond, or even read your Tweet.
Go ahead, give Twitter a test. If you have success with it, send me a tweet.
Grant A. Johnson’s twitter account is twitter.com/grantajohnson.