QUICK INTRODUCTION TO TWITTER
Twitter is a unique social networking tool that allows users to post and follow live updates from peers, businesses, public figures, news and accounts dedicated to various topics. There are over 200 million users as of 2013 and over a third follow brands. Users post 140 character updates about their and things that they find interesting and want to share with their followers. Businesses should take advantage of this tool to build a community with their customers by posting updates, reminders, answering questions, asking questions, responding to comments or when someone mentions them in a post, posting and sharing photos or videos, etc. If your company is not yet using twitter, I recommend you do a bit of research on how other companies are using it to engage their customers and decide whether it’s a useful tool for you to integrate into your social media communications strategy.
QUICK SOCIAL MEDIA BEST PRACTICES REMINDER
Like any other social networking site, twitter is not to be used to SHOUT about your company or brand to customers. Use twitter to engage your customers in 2-way relationship building with questions, comments and replies as well as sharing information from other sources that are useful to your followers. I like Chris Brogan’s 12:1 rule: Promote others more than you promote yourself. Use twitter to your advantage by finding relevant news to share as they are updated live from accounts related to your business. Keep in mind that this only works if you sincerely want to promote others and help customers find relevant information. Don’t be too formulaic.
Before diving in, here are some need-to-know terms
Follow – A follow or follower is someone who is following your account (like adding you as a friend) – they receive your twitter updates.
Tweet – A posting made on twitter, limited to 140 characters, view-able to followers.
@, @Reply, @Mention – “@” is used to tweet to someone.
– Used at the beginning of a tweet, it is an “@reply” sent directly to that person, public.
– Used anywhere except the beginning of a tweet, it is an “@mention” sent to both the person and your news feed (view-able by everyone following you).
Retweet (RT) – When you share or re-post another user’s tweet.
# (Hashtag) – Hashtags are used to group keywords or topics in tweets for search.
Direct Message – A private message sent to any account that is following you.
Twitter Handle: Your twitter handle is the user name that you have selected. It is also the name that goes in your url (www.twitter.com/HANDLE and the name that goes after the @ sign. Users use this to find you and to send you tweets/messages.
FIN AND FEATHER H2O
Below, I’m going to once again use Fin and Feather H2O and show how a company might utilize twitter to engage with its customers.
Your handle can be pretty much anything… for example, Fin and Feather H2O could use @finandfeatherh2o, @fin&featherh2o, @finfeatherh2o, @ICfinh2o, @ICwaterrentals
You want something that is short, simple and recognizable to your company. I personally prefer @Fin&FeatherH2O because it matches the company’s name. However, Fin and Feather H2O’s official twitter handle is @finH2O. Short and crisp.
ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW
By following other twitter accounts, you can stay up-to-date with relevant industry information, with key customers, news sources, and find interesting/fun things to share with your followers. Fin and Feather H2O is a local water recreation rental facility. For relevant third-party information, Fin and Feather may consider following:
City Accounts – For information about community sponsored outdoor recreation programs and environmental and water preservation volunteer opportunities.:
@iowadnr – Iowa Department of Natural Resources
@ICParksandRec – Iowa City Parks and Recreation.
@icstormwater – Iowa City Stormwater.
Events and Activities – To provide updates on fun happenings in the Iowa City and surrounding community.
@Travel_Iowa – Iowa Tourism Office
@corridorparents – An online guide to kid’s events & activities in the Iowa City/North Liberty/Cedar Rapids corridor
Equipment, Manufacturing, Rental Companies – By following these types of companies, Fin and Feather H2O can build relationships with potential vendors and share interesting information about the equipment they rent out to customers.
@NavarroCanoes – A handcraft canoe-making company located in Illinois.
University Community and Student Groups – These accounts are followed by students who represent a large community in the Iowa City area. Information related to the sailing club or rowing team could be of interest to community members interested in outdoor water recreation.
@uiowa – The University of Iowa
@TheIowaHawkeyes – Iowa Hawkeyes Athletics Program, follow the rowing team.
@UIowaSailing – Iowa Sailing Club
General News Sources – Can provide interesting updates whether or not they are related to outdoor recreation. Use these to share news and comments that show what your brand is interested in or cares about outside of the realm of outdoor water recreation and sports.
@presscitizen – Iowa City Press Citizen
@TheDailyIowan – Daily Iowan – University of Iowa news source
@KWWL – News station: Dubuque, Waterloo, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids
@EasternIowaNews – Cedar Rapids online news and sports source
@KCRG – KCRG Cedar Rapids
DIRECT MESSAGES – Personalize Your Message
Tweets are public posts between two twitter accounts. However, there are times when you may want to send a private message between you and someone else. These are done through Direct Messages. Some situations that may call for direct messaging include:
Negative Posts: If a customer posts about a negative experience – you should never ignore a negative post. This is your chance to receive critical feedback, build a positive relationship and show your company cares. Send back a quick tweet to show you’re addressing the problem and direct message to learn more and remedy the situation. For example:
Tweet: @dlamlu, I checked your account. Sorry for the miscommunication! Please check your direct messages for refund instructions ^DL
Direct Message: I am sincerely sorry for our mis-billing. An updated bill will be emailed shortly along with a 20% rental discount for your next visit.^DL
*Note: “^DL” is a signature. When addressing negative concerns, complaints or comments, it sometimes helps to include a signature to be more transparent and show that a person is trying to remedy the situation. People like to work with people, not with brands.
Personal Messages To Loyal Customers:
Use direct messages to make customers feel special with special reminders, discounts or things that are sent privately to show you care, rather than publicly to gain attention. For example:
Direct Message: Happy Birthday David!! Thank you for celebrating with us last summer. A present from our staff awaits you at the office on your next visit!
Assuming you keep track of your loyal customers, a simple discount or a t-shirt would suffice.
TWEETS WITH RELEVANT HASHTAGS (#)
#’s or “Hashtags” are used to group keywords into public lists. Place a “#” in front of a key word to make it easier for users to search for related items. For example, using #Canoeing will create a link that opens up a list of other posts about “Canoeing.”
Here’s a couple of examples of tweets Fin and Feather H2O could use:
This tweet calls out to potential customers or existing customers who want to try something new. It introduces an opportunity that is in the community where someone can learn, promotes another organization and could lead to potential customers water recreation rentals in the future. #NewAdventures adds this to a list of people trying new things. An adventure is something that is long-term and could be considered a life event. Learning to sail could be the discovery of a new passion.
Here’s another example:
This tweet reminds people of outdoor adventures with their families. Calling to a time when they were younger, had more time to spend with the family, time to relax and enjoy a beautiful day. It suggests that now is a great time to take the kids out and enjoy the wonders of nature.
In conclusion, Twitter is a great tool for creating an online community and engaging with your customers. You can use it to interact with individual customers, send mass reminders and updates, answer questions or address concern, retweet or favorite relevant posts, stay up-to-date with competitors or similar businesses, share fun information with your followers, etc. Twitter is the second most widely used social networking site after Facebook. It is relatively easy to learn and is a great tool for developing online relationships with current and potential customers or with related businesses. So what are you waiting for? Think about how you might use twitter and create an account!