Everyone’s heard of Twitter. The micro-blogging social media site is rarely out of the news.
You may or not be aware of Charlie Sheen’s latest indiscretion, or be up to speed on what Stephen Fry’s doing this week, but that really isn’t the point. The important thing is, whether you’re a devotee or not, most people will have heard of it. It’s the same with business: some use it and some don’t – so no surprises there then. What may come as a surprise are the figures released by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: this research shows that for all the businesses who do use Twitter for marketing purposes, only 12% believe they are using it in the most productive and useful way.
I say it comes as a surprise, but it shouldn’t really: how often has your business latched on to the latest trend without really thinking through the strategy?
Everybody does it. It’s natural to want to jump on board the latest trend-train, so that you don’t miss out. We’ve all done it. However, maybe what businesses should be doing is using what time they have spare to plan a strategy before venturing forth into the micro-blogging world. Social media can open up a whole new world of fantastic marketing opportunities, but you need to have a plan to make the most of this. You need to know what you want to achieve and which market to target, and then you’ll need to test and refine what you’ve done if you want to achieve your objectives. So where and how do you start the process?
It might be a cliché, but people are born with 2 ears and just the one mouth for a very good reason.
Listening is vital for everyone, particularly businesses. You need to know what people think about your company and your products, but those opinions won’t necessarily come to you: you have to go and find them for yourself, and that’s where Twitter and social media can help. Search for feedback or reviews of your products on Twitter and see what people really think of you. It might make you squirm, that’s true, but you can’t improve what you offer until you become aware there might be a problem. Opinions and feedback are invaluable.
Rather than just using Twitter to gauge what people think about your business, you should also be using it to inform and advise: if it’s used properly it can be a great resource and can get you noticed. Granted, getting your information across in 160 characters takes some getting used to, but it can be done. Use the updates to spread valuable and original content to your followers: it will hopefully repay some of the effort when these followers then re-tweet this information to potential new customers.
The beauty of Twitter, and this is where it can really benefit a business, is that you can personalise the messages you send out. That may not appear that different to any other medium, but it is. A Twitter account shouldn’t just contain rehashed news or press releases from your business: if users wanted to read that, they’d go straight to the website. Personalise the information and make it accessible with a distinctive style. Tell your followers something different and add pictures and links to what’s unusual or different about your business. The possibilities are boundless, as long as you can state them within 160 characters.
Once your account is up and running you’ll want to get more feedback so that you can see how users are responding to you and your products.
Take the information and use it to your advantage. If a problem or criticism is highlighted, don’t let it fester, but respond quickly and positively. Customers like interaction. You can even take this interaction one stage further and test prospective products on your audience: ask them what they think of it, and how they feel it might be improved. If you use it wisely, Twitter can be a fantastically useful and economic market research tool.