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Apr 2010

10 Tips for Tweeting Success

Posted in Online PR, Social Media | 2 Comments »

Twitter seems to be a rising star in the medium of new-age social communication. Everyone from major business CEOs to Stephen Fry are building large followings, and it’s all to see several sentences fly from their fingers a day as the world’s shortest blog format continues to take over the world. But what if we want to use this same technique not to inform people of where our band is playing next, or what we’re watching on TV at the moment, but what products and services we offer as a business? Of course, it’s tempting just to set up a Twitter account for your business and start following everyone in sight whilst posting your company’s homepage URL every five minutes, but that’ll just lead to an identity as a blocked onlineĀ irritant, which isn’t what you’re after. Here’s a list of tips for engaging with the world run by the small blue birdie:

  1. Network. Don’t expect people to follow you and retweet everything you say just because you’re a business they might deal with from time to time. Advertise what they’re saying to other people and discuss their tweets with them via replies and your own little @company is going to gain a reputation as a social, interested party.
  2. Retweet. When thinking about how to best advertise concepts, ideas and news you’re interested in as a company, think about retweeting specific people. If you’re a business that specialises in finance and the Financial Times has just done a piece on the Base Rate changing, consider a quick “RT @financialtimes: “Base Interest Rate – our thoughts: [link]” and you’ll be surprised at how many people will start to view you as someone to follow for information as well as getting in touch.
  3. Update. Don’t turn your Twitter page into a failed foray into social media: if you’re going to commit to a regularly updated Twitter account, even if it’s once a day, you have to meet the minimum you’ve set for yourself. Ideally it won’t just be 140 characters a day of information, but if your output begins to decrease, people will view your Twitter account as an experiment and not a reliable side of your company’s identity.
  4. Ask. Ask questions – don’t feel that because you’re a company, you’re not entitled to be curious about other people’s ideas and activities. To have the Twitter account of an entire business ask an expert a question is often a flattering experience, and they’re not only likely to respond quickly and in detail, but their responses mean people following them are going to start seeing your company’s @username more frequently and investigate out of curiosity.
  5. Link. In every tweet you send out into the digital realm, think about putting someone’s @username into the tweet. By connecting with someone every time you say something, you’re not only appearing as someone who’s aware of specific industry figureheads and sources of information, but you’re going to start appearing on hundreds, if not thousands of people’s Twitter readers every week.
  6. Verify. If you’re looking into making announcements or predictions in your industry (or others, but this is risky for the following reason), then make sure you’ve got your facts straight. One typo or bad statistic and news of the mistake will fly around the Twitterverse fairly rapidly. Hell hath no fury like a web community scorned.
  7. Smile. Be polite and friendly. I know this seems like a tall order in 140 characters, but simply sounding enthusiastic with the odd exclamation mark – or if you’re a person and not a company on Twitter, even a smiley – can lead to people viewing you as more than just another corporate face. There are people behind every company logo, and it’s important to bring this across in a medium where even sarcasm is difficult to get across.
  8. Compact. If there’s one thing that people who rarely read individual Twitter pages can’t stand, it has to be messages that run on for several Tweets, as more often than not they’ll be broken up by other people’s – even if you’re Tweeting the next portion every twenty seconds. Try and keep everything compact and succinct – the ability to communicate in 140 characters is actually a skill, and one you’ll develop over time in Twitter, but the sooner the better.
  9. Decorate. People will occasionally read your Twitter page individually, so make sure you’ve got a custom background that tiles well on higher resolution monitors and that represents your company. Silly pictures and bright, clashing colours are for teenager’s bedrooms. Keep it mature, and you’ll gain respect for making the effort to individualise your page.
  10. Expand. Keep track of everything you’ve said and that people have said about you. I’m sure if everyone had the funds there’d be a Twitter-only employee for every company trying to gain a larger market share. Of course, try and get your employees to reference the company’s Tweets and Twitter page whenever they mention work, and encourage them to spread your identity as a company as far and wide as possible while remaining casual about the whole affair, lest they all seem too robotic and forced in their praise.

Here’s hoping some of this helps. Twitter is a mad, furious rush of energy condensed into 140 collections of pixels and fired out at a rate of thousands upon thousands every second of the day, and the numbers are increasing all the time. Gain your foothold and your following now, and you’ll never risk missing what could be the biggest boat in the history of online marketing.

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Apr 2010

Walk Like an Egyptian

Posted in Blogging | 2 Comments »

Lately, many websites have begun to follow the trend of the inexperienced startup – lots of enthusiastic content, but very little effort put into marketing, expecting the hits to come from (presumably) the quality of the content itself. Allow me to offer a single sentence of advice that will forever change this peculiar perspective.

That hasn’t worked for almost a decade.

What does work (and I’ll go into more detail below) is the following:

  • Making sure your website is as well-designed as possible; making it easy for them to buy or get information from your site means they’ll make purchases and, more importantly, return at a later date.
  • The right kind of advert – if you’re a filmmaker, a wraparound flash advert will work well; some other businesses find a quieter, subtle approach more effective.
  • Suitable advertising format – there are huge differences between text and flash adverts, wraparounds and small adverts in sidebars. Think about your impact and the message you are sending. Do you want to subtly suggest your site, or make a bold and forward statement?
  • Customer feedback – you need to take this into account more than anything else; put yourself in the shoes of the average customer, and take feedback from friends posing as potential customers, or from the customers themselves.

These are just few ideas, and it starts simply. You need to market a website for people to visit – this is as simple as business practice in the real world. Small websites are not like a local florists – although we have word-of-mouth equivalents everywhere from IRC channels to horticultural forums, it’s not going to bring you as much traffic as, say, an advert on Google or a gardening blog will. Hits on sites that are newly built are often random – people will visit sites because a random combination of words in a search by someone looking for a cheeseburger recipe may throw up a link to your article about the lovely yellows and browns of daffodils on fresh soil.

A lot of review and criticism sites have grown steadily by word of mouth, having established themselves in the days when Google was just one of many options, and all anyone could talk about was AOL and their endless amounts of free internet CDs (or floppies, if you’re going back far enough, there’s no shame in the humble slice of plastic). However, these sites, now massive and garnering millions of hits a year, if not per month, have adverts to other sites on them – some will be for the manufacturers of the products they review, and some for sister sites or affiliates that do the same things as their own site, just differently enough not to pose as a competitor for their online title.

So, our florist website. How do we advertise and make this online business bigger? There are a few ways to make sure you’re easily searchable and appealing to those who might just see your advert next to an article on dating advice, and I’ll go into these below.

Step one is most definitely to make sure you’ve got a consistent image and tone across your site. If it comes across or reads like a jumble of half-thought-out ideas and clashing colours, people are going to view your business as a mess, even if this isn’t the case. It’ll cost a pretty penny to get a decent website built, but having a slick online interface for window shoppers and potential customers is the difference between a mangled bookstore’s address and a list of books in a PDF file, and Amazon. Amazon are by no means a site with corporate roots – they clawed their way to the top the same as everyone else, and they benefit because of their presentation and constant redesigns according to feedback from customers. Of course, Amazon’s popularity rose with their use of text adverts – customers hovering over text content talking about subjects relevant to Amazon’s products and services were offered them and as a result, their influence grew mroe subtly than many of the dot com boom businesses.

If you’re looking for feedback on your site, but would rather it came from its users than your online business pals, consider a contact page. Even if it’s a text box, an email slip and a “submit” button, this unassuming bit of HTML can save you a lot of time when considering your next web-expansion and what direction to go in. When the site is slightly larger, consider a forum, though be careful to disguise this – forums tend to encourage criticism and, more often, arguments and heated debates between users, as anonymity is the number one cause of antagonistic online behaviour. Amazon, as our ongoing example, have discussion forums situated deep into their site as opposed to it being a front-page feature – long time customers and site veterans are the main contingent writing content in this area, and this means you’re not clearing out swathes of spam, unwanted or inappropriate content, or dealing with arguments when you could be selling products and services.

The second major thing to consider to is making sure your business or brand is out in the public space. When browsing sites, people tend to take in everything on an internet page, and for this reason everyone from Eurogamer to YouTube are now offering wraparound advertising space to businesses, artists and artistic products. Make sure, however, that any sites you approach and wish to advertise on coincide with your vision and your views, both as a business owner and a person. If you’re working with text-based advertising, many companies will ensure the site your advert appears on is closely related to the site whilst remaining a subtle suggestion – bear in mind doing the job yourself may sometimes lead to problems; specialists are worth what they’re paid. A lot of sites that would seem fine on the surface may contain content that reflects badly on you as both an individual and a CEO, so make sure to nip problems like these in the bud when negotiating with sites about advertising deals.

When advertising on other sites, consider how you’re advertising. Are you using text adverts, banner images, or Google ads? The method by which you’re advertising needs to suit the business you’re running, or you risk confusing potential consumers. Advertising a film with a banner image is smart: it’s a visual advert for a visual medium. Advertising the same film with a text advert isn’t the right direction for it, and this is why it’s rare to see this happening. Going back to our wonderfully convenient (because I’m constantly using it, assumably) analogy, a florists would benefit from any kind of advert – because it’s visual, but we’re also likely to look it up on the web, text adverts supply the same amount of information. Films, games and TV are transient products that aren’t in the commercial space long enough to warrant directory entries, and this is a great acid test when considering whether you want Flash, or some smart SEO text content.

These are just a few ideas to get you started, but consider your options – who are you? What are you offering? How would you want to display these products and services to your target market? Make everything smart and straight-forward, and you’ll attract new visitors whilst still retaining the old ones. If you’re reading this and you sell flowers, however, I think you’re definitely quids in, now.

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