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 online 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.