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Using Twitter as part of your Social Media campaigns

I recently had a conversation with someone that doesn’t understand what Twitter could do for their business. Their comment was, “I really don’t care about seeing what someone is doing – and why would I want to tell the world that I just walked into Starbucks”. Of course, there are those that use Twitter for this…but there is far more to Twitter than updating in 140 characters exactly what you’re doing at that very moment. Tweets are a great tool to share stories, promote your business, offer promotions to your customers, break news about a big sale or a new product introduction, as well as to cheaply and effectively build your brand. So, based on that conversation, here’s what I told him makes Twitter an important part of a businesses social media marketing campaign.

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Build a network – Facebook and other social networking platforms are great for keeping in touch with people you already know, but when it comes to building out your network among those that don’t know you, Twitter is much more effective. With Twitter, you can find and follow those that have similar interests as you  – helping you to build clientele that you may not of otherwise been able to find.

Drive website and blog traffic – You’ve updated your website, or added a new blog post – now you have to hope people find it. With Twitter, you can redistribute that content – and drive them back to the full blog post or web update, improving your site traffic.

It’s a great PR tool – With Twitter’s Direct Messaging tools, you can target specific journalists that follow you on Twitter to pitch story ideas. Given the cost of retaining a PR firm for a small business, this can be a very cost effective way to get news about your company out to the press.

Understand how your brands are doing – With the ability within Twitter to keep track of “mentions”, you can not only see what is being said about your brands and your company, you’ll be in  a much better  position to deal with negative feedback and counter it quickly. And, it’s also a great tool for getting instant feedback – far quicker (and quicker) than focus groups. Just ask your followers for their opinion!

Link to other conversations that might be of interest to your customers – With Twitter, it’s easy to share those things that you might find to be of interest with your customers. Not only is this a bit easier than trying to figure out what to say every time you make a Twitter post, its an effective way to not only keep your name in  front of your clients, but also continue to on your reputation as being a more viable source of information than your competition.

Improve your knowledge & skills – For example, I started following a number of design companies that post on Twitter. From that, I’ve discovered things like sources for free fonts, CSS design tools, best-practices for print submissions that I was unaware of…tools that allow me to not only offer better services for my clients, but also help streamline the work I do.

Improve relationships in your existing networks – Rather than using instant messaging,  Twitter allows people to connect and message regardless of what IM network they may use. And, with TweetDeck’s (and other Twitter platforms) ability to easily allow you do either to group messages, direct message, and mentions, you have the ability to connect far easier than trying to manage IM message among multiple networks.

Find good employees – Try using Twitter to solicit your followers for references on people you might need to hire. Much more convenient (and cheaper) than using either classified ads, or online job search websites!

Find a job – In the same vein, if the economy has you downsized, or you’re having to downsize your own company, use Twitter to soliciti your followers to either find yourself new job opportunities, or aid your soon-to-be downsized people to find new employment.

Getting started with Social Media

With all the buzz surrounding sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, the question remains – why is this important to my business? Well, it’s pretty simple. It could be detrimental to your business if you don’t.

First, let’s talk about how “Citizen Marketers”, as author Jackie Huba calls them / us, can have an impact. In his book, “What Would Google Do”, author Jeff Jarvis talks about his experience in June 2005 with Dell. In his now famous example, Jeff had a bad experience with a Dell purchase. In the past, he might have told a few people, who told a few people, and over an extended period of time, perhaps an extremely small segment of the population would have had avoided buying a Dell product.

But, with the advent of blogging, this changed the playing field. Jeff, who happens to be the proprietor of one of the Web’s most popular and respected blogs, Buzzmachine.com, blogged about it. Others read his blog, and they blogged about their bad experiences. And, it quickly had a significant impact on Dell’s reputation, and their sales.

Fortunately, in this case, Dell did the right thing. First, they started their own blog, and reached out to those bloggers that complained, basically saying “We’re Listening”. Then, they launched another blog called “IdeaStorm” – where customers could tell Dell what to do, discussing and voting on communities favorite ideas. Negative blog buzz dropped from 49% to 22% within a year.

Lesson – The customer knows best – and that the customer is boss – now we have to mean it. The customer is in control.

Getting involved in social media – joining the communities that people are involved in that impact your business – is how you can make sure that even though the customer is in control, that you are working with them, rather than against them, in growing your business.

So, the goal here is to understand what message is out there currently about your company, and then take steps to engage the community creating that message – and build relationships within that community. The best way to start is:

1. Google yourself and your company. Do it in Technorati, Icerocket, Blogpulse, YouTube, and Twitter.
2. Respond. Do it yourself. Be yourself. Find a problem. Fix it. Learn from it. Then tell people what you learned. Now, though, you’ll do it in public.
3. Do this by calling the person with the problem. Tell them you understand the problem and fix it and you’re grateful for his help.
4. Once fixed – encourage them to blog about the experience.
5. Start a blog yourself, and share the problems and solutions as they occur.

What you are doing here is creating relationships. Just like you do with your friends, family, and customers face-to-face. But now you are expanding far beyond your “core” group – you are also reaching out to those that you may not have ever thought of. Keep in mind that the people who say good things are important – they become your testimonials. But more important are those that aren’t happy. Think about it – they care about your business – why else would they take the time & effort to blog / post / tweet about it?

Next is to understand why things have developed like they have. From what I’ve experienced, Social Media has developed in the following stages:

Stage 1 –  Website: Basically an online brochure for the company. Little to no interaction between company and customer other than a “contact us” form.Stage 2 – Blogs: Gave companies an easy to use way to start building a relationship with their customers – and with “People” rather than “Companies” blogging, blogs quickly turned into communities. Citizens started to take control of the message – but with so many blogs covering similar topics, it became difficult for the customer to make sense of relevant information.

Stage 3 – Communities: With MySpace and Facebook, communities solidified among common interests  – i.e. “Friends”. Dissemination and sharing of information generated out of Stage 2 made it much easer to make sense of relevant information.

Stage 4 – Twitter: Combines best of Stage 2 & Stage 3 – with the 140 character mini-blog. With the ability to follow others & gain followers, sharing of information via “tiny links” ties back info from blogs & social networks back into the mainstream in a controlled fashion.

The Benefit: Engagement Correlates To Financial Performance
In a recent study by The Altimeter Group, they found that implementing a social medial strategy for your business has a quantifiable result on revenues. When they looked at the financial performance of brands, they found that those companies that engaged in social media grew their revenues 18% over the last 12 months, compared to the least engaged companies who on average, saw a 6% decline in revenue during the same period. As they put it, “For example, a company mindset that allows a company to be broadly engage with customers on the whole probably performs better because the company is more focused on companies than the competition.” |  ENGAGEMENTdb – Altimeter 20 July 2009

According to their study, 4 things stand out:

It’s about quality, not quantity.
Don’t just set up a blog or a Facebook profile and leave it out there – keep up with it. Keep your content fresh. Build a network of friends & followers. Get involved with  your audience.It’s everbody’s job.
Don’t just assign this to one person in your organization. Get everybody involved – if someone engages your suppliers and / or customers, those customer touch points are where your social media efforts need to target.

If you can’t do everything – do something.
Start now, or you’ll fall behind. Even if your customers aren’t doing it – eventually they will.

Find your sweet spot.
Test and see what works best – then do it well. Be the master of what works, rather than spread yourself thin and be a master of nothing.

How to Start:

  • Again, search about yourself – and your competitors. It’s free market research to better understand how customers perceive you.
  • Remember that you don’t control your brand. Your customer does. To influnce their perception, you have to build relationships with them.
  • Start with the basics. Start a blog. You can make a free online one at blogger.com, or WordPress.com.
  • Start a Facebook account. Keep it focused on your business.
  • Start a Twitter account. Search for, and follow, those that affect your business. Your suppliers. Your customers. Publications that influence your industry. Even your competitors.
  • Start a Friendfeed account – and link your blog, your Facebook account, and your Twitter account together – that’s what FriendFeed does.
  • Do it every day. Tell your friends, your employees, your customers – to log on and “tweet”. Get a smartphone and do it on the run. Just do it!
  • Remember that this is constantly changing – so don’t worry about knowing how to do everything at once. Just start slow – and to get an idea of how to post – read the posts of those you follow – both in blogs & Twitter. You’ll quickly get the hang of it!

This isn’t rocket science. And, it’s not something you can take lightly either. But keep in mind that by doing this right – and right now – you have the opportunity to not just learn about what your customer thinks about you today, you have the chance to have a positive impact on what they think tomorrow – and with the growth of online communities, you can impact the perceptions of everybody they are connected with as well!

Apture – Great website plug-in

Just found this plug-in for websites & blogs – Apture. Check it out at https://www.apture.com/simplified/ – I first saw it on FlightGlobal‘s site. I like the idea of being able to quicky embed content (including Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, etc. from within the site, and make it available without being obnoxious. And, for users who are registered Apture users, they can highight text, and have info pushed to them that’s relevant to what they just highlighted off your site’s content.

From their site’s explanation, “Automated tools or machines don’t know how to tell stories, people do. That’s why we give you the power to select the content you want from the most rich and diverse web media destinations. Express the story you want to tell with the most emotional impact.”

Gotta love modern technology!

A Great Idea for Letting People Know About Your Business

I just found this video for Fitness4Home Superstore here in Tempe – showing how to use a treadmill. When it comes to leveraging the power of social media, how many businesses could go and take a video with a Flip camera, and upload videos to YouTube? Just a great way to give out information without seeming “sales-y”, while promoting your business.

Social Networking – Is It Relevant?

I was just reading an article in 1to1 Magazine  – called “The Social Media Hype Is Over” – basically, they feel that it’s time to create real value from online customer interactions. Beyond being today’s buzzword, social media has taken our job as marketers, and thrown us on our collective asses.

We started out with the Internet – a nice, controllable vehicle to get our message out. Then, we started corporate blogs – which gave us the ability to get closer to our customers, while getting feedback (good and bad) – but we still retained some control over the “message”. Now, with the growth of social communities such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc, – we no longer control the message – our customers do.

The question we keep asking ourselves (or, get asked by our bosses / clients / customers) – is whether social networking is really relevant?

Short answer – if you think for a second it’s not – it’s time for a new career.

I’m thinking of a kayaking trip with friends in the next few weeks. I’ve communicated with my friends to plan the trip over Facebook. I read reviews of different tours on Yelp. One company – has a blog where i read up about the last few trips they’ve headed up for clients. I’ve checked out trips taken by other customers on Flickr, Photobucket, YouTube, and Picasa.

In the past, I’d had just called the company, booked the trip, and hoped for the best. Yet now, with a tightening economy, I want to know what I’m getting prior to the trip – and I want to know what others think.

The opportunity for us as marketers – is to realize that as costs go up, for us to ignore our clients desire to research what they are getting for their money – that the less we do with marketing over social networks – the more our customers will do it for us. I realize that I’d mentioned above that the customer controls the message now. This isn’t totally true. They interpret what we put out there as our message – and then do some of our marketing for us.

Our job – is to make sure the message is more accurate than ever before – and, make sure that we stay on top of that message. Then, utilize these social media tools to make sure our customers know about our message. Finally, once we’ve accomplished that – we then need to stay on top of what they say about our message – how they interpret it and market it – so we can constantly make course corrections in our message.

I like to think that in some ways, we’ve simplified some of our market research via the introduction of social networks. Think about how many blunders have taken place over the years because what a focus group said was important, was irrelevant once brought to market. Now…you’re going to know the relevance to the market that much sooner, and possibly more accurately, than ever before. We now have the ability to monitor our brands in real time – for better or worse!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Flock – A Great Way To Manage All Your Social Networking Sites

Life seemed so simple when everybody was on MySpace…and nothing else. Now, keeping track of all the different social networking sites one’s a part of can get a bit frustrating. Fortunately, someone came up with a solution. There’s now a “social Web browser” based on Mozilla, the same architecture as Firefox – called Flock. I’d heard a little about it over the last few months, and finally decided to try it out after reading a review in the April 2008 issue of MacWorld. (And, yes – there is both Mac & WIndows versions!). What a concept – a way to easily keep up with not only my social networking accounts, but also YouTube, Digg, del.icio.us, keep my blog updated – all without loosing my mind!

To quote the article – “Billed as a ‘social Web browser,’ Flock 1.0.3 makes it easy to track blogs and social networks, and to create your own content. You can enter lon-in info for Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, and common blogging services. That done, you can click on the browser’s Blog option to launch a pop-up window pre-configured with your blog’s categories and posting options, and then enter text. A panel on the left lets you scan RSS feeds, Facebook updates, Twitter tweets, or Flickr comments.:

The only social networking site not support is, surprisingly, MySpace. Acccording to Flock’s website:

Where is MySpace integration for People?

No, we haven’t been living in a small, dark cave without internet access for 6 years. We are aware that MySpace is one of the largest social networks around, and we, like you, would like to see it integrated into Flock’s People sidebar.

Until early 2008, MySpace had no developer platform available with which to build quality Flock integration. We’re pleased to have been given access to this platform when it launched and have been working to build MySpace into Flock. We previewed an early build of it at MySpace’s Developer Platform launch.

The skinny: MySpace integration in Flock will arrive in 2008.

I’ve been using Flock for about two weeks now – and it has greatly simplified keeping up with what used to be a wild mix of different sites – and I definitely recommend the free download! (And, since it’s based on Mozilla – you can also use it as your regular browser as well!)

Why blogging can suck!

Because I just realized that I haven’t updated this stupid thing in almost a year! That seems to be the downside of these things – keeping up with them!

But, in the interest of keeping up with this, I’ve installed Flock. Go check it out at www.flock.com. Basically, it’s a web browser designed for social networking & blogging. Based on Mozilla (same stuff Firefox is built out of) – it nicely consolidates your social networking accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, and YouTube, along with the blogs you’re part of, Gmail and Yahoo mail, and other stuff I haven’t figured out yet.

Considering I’ve only just installed this 30 minutes ago, I haven’t figured everything out yet – but given that in 30 minutes I finally have gotten off my ass using Flock and updated my blog for the first time in months – well, that should give you an idea of how well this works!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

The Downside of Blogs

I just realized it’s been over 2 months since I last updated this blog. Funny thing is – I visit plenty of other blogs, and always wonder why either you see someone with way too much time on their hands, posting constant updates. Or, it’s being maintained by someone that obviously had the best of intentions, but in reality – posted two or three times, then left it by the wayside.In reality – keeping these things updated means you constantly have something of value to say. That, or you just want to post for the sake of posting.

Personally, I’d prefer that my postings be of value.But, it seems to be inevitable, like death and taxes, that you run out of things to say for the moment. So, you leave postings similar to…well…this one.

So, for those that might actually visit this blog…let’s just say “Happy Holidays”…and sorry for the lack of regular postings…but that’s my holiday gift – less crap to wade through for those that visit here!