Social Media Marketing: More on Twitter

October 3, 2008

Our first look at Twitter was, admittedly, a little bit of a lightweight. That is, we talked about the service and gave a high-level description of what it is, but we didn't really get to talk much about how you should (and should not) use it. That's what we'll be covering in this post, as there's a fine line to be walked.

There is no shortage of experts when it comes to services like Twitter; a simple Google search will turn up hundreds of blog posts and articles on best practices. Problem is, not everyone is always in complete agreement on what constitutes good vs. bad Twitter etiquette. However, there are some generally accepted guidelines everyone should heed:

Participate often. You know how kids clamor for a new toy, only to promptly abandon it after a few weeks? That irritates parents. Likewise, your followers on Twitter will be equally irritated that you used the service to make only five updates in the past three months. Like all social media, you have to commit.

Build awareness. Let people know you're using the service. Put your Twitter address (your username) in your email signature. Make a mention of it on your website. You can't just assume people will stumble across you by accident.

Connect with other users. Don't just wait for your existing customers or interested prospects to follow your feed. User Twitter's search function to discover users with similar interests and follow their updates. Participate in the conversation and connect with other people.

Review other businesses. Take a look at how they're using Twitter and see what may apply to your business. Keep in mind, it's not an exact science, and what's good for the goose isn't always good for the gander. The point is to see the myriad ways the service is being used and adapt them to your organization's message and methods.

Don't be a pusher. That is, don't tweet incessantly about your products, services, or the incredible awesomeness of your company. Everyone hates spam, and it's already a growing problem on Twitter. Remember: this is about conversation, not your holiday clearance sale. There's no absolute ban against self-promotion, but you have to keep it reasonable.

Keep it relevant. Don't tweet about every little facet of your day—particularly if your day involves intense personal grooming. Make sure your updates have some value, or you'll find yourself being ignored. It takes only one or two offhand tweets about your bran intake for everyone to get bored or creeped out.

Make it personal. There are good arguments to having a business identity on Twitter. However, a personal account seems far more open and authentic; ultimately, it might be valuable for your organization to have both. The tone, quality, and timing of your tweets, however, should be a proper reflection of the account identity.

Don't sink ships. Loose lips will do you in, so don't tweet about sensitive information or topics—unless you're just looking for controversy or trouble. If there's any question about whether clients, friends, or family would appreciate certain information being broadcast, you might want to rethink your update.

That's just to get you started, of course. If you're interested, but not quite ready to jump in, feel free to take a look at how some of us have been using Twitter (Zach, Mark, Joann, Kathryn, Andrew). Moreover, keep coming back here, as we're going to continue to explore social media and how they may benefit your organization.