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Twitter certainly isn’t the only social media game in town, but there’s no doubt it’s one of the most important ones. It’s a preferred mouthpiece for political campaigns, breaking news reports and virtually anyone associated with the entertainment industry.

But Twitter has also become all but indispensable for businesses of any size. Failure to take full advantage of the social media platform probably means you’re doing less than the competition and losing a potentially valuable marketing vehicle at the same time.

Some businesses may feel as though the upkeep associated with Twitter and other social media is simply too costly and/or time consuming. And while taking on a new campaign of any sort can initially seem overwhelming, it’s worth remembering that social media in general can offer a particularly lucrative return on investment.

When people share your tweets—and the ideas, imagery or links contained therein—there’s potential for significant exposure. Where there’s exposure, there’s also a better chance of leads and conversions. Despite the upfront costs involved with these kinds of strategies, the hope is that they build especially cost-effective lives of their own.

That’s not just a corporate fantasy, either. It could well be the kind of phenomena that takes your business to the next level.

If your business is committed to taking full advantage of Twitter, you might as well take the effort seriously—even if that means applying some resources and oversight to your campaign.

“Growing a real following on Twitter takes more than sending out tweets whenever your company has a product being released or an upcoming event,” Sprout Social’s Dominique Jackson wrote late last year. “It’s about connecting with your target audience and interacting with them. Successful Twitter marketing is powerful. If you can become a pro with this fast paced social networking site, you’ll unlock new opportunities to grow your business online.”

Beyond immediate exposure, Twitter can directly drive traffic to your website and even help your website appear higher in search rankings. So yes, there are all kinds of good reasons to care about Twitter.

“As Twitter continues to grow, it should be an essential part of your company’s marketing strategy,” Entrepreneur’s Nathan Resnick argued last year. “By interacting with your followers, you’ll find that they’ll become more loyal to your brand. A company’s footprint can expand through Twitter and there’s no reason not to utilize this community. If your company isn’t on Twitter already, it’s time to start, or risk losing the potential to interact with over 302 million people.”

Though it never hurts to consult with a company that specializes in digital marketing and social media management, we’re hoping to help you get started. We’ve catalogued all the best-available advice and broken it down into actionable information that you and your company can start incorporating from the outset.  If you have any questions about your social media management contact us and we can help.

Twitter Marketing Profile Basics

Before you really dig into the intricacies and legwork required for a robust Twitter marketing campaign, you should of course first ensure that your profile information is complete and accurate. None of this is brain science, but this is the place where a mistakes or laziness can have unintended consequences.

First, remember that the visual elements of your profile may be the very first impression some have of your brand. That doesn’t necessarily imply a one-size-fits-all solution in terms of your profile and cover photo, but you should probably have a calculated plan. If your business aspires to project professionalism, the imagery should reflect that. More about coming across creatively? That’s fine, too. Just don’t use a kitschy company picnic photo or some roughly thrown-together artwork.

Ideally, your coloring and/or logo will also be consistent with the branding used on your website and on other social media platforms. You don’t want users mistakenly believing they’ve stumbled upon a different (but similarly named) company.

Next, be sure that your bio section includes all the important keywords with which you’d want to be associated in searches via Twitter or Google. Beyond your business name—and, if locally operated, location—this will likely include your products, services or any other topics that typify your mission and operations.

Finally, add a link to your company website or a specific landing page connected thereto. Remember, Twitter is a means to an end. Like more traditional marketing campaigns, this is still all about increasing traffic and building your base of clientele.

Planning Your Twitter Identity and Strategy

Hopefully you’ve already given substantial thought to the way you want consumers to perceive your business. Ultimately, your Twitter presence is simply one element of that broader strategy.

Is your company an expert industry leader? Are you relatable, funny, innovative? Do you provide an especially unique product or service for a niche market? Is it important that you come across as especially professional and formal?

Just as these considerations should characterize the content on your website, they should also be the basis you use when planning your Twitter messaging and voice. These foundational aspects of your identity should shape everything else you do.

Once you’ve established a social media philosophy, it’s time for more granular planning.

It’s probably wise to assign management responsibilities to a dedicated social media guru, establish a schedule for your tweets and set some concrete goals defining what you hope to accomplish through Twitter. You’ll also want your social media manager to measure the extent to which you’re actually meeting those goals.

Given Twitter’s general user-friendliness, it’s tempting to jump right in and get started without much forethought. That’s probably a mistake, though. You wouldn’t throw just anything up on a billboard, and you wouldn’t film a commercial without paying careful attention to your messaging and marketing tactics. Why should Twitter—or any social media campaign—be any different?

Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling, ongoing planning is still a good idea. Some targeted Twitter activity during special or industry-related events is generally a nice way to attract a little extra traffic. The same goes for holidays, important dates or entertainment spectacles (think Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Taking advantage of these occasions usually means you have to think ahead, perhaps even preparing some content in advance.

Your Twitter campaign doesn’t have to take over your life or become the center of all you do. But it wouldn’t hurt to schedule an occasional meeting to ensure your strategy exists and is being capably executed.

Building a Twitter Followers

Twitter will become a far more impactful marketing vehicle to whatever extent your account builds a large following. No secret there. So how does one attract all these followers? Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of a silver bullet—but there are a few things you can do.

The first rule of thumb could be formulated along the same lines as the Golden Rule of Twitter: Tweet others as you wish to be tweeted. Be responsive. Retweet and favorite other users’ content. Bring attention to others’ news and successes. Strive to entertain and inform. In short, take the next section (on engagement) seriously. The better you treat other users, the more likely they are to follow you and show interest in what you have to say.

There are some specific tricks of the trade, too.

The more users you follow, the more likely you are to garner follow-backs. Check out Twitter’s recommendations in the “Who to Follow” section. Also, click on the “Find people you know” option to search your email contacts for members you can follow. Finally, scan Twitter lists and directories for major influencers in your industry. If you can get them to follow you, one retweet from someone moderately important could encourage others to follow you, too.

There are internal and external tools that can help you in this endeavor.

As Vocus social media manager Stacey Miller suggested to CIO in 2013, “Use Twitter search or a tool like Topsy [or Followerwonk] to find like-minded prospects, customers and influencers/media by searching keywords that relate to your industry.”

A little legwork can get you on the right track, as well.

“Make a list of the 100 most influential people in your space—journalists, thought leaders, potential clients/customers, big-name bloggers and writers, potential partners, etc.,” Onboardly director of marketing Shanelle Mullin explained to CIO.

Following these kinds of individuals and businesses is the first step. Actually interacting with them on a regular basis is equally as important, though. That kind of sustained attention significantly increases the odds you’ll be followed and/or retweeted.

As Mullin furthered, “Add them to a private Twitter list and engage with them daily. Tools like HootSuite make managing this process much easier. Be casual [and helpful], not promotional. Build a real relationship and then look for opportunities to collaborate.”

If your company has experience building relationships with others involved with your industry, those same proficiencies should pay off on Twitter. Doing it right will require some patience and commitment, but that’s the social media world we live in. There aren’t many overnight solutions to increasing your exposure. Fortunately, this kind of exposure can wind up being a lot cheaper than many traditional marketing and advertising strategies.

Twitter Engagement

At minimum, you should be providing your audience a regular supply of tweets. Indeed, you’ll likely want to post some tweets multiple times in order to assure maximum reach. Though frequent tweeting is only the beginning of your engagement strategy, it’s an absolutely vital first step.

“Regular tweeting is a sign of an active, healthy profile,” Affect founder and president Sandra Fathi told CIO. “If you only tweet once a week, or once a month, you aren’t keeping up with the Joneses [or the Twitter equivalent]. Worse, folks will forget about you.”

Forgetting about you could even be the least of your worries. Should your Twitter posting grow infrequent or uncommon, your audience may begin believing that you lack the resources, expertise or interest needed to maintain one of the most basic digital marketing channels. At that point, allowing your Twitter account to simply gather dust could actually be counterproductive.

Tweeting consistently is necessary, but it’s hardly sufficient.

What you’re tweeting matters, too. Tweets should not be repetitive, and they shouldn’t be transparently obvious sales pitches, either. Diversify your tweets. Make them lively, interesting, useful and entertaining. Contribute something that others aren’t already adding to the Twitter universe.

And use photos or other images whenever possible.

“Images, videos and other rich media have proven to receive more views, clicks and shares than plain text tweets,” ShopIgniter marketing vice president Marko Muellner told CIO.

Insert clichés about pictures saying a thousand words here. The bottom line is that visually engaging content catches eyes and inspires sharing.

“While community managers may be doing a great job engaging followers, a banal post about enjoying the weekend is much less effective than rich, in-stream content in which someone can, for example, view a film trailer and find out where the movie is playing in their neighborhood,” Muellner added. “In fact, research shows that rich tweets have significantly lower negative feedback rates as consumers appreciate interactivity and content designed for their social mobile context.”

Given the limited number of characters with which one has to work on Twitter, a visual dimension is all the more important.

So too is the use of links to content. There’s certainly nothing wrong with sharing content from other sources and websites. In fact, doing so can even help build more of a community around your Twitter presence. But there’s a lot to be said for sharing your very own content—and that likely means maintaining a blog or something like it. The blog ensures that you have something interesting say, and Twitter means you have another place to say it.

Aside from your tweets and the content associated therewith, you should also endeavor to make people feel loved. There are a few ways to do that. You should retweet others’ posts, especially if they originated with an average consumer who’d feel valued by such a gesture. Unless you’re intent on only keeping tabs on a particularly exclusive group of users, you should even consider following a few. That might make them feel special, too.

Simply adopting a more conversational tone can go a long way toward encouraging others to reply and initiate a real dialogue. In other words, you shouldn’t think of Twitter as a mini-billboard. Instead, think of it as a dynamic and discursive space. That should play a large role in determining what you say and how you say it.

Additionally, offering discounts or coupons via Twitter will make consumers feel valued and serve all the usual functions associated with a good deal. It will also create an incentive for users to keep an eye on your Twitter account, encouraging them to look through all the other great content while they’re at it.

Along these lines, remember that Twitter can be a huge asset to your customer service endeavors. Yes, it’s more public than you may prefer on some occasions. But it’s also a good way to communicate with your customers in a direct and timely way. At the end of the day, any opportunity for you to be responsive and accommodating is generally a good thing. That may require you to dedicate staff to monitoring your Twitter account on a full-time basis or—at minimum—ensuring that your social media staff and customer service rep(s) are on the same page. One way or another, though, it’s crucial that you acknowledge users’ complaints (or praise) and establish a visible pattern of attentiveness and supportiveness.

A successful engagement strategy on Twitter is like any other effective conversation. It involves being heard, and it involves listening. At its best, it’s a two-way street.

Maximizing Twitter Exposure

For some companies, exposure may be an end to itself. When it comes to Twitter, it’s also a great way to snag more followers, encourage traffic to your website and potentially grow your leads and conversions. Given the increasing frequency with which consumers use social media to learn more about goods and services, your business will be well-served by going the extra mile.

So how do get the kind of attention every business so desires?

First, remember to post your Twitter handle wherever it makes sense to do so

“This includes your offline marketing materials, website, guest blog posts, other social media accounts, as well as at live events like trade shows,” argues Forbes’ Jayson DeMers. “Use Twitter buttons and embedded timelines to promote your account on your website or blog. I also recommend using the Tweet This plugin on your site to make sharing your content as easy as possible.”

This should be pretty commonsensical. Your Twitter presence isn’t something to hide.

Second, consider the timing of your tweets. Though they should be going out daily—if not far more often—you should attempt to post more frequently during the times users are most commonly checking their Twitter feeds. The weekends (including Friday) are especially good times. Some studies have reportedly indicated that tweets posted during common work hours unsurprisingly receive the least attention.

Third, take advantage of trending topics. Twitter will tell you which words, names and phrases are trending along the lefthand side of your feed. There are also several websites dedicated to listing even more trending topics. When you want to exploit these trending topics, remember to use the hashtag function along with the words (or words) that are trending. That assures that your tweet will be properly categorized and more visible to those looking for said topics.

Even when a topic isn’t currently trending, hashtags can still help quite a bit in the visibility department. Try to use them whenever possible.

Fourth, add links to your tweets. Social media guru Dan Zarrella notes that it’s scientifically proven that tweets containing links are significantly more likely to be retweeted. Of course, it certainly helps when you’re linking to something interesting or useful.

Fifth, remember the importance of photos and images. They increase the probability that your content will be retweeted, and there’s also a pretty good chance they’ll prompt a reply or other interaction with users.

Sixth, brevity can be your friend. Admittedly, it’s difficult to become especially longwinded on Twitter in the first place. But keeping things succinct and punchy can be particularly effective when it comes to grabbing your audience’s attention. Given the massive volume of tweets users are often perusing, lengthier tweets may well escape crowded attention spans.

Seventh, whenever possible, think about covering relevant events in real time. That could entail “live tweeting” an entertainment event, trade show, conference or product launch—anything about which users might be interested in receiving near-contemporaneous news. In addition to grabbing users’ attention at a time when they’re more likely to be engaged with a certain topic, you also increase the likelihood those users retweet information or reaction while it’s still fresh.

Finally, you can always post “promoted tweets.” While these operate like normal tweets in most ways, they’re essentially paid-for advertising that can even target a particular audience. It will cost you some money, so this likely wouldn’t be a wise standard operating procedure. But if and when you want to highlight a particular post, this isn’t a bad option.

Listen to Twitter

It’s easy to get a bit carried away with Twitter’s potential to deliver your messaging, increase exposure and enhance your brand. And while those advantages—along with customer service potential—may be the primary rationale for using the platform, they aren’t all there is to it.

Twitter can also be an extraordinarily useful research mechanism.

“Keep in mind that many conversations taking place about your products and brand won’t be on your Twitter feed,” notes DeMers. “To ensure you know what’s being said, it’s important to engage in social media monitoring (also known as social media listening). A monitoring tool like Social Mention can help with this, by allowing you to search Twitter (and many other blogs and social media platforms) in real time. It will also show you top keywords and hashtags related to your brand, as well overall sentiments (positive, neutral and negative).”

Obviously, paying attention to brand mentions and related feedback can seriously inform how you do business. These unsolicited reviews may be more honest than the feedback you typically receive. Consumer ideas could even help your business innovate or address an unmet need in the market.

To whatever extent Twitter users are seeking help, you can also use listening as an opportunity to build relationships. Proactively addressing someone’s needs can demonstrate your company’s commitment to going out of its way for clientele. And when you’re subject to serious public criticism, it may become even more important that you respond in an appropriately constructive manner.

Finally, monitoring Twitter can also help you keep tabs on the competition. Want to learn more about their best practices? Looking to understand why they’re capturing an important part of your market? Or, maybe you just want to determine their vulnerabilities. Either way, Twitter’s undeniable transparency allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of those within your industry.

Taking full advantage of Twitter as a mouthpiece and listening device may seem overly ambitious. A full-spectrum approach to the platform clearly requires some resources and investment. So it’s worth noting that you can certainly start small and grow your presence over time. So long as you’re taking the fundamentals seriously—namely posting the right kinds of things and posting them regularly—your business should be able to build some traction.

As with any kind of marketing effort, that’s better than nothing.

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