When you decide to begin using Twitter in your business, you’ll have plenty of decisions to make before you begin, and more as you go along. Jumping in to start a Twitter account because you think you should be there is a sure recipe for failure. You know…”failing to plan is planning to fail,” and all that.
The first thing to decide before you begin is how you will use Twitter. There are many ways for a business to benefit from Twitter. These Twitter strategies fall into three main categories:
1. Broadcasting Twitter Strategies
Strategies in the “Broadcasting” category are (mostly) a one-way exchange of information from the business to its followers. That’s OK, as long as it’s done on a clearly labeled account, so people know what to expect. An example of this would be CNN Breaking News.
Another Broadcasting Twitter strategy uses Twitter to spread company news, such as press releases. That’s mostly the way Google uses Twitter, at least on its main account. This can also be done as part of an Interacting strategy (more on that later), but often companies (or their PR reps) will use Twitter only for this purpose. Again, it’s acceptable, if it’s made clear that this is what a follower can expect.
A third broadcasting strategy is used by companies that use Twitter to share special deals for followers. An example of this strategy is TechBargains, which uses its stream to share the deals and coupons it collects on its site.
A broadcasting strategy can be an effective alternative to an RSS feed, as long as people understand that’s the way the account will be used. The main problem with a Broadcasting strategy is that it neglects the power of Twitter to build relationships.
The expectation of most users on Twitter is that they will be able to interact with anyone they follow. If you’re not letting them do that, you may end up damaging your brand more than helping it by using a Broadcasting strategy
2. Monitoring Twitter Strategies
A second Twitter strategy for a business utilizes Twitter as a monitoring tool. Through Twitter, you can easily keep track of mentions of your company and product brands, and those of your competitors and partners. This strategy can be used in conjunction with a Broadcasting strategy, or on its own.
An advanced method of monitoring is spelled out by Marty Weintraub of AimClear Marketing. It’s called “Buzz Pocket Mining,”which uses data from Twitter and other social media networks as a form of keyword research.
It’s often a good idea to start off in a Monitoring strategy when you first get involved in Twitter. It’s a good way to ease into it, and see how things are being done, so you don’t jump in and make a mistake.
3. Interacting Twitter Strategies
A third Twitter strategy for business is the Interacting strategy. It’s what many people consider to be the “right” way to use Twitter, because it embodies the essence of social media: building relationships.
In an Interacting strategy, your company focuses on having conversations with followers. This includes sharing and promoting your own content, but it goes beyond that to include promoting other people’s content as a resource for your followers, responding to followers’ questions, and proactively engaging users on Twitter.
An Interacting strategy can be used for brand building, by increasing brand awareness and humanizing your brand (Zappos). It can be part of a customer service strategy, responding to problems before they escalate and proactively keeping customers informed when problems arise (Home Depot).
An Interacting Twitter strategy is also useful as a sort of focus group, gathering customer feedback in an efficient and interactive way. Similarly, it can help with generating new content or product ideas.
A primary benefit of an Interacting strategy is community building. Companies that make an effort to provide useful information to followers, regardless of who created it (Whole Foods), provide value — and customers remember that and reward it.
By putting a human face on your company, you can bring benefits in many areas of your business. Although it’s a new medium, the old truths remain: better relationships drive better business.