Five Reasons and a Few Steps to Get Started on Twitter

By Nancy MacGregor Hill, Communications & Social Media Strategist, RealTime Communications

There are several reasons retailers should tap into the nearly 20 million users on Twitter – and here are five of them. First off, it’s free. But more importantly, it has tremendous viral marketing potential. In addition to the ability to communicate sales and promotions to followers (which they can then pass along to their followers), Twitter offers retailers a great way to monitor what people are saying about their brand and respond. Twitter can also be a good tool for addressing customer service issues, as Comcast and Southwest Airlines have done. And finally, when your brand is on Twitter, you can begin to rely on others to do your chest-thumping for you – which helps give you credibility. (Did I mention that it’s free?)

But understanding the value of Twitter is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out how to use Twitter effectively. Unfortunately, many companies don’t understand how to get started, so they don’t. Or they join the Twitterati, but they approach it the wrong way and don’t see much benefit.

From a high-level, Twitter is described as micro-conversing in short, 140-character “tweets.” It’s a vehicle for sharing useful information and participating in conversations. The point of Twitter is to attract followers, but you also want to attract the right followers – so it’s important that your posts, or “tweets,” are relevant to your line of business.

Here are some steps to help you get started or improve your Twitter craft:

1. It’s All About your Brand – Create the same personality on Twitter that you’ve established for your brand. For example, if your company is known for being environmentally-conscious, then you can post tips or links to articles about for how people can be more eco-friendly in their lives. If you’re known for irreverent advertising, then post links to off-the-wall sites or videos on YouTube your audience will relate to.

2. Be Relevant – The best tweets contain information that’s useful. For example, are you a wine retailer? Post something about food & wine pairing, or your favorite summer varietals, or your picks of the best wines under $15. Do you sell women’s fashion? Post something about your newest summer arrivals, or a fashion tip for that long-awaited job interview. Obviously you can’t communicate a lot in 140 characters, but if you write about relevant topics on your company blog, you can tweet a short description and link to it.

3. Keep it Real – If all you do is post links to your site but don’t engage in any real conversations your followers will likely lose interest and un-follow you. This is especially true for retailers. Sure, your customers want information on sales and special deals, but they also want to feel like there’s a real person who’s interested in what they have to say – and who will respond.

4. The 3 Rs: Re-tweet, Reply and Reciprocate – Remember, Twitter is about conversing, so re-tweeting, replying to others and reciprocating is a great way to participate in conversations and get more visibility. Always acknowledge someone with a thank you tweet when they re-tweet your messages, and be sure to respond when someone directs a comment or question at your company, and show them you’re engaged.

5. Follow the Leaders – To get a sense for how other retailers have successfully utilized Twitter, follow them. Some good ones to check out are @WholeFoods, @Zappos, @Lululemon, @traderjoes, @bestbuy.

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Nancy MacGregor Hill is a PR and social media strategist for companies in the retail and technology sectors. She helps companies with media relations and social media activities such as launching corporate blogs, increasing visibility on LinkedIn and starting/managing company Twitter accounts. More information about her clients and services can be found at www.realtime-comm.com. She can be reached by email at nancy@realtime-comm.com or on Twitter at @nmhill.

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