How Twitter works for marketers
In spite of its simplicity (or perhaps because of it), Twitter has proved to be a formidable tool for digital marketing. It frequently delivers more traffic to websites than its much bigger rival Facebook.
And it’s the social network of choice for many of the web’s most highly-engaged users.
Here are some of the most powerful features of Twitter that help to make it such an effective tool for both its users and marketers.
It’s where you go first these days for breaking news. And conversations happen in close to real time — a good reason to check your Twitter account regularly. You can set email and SMS alerts to notify you when someone contacts or mentions you through Twitter.
Twitter’s tweets are 140 characters because that’s how many characters are in a text message. It was designed to be mobile-friendly from the start and that’s become even more important as smartphone use has exploded.
The ease with which you can follow and be followed makes Twitter very powerful.
One of the things Twitter excels at is link sharing. This probably explains why, in spite of having just a quarter of the users, Twitter often drives more traffic to websites than Facebook. And many people like to use Twitter to follow their favorite blogs and news sites. The 140-character limit has driven the popularity of so-called URL shorteners like TinyURL (http://tinyurl.com) and bit.ly (http://bitly.com). These save space by turning a long web page address into a very short one.
Retweeting a Tweet is like forwarding an email. It’s one of the best ways to spread your message beyond your own group of followers, greatly expanding its reach. This might be a link to a story on your own site, or simply an interesting link that some of your followers will want to pass on, with comment or unchanged. They’ll usually acknowledge you as the source, via the @ symbol.
The @ symbol in front of your Twitter name (@MyName) acts like an email address. It lets anyone on Twitter reference another user, or send a message to anyone they follow. @BarackObama sends a message to the President – a mention in Twitter-speak. But note that this is a public message which all your followers will see, not a private one!
DM (Direct Message)
This is one-to-one email using Twitter. You can send a private one-to-one message, called a Direct Message, to any followers who also follow you.
Like @, the # symbol is a marketer’s best friend. Any word preceded by # becomes a hashtag which Twitter users can also follow. For instance, if your Tweet says, ‘Read my ebook’, it will reach your followers (and probably die there since it’s rather dull and rude). But if it says ‘Read my #ebook’, it will reach your followers plus thousands more who are following the #ebook hashtag.
How to use Twitter for maximum marketing impact
Like Facebook and blogs, Twitter has its own etiquette. It’s a social space where users welcome sharing, discussion and occasional good-natured self-promotion.
But, as with all social media, tread lightly to avoid stirring up a storm of angry followers (who will probably unfollow you if they feel you’re overstepping the mark).
It takes a little bit of practice to get used to the stricture of its 140-character limit but, like headline writing, it’s a skill that literary minds can make their own.
Here are a few tips that will help you use Twitter more effectively in your marketing. In the next section, we’ll see several of these in action when we examine a few tweets from the experts.
- When you name someone in a tweet, use a Twitter mention (ie their Twitter username with the @ symbol — @jeffrey_archer, not Jeffrey Archer). This will get your Tweet in front of the named subject, often resulting in a follow, reply or retweet if they like what you’ve said.
- Use hashtags and consider creating your own for an event, book title or special interest group (and promote it of course). Keep them short.
- When you retweet, you’ll usually get a better response when you add your own comment rather than directly retweet.
- Tweet regularly but not so often that it starts to annoy. Tweeting too often is likely to lose you followers.
- When you tweet or retweet, don’t use all 140 characters. Leave at least 20 characters to allow room for others to retweet with your Twitter handle and comment.
- Add a ‘Follow us on Twitter’ button to your website or blog. You can get the code to paste into your webpage here: https://twitter.com/about/resources/buttons#follow.
- Use Twitter Search to locate people or subjects on Twitter, such as your book titles and authors (https://twitter.com/#!/search-home). Use the Advanced Search to narrow the field.
- When you find tweets mentioning your books or authors, retweet them. You’ll pick up new followers as well as benefit from sharing the publicity.
- Giving credit on Twitter. If you use a link from a tweet but not its comment, you can credit the source by adding via @twittername (eg via @jeffrey_archer) to the end of the tweet. If you modify a retweet, you can acknowledge this by changing the RT to MT (modified tweet), especially if it’s a material change.
- Use a Twitter client to manage your Twitter account. Most of them have handy features missing from Twitter itself — though Twitter is working hard now to improve its own client.
How to find and manage followers
We briefly looked at Twitter in the earlier section on how to find the key influencers. Now that you’re more familiar with Twitter and how to use it, it’s time to revisit some of these tips and put them to use.
First, Twitter itself has several useful features to help you find and follow people who will be relevant to you.
- Search. You can use Twitter’s search box and its Recommendations lists to find people, topics and hashtags in your field of interest.
- Advanced search. For more fine-grained searching, use Twitter Search (https://twitter.com/search) which lets you add special operators to search more preceisely. Twitter also has an Advanced Search form for more control over results.
- Twitter Lists. Some tweeters are very well-organized. They organize their followers into lists and many of these lists are public, giving you insights into who are the best people to connect to for particular topics. You’ll find the lists by going to the home page of any well-connected tweeter and clicking on the top left menu. You’ll also find links to their followers and the tweeters whom they follow.
- Hashtags. Hashtags can point you to some of the real experts in a topic area. As we’ve seen, you can find them using Twitter’s own search tools. Another good starting point is Hashtags.org which offers hashtag search, tracking and analytics.
Using third party tools
Here are some of the best third party tools for analyzing and finding Twitter followers.
- Topsy (http://topsy.com). With several years of Tweets in its database, this is a goldmine for finding the most influential Twitterers on any subject — and for uncovering where your own blog posts or links have appeared in the ‘Twittersphere’. Two especially useful Topsy searches:
- Tweepi (http://tweepi.com). Tweepi includes plenty of tools to help you grow and manage your Twitter followers. It has a pretty good free account to try (here’s the sign-up link to the free account, it’s a little hard to find: http://tweepi.com/auth/signup).
- Followerwonk (http://followerwonk.com). Enter the Twitter address of a user you think will be a good addition to your network. Followerwonk will analyse the user’s followers, identify common words in their profiles which you can search on to find other related users, give each user an influence rank, and display them all in an easy-to-use list so you can quickly select Twitter users to follow. A lot of good analysis is free but to really take advantage of followerwonk, you’ll need to sign up for a paid account. There’s a 30 day free trial which will give you a chance to see how useful it will be for you.
- Twellow (http://www.twellow.com). The name seems to be a play on ‘Twitter Yellow’ and it is, indeed, like a Yellow pages for Twitter. It lists Twitter accounts by categories, and lets you quickly see basic information such as who and where they are, how many followers they have, and so on.
Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.