Twitter has been a hot debate topic among online marketers over the last year. Is it a total time suck, or a marketing tool you can't live without? Honestly, it depends on how you use it...
Everyone seems to use Twitter differently. The interesting thing is just how defensive people tend to get over their personal opinion of Twitter - be it the best way to use it, or their decision not to use it at all.
So what's the big deal - and how should you be using Twitter in your marketing strategy? Twitter happens to be the #1 traffic referrer to my blog, and has maintained that position consistently for well over a year. I'll share some tips with you that have proven to work very well for me, along with my thoughts on some of the more controversial topics regarding Twitter...
Follow / Following / Unfollow
This seems to be the topic of most debates, and one where people often adopt an opinion that ultimately only affects them or their personal Twitter experience.
These opinions include: unfollowing anyone that won't follow them back, or chooses to unfollow them at some point. Refusing to follow someone based on the number of people they are following (or not), etc.
Follow - Twitter is similar to your RSS or Feed Reader. Who you follow is basically who - or what information - you subscribe to. If you're using Twitter for marketing purposes then you want to follow the market leaders in your niche, and the news sources in your niche, as a means of staying up to date on current events and hot topics.
Who cares if they follow you back? Seriously. The point of following is to get the news and updates that you prefer. Period.
Twitter can be used in any number of ways, but for Twitter Marketing you should follow: market leaders, competitors, bloggers, speakers, authors, etc in your niche.
The cool thing about Twitter is that you can not only follow specific people, but you can also follow specific topics. I use TweetDeck which allows me to create groups (people I want to follow more closely) as well as searches - for topics/keywords I want to follow. You should follow keywords such as your name, brand, product name, main keyword, etc.
Part of my follow strategy also includes my Replies tab. This is where tweets arrive from people who have talked to me or talked about me - that have included "@lynnterry" in their tweet. This is actually where I spend the majority of my time with Twitter, because it allows me to engage in conversations - regardless of whether I am actually 'following' that person or not.
(To the people that complain or protest that I don't follow them, I always encourage them to test me - if they speak to me directly or tweet me a question, I respond. And that, in my opinion, is just as good as "following")
Here is a breakdown of how I use Twitter:
- The main timeline is where I scan for news, updates & general content.
- My group is a more focused timeline that I keep a closer eye on, to keep my finger on the pulse of specific people.
- My search is where I do ongoing market research. I keep an eye here too for new people to follow or conversations to join.
- My Replies tab is where my conversations & interactions are happening.
Following - For starters, I do not waste time checking out who is following me. In fact, I turned off email notifications because I found it pointless and distracting. Your focus should be on building a very specific following on Twitter, not on each individual person who is following you.
This may seem "harsh" but I consider it someone's personal choice to follow me. I don't actually engage with that person unless they choose to tweet me directly, or respond to one of my tweets.
You want to treat "building your following" like you treat "building your list". (You wouldn't go check out every single person that signed up for your newsletter, would you?) See the Twitter Marketing Strategy section below.
Unfollow - Some people will unfollow anyone that won't follow them, or who unfollows them. I've even seen people attempt to "bully" others by threatening to unfollow them. This is just plain silly in my opinion.
You should unfollow anyone you no longer want to follow. Simple as that. For me it might be a blogger or marketer that is consistently off topic and doesn't send out updates relevant to my 'feed'. It's not personal.
Some set up rules or criteria for their follow/following/unfollow strategy that, in my opinion, are too strict and only spite them - they certainly don't affect anyone else. Many people have said that they check out the bio for certain detail, make sure that person filled out a specific location, look at the follower/following ratio, etc.
It's not about "grading" a person on their ability to set up a profile to MY specs. It's about getting the news & updates that I want - period. There are certain people I want to follow, eavesdrop on, connect with, or receive updates from. In the end, the only real criteria should be what you want in your timeline... and what YOU need to accomplish YOUR (very specific) goal with Twitter.
Twitter Marketing Strategy
Please tell me you have one. If you don't have a specific goal or strategy, then Twitter will surely become a "total time suck" for you.
To be honest, it appears that most people join Twitter because "someone said they should" or because "it's the hottest thing in internet marketing right now" - but have ZERO strategy behind their investment.
The first step to creating your Twitter Marketing Strategy is to know your purpose. What do you hope to accomplish, or how do you intend to use Twitter in your overall marketing plan?
“Know how you want to be known, what you want to be known for, and who you want to know you.” Define your target market, and your offer, and creating a strong message-to-market match.
Step One is to fill in the blanks: I am known for ___ . I am the expert on ___ . People follow me for ___ . If you can't answer these questions, stop everything you're doing and work on that first.
Now that you know who you are and what people expect from you, go back and analyze your Twitter activity. Do your tweets reflect your goals, consistently address your topic, and attract your ideal follower?
Get in the mindset of your follower. Why did they follow you? If it's not to receive updates about the topic of your product, website or blog... then you are not attracting your target market. If they did follow you specifically for those updates, and you don't deliver, then you are letting them down.
Building a following on Twitter should be viewed much the same as building an email list. You definitely want to consider quality over quantity, in both cases. The more focused your topic & readership, the more productive you can be - and the higher your click-through and conversion rates will be.
Marketing is not spam. Sharing resources and links is not spam. Think about it for a moment. If you follow Michel Fortin, you are probably expecting tweets about Copywriting and Sales Copy. If you follow John Reese, you are probably expecting tweets about Internet Marketing and Traffic Secrets. Why are people following you, and do you deliver?
Stop here, open this link in a new window, and read this:
Apology Marketing (is stupid!)
Now that we're all on the same page, let's move on to actually using Twitter...
Your goal should be to tweet useful updates that are of specific interest to your followers. Twitter is a place where you can be more personable, and even more personal, but you want to maintain your professional character and your integrity at all times.
A good exercise is to take a moment when you sit down at your desk, and ask: Why do they follow me? This is a good question to start with before you email your list, or write a new post for your blog as well. Get in the mind of your ideal reader (ie follower) and connect with their expectations.
There is also more to Twitter than just tweeting links and using it to get traffic. As I mentioned earlier, I have a very specific 'follow strategy' and this allows me to:
- Mine Twitter for content & useful links. My timeline is a goldmine of resources that I can share with my readers, on my blog and in my newsletter as well as on Twitter.
- Evaluate a potential JV Partner or VA for integrity, consistency, etc. Twitter is a great way to get a 'feel' for a person you may want to work with.
- Stay up to date on change or news in my industry. Twitter is where you hear it first!
- Keep my ear to the ground for conversations about me, about my products or about my websites. It's a great way to get unsolicited feedback, learn points you can improve on, and understand your market better.
- Listen to the conversations for potential blog topics. What is my market interested in at the moment, what questions are they asking, what topics engage them?
Twitter is an amazing market research tool, as well as marketing tool.
ENGAGE your followers
In addition to filtering news, information and conversations in your niche, and providing useful updates about your topic or product/service, Twitter is a great way to engage your target market in productive conversations.
Here are just a few ideas that I've seen work incredibly well:
Host a contest on Twitter. For examples, search "twitter contest" at Google.
Encourage your followers to 'tweet you' questions, favorite links/resources, tips or personal experiences about your topic. If you have a blog, this is a great way to craft new and interesting posts. Compile the tips and share them in a post. Or compile the questions into a topical FAQ, and answer each question in detail. Once published, thank your followers and give them the link to check out the results.
Use Twitter to really engage your target market in conversation about your topic. What do they need, what do they love, what really frustrates them? Ask! They'll appreciate your genuine interest, and you'll gain incredibly valuable feedback that will help you better serve them.
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Reading: Twitter Marketing: What's Your Strategy? http://www.clicknewz.com/1953/ by @lynnterry