I had lunch the other day with a colleague. She’s a divisional marketing manager at one of the largest corporations in the world, and she’s gotten interested in social media as a marketing tool for her division.
About two years ago, she started going to social media boot camps, reading up on the subject, and talking to the PR department within her organization about how they could use Twitter to extend their reach and awareness. But she looked quite distraught when I asked her how the Twitter initiative was going.
“How’s it going? It isn’t. I feel like a complete idiot, but I just don’t get it. I mean, what kind of a grown-up professional woman can even say the words ‘Twitter’ and ‘tweet’ without sounding ridiculous?”
As we talked, it became clear that her real problem is that she’s a business to business marketer, trying to make sense of the ultimate consumer communications channel. By the end of our lunch, we’d come up with five things that we agreed business to business (B2B) marketers need to know about Twitter.
- Twitter terminology (twitpeeps, retweeting, twit-this, hash tag, etc.) isn’t intended to sound businesslike. So don’t use it when you’re talking to management. Use standard PR terms like messages (Tweets), message recipients (followers), pick-ups (retweets) and audiences.
- Forget about followers, and consider folders. A hashtag (#) is nothing more than a way to organize tweets (Twitter messages) into folders of tweets that relate to a particular topic. The biggest value you will get from Twitter is to follow a set of tags and terms that relate to your business.
- Don’t expect Twitter to provide deathless prose. As a business marketer, keep your grammar clean, short, and simple. Don’t fall prey to contractions and shorthand that makes your brand look bad. And don’t forget the business purpose of a Tweet: it’s usually to get the recipient to click on a link where more information is available.
- Set limits for yourself. Personally, I spend 15-20 minutes on Twitter first thing in the morning (usually while my hair is drying and I’m waiting for our 10-year-old to get ready for school), 15 minutes on it while I’m eating lunch at my desk, and 15 minutes near the end of the day. It’s a really productive use of time spent waiting for airplanes, late meetings, and while commuting (if you’re not the driver). Personally, I don’t use the text message delivery option. I know a lot of people like this, but delivering tweets directly to my phone would drive me crazy. There’s a Twitter app for my phone, and I can check it when I want — but my text window stays empty until someone very close to me needs to reach me via text.
- Last, but not least, if you’re using Twitter for business, Tweet with that purpose in mind. Decide what topics you want to talk about. Find the hashtags (folders) associated with those topics. Use the relevant hashtags in your tweets. Don’t tweet useless promotional junk — offer value to those who follow you.
Here are three additional tips — they aren’t as important as the first five, but they’re useful to anyone who’s new to Twitter:
- Be generous in retweeting others. (If you work in a regulated industry, be careful with this. See Managing Social Media Risk for more information on the potential liability associated with retweeting.)
- Shorten links, but use them in most tweets, to drive traffic to your website or blog.
- Leave 15-20 characters — don’t use the whole 140 — to make it easier for others to retweet you.
I think my friend felt better about Twitter’s potential for her marketing goals after our lunch, but the truth is that the only way to know if it’s a relevant tool for her is to try it. Pick a conversation, and join in. Measure it at the end of a quarter (not sooner), then tweak your strategy, and keep it up for the rest of the year. Then you’ll know if it’s working.
The other thing about Twitter is that it’s a conversation — not a one-way street. If you start a conversation, don’t act surprised if people talk back. That includes customers, who are increasingly using Twitter as a customer support and technical support tool. So figuring out how you’re going to handle customer inquiries is a key part of the B2B Twitter planning process!
(P.S. I’m excited to be part of a panel titled Customer Service, Meet Social Media at the LIMRA Social Media Conference in late August, and I’ll be sharing parts of that conversation in early September, right after the event.)