Highbeam Research just updated its quarterly social media index, and according to the latest data, Twitter received 55.17% of total media attention in the first quarter of 2012, widening the gap between second-placed Facebook, which fell to 41.18%. LinkedIn also dipped, registering just 2.23% overall.
Naturally, every business wants a piece of the action on Twitter, but on a platform with that many eyeballs, every business better have a strategy first. From a company perspective, this initially makes sense. A business envisions Twitter as yet another marketing platform from which it can blast forth corporate messaging, advertisements and, occasionally, customer support. Unfortunately, many fail to realize that Twitter is not, at its core, a business tool.
While a company may feel it is being innovative by reaching out to a new audience on Twitter, that same audience often feels that the business's tweets are spammy, phony and even creepy. The alternative is not to keep businesses off of Twitter, as there is a lot of good that comes from engagement on this platform. Instead it's important to show off your company and brand in a way that paints both in a positive light, making followers eager for that next tweet.
To do that, here are four faux pas that companies should avoid, and some basic tips for crafting an approach that appeals to fans.
1. Think Quality Over Quantity
A business pursues leads on Twitter because it thinks prospects are more likely to engage with them on this platform. So why do businesses think it's acceptable to tweet every five minutes about their products, services and new releases? Twitter has a 140-character limit for a reason.
Rather, publish engaging snippets that will spark a conversation. Have you seen the people who take the alternative approach and post a flurry of tweets in a short time to get “exposure?” They get exposure, but not the kind they want. Guess what happens next? Unfollow.
Phil Rampulla, founder of The Materials Group, believes that “brands need to resist the urge to be a fire hose of content.” On Twitter, the quality of the content carries much more weight than the quantity. Remember, if you are just pushing for sales, you're limiting your exposure and hurting your brand. If you are posting something valuable and interesting, it will get retweeted and reach a wider audience.
2. Be Clear About Who You Are
One of the coolest things about Twitter, and about social media in general, is that it lets you have a real conversation with people who might not otherwise be able to reach you. However, when followers don't know who you are, it can be difficult to find common ground. A basic concept that a surprising number of businesses miss is to include the proper amount of information on their Twitter profiles.
“Many companies forget about a customer's first impression when they stumble upon a business Twitter page. Company Twitter and backgrounds should contain detailed information on the business and what the business actually does,” says Nicole Minadeo, senior account executive at Resolute Consulting. But that's not all. Twitter bios and profiles should also contain information such as the community manager's name.
If your company has a high-profile and social media-savvy CEO, it is not unreasonable for that person to handle tweets. Of course, this might not be feasible. In that case, there is nothing wrong with putting a face to a name and giving your social media specialist some room on the company Twitter page. When it comes down to it, fans like to know they are talking to a real person, not a robot.
3. Don't Play Robot Stalker
Have you gotten those annoying robotic messages? They come in the form of scheduled tweets with generic information or auto tweets with useless messages. These can turn off fans and discredit your social media efforts extremely quickly.
If you are not going to personally respond to a follower who messages you, then don't bother with an automated reply. It will ultimately lead that follower to believe he's dealing with a system instead of a real person, and he probably won't try contacting you again.
4. Definitely Be Useful
Sometimes, keeping an eye on users and targeting responses can be effective, but only if the information you send is useful. “For instance, I tweeted that I had not seen the movie Bridesmaids,” says Leslie Richin, social media strategist for Low Maintenance PR. “@TiVo responded that Bridesmaids was appearing on HBO, and cc'ed me in the tweet. Because of that, I did in fact watch Bridesmaids that night!”
Just remember, people will be put off by any kind of targeted messaging that seems inauthentic. As you craft your company's Twitter strategy, keep in mind that people want to talk to people on Twitter. Keep it fun, keep it interesting, and above all, keep it real. Your followers will thank you for it.
11 Professionals To Follow on Twitter
Top Fashion Designer: @xoBetseyJohnson
Betsey Johnson's presence on Twitter is nothing short of fun. She re-tweets content that's interesting to her fans, effectively uses hashtags to promote her brand, and gives credit to her partners for helping cultivate her brand. No wonder her Twitter following is more than 227,000 strong.
Top Accountant: @JPointon
Accounting may not be the most social profession, but John Pointon has successfully developed a social presence for it. His tweets are a healthy combination of news stories and personal opinion, sprinkled with humor and advice. Pointon has effectively created an outlet where accountants and non-accountants alike can engage over the industry.
Top Politician: @corybooker
Newark, NJ, Mayor Cory Booker uses Twitter as a way to listen to his constituents. When he tweets, oftentimes it's in response to mentions. He also shares interesting developments, and is transparent about his political goals. It's no surprise that Newark residents like the guy.
Top Teacher: @khanacademy
Salman Khan is the innovative man behind the Khan Academy. This non-profit aims to provide free, world-class education to anyone who wants it. Khan uses Twitter to let fans know how his work is going, and why it's worthwhile.
Top Journalist: @andersoncooper
CNN personality Anderson Cooper keeps fans in the loop by tweeting all of his latest stories and current news trends. This helps promote his work, but also his brand.
Top Doctor: @Krupali
Krupali Tejura is a radiation oncologist who has taken her community by storm through her warm and compassionate Twitter presence. She is a strong patient advocate, who works tirelessly for others. As a result, Tejura has also created a loving fan base.
Top CEO: @Dens
Dennis Crowley may have founded Foursquare, but he's also authentic and engaging on other social platforms. For example, his Twitter feed is not about company-related trends and topics, but a testament to his truly social nature. He tweets out recommendations, invitations, suggestions, and checkins. Basically, Crowley hides nothing from his followers.
Top Chef: @FabioViviani
Fabio Viviani uses Twitter to make mouths water. He shares delicious recipes, offers advice, and encourages fans to share their thoughts. Everyone loves food, and being accessible makes it hard not to love him, too.
Top Photographer: @AnthonyQuintano
Anthony Quintano is a senior community manager for @NBCNews by day, and photographer and filmmaker by night. He actively responds to tweets and shares interactive content with followers who have similar interests. Naturally, Quintano is transparent in his interactions, and incredibly approachable.
Top CMO: @KarenDellCMO
Karen Quintos gives new meaning to treating others as you would like to be treated. Her Twitter feed is a never-ending succession of thanks and praise to her peers, partners and influencers. While she hasn't been tweeting as long as some of our other favorites, Quintos is quickly becoming an executive social butterfly.
Top Lawyer: @bcuban
Brian Cuban is a Texas-based lawyer who has cultivated a national Twitter following by listening first, and only responding when he has relevant insights. As a result, Cuban has developed a lot of influence.