Twitter has rapidly become the hot tool for marketing and communications, but many individuals and organisations are jumping in without a clear strategy in mind. Poor planning can prevent you from productively engaging with audiences.
I spoke with Vicky Harres Akers, the voice behind US-based news and press release distribution service PR Newswire’s corporate Twitter account @prnewswire, about how companies can most effectively build their brand on Twitter.
Rachel Meranus: What is the best way to get involved in the Twitter conversation?
Vicky Harres Akers: The key is to understand your audience and to give them content they want. Know what your audience is talking about. Know what they’re saying about you and about the industry you function in.
Twitter happens in real time, so this is something you have to constantly be on top of. Make a mental note of what people react to and how they react. If you get “retweeted” (quoted by another user), it’s a great honour. It is a validation of your contribution to the conversation.
Don’t underestimate the value of promoting others in Twitter as well. If someone says something you find value in, consider retweeting it. It’s part of being a good citizen in the”Twitterverse” (Twitter universe).
RM: What if someone says something negative about your brand on Twitter?
VA: Just as you would use good judgment in responding to bad press in general, you have to think carefully before choosing to confront a negative tweet about you or your brand. Look into the issue.
Could your company have made a mistake? If you find out this is so, then reach out to the negative twitterer and offer a solution or an apology. If the posting is a matter of opinion, it is highly doubtful that you’re going to change anyone’s mind. If it is a matter of misinformation, it might be better to just post the correct information without directing it to anyone in particular.
RM: How can a company or brand benefit fromTwitter?
VA: The No. 1 use of Twitter is and always shall be a means to listen to customers, clients, colleagues, industry leaders and anyone else who might comment on your productor business.
Twitter is about networking and knowledge sharing. If you approach Twitter as just another medium for broadcasting your company’s communications, you will have missed the point completely.
The uses of Twitter are without limit. You have to ask, “What can I (my company) offer by being on Twitter?”Some will share knowledge, and others will just use Twitter as a way of being available to customers. Either way, as long as you are actually listening and staying engaged, you will benefit. One of the best things Twitter can do for a company is simply to humanise it.
RM: How do you build an audience on Twitter
VA: Post a few tweets to familiarise yourself with the process and spend some time reading what others in your industry are talking about. Use “Find People” at the top of your Twitter page to look for people you know will want to follow you back: people within your company, clients and colleagues. Send a few @replies out to people who are following you. Respond to things they are talking about. When they in turn respond to you with an @ reply, the people following them will take notice of you and may choose to follow as well.
RM: What are things that brands should avoid on Twitter.
VA: Don’t be a robot. Too many companies represent themselves on Twitter by spewing automated and static information, or authorised quotes from the PR department. These only serve to keep the brand parked neatly in dry dock, gathering dust.
- Don’t bring up politics and religion. Your mother told you this a long time ago, and it’s still good advice. If you are representing a brand you will do it a great disservice by taking a position on either subject.
- Don’t rant about other brands or people. You have to play nice with others or you’ll be shoved aside and ignored. Besides, you never know when you might end up doing business with someone you now consider a competitor.
- Don’t be a pessimist.No one wants to listen to someone who keeps whining or pointing out all the things that are going wrong in the industry or the world. If you want people to follow you and listen, look for the positive. Remember, anyone can whine and complain; a leader offers solutions.