Although a relatively small percentage of the adult population is active on Twitter , there are still plenty of solid business reasons for brands to engage on the micro-blogging platform.
Consumers might be talking about your brand—in either positive or negative ways. Competitors could be active on the platform, dominating your category with their 140-character tweets. Twitter is also the place to reach people who have influence elsewhere, including relevant bloggers and even traditional media contacts.
However, it is not wise to start tweeting up a storm without thinking through your goals or about how to measure your activity.
Here are 10 steps every big brand should take before they get started on Twitter:
1. Do your homework.
Do not jump onto Twitter without doing some homework. Go to search.twitter.com to find out whether people are talking about your brand, your category, or your competitors. If they are, what are they talking about? Are their conversations positive or negative? Are your competitors participating in the conversation?
If you cannot find any relevant conversations, there may still be an opportunity for your brand on Twitter. By being the first player in your category to use the platform smartly, your brand establishes its leadership.
You also need to consider the possibility Twitter is not the right social media platform on which to focus.
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2. Set goals.
If you are unfamiliar with Twitter or do not understand the platform’s benefits, it is hard to establish realistic goals. Brands use Twitter in many ways: responding to customer service issues, engaging with influencers in their industry, increasing leads, and even selling products.
Before you set up a profile, think about what you want to achieve. If you skip this step, you will find that your time on Twitter is not well spent.
3. Establish measurement metrics.
Once you have set goals, the measurement metrics fall into place. For example, if you are using Twitter for customer service, track the number of issues solved and the decline in volume to your call center.
If you are using Twitter to generate leads and customers, measure the number of leads generated as well as the customer conversion rate. Track your Twitter reach and its growth rate. Though the number of followers you have is not intrinsically meaningful, it does indicate the size of your potential audience.
4. Pick an analytics tools.
Google Analytics is a free tool that lets you see how many people visit your site from Twitter (and elsewhere). But it gets tricky when people click on one of your links in a third-party client such as HootSuite,TweetDeck or HubSpot.
The click might not show up in Google Analytics as a visit from Twitter. In order to correct for errors, add a tracking token to the end of your links:
Your analytics tool will then identify this traffic as originating from Twitter.
5. Create organizational policy and guidelines.
Do not recreate the wheel when it comes to creating a Twitter policy. Your organization probably has policies regarding social media activities.
You might even have social media guidelines, particularly if you have a Facebook fan page. These guidelines typically focus on the bigger picture such as who does what, how they can or cannot perform their responsibilities, and why they are doing it.
Your social media policy should focus on the big picture, rather than on specific platforms, but it is also useful to develop more-detailed guidelines for day-to-day activity—and to stay on track if staff turns over.
6. Develop a content strategy.
Above all, Twitter should not be used as a channel to shout marketing messages at your followers. It is a “conversation channel” allowing you to engage in discussions.
Develop an editorial calendar. To a certain extent, follow your offline activity. For example, if your brand supports a promotion every year prior to Mother’s Day, your calendar should include platform specific (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) content to support in-store offers and TV advertising.
We recommend the 60/40 rule. Six out of ten tweets relate to your company while four out of ten either promote others or engage in conversations.
But do not structure your Twitter schedule too much. It is important to be natural and authentic.
7. Monitor the conversation.
A Twitter client like HootSuite is very useful for not only monitoring click-through rates and retweets, but for tracking conversations about your industry. HootSuite allows you to create streams to follow a hashtag, a keyword, a list of competitors or a list of influencers. This approach makes it easy to respond to appropriate conversations and keep an ear to the ground on competitive activity.
8. Decide on a profile.
You have several options for your company’s Twitter profile. The first is to use your brand name. This route is ideal for investor relations, industry news and contests. If you go this route you can also identify who is tweeting on your behalf by adding their initials to the end of each tweet (if there are multiple people responsible for tweeting) or including their name right in the Twitter profile.
A more personal option is to combine the name of your employee tweeters with your brand name, such as Molson Companies’ @MolsonFerg. This option is preferable if you are planning to engage with people on Twitter, including influencers and customers.
9. Train your staff.
Every social media platform has best practices and Twitter is no different. Be sure to train your staff in the art of the tweet. A few “rules” to consider include:
- Use less than 100 characters per tweet to make it easier for others to retweet and add their own comments
- Add links to your tweets
- Use images where possible
- Limit the use of hashtags
- Make sure there is a space before a URL to avoid broken links
10. Listen, measure, refine.
Once your Twitter activity is established, it will definitely require further refining. Listen to what people are saying about your brand or industry. Measure what is working (and what is not). Then fine-tune your efforts to ensure you reach the business goals established at the beginning of the process
A version of this article first appeared on Polaris Public Relations.