The (almost) definitive guide for brands on Twitter

Companies are tweeting—they’re just not doing it well. Here’s how you can do it superfreakinwell for your brand.

Recently, the Pew Internet and American Life project said that 11.7 million adults use Twitter and 6.2 million use it every day.

Among those 6.2 million are a handful of brands. Of those brands, few are using it correctly or seeing any kind of return from it.

Part of the problem is that marketers don’t fully understand the platform and the companies that employ them don’t want to invest in paid social media marketing.

Mostly, though, the problem lies in the content: marketers struggle at creating Twitter content.

Here’s how brands should handle their Twitter presence—a definitive guide, if you will.

Don’t use Twitter for your brand.

As a managing director of social media at an agency, this recommendation is probably antithetical to my very professional existence. But if you’re going to approach it in the wrong, don’t use Twitter to promote your business or brand.

For example, I’ve heard both small business owners and marketing reps from huge companies say things like, “We’re on Twitter but I don’t know why—we haven’t seen any spike in our sales.”

Back it up, cowboy, because you’re going about this all wrong.

You have to have specific goals for your Twitter presence that match the demographic you’ll find on Twitter. And here’s something they don’t tell you in the brochure: The demographic you reach on Twitter is not the same demographic you reach in stores, online, and on Facebook. Know that you’ll reach a demographic that skews younger and who hates feeling like they’re being sold something. And now go sell them something. See how hard that is? Like I said—don’t be on Twitter.

And if you refuse to monitor your brand’s presence on the platform, don’t use Twitter.

Let’s say someone tweets about your brand. You have to respond to them. That means someone needs to monitor your presence—someone who knows how to listen to the right chatter and can interject on-brand and on-voice, and in a way that doesn’t feel like users are being marketed to.

If you don’t know how to do that, hire someone who does. If you can’t afford to hire someone who does, don’t do it.

Unrealistic views of what Twitter will provide your brand will set you up for an #EpicFail (that’s right—I used a hashtag in an article).

Now that we have that settled, on to what you should be doing on Twitter.

If you have to use Twitter, make sure you do it well—like, superfreakinwell.

The most successful brands we manage on Twitter are seeing the highest number of retweets, favorites, and @replies not around content that we broadcast, but rather our responses to conversations that are happening. We do it in a way that’s conversational and that fits with the brand voice, and it genuinely surprises people.

However, the same brands see great engagement around their broadcasted tweets as well. Keep these three words in mind when you’re considering what to tweet:

Timing: Don’t post too often; don’t post to seldom; and test until you find a sweet spot. Post during peak times, off hours, and everywhere in between when you’re starting out (not necessarily all on the same day). Then analyze the metrics (which reminds me, if you’re not going to keep robust post-by-post metrics, you shouldn’t be on Twitter). Based on the insights you find, tweak, optimize, and improve your content.

Relevance: Does this content match our overarching mission? Does this content fit our goals on Twitter? Is this something our audience will find valuable? If the answer to any of these questions is no, don’t tweet it.

Remarkability: Would you (personally) retweet this? You should live as a brand advocate of whatever brand you’re marketing. If you, as a champion of the product you’re promoting, wouldn’t engage with it, you should dump it.

Chances are, hashtags aren’t nearly as important as you think they are.

The last time you searched for a particular hashtag was probably when you noticed it appear in the trending portion on the right side of your feed. It wasn’t the hashtag for a brand’s promotion, nor was it the hashtag around the conference that some company hosted (unless you attend said conference).

Whenever marketers get in a room together, someone inevitably says, “We should leverage our own hashtag for this promotion.” Have the courage to stop the meeting and tell that person no one cares about your brand’s hashtag. And unless you have $100,000 to make your hashtag among those trending that day, people won’t use it.

So when it comes to everyday brand content, hashtags serve a scant few purposes:

• If something is trending and you can join the conversation in a clever way, do it. Hop on that hashtag, my friend. But don’t just try to be clever—be hilariously witty and dashingly smart.

• If you can make up a clever hashtag that applies to whatever it is you’re tweeting about, then have at it. But be careful. This can backfire if your hashtag gets hijacked to make fun of your brand (see: McDonald’s).

The more you pay, the more followers, retweets, favorites, love, and accolades you’ll get.

The way every social network is going, there may come a day when the content you used to push out for free will still be free, but it will never be seen without some pay-per-click (PPC) dollars, some sponsored tweet, or some promoted account or hashtag.

Still, great content will prevail. It will always prevail and serve the brand well.

But—and forgive me for sounding like a Twitter commercial here—mediocre content will need that promotion to get eyes on it. Most content on Twitter (let’s face it) is mediocre. But when you combine great content and PPC, you can inspire droves of brand advocates to take action on your behalf. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Remember: Think of yourself as your brand’s biggest advocate. It’s you (the brand champ) talking to other brand enthusiasts. Once you get in their heads, it’ll be clear exactly the type of content you should post.

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