Even if you are new to the internet, the chance are you have heard about “Twitter”, the micro-blogging platform where the challenge is to have your meaningful say in 140 characters or less. Besides stretching the limits of your imagination and honing your haiku skills, this social networking tool has exploded onto the internet (and traditional) marketers’ horizons with great force, and it seems every one from Oprah (the newest celeb to publicly succumb to the Twitter hype) and President Barack Obama (who is using Twitter to help drive his Health Reform Bill) right through to the Pope has cottoned onto the marketing, brand building and social opinion influencing power of this website.
Such is the power of Twitter as an opinion former (or at least influencing opinion) that even Fortune 500 companies have appointed “Official Social Networking Managers” to continuously keep their brands in the minds of its Twitter followers, expanding on the traditional brand building and brand managing efforts, boosting sales and creating more loyal followers in the process.
The internet being the internet showing no favour just because you are a Fortune 500 company, Twitter has brought tremendous power to the smaller internet and traditional marketer as well, where the small operator can generate just as much traffic to his/her website and create an on-line brand, using the same techniques Fortune 500 companies do. However, some Twitter techniques work better than others do (especially seeing it is a SOCIAL networking platform), and those who manage to tap into the social psyche more effectively than their counterparts can be assured of more traffic and a better response to their Twitter “campaign”. Here is possibly where Fortune 500 companies have the edge – they can afford to employ a Psych graduate (or two or three) or even Post Graduates to manage their Twitter campaigns, especially when it comes to shaping public opinion or influencing the netizen’s perceptions about virtually anything – from politicking to introducing a new flavour of crisps.
The REAL power of Twitter lies in that it incorporates what Seth Godin calls “Permission Marketing”. Instead of the traditional “Interruption Marketing” where what you were doing gets interrupted by a marketing message (think of those television commercials during your favourite sitcom), Permission Marketing is marketing you CHOOSE to be exposed to. Because you choose to hear this marketing message (by, in the Twitter vocabulary, FOLLOWING someone or a brand on Twitter), you are already predisposed to listen to what the marketing message is, and far more likely to ACT on such marketing. Suddenly a marketer is no longer an interruption, he has become a friend that tells you about a product or service because you ASKED him to.
Understanding the power and basic principles of a Twitter campaign is one thing. Executing it effectively can be quite another. Remember the Fortune 500 Psych Grads? They were specifically employed because they understand the human psyche, how we react to external stimuli, especially in terms of how we perceive a brand or “value”, and can employ 140 characters to achieve a desired outcome, one tweet at a time. Great marketing if you can afford the price tag.
Most small and medium companies however, CAN’T afford the price tag, and have to opt for the “self-help” option. The “one man show” almost CERTAINLY will have to opt for the self-help option, and here we meet the first real barrier to making use of Twitter to generate sales. How do you get people to FOLLOW what you are saying tweet for tweet, so that you can build relationships with them to the point where they trust you enough to act on your recommendations? More importantly, how can you be interesting enough that those who stumble across you, will actually tell all THEIR friends about you – the RETWEET phenomenon? And how will you convince these new readers to become followers?
A great number of very informative articles and books have seen the light all about exactly these issues, and can go a long way in helping you create and manage an effective Twitter campaign. In the end an effective campaign boils down to relationships, and Twitter is all about building relationships based around common interests. In this respect human nature has not changed much since the dawn of time – we like those who like us (and think like us) and like the same things we do. The psychological term is “Set”, defined as “Readiness to think or respond in a predetermined way when confronted with a problem or stimulus situation”, and like our offline relationships, our Twitter relationships will be better when we are within our own “set”. The first step in using Twitter as a business tool then, is to carefully design your Biography on Twitter, as this is what other people will judge you (and your suitability to be followed) by. Further to this, choose the people YOU will follow carefully, as even in cyberspace, you will be judged by the company you keep. Keep within your “set”.
The question still remains though, how do you get people to follow you in the FIRST PLACE? Make use of all your other communications to alert people to the fact that you are on Twitter – as part of your email signature, on your business cards and letterheads, on every blog post and website you create content for; even word of mouth works very well to generate a following on Twitter.
Once you have a following, treat them like gold, especially if you hope to sell to them at some point in the future. Make sure that at LEAST 90% of your tweets are NOT sales orientated; there is no quicker way to lose followers than to bombard them with sales pitch upon product offering that has no quality content about your mutual interests, or at least is interesting in itself! Also, a little generosity goes a long way in social networking sites. If you read a Tweet that you found helpful, or interesting, RETWEET it to your followers, including the name of the originator. By using the concept of positive affirmation you not only create goodwill towards yourself from the persons you have retweeted, but you also build your own image as someone who is more interested in providing your followers with quality information, irrespective of the source, than just punting your own products and viewpoints. Retweeting also goes a long way in adding to your follower numbers, as someone you have retweeted will be far more inclined to retweet something interesting you have to say to their followers, broadening your potential follower base.
Wishing you the best with your Tweeting campaigns, and may you dominate your niche one tweet at a time!