From retail giants to presidential candidates, it seems like everyone is on Twitter. The social media powerhouse has more than 320 million active users, with a billion unique visits monthly. If Twitter were a country, it would be the 12th largest in the world.
So apparently you can’t be successful today unless you embrace Twitter’s short-form microblogging — or can you?
Before you decide that Twitter is your next indispensable marketing tool, consider whether it’s worth the cost. Being purposefully present on Twitter requires time and resources; you need a person to develop and curate branded content; to post and manage it; and to reply to customers — and all of this has to be done within clearly defined brand guidelines. And even if you have the resources to devote to tweeting, it’s wasted energy if Twitter isn’t the right place for you to connect with your customers.
Here are the four strategic marketing reasons your company should be on Twitter – along with a few caveats.
1. To share up-to-the-minute information on your products (but not if that’s the only thing you’ll ever tweet about).
Twitter is an amazing tool for blasting out short-and-sweet bursts of information in a timely way. If you have a loyal cadre of customers who are passionate about your products, you can bet they’re interested in a tweet announcing your newest products, services and sales. Fashionistas will want to hear about your new spring line, vapers will want to hear about a sale on the new line of juices you just got in, and IT junkies will want to hear about your latest software update.
Getting timely information is a huge reason people follow companies on Twitter: 61% follow brands in order to be the first to receive information about your brand, while 48% want to see your current discounts and promotions.
Tweeting about new products to listeners who genuinely care about what your company offers is a powerful way to boost brand awareness and build brand loyalty. This is true across the board, from tires to canaries to frozen pizza, but because of the immediacy of Twitter, it works best when you’re announcing something that’s also trendy and time sensitive.
Levi’s, for example, knows that its super-loyal followers don’t want to miss out on the best deals on their favorite jeans.
The caveat is that new offerings can’t be the only thing you ever Tweet about. When users go to your Twitter feed and see only an unbroken stream of sales and product announcements, they’ll quickly figure that you’re only on Twitter to benefit yourself, and not because you care about your customers. In other words, you’re just shilling.
This leads directly to what is arguably the most single most important reason a company should be on Twitter:
2. To listen to what your customers have to say (but not if you don’t have time to reply to them).
More than any other form of social media, Twitter is about having a direct and immediate back-and-forth conversation. No other tool allows your customers the opportunity to connect with you so directly (and publicly). When customers reach out to your company on Twitter, it’s critical that you actually take the time to respond. After all, your customers want to feel special, and that means they want to be heard.
Here’s my favorite example: When I tweeted to Bissell that I’d finally bought a SpotBot Pet after my dog had been sick all over the living room (and was now relaxing on the couch while the bot did all the work), they replied within minutes that they hoped my pup felt better soon. That took just two minutes of time from whoever is managing their Twitter account – let’s call it about 60 cents’ worth of marketing cost. In return, although I’d never thought about Bissell one way or the other before this exchange, I was so thrilled by their kind reply that I’ll never buy off-brand carpet cleaner again.
Now take Delta Airlines, a major player in an industry defined by customer dissatisfaction. They have a full team manning their @DeltaAssist account and taking the time to respond to customers with genuine help. You can bet that these Tweeters feel better about using Delta.
Of course, the converse is also true. If you never reply to your customers, they will quickly get the message that you’re just not interested in what they have to say, like an egomaniac on a first date who can’t stop talking about themselves — and never listens. It’s a major turnoff in both scenarios.
Yet despite how simple it is to make your customers feel heard and valued, a full 70% of companies don’t respond to customer complaints on Twitter. I can’t help but wonder what they’re thinking.
Why would your company choose to be present on the social media channel that’s all about direct conversation if you’re not interested in having a conversation at all? The Harvard Business review calls this disengagement an “empathy deficit,” and it’s the single biggest mistake companies are making on Twitter today.
The bottom line is this: If you’re going to be on Twitter, you need to invest in someone’s time and energy to monitor the account and reply as needed. Sincerity is key, so it needs to be a person (or group of people) who actually care about creating positive customer interactions, not just canned replies.
Finally, you need to trust this team of people and give them the autonomy to genuinely connect with customers. If you’re just going to ignore what your customers are telling you, why are you on Twitter in the first place?
3. To get your name in front of potential customers (unless your potential customers aren’t on Twitter).
What about the people who aren’t your customers yet? It’s fine to have a valuable dialogue with the people who already buy your products, but your company needs to keep growing by reaching out to new potential customers as well. Twitter is a great way for those potential customers to get to know you.
A typical potential customer spends a significant amount of time researching companies online before they commit to buying, and they expect to be able to get to know you before they ever let you know they’re considering a purchase. A full 50% of users say they are more likely to buy from a brand after following them on Twitter.
When you use Twitter to successfully present a cohesive image of your company’s brand, you give potential customers a way to get to know you and trust you and thus be more likely to buy from you. It’s crucial that you’re out there, clear about what you do and why you do it better than your competitors, and clear about who you are.
But if you haven’t done your demographics research, this can be a big Twitter marketing fail. Just because you can showcase your brand to potential customers on Twitter doesn’t mean you have to – particularly if your potential customers aren’t on Twitter to begin with!
Like many technologies, Twitter demographics skew younger and trendier than the general population. If your target audience is older people or less technologically-savvy people, why are you wasting your time building a comprehensive brand identity on Twitter if no one is listening?
If you sell dog food, well, pet owners span all demographics and there will be plenty of potential customers who can run into you on Twitter. But if you sell financial services to retirees, you’ll find that a much smaller percentage of them are using Twitter to make buying decisions, and all the time you’ve spent building a brand on Twitter is essentially wasted.
4. To showcase your company’s brand identity (but only when you know what you’re trying to communicate).
Speaking of building a brand, Twitter is a wonderful way to showcase who you are and why people should care. The jokes, news and information you share on Twitter all come together to portray an image of who your company is as a person – funny and insightful, or businesslike and full of useful data, or fashionable and trend-setting.
But you have to know what you’re trying to sell before you can successfully sell it. When was the last time you sat down with your marketing team to really dig into your target customers, demographics and value propositions? Do you have a clear image of what you want to present your company as, and why? Twitter is the perfect place to show your personality, but that means you have to have a clear personality to begin with.
Here’s where the best corporate marketing teams can have a lot of fun. For example, it’s no surprise that branding superstar Old Spice has a great Twitter account. They’re clearly communicating their distinct brand personality: manly and rugged, but with a slightly off-kilter, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.
Now take a look at Charmin, which has built an entire identity by shamelessly embracing its toilet-time association with fun, friendly potty jokes. They even have a #tweetfromtheseat hashtag to drive home the “hey, we’re all in this together” vibe.
The best branded Twitter accounts are more than just funny and personable (although being personable and interesting is key: remember, this is a way to get people to like you). The best Twitter accounts know exactly who they are and aren’t afraid to say it.
Should your company be on Twitter? If you have a branded message to get across, to the right audience, and you’re going to listen to what they have to say in reply, then go for it! Your customers will love connecting with you, and your brand will get more and more successful. Just make sure you know why you’re doing it.