Along with Facebook, Twitter is another website which always comes to mind first when the words “social networking” or “social media” are mentioned. Twitter provides a very basic service but do not let its simplicity fool you, it is one powerful communication tool. At its surface, Twitter seems straight forward. When you open an account in Twitter, you can follow other people and other people can follow you as well. But then, it does not automatically go both ways. You do not necessarily need to follow the person who follows you and vise versa. Each member who has an account gets their own Twitter feed. You type in a short message and people who follow you will get to see that message. You cannot see the messages of your followers unless you follow them.
Simple as it may seem, Twitter can also be an effective marketing weapon. Why is that? Its power rests on two pillars. First is the power of updates. Instead of having to send a newsletter or putting up a blog where you update information periodically for people who are interested in what you do or in the services or products you offer, you just post short updates on your twitter feed and people who are actively following you can see what is new. The economy of space and time also allows you to share links for more detailed discussions. This short and simple updating system provides more frequent update as supposed to a more involved and well prepared news update system in a blog. The feed created when people put up updates via Twitter has an API, an application interface where independent developers can build the programs on which can segment your data and present it in many ways for all the followers to segment. Since Twitter uses an RSS feed system, this can be easily ported over to blog posts and other website indication methods. The simplicity and influence of the updates makes it a great, powerful and flexible publishing feed.
The second pillar that Twitter rests on is the power of influence. When somebody goes on Twitter and other people follow him or her, it shows a vote of confidence in their influence. It means that the follower trusts the ability of the person he is following to provide the content he is looking for. If you map out how people are related to each other on Twitter, it is like a pool of followers being linked to one authority person who is then part of another pool of followers linked to another authority person and so on up the chain. It is a wide network of differing pools of influence. When a follower likes the update he receives from the person he is following, he can retweet it. This is probably the most powerful feature that Twitter offers. The power of a retweet cannot be understated. Retweet means receiving an update and republishing it to people who are following you which they can also republish to people who are following them and this goes on down the chain. This produces a viral effect of the message spreading rapidly to all the differing pools and circles of influence. This makes Twitter very valuable. When you follow somebody, it means you trust that person and you are confident with that person’s ability and judgment to send updates. Since trust is already established, when they tweet something to you and you retweet that, this trust is more readily absorbed by people following you. This type of communication is more credible than spam or random websites you came across from a search engine. Since Twitter works on networks of authority, there is a higher degree of confidence in the information being passed around than if it was from a random search or from methods wherein trust was not established beforehand.
Considering its marketing potential, what would be a good product or service to market on Twitter?
Any product or service can be marketed effectively on twitter depending on how they are marketed. On the whole, Twitter and Facebook are great means for branding. In terms of direct sales, your fortunes may vary depending on the nature of the product or service you offer. However, if you plan to brand products or services, Twitter and Facebook are very effective. Branding on Twitter is like blogging. You use the update system to provide the latest information about a particular product or service you are trying to brand keep them in the mind of your targeted customers. By this constant branding and communication, an association is firmly made between your products or services and disseminated through differing twitter users’ spheres of interest to cement this association further. While it is not as immediate as direct sales, it still occupies a place as long as Twitter is utilized properly. It must be a part of a content publishing campaign, not just simply saying “here’s a link, go ahead and buy”. It does not work that way. First, you have to build a strong foundation of trust, credibility and confidence and then layer on more targeted content which then leads to the same effect as direct sales. A sale is not impossible, it actually has a great probability of happening. It just needs to be structured and set up correctly.
How to market yourself on Twitter?
1. In conjunction with an existing website
Whether you have a product or service website, an online catalog, an online business card or a blog, using them in conjunction with Twitter will make a powerful marketing strategy. This allows the people you qualify with your website to remain in communication with you for updates and latest information. This is not as powerful as having them sign up for a newsletter or mailing list though because it would require a higher degree of effort having them go to Twitter and review your feed to see updates and click a link which would lead them to your site. However, by exerting extra effort and going through this process, there is a higher degree of selection and filtration. In the end, the volume might be low due to the filtration but the effectiveness in terms of sales may be high.
The drawback to this method is it would take some time to build your follower list on Twitter – unless you have a high traffic volume website or blog. This may not be a bad thing because it goes through a filtration process, as mentioned above. It is a fact that in online marketing, the more filtered your traffic, the higher the chance of success. The first step in the filtration process is they have to find your site. This may be via the search engine or through word of mouth so this involves an active effort to look for your site. The second step is having them follow you on Twitter making the filtration be based on the eagerness to receive updates. The last step of the filtration is for them to check your Twitter feed regularly which proves that they are very interested and want to be informed regularly. Those people who are actively monitoring your feed are the ones who are most likely buy from you.
2. Following and sending @ to gain followers / influence
It is somewhat hard to gain followers in Twitter because you can only follow people and if those people you follow like you, they will also follow you back. There is a way around this. In this situation, it is best to send @ messages to very influential people on Twitter who have lots of followers. If those influential people find your tweet interesting enough to respond to, their feedback about your tweet will be visible on their feed. So, when their followers see that, they can now click your username and see your feed. If they find your tweets interesting, they can then follow you. By this process, you are effectively piggy-backing on the influence of very influential people who have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers.
However, this method can also have serious drawbacks. First, these influential people get a lot @ messages and the vast majority of those messages are not even read so it is somewhat like playing the lottery. Second, the messages you send to these people should be carefully written. They have to be direct to the point and with high quality, they cannot be spam messages. Third and last, this method involves three filtration phases in gaining followers – (1) the influential person must see your message,(2) respond to you, and (3) his followers will click on his response, view your profile and like your feed. These are the three serious hurdles you have to go through to gain a follower. The upside is through the filtration process, the more targeted the followers. The raw numbers are not very important because if those followers are just people who follow you around out of curiosity and are not interested in your updates, then they are worthless to you. It is much better to have small number of followers who are actively interested in what you say because they are most likely to be the one who will buy your products or avail your services.
3. Following and sending @ messages to an influential person hoping for a retweet
This method is somehow similar to the previous method but instead of responding to your tweet, the influential people would retweet your message to their followers. This is considered to be the “Holy Grail” of Twitter marketing because this is when it becomes explosive. Although the first two methods described above are important, they pale in comparison to this method in terms of sheer effectiveness.
However, it also has one serious disadvantage. The person who will retweet your tweets will be risking his own credibility by retweeting you. You have to make sure that the content you send them is so compelling and would contain so much value as to be worth their time and effort to retweet. This drawback means you have to work hard to come up with high quality updates. Do not spam or post garbage. Do not post inconsequential messages like “I’m at the parking lot now” or “I’m ordering a burger.” People are looking for useful information so unless you are running an entertainment website or you are a minor celebrity trying to build a following, you have to post informative business updates if you are using your Twitter account for business purposes. You always have to view your twitter feed as a reflection of your business so avoid putting updates that might reflect negatively on your business.
The retweet is the most powerful feature on Twitter. When you post an update, you most likely will provide a link to an article or post blog for a more comprehensive discussion. A follower will then retweet that and all their followers will receive it. Those followers, more often than not, also have their own set of followers and if they like your tweet, they retweet it as well and so on and so forth. It goes to show that with just one tweet, you could reach potentially millions of people.
4. Using Hashtags (“#” Symbol)
The Hashtag is Twitter’s way of organizing topic categories. If you are posting about pet products, for example, then you use #pets. Using this method, people who are looking for specific topic will be able to find it easier on Twitter. Same goes when you post updates, putting hashtags on it will help people find your products on the category it belongs. This increases your potential of gaining more followers because people who are searching through Twitter in an organized manner use hashtags to save themselves a lot of time and effort. Although this does not guarantee that you will get more followers but it would certainly assure that your content will be easier to find in “a huge barrage of noise”. For a person who is new to Twitter and does not know how to search tweets, it can be quite intimidating and sometimes, he would most likely want to quit immediately.
There are many third party developers who develop systems that categorize tweets on Twitter based on hashtags, for it to be an organized news feed. You must use this powerful feature to your advantage. It is a great way to categorize your posts. This is most useful if your website has many categories because it allows you to post targeted updates in different areas that people may be interested in.
5. Constant Posting
Not everybody is 0n Twitter at all times so your followers might not be on the system all the time. With this in mind, it is best for you to set up an automated system where your tweets are going out in differing times of the day. There are software packages available that would time your tweets. This method would help you get in front of your targeted readers constantly and consistently. The pay off with using this method is it increases the chances that your followers will retweet your tweets and as mentioned earlier, retweeting is very powerful feature. With this method, you are actually just aiming to be retweeted.
Constant posting does not mean posting garbage. What is garbage? First, retweeting the same message over and over again. This is spamming which might cause you to lose followers or worst, you might get banned in Twitter. Second is posting low quality tweets. You must always remember that your feed is your calling card to the world that shows your character and the brand of your business. If you populate it with superficial contents, people will lose interest since they will certainly look for real content. If you have a pulse of what your target market needs, you should post that. Third is recycling other people’s tweets unnecessarily. Just as bad as recycling your own tweets, the same goes with recycling other users’ tweets blindly. The tweets you post or retweet must be relevant to your targeted demographic or followers. You must remember to pick carefully and somehow act as an editor because whatever you retweet becomes your content as well since it is under your feed. You have to be selective and follow this important rule: Whatever you tweet, it must add value to the life of your followers. You can never go wrong with following this advice because if it would add value to them, they will more likely to retweet it and share it with their own sphere of influence.
The Best Value for Twitter
The best value for Twitter is to brand your page of products or services and collect people’s emails. Twitter for all the power of retweeting takes a higher level of effort than email marketing. Email is automatic because people check their email everyday unlike twitter because some may not necessarily check their Twitter news feed everyday putting this method of communication at a huge huge disadvantage compared to Twitter. By branding people on Twitter and leading them to a webpage where you can collect their emails, you have won 90 percent of the battle. Also, the great thing about this is time is on your side. You do not have to compile a massive list. Actually, even with a small number of people you recruit in a month as long as they are targeted properly, you will still have a high chance of getting a favorable response from every newsletter you send out.
There has been a marketing study done recently and it found that the response rate in terms of actual sales is higher for email than other forms of marketing, including search engine marketing. Search engine marketing is quite robust given that people are already looking for a product and they are “ripe” for a sale but email still has the advantage. Using email is very powerful so you must work on building your list. Twitter is just one source for your email list. Other sources include search engines, forums, Facebook and several other methods that can be used to reach out to people. Twitter plus email equals sales.
The Bottom Line
Twitter is not a magic bullet. The media talks about it a lot and people are hyping it like it’s the best thing since sliced bread but though it is powerful, it is not the only method that would help you get leads. You must always pay more attention to building your lead list. You create an email newsletter list and focus on building that up because it is an asset that would continue to generate sales throughout the months or years regardless of your activity level on the areas that produced the leads for your list. Focus in keeping that list growing and as well as providing quality updates consistently.