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10 Twitter Best Practices for Brands

24 06 2009 – Michael Brito is a social media strategist and community builder at Intel. You can catch him writing in his social media blog, Twitter or Facebook at all hours of the day/night. These are his thoughts and opinions and do not reflect that of his employer.

image Having a Twitter profile doesn’t mean you’re a social media master, but it is a great tool for conversations, building community and finding the latest industry news. That’s why Hollywood is on Twitter, athletes are on Twitter, your competitors are on Twitter, and hopefully you are on Twitter too.

But for brands, there’s an art to using Twitter, and the most successful at it follow an unwritten set of rules. The following are 10 important practices for brands to follow on Twitter; these are lessons that I have learned while working in the enterprise.

1. Do your research before engaging customers

Know how your customers use Twitter. It takes only a minute to go to Twitter Search and find out if there are any conversations happening about your brand, product, service or industry. Know what your customers are saying about you.

If your search yields zero results, don’t worry: there may still be an opportunity for you and your brand to establish a presence and start a conversation on the service. However, Twitter may or may not be the right tool for you to engage your consumers.

2. Determine organizational goals

Not all brands utilize Twitter in the same way. Some, like @ComcastCares, use Twitter to provide customers with support. Other branded Twitter accounts, such as @DellOutlet, have utilized the service to sell products.

It’s important to think about what you are trying to achieve using Twitter before devoting your time and resources to it. You’re likely to get more out of it that way.

3. Utilize either a branded or personal profile

You have two options: you can either use a branded profile with your company’s logo, or you can opt to create a more personal profile that unites your own personal brand with that of the company.

If employees are using Twitter to primarily engage with people on behalf of the company, they should have a branded profile. A branded profile is one that clearly identifies the user as an employee of the company; usually through a username (i.e. @Intel_Eric, @synopsys_roy, @MelfromSymantec, @AMDOpteronPhil, @RichardatDELL to name a few) or has a branded background picture and bio.

amdopteronphil twitter image

Whichever option you choose, there has to be a level of balance. Branded profiles are great for certain things – for example, industry news, contests, investor relations, etc. Personal profiles are more beneficial if your organization wants to leverage the employee’s personal micro-community or wants to have a more human presence.

4. Build your Twitter equity and credibility

To be a successful brand on Twitter, you have to build credibility and equity. That doesn’t necessarily refer to the number of followers, tweets, or retweets you may have, although these are important factors. Rather, it’s more about developing a reputation as a trusted source of information or being seen as an expert in a particular subject.

You won’t succeed in building your Twitter equity by pushing out one way marketing messages about your product. Instead ask questions, be personal, and engage people naturally within the Twitter community. Otherwise, customers won’t listen to what you have to say.

I usually follow the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of my tweets are conversational and personal, 20 percent are about the company I work for. I’ve found that this has really helped build customer engagement and link click-through rates.

5. Track metrics and conversation trends

richardatdell twitter imageAny enterprise or medium sized business should invest in a paid tracking service like Radian6 or Nielsen to better track Twitter conversations, identify trends, measure sentiment, and to get a quantifiable picture of what is going on in the social web.

One metric you absolutely must track: how much money Twitter has saved your brand. How many issues did you solve, leads did you create, and dollars did you save through Twitter engagement versus traditional resources?

If your goal is to handle customer support issues via Twitter, it’s wise to check if there is any decrease in the call volume to your support center. And if you are selling products via Twitter (as Dell is doing), you should of course measure your sales via that channel.

6. Don’t go overboard; less structure is better

Your Twitter use can appear disingenuous and inhuman if you’re too structured with your approach, to the point where your community may be turned off. Treat your Twitter relationships the same way you would any other relationship. Honestly, how much planning or structure is needed before spending the evening out with friends?

Your Twitter experience will change and evolve over time, because the community that follows you will help shape what you say and how you respond. Remember to always use the 80/20 rule, but be flexible with your approach.

I’m not saying that you should let your employees run wild on Twitter, though. Planning, training, coordination and integration with social tools is imperative — just don’t go overboard and create a social media policy that is too restrictive.

7. Listen and observe before engaging

Don’t just start tweeting assuming that the Twitter community is going to accept you with open arms. It’s important that you spend some time just listening and observing the behavior of those who are talking about you or your company. Understand how your customers behave and adjust accordingly.

You don’t have to follow everyone that mentions your company to listen in on the conversation. In fact, this may irritate some people. Instead, when you’re ready to start answering questions, @reply them. In my experience, nine times out of ten, they’ll end up following you. Let the relationship grow from there.

8. Be authentic & believable

Authenticity is the golden rule in social media. We’ve known this for years, but there is another, related rule that is just as important: you and your brand need to be believable. This means spending time listening to your community, observing it, and learning about the dynamics of that community.

Your will become believable only after you have established trust among those in your community. Because I am trusted by my followers, if I tweet that my new netbook is amazing and fits my mobile lifestyle, people will believe me and perhaps even buy one (it is amazing, by the way).

9. Track, measure, and iterate

If there’s one thing that bugs me about working in the corporate environment, it’s the amount of time needed to execute. Sometimes it’s better just to launch a product or initiative, track it, measure the results and then iterate.

I learned this concept working at Yahoo for Mike Speiser, who was the VP of Community Products (and founded ePinions and Bix). This was his philosophy at Yahoo, and it worked, especially in the competitive landscape of social networks.

The great thing about the social web is that it’s not difficult to track the results of Twitter engagement, assuming you have determined what your organization’s goals are. It’s even easier to change course if you find that your efforts aren’t working according to plan.

10. Don’t just strategize: execute!

meeting imageMultiple daily conference calls are the norm in corporate America. Strategy sessions and meetings to plan strategy sessions are also constants. While this may be fine when planning a new product launch or corporate initiative, it is the wrong approach to using Twitter.

We spend too much time strategizing with little to no execution. When you have too many ideas and not enough people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done, you are going to find yourself late to the game. Or, in the case of Twitter, late to the conversation.

By spending too much time trying to think of the best strategy, you are going to miss priceless opportunities to fix problems, answer questions, turn sour situations around, and create brand affinity with customers. With Twitter your mantra should be: just get out there and try it.

Source: mashable.com

Orbitz Gives Away Free Twitter Tickets

24 06 2009 – Chances are you might have woken up this morning to see a popular retweet make its way across your Twitter feed. That’s because Orbitz is doing a Twitter giveaway for a chance to win a round-trip coach ticket good for a flight in the United States.

image Not surprising this has put the Twittersphere abuzz. Who doesn’t want a free round-trip ticket to anywhere in the US (other than International folks that is)? So, what does it take to win? You’ll need to follow Orbitz on Twitter and retweet their daily contest message. Simple, right?

Full details on the contest can be found on Orbitz’s blog, and you’ll want to retweet this message to win, but we’re more interested in the trends surrounding Twitter giveaways and the fact that Orbitz has hopped on to the Twitter social media marketing train with spontaneous alacrity (they currently only have upwards of 2,000 followers).

orbitz tweet

Trending Twitter giveaways have become the hit marketing tactic for savvy marketing departments. The combination of a Twitter specific giveaway, with a super cool prize, and the distribution opportunities available through retweets, make this a winning formula.

As you may recall, Maggianos and Squarespace have proven the formula works, and now more mainstream companies like A&E and now Orbitz have taken note and started campaigns of their own. So while to most of us earlier adopters, Twitter giveaways may have jumped the shark, the reality is that these buzzworthy campaigns are just starting to get traction from the larger brands. Don’t expect these to go anywhere anytime soon.

Source: mashable.com

NASA To Fire a Rocket Into the Moon: Follow it on Twitter and Facebook

18 06 2009 – NASA has always done cool things, but its latest mission is really a sci-fi geek’s dream come true, as it includes flying a rocket into the moon, triggering a huge explosion.

image The purpose of the mission is to discover whether there’s frozen water in the craters near the moon’s south pole. If water is indeed found, it could have very important implications for further human missions on the moon, as a potential source for oxygen (you know why we need that) and hydrogen (for rocket fuel).

You can read about the mission in detail here, here, and here, but here’s a very short version: LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) will send the Centaur rocket which helped it out of Earth’s orbit into the moon at a high speed, ejecting debris from the surface of one of moon’s craters. LCROSS’ specialized instruments will then analyze the debris for the presence of water, before impacting the moon itself.

Higher Res photo of #Atlas V #LRO #LCROSS trip to launch pad. on TwitpicLCROSS’ launch date is today; it’s scheduled to launch at about 08:30 PDT. What’s especially cool about this mission is the fact that NASA is providing us with a variety of ways to follow the launch and the mission during the next four months.

First, you can watch the launch live at NASA TV. You can also follow LCROSS on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, for pictures related to the mission, check out NASA’s Twitpic account.

If everything goes well, LCROSS should impact the moon in about 111 days. NASA promises the moon won’t be damaged (much), but you never know with these scientist types. We’ll be watching closely.

Source: mashable.com

TweetDeck comes to the iPhone

18 06 2009 – TweetDeck, arguably the most popular desktop app for managing all things Twitter, just landed in the App Store. It’s free. And it’s a winner.

Like its desktop counterpart, TweetDeck for iPhone and iPod Touch relies on customizable columns: one each for things like replies, direct messages, searches, and friends. You swipe back and forth between the columns using your finger, then tap one to bring it to the fore.

(Is it heresy to say the interface reminds me a bit of the Palm Pre’s "cards"? Well, sorry, but it does.)

Needless to say, the app lets you tweet, retweet, send direct messages, e-mail tweets, and mark tweets as favorites. It also supports multiple Twitter accounts; each one gets its own column(s).

Too bad you can’t set up separate batches of columns for each account, as you can easily end up with column overload.

TweetDeck’s slick, column-driven interface is a delight.

TweetDeck does let you create user groups for following friends. You can also search, save your searches, and tweet photos by way of Twitpic or YFrog. It’ll even shorten URLs, though I couldn’t figure out how to make this work.

(I’ll fess up to being stupid if someone will explain the feature in the comments.)

If you’re already a TweetDeck user, you’ll be glad to know the app syncs with the desktop version, and will even pull in your Twitter account settings if you’ve already configured them.

Though TweetDeck did crash a couple times during my tests, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll quickly become a favorite among Twitter users. Its slick interface and thoughtful feature set have already earned it a permanent spot on my iPhone.

Source: CNET

Hillary Clinton defends Twitter efforts for Iran

17 06 2009 – The U.S. urged the networking service to delay maintenance so the system would keep running, leading to complaints from Iran’s government. Twitter has helped protesters communicate amid a clampdown.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday defended U.S. efforts to ensure that the Twitter social networking service has remained available for use by Iranian protesters, even as Tehran complained about U.S. interference in its affairs.

Clinton said that Twitter has been essential in allowing Iranian protesters, especially the young, to remain in touch in the aftermath of last week’s disputed presidential election.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Read  also:

Iran Elections: A Twitter Revolution?

Why Twitter Has Gone Green and Why You Should Too

Once a twit, now a major player

Iranians Keep Twittering Thanks To Young Obama Official 

Video BBC: Call for day of mourning in Iran

Video CBS: Iran Lashes Out At U.S.

Video AlJazeera: Iranians abroad rally against ‘stolen’ election

Video: CNN’s Response to #CNNFail

17 06 2009 – On Monday, live on CNN, Rick Sanchez responded to criticism from social media sites that CNN failed to adequately cover the Iranian election situation.

The video has now risen to the top of YouTube’s mysterious “most popular” list (which, unlike the “most viewed” list, uses some hidden algorithm or editorial picks to decide what’s important). Sanchez’s response pieces together CNN’s reports from the weekend to convince critics that CNN’s coverage was more extensive than users on social media sites claimed.

Not all YouTube’s commenters seem convinced, however, with responses including “You cover affairs of politicians 24 hours non-stop and other pop culture nonesense [sic] and this past weekend, you were busy replaying stupid Larry King interviews” and “The CNN Iranian Election Coverage was a joke”. Many argue, however, that CNN International did a good job of covering the events in Iran.

What’s your take? Does CNN make good counterpoints to the social media criticism? Let us know in the comments.

Source: mashable.com

Video: Iranians tweet their displeasure

17 06 2009 – With a media ban stifling coverage from within Iran, protesters are turning to Twitter to get their message out.

Supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi posted defiant messages on Twitter and Facebook, and uploaded videos of protests to share sites like YouTube.

Social networking websites have become a focal point for young Iranians opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mousavi has almost 48,000 supporters on his main Facebook page. Ahmadinejad also has a page with 2,615 fans, while the "I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who dislike Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!" group has more than 57,000 members.

Source: reuters.com

See also:

Iran’s Cyberwarriors Stay Ahead Of Government Censors

Iran clamps down on Twitter in attempt to control images of election protests

State Department undermines Obama reluctance over Iran with Twitter request

Twitterverse working to confuse Iranian censors

17 06 2009 – Twitter users are urging each other to change their location settings to confuse censors in Iran.

(Credit: Twitter)

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from a reader who had seen my story about Twitter users slamming CNN for its initial absence on the post-Iranian election protests, urging me to remove an image in the story.

The rationale? The image was of Twitter results and included users’ account IDs, and the reader was worried that the Iranian government might seek out and punish any users who were employing Twitter for potentially subversive purposes.

We decided not to remove the image, in part because it had been up for more than 24 hours, and also because we suspected that the Iranian government knows how to use Twitter and how to find people in that country using the microblogging service as a way to spread news about the protests.

But now, Twitter users across the world are attempting to turn that dynamic on its head. The best way that the Iranian government could discover which tweets were from Iranians is to look and see whose accounts are registered to people who identify themselves as being from that country. That’s possible because users’ profiles allow people to define which city they’re from and which time zone they’re in.

There’s a new thread spreading quickly across Twitter–I found more than 1,300 such posts–urging people around the world to change those settings in order to make themselves appear to be in Tehran.

Under the profile setting, the plea goes, people should change their location to Tehran, and their time zone and home city to GMT +03:30 Tehran. The idea–and it’s not entirely clear if this would work–is that this will simply overwhelm the censors with people who look like they’re posting potentially subversive tweets from Iran, and hopefully, protect the actual Iranians who are doing so.

Twitter, of course–as well as other social media services, has been the front line for news about the massive protests–perhaps the biggest in Iran since the revolution in 1979 that toppled the Shah. The service’s users–using the hashtag "#IranElection"–have consistently been ahead of the news media on the story. And Twitter convinced its host, NTT America, to delay scheduled downtime in order to keep the service up and running so as to continue to give users a way to spread and receive news about what’s going on in Iran.

The question has come up, again and again, about what would have happened in China in 1989 if protesters in Tiananmen Square had had Twitter at their disposal. I think China is more adept at censorship than Iran, but it seems clear that where there’s a will, there’s a way. And users of the Internet are a lot more clever than bureaucratic censors. I think the word would have gotten out.

Source: CNET

Twitter Inspires a Dedicated and Thriving Startup Economy

17 06 2009 – Twitter continues to amaze us. Its constantly evolving examples of change and connectivity persevere and reinforce how the “little microblog that could” is transforming media and communications while also silencing the most dubious of critics.

At the same time, I’m confident that through our pioneering efforts and innovative  developments, we also continue to amaze the team behind Twitter itself.

As Jack Dorsey shared in his keynote today at the 140 Characters Conference in New York, “Expect the unexpected. Sometimes, be the unexpected.”

Twitter is making the news and it is also serving as the foundation for how we publish, share and discover news today and tomorrow.

We are becoming “media.”

A recent study by ChubbyBrain is also demonstrating how Twitter is fostering a dedicated technology and business ecosystem. According to the report published today, angels and VCs have invested $23.27 million in Twitter-based startups while most others are self or privately financed. Recently, Howard Lindzon and his partners at Social Leverage launched 140Labs, a Twitter-only incubator.

John Borthwick of BetaWorks also presented at the 140Conf today where he revealed that over 3,500 companies are currently developing Twitter-related applications.

When Jesse Thomas and I released the alpha version of The Twitterverse, we focused on the leading applications for communications, research, community, and media professionals. The number of qualified, useful applications still numbered in the the hundreds.

ChubbyBrain detailed the most prominent startups that received significant rounds of financing (notice a pattern in the players?)

When we examine the startup trends fueling technology development, we see that the largest areas of innovation are concentrating on information provider (28%), search (18%), browser software/plugins (18%), the social web (18%),

Analyzing the dollars outside of startup volume and activity, search applications emerge as the predominate focus on innovation for Twitter.

To date, Twitter has closed $55 million in funding compared to the $23 million invested in the Twitter ecosystem.

Twitter will continue to inspire new development, which will attract modest to notable investments. What’s more important, is the innovation and associated capabilities and benefits we as consumers will earn as a result.

The Twitterverse will expand, shift, contract, and influence further development and will influence our culture, behavior and communication in the process.

Source: briansolis.com

Gazing into the Twitterverse (the landscape for Twitter approaches 1,000 different applications)

17 06 2009 – Twitter connects people through a rich and active exchange of ideas, thoughts, observations, and interests in one, highly collaborative and promising ecosystem.

The Twitterverse advances micro interaction and connections through an expanding network of applications, engendering the potential for macro reach and resonance online and IRL (in real life).

Following the recent debut of The Conversation Prism v2.0, Jesse Thomas (@jess3) and I proudly introduce an alpha version of The Twitterverse. While the landscape for Twitter approaches 1,000 different applications, this map visually charts the important tools to help communications, service, marketing, and community professionals more effectively navigate, engage, analyze and measure participation on Twitter.

Please share suggestions, additions, or changes in the Flickr comments section. We’ll integrate the feedback into the next rev of the Twitterverse and release formally as a poster and a downloadable high-res graphic.

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas

Source: briansolis.com