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Twitter Best Practices

April 16, 2009

I recently had a conversation with a senior executive at an NBA franchise that opened my eyes to how much corporate leaders distrust Twitter. There is a commonly-held view that Twitter is populated by ego-driven geeks who drone on about what they had for breakfast. While there is certainly some of this, brand managers should also be aware that Twitter is filled with millions of users who are talking right now about their needs, their likes & dislikes, and about your brand.

Hundreds of companies are using Twitter to successfully promote their brands and engage with customers. Here are six best practices for Twitter:

1. Provide customer care and feedback. This is the most talked about brand management tool available on Twitter. Ford, JetBlue, and ComCast all put tremendous effort into responding to customer complaints, praise, and questions. By using the search function on Twitter or more advanced listening tools, brands can immediately redirect frustrated customers toward the help they need, often turning a bad experience into a positive one.

2. Engage your audience. Customers want to feel like they have a voice. Starbucks asks its followers to come up with new ideas, EA asks its gamers what they’re playing now, and 10 Downing Street (Tweets from the Prime Minister’s office) asks followers to throw questions out via YouTube.

3. Start a conversation. Whether it’s Al Gore reflecting on the market for electric cars in China or John McCain lambasting the Wall Street bailout, Twitter is a public forum for conversation. Brand spokespeople can make use of this great feature, too, by authentically raising a concern or praising an achievement. It’s best if the achievement isn’t their own.

4. Learn about customer needs. Marcel LeBrun, CEO of Radian6, encourages companies to use Twitter to answer key questions about their customers. What other things (besides my product) are customers interested in? What are the most important subjects being talked about by people who use my product? Who are the key influencers?

By learning and listening, companies have the opportunity to meet their customers at a point of need. Most people won’t open an email coming from a lawn-care company, but are happy to listen to a pitch right after they complain about their brown grass.

5. Advertise an event or promotion. AdidasRunning promotes running events around the world, Powell’s Books lets readers know when an author is coming to Portland, and Samsung pushes cell phone deals and giveaways. All these companies are taking advantage of their large voice that comes with thousands of followers, brand loyalists, and industry influencers.

6. Be creative. Ashton Kutcher is quickly becoming best known for his Twitter personality, thanks in part to the gauntlet he dropped at the feet of Larry King and CNN to see who could be the first with 1,000,000 followers. EA has taken advantage of the media hoopla to offer Ashton’s 1,000,000th follower 10 EA games, and a role in the Sims 3. EA’s individual titles also creatively use Twitter to engage customers. Battlefield Heroes, for example, holds Twitter trivia contests and gives away swag to the winners. Great publicity, and a model for Twitter best practices.

Sam Boush
Sportsonomics
@SamBoush

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2009 5:41 am

    Hi Sam,

    Nicely written. We find Twitter an invaluable communication tool for our business. For me, it’s as important a channel as my phone or email, mostly because so many of my clients and customers are there and use Twitter to reach out.

    We learn TONS about our community by connecting with them on Twitter, far outside the scope of our product or services. It’s about getting to know and understand the people and businesses as a whole, and being there before they need you so you’ve build awareness, trust, and the sense that your brand is invested in people first, not just sales.

    Thanks so much for including us here!

    Cheers,
    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community | Radian6
    @AmberCadabra

  2. ssmstudent permalink
    April 17, 2009 7:13 am

    Thanks, Amber. Your quick response to this post shows the sophistication of Radian6 listening tools and your commitment to being part of the broader online conversation.

    -Sam

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