It is no secret that Twitter offers an exceptional opportunity for businesses to engage clients in a direct and personal way. The mystery is in maintaining a great Twitter feed that constantly puts out captivating and outstanding content. This can seem like a daunting task if you’ve never tried Twitter before, but the truth is, that having a great Twitter account that no one would dare unfollow, comes down to a clear understanding of the basics and a distinct course of action. Before writing great content for Twitter, you need to know what the platform is all about; that way you can get the most out of it without committing any Twitter sins.
One of the most commonly used descriptions is “Twitter is a microblogging social network, that limits content to 140 characters”. While this concept is essential to understand the way Twitter works, it’s pretty plain and it doesn’t really say much about the way it’s being used nowadays: To share information in real time and create meaningful relationships between businesses and clients.
A quick look at its origins, tells us the social media website, was created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass. It rapidly grew in popularity, and gained worldwide users, that started to keenly use it more as a social network to share status updates and microblog about their thoughts and opinions. Over the years, it expanded to include real time newsworthy stories. In 2012, it started making a space for visual aids inside the platform by acquiring Vine and releasing it as a stand alone app, that lets users create six second videos, and in 2015 it further established its willingness to include audiovisual content acquuiring Periscope, an app that allows live streaming of videos. By May 2015, the platform had more than 332 million active users.
So, how does it work?
Let’s take a look at the essential Twitter nomenclature to ensure you are truly able to take full advantage of the ever growing demand of real time information and user’s readiness to interact within and outside the social network:
- What is a “Tweet”?
This is the message itself. It has to be composed of no more than 140 characters, including spaces, special characters and punctuation, leaving little to no room for fluff and unnecessary information. Even if this seems slightly limiting, keep in mind that a succinct message opens the door for a more creative and engaging wording that directly translates into more interested clients.
Keep in mind: A tweet can contain text, pictures, links and videos. It should come as no surprise that tweets with pictures and videos tend to produce up to 4 times more engagement from users, and tweets with a direct call to action (whether it’s asking for a retweet or a visit to your website) gather more responses than those without it.
- What is a “Retweet”?
Commonly expressed as “RT”, a retweet is simply the reposting of someone else’s tweet. It works just as a quote would in a book.
The platform itself, offers two ways to do this; automatic retweeting, and retweeting with a comment. The former would be a direct unaltered quote from another user, and the latter would include your own comment, effectively working to start a conversation about the topic that prompted you to retweet in the first place.
Keep in mind: Though it is best to use sparingly, a retweet generally expresses eagerness to engage in dialogue with others while increasing visibility and offering a glimpse of what the retweeter finds thought provoking and relevant content. A great way to measure the success of your Tweets is looking at how many retweets it produced so that you keep a record of what piqued your followers interest.
- What is a “Mention”?
A mention is a way to reference someone, to bring the attention to an specific topic, ask them a question or highlight content they might find useful. This is a great way to start public discussions, that showcase your thoughts and opinions, and at the same time, increase brand awareness, and spread social messages.
Keep in mind: As a business, being directly called out by clients opens a way to interactions of all sorts, not just conversations about certain topics or events. Some businesses have taken to transforming their Twitter accounts into customer service support, extensions of their brand’s communities, or hosting contests specially designed for the platform and its users.
- What is a “Hashtag”?
This is a way of transforming any word into a keyword and making it searchable so that your tweet becomes part of a topic. Although hashtags are usually composed of just one short word, it’s possible to use a short sentence as long as it doesn’t include any spaces or punctuation marks. Hashtags are a great way to make your business known, but beware of using more than 2 hashtags in a single tweet. It is considered a bit of a faux pas. Your Tweet will look more like spam than helpful organized content to most users, causing immediate rejection.
Keep in mind: Using relevant hashtags is a sure fire way of making sure users will find your tweets when searching for keywords pertaining to your field, and the more specific you are with them, the better. This certainly promotes the creation of communities composed of people with the same interest, and helps you be up to date with the latest trends amongst them. On the other -unhelpful- hand, you will find that associating your Tweet to hashtags that are only vaguely related to its content will only hurt your brand and make it seem distastefully opportunistic.
You already know Twitter serves as a platform that helps you connect with leads, and clients in a safe environment, encourages engagement outside the network, builds relationships between businesses and clients, and offers content that ranges from entertainment to serious news. Albeit, easy to use and very intuitive once you get the hang of it, there are a couple of things to keep in mind before you create content. Think of this as the skeleton of your Twitter persona:
What’s the best way to present your company in Twitter?:
Few things look shadier than an incomplete Tweeter profile. Fortunately this is the best problem you can have, since it’s the easiest to fix. All it takes is having a consistent look and feel through all your different accounts and websites. You can take advantage of Twitter’s customizable features, such as profile picture, header picture, and background, to make sure you’re using your brand’s colors and images.
This is also a perfect time to think about the tone and voice of your Twitter persona and fill out your bio. Thought you will not post the same content in Twitter as you will in your website, keep your writing voice and identity consistent throughout the platforms. This will give you a distinct and identifiable personality, which means that you will come across as more relatable, trustworthy and human to your customers. This is extremely important if you want to establish a relationship with them.
Another thing to keep in mind is your landing page, or the page of your website specifically designed to receive inbound traffic from Twitter, that any new users interested in your business will be taken to if they want more information. This should be different to your homepage and should be specifically set up to help out users coming in from Twitter.
Do you need a focus to boost your Twitter strategy?
Are you using Twitter to gather leads, provide customer service or create brand awareness? Depending on what your main objective is, you can develop different strategies, define and optimize the content you’ll be creating as well as the use of hashtags to suit your interests. In this stage, you might find some useful information by taking a look at your target audience’s needs and what they might already be saying about your brand.
Do they seem to need help with your products or services? Would they be interested in hearing your opinions regarding current events in your field? Check out what they’re already saying and you can effectively find your place in the Twitter universe.
How can you engage your users?
The first thing you have to do is forget about trying to please everyone. There’s no use in speaking to an unnecessarily wide audience, and this in fact might be detrimental.
Once your interests have been defined, it’s time to find other users that share them. You could search for hashtags that directly refer to your area so that you can find a curated audience that already has an interest in what you have to offer. This also allows you to view your target’s likes and passions. Another good way to go about this is to follow the customers you already have in real life, business partners, suppliers, peers and competitors, and other businesses in your neighborhood.
Although you should strive to have original content, engaging with other user’s tweets is just as important. This is where retweeting becomes a powerful tool. Just remember that adding a personal comment when retweeting has a better effect than just retweeting alone.
When should you Tweet?
Since Twitter’s main characteristic is its ability to provide new information in real time, it’s not hard to figure out that content has to be sent at specific times to ensure that is seen by as much people as possible. There are several studies discussing different time zones and days, depending on whether you are establishing business to business connections or business to clients. While you’re more than welcomed to look at them for guidance, eventually you’ll need to look at your specific clients and their habits to get more accurate results.
There are different tools to help with figuring out the best time to reach your target audience. Buffer is great to monitor what time of day works best for you and your followers and try out different schedules. Tweetdeck allows users to manage different accounts and also has a scheduling function. Hootsuite is another great management tool that lets you easily see your brand’s mentions, schedule posts, and monitor how many times your profile is seen, among other features.
Another way to make sure you’re posting relevant content, is by keeping an eye on hashtags and trending topics to ensure you’re not missing any opportunities to join new conversations. Though be careful not to overuse this or engage in conversations without adding any new or relevant information as this is yet another way to come across as yet another spambot.
So how do you write an engaging Tweet?
- Speak directly to your audience.
What will you say? What is your audience talking about? Is there something you can add to the conversation or will you need to start a new one? It’s important to know this so that your content is crafted accordingly.
How will you say it? Think of your audience not only in terms of tone, what they like to read, using imperative words, and strong calls to action that showcase your brand’s personality, but also in a more basic way, like making sure you’re using correct grammar and punctuation. Though text speak is not necessarily frowned upon among users, it’s not expected nor encouraged from businesses.
Overall, a good rule of thumb is to keep your tweets at a maximum of 90-120 characters to encourage and allow users to Retweet and add their own comments.
Though all this looks -and is- fairly formulaic, think of it as a new language. This is the most basic sentence structure you can learn and once you figure out your brand’s voice and personality and have consistently used them in your account, your Tweets should start to have more complex and organic structures, and therefore come across as more honest to your consumers.
- Ask questions
An easy way to interact with other users is by asking questions. You should strive for open ended questions about relevant events with the objective of gathering some insights into the user’s likes, dislikes, habits, and opinions that would be harder to get without directly interacting with them. This is your chance to make your users feel special and valued.
Beware of asking mindless yes or no questions into the vacuum. You are less likely to get any action this way as it will feel both impersonal and irrelevant.
- Include a link
Twitter users are used to seeing content that drives them to an outside website. In fact, they’ve come to expect this, so don’t be afraid to include a -shortened- URL that directs them to your website.
Beware of coming off as untrustworthy, sketchy, and deceptive. This is remarkably easy to do by directing your users to misleading content or links that are unrelated (or only vaguely so) to the content you’ve promised. No one likes to be lied to, at best people will unfollow you, and at worst you will cement yourself as unreliable in their minds.
- Make it pop with images or videos
Take advantage of the increased engagement that images and videos give you, and make sure the images are not only completely related and relevant to your content, but also reflect your brand’s personality.
Beware of empty promises. Not accounting for an ironic or sarcastic use, this is not the place to have an unrelated or misleading image, that will make you seem just as untrustworthy as a misleading link would.
- Hashtag it
Finally, you want to make sure your tweet is linked with the topics you’re talking about. This is the easiest way to make sure users can find you while searching for the topics you tend to discuss or want to be associated with. You can even find a community your brand might be able to join.
Beware of inserting yourself in conversations where you don’t belong, remember this is not only in poor taste but completely unnecessary since you are allowed, and are encouraged to create your own more pertinent hashtag if you can’t find one that suits your needs.
There’s a versatile nature to the way Twitter is used that allows any business to adapt it to its own strategies and goals, but an important thing to keep in mind is that while all this information can serve as a guideline for a better and safer Twitter experience, there’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty so that you get the results you want. Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of the basic Twitter etiquette, you can put it to good use and even explore new possibilities. Whether you want to use it to insert your brand in certain conversations or just to stay up to date with relevant events in your field, businesses should embrace the unique opportunity of establishing real and intimate relationships with their clients in an environment that let’s it happen organically rather than in typical sales pitch fashion.