sp_twitterAs more and more companies move to engage their customers over Twitter, I thought it might be useful to outline a few guidelines companies should use when tweeting.

Naturally your mileage will vary, but these are tips I’ve put together based on my experience with companies who are doing Twitter right, and some who haven’t quite got the hang yet:

  1. DO: SPELL THINGS CORRECTLY. Don’t treat Twitter like you’re a third-grader sending a text message. If your message is so long that you find yourself having to edit “see” to “c” or “you” to “u”, find a way to make it shorter without resorting to sounding like an idiot. (I’m looking at you, @SarahPalinUSA.) Use the emdash (hold alt and press 0151 on the pc keypad) to break up thoughts—without spaces on either side—instead of ellipses, or other “open set” punctuation. Breaking messages down into “leet speak” or SMS chatter is unprofessional and sloppy. If it absolutely must be said in more than 140 characters, seriously consider a blog.
  2. DO: TWEET SPECIAL OFFERS OCCASIONALLY. Use Twitter to incentivize your followers to stick around, but don’t spam them dozens of times throughout the day. Assume that one or two offers a day is a good maximum. (See tip #7.) Consider offering discounts or free products with a “code word” like Sprinkles Cupcakes does. Nearly every day, they give away a free cupcake to the first 25 or so customers who whisper their coupon phrase that day. This has the wonderful benefit of getting people in to your store, where they’ll likely make a purchase even if they’re not one of the 25. There’s also a good chance that they’ll buy something else even if they get the free cupcake, and by limiting it to the first few customers, you can contain your costs outright. Even if you’re not a brick and mortar, special offers can encourage customers to make purchases they had been holding off on but wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Dell claims to have booked $6.5 million in sales directly through their Twitter presence over the past two years.
  3. DON’T: BE BORING. Special offers are great and might be enough to keep followers around, but you can engage your customers on a much deeper level by talking about your product, your business practices, and even offering some single-tweet behind the scene glimpses into how you operate. Restaurants especially can make use of this, and one local eatery called Liberty Market does a great job tweeting about new menu items they’re working on, showing pictures, and discussing special offerings of the day. It keeps your brand on people’s minds and makes the brand far more personable.
  4. DO: PROACTIVELY ENGAGE CUSTOMERS. Use Twitter’s search capacity or any respectable Twitter client to set up a search with your brand or company name in it. For smaller businesses, you’ll likely see feedback directed to your Twitter account as a mention, but larger brands are going out of their way to engage customers who simply tweet ABOUT them. Pizza Hut is a fantastic example of a corporation that really engages their customers intelligently. They reply back to people simply mentioning Pizza Hut, asking what they had and thanking them for their patronage. They also try to resolve issues, which is my next tip.
  5. DO: RESOLVE ISSUES WITH CUSTOMERS. Twitter is a valuable tool for companies to identify trends and monitor feedback about their brand. It’s also a powerful tool for customers to share their dissatisfaction. Because conversations through mentions/replies are public, it’s in a company’s best interest to identify negative tweets and attempt to engage the customer and make their problem right. Pizza Hut does this with nearly any negative experience tweet that comes through. You should focus on making things right, but feel free to move things off the “public” side of Twitter to resolve the issue.Similarly, I tweeted to @hpsupport about a problem my brother had with his HP laptop and they engaged me directly, asking me to send an email to one of their Twitter support staff. They’ve now set up a call next Monday. This is a level of service that’s above and beyond what I was expecting from going through normal channels, and you can believe that it’s in part because the alternative is a vocal, upset customer.
  6. DO: TWEET THROUGHOUT THE DAY. Twitter is a different medium than an email newsletter. While mail can lose itself in the shuffle, it’s likely that a customer will at least see the message’s presence in their inbox even if they simply delete it. With Twitter, there is no such assurance. Depending on your audience, your customers may very likely not see tweets about offers or important news simply because you mentioned them earlier in the day. Most clients only fetch the last hundred or so tweets so a user who has just opened their client will likely miss a tweet from a day ago. If you’re going to have a Twitter presence, commit. An account with no new updates for three months looks worrisome.
  7. DON’T: TWEET NONSTOP OR SPAM YOUR USERS. Keep things to a balanced 7-12 tweets a day. Don’t repeat yourself over and over, but don’t count replies (tweets starting with someone else’s name)  in that number. Encourage users to tweet back by asking questions about what your customers like or want to see more of. Hold mini contests, discuss upcoming events, or talk about your history. But keep things in check and try to spread out your tweets. CoTweet is a wonderful tool for scheduling tweets to go out so that you don’t have to be in front of a computer managing your account all day.
  8. DO: FOLLOW COMPETITORS & OTHER LOCALS. Even though you compete with other local businesses, it’s vitally important that you follow them and see what they’re doing on Twitter, but you can also feel free to engage them online and stay friendly out in the open. You should also make a concerted effort to track down local businesses whom you work with and follow their accounts and engage with them. Word of mouth is everything and the people following your favorite businesses are likely to be great potential customers for you as well. Strike up conversations with others and you can bet they’ll return the favor. When other companies mention you (@reply within a message), it appears in their follower’s feeds, linking right to your name. A great way to earn free word of mouth is just to have productive conversations with your favorite local fellow businesses.

Twitter is a quick growing medium that companies are still feeling their way around within. It’s really exciting to see companies taking customer feedback over Twitter to heart, engaging users directly, offering great deals, and using Twitter to solve problems. Still, jumping in to social networking can be a bit of a challenge and is something that does require time and effort. If you need more advice or want some help establishing your Twitter or Facebook social media presence, we’d love for you to contact us. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any tips or favorite practices you’ve seen other companies make use of that I might have left out.

Posted in: How To