Rob Swystun, Pristine Advisers
Twitter isn’t hard to master, right? You get an account for your brand, you start tweeting your little fingers off and promote the heck out of your brand’s Twitter handle. And then you sit back and watch your followers grow, retweeting everything you have to say and spreading the word about your brand the way good followers do. That’s how it works, yeah?
Uh, not exactly.
Like most other things, Twitter isn’t quite that simple. There are little intricacies and tips that can help a brand leverage Twitter exposure. And it’s something brands want to leverage, as it’s the fastest growing social network on the web, increasing by a whopping 40% over the last half of 2012.
So what works? Well …
Retweets and Replies
According to an analysis of user engagement from over 320 Twitter handles of the world’s biggest brands done by Buddy Media, 78% of engagement with a brand’s tweets is through retweets by followers; 22% of engagement with a brand’s tweets comes in the form of replies to tweets the brand has sent out and 92% of engagement with a brand’s tweets are links within the tweet being clicked.
Be careful, though, because your followers will get sick of you throughout the day. It turns out that as the number of tweets a brand sends out in a day increases, engagement will typically decrease. So sending out a couple of tweets per day = good and sending out a couple dozen tweets per day = bad.
1. Include Pics – To help your brand increase engagement, use photos in your tweets. Tweets that contain image links have twice the engagement rate than tweets without pics.
2. Ask Your Followers to Spread the Word – Ask your brand’s followers to retweet your tweets. (How ridiculous would that previous sentence have sounded 20 years ago?) You could just rely on people recognizing your gift of wit and being compelled to retweet what you have to say but it never hurts to give them a little direction.
In fact, tweets that request followers to retweet get retweeted 12 times as much as tweets that don’t make the request. When “retweet” is actually written out in a tweet, the retweet rate is 23 times higher than average and when the shorthand of “RT” is used, the retweet rate is 10 times higher than average.
So, naturally, all brands must be asking everyone to retweet everything, right? Not so. Less than 1% of brands implement this strategy.
Links and Sweet Tweet Times
As mentioned previously, 92% of interaction with a brand’s tweets comes in the way of clicking links in the tweets a brand sends out.
3. Weekend Warrior – The engagement rates for brands are 17% higher on Saturday and Sunday but only 19% of brands tweet during the weekend. (Unlike your office, Twitter isn’t closed on the weekends.)
4. Daylight Tweetings Time – But, similar to your office, Twitter has business hours (kind of). Brands will typically see a 30% higher interaction rate while tweeting between 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
5. Keep it the Opposite of Long – Tweets that contain less than 100 characters receive 17% higher engagement than longer tweets. (Reading is hard, remember.)
6. Add Those Links – Links aren’t just good for clicking, they really affect the retweet rate, too, with tweets that contain links receiving an 86% higher retweet rate than tweets without links.
Ever since Twitter introduced the concept of hashtags, the once unassuming “#” has become a major tool of marketers and people who use the pretend job title of social media expert. Tweets that use hashtags are twice as likely to promote brand engagement as those without.
And yet, only about 24% of tweets monitored in Buddy Media’s analysis contained hashtags.
7. Use Hashtags (Sparingly) – So, use those hashtags. But the caveat with them is that hashtags can be too much of a good thing.
Observe; tweets with one or two hashtags show 21% higher engagement than those with three or more hashtags. And tweets using more than two hashtags actually show a 17% drop in engagement!
(For a handy cheat sheet on the above, check out the Linchpin infographic for it.)
The most important part of Twitter is obviously the tweets themselves, so a brand will want to pay special attention to the content of its tweets.
8. Have a focus – And I mean more of a focus than “engage customers.” Do you want to a) provide information to customers? b) use it to offer support to customers? c) advertise offers and promotions? d) respond to complaints? or e) respond to queries?
I’m going to go ahead and guess that you probably said “F, all of the above,” which is fine (and completely unoriginal). A lot of brands have multiple Twitter accounts, each one with a specific focus.
Having a focus also means tweeting only information that is relevant to your brand. If your brand has nothing to do with football, there is no use in your brand’s account tweeting about the NFL playoffs, is there? It’s just going to make your users think you’ve run out of brand related content to tweet about.
9. Be responsive – We’ve already talked about how to get more people to retweet or respond to you and if you can get them to do this, make sure you do engage your followers with a simple thanks for the retweet or an honest answer to their question if they’ve asked one.
Social media is an excellent way for brands to shed their reputations as huge, monolithic structures that are impossible to communicate with on a human level (like governments). So, go ahead and, y’know, communicate.
Your brand’s followers followed the brand for a reason. Not all of them are going to be fans. People will follow a brand that they hate, just to watch for mistakes to exploit. But it’s pretty safe to assume that most followers are fans and some may even be … super fans.
10. Identify brand evangelists – Super fans of your brand — known in marketing circles by the much more mundane moniker of brand evangelists — are the people who love your brand so much that when they die they want to be buried in a casket with your brand’s logo on it. They love your brand and they will go out of their way to tell others about it without even being paid for it. Get to know them. Cozy up to them. They’re your friends. And you don’t want them to turn on you because that passion can run both ways.
Every few years yet another amazing social media tool comes along that — to use marketing hyperbole — revolutionizes the way we communicate. Companies tend to hop on these pseudo-revolutionary internet services fairly quickly and they can start to add up over time.
11. Consider using a dash board – These handy tools allow you to manage all of your communication revolutionizing (social media) platforms and allow you to have multiple logins with one password, if necessary.
What not to do
Knowing what to do is only half the battle, of course. There are things to you should also avoid doing. For example …
1. Don’t spam – You wanna hear something amazing? Even though I’ve never met you and I have no idea who are, I still know exactly what you think of spam. You hate it and you wish the person who invented it would die a fiery and horrible death (or at least get a really annoying hangnail). Spamming sucks and brands that spam suck. Your former Twitter followers will hate you for it. Don’t spam. Don’t even think about it.
2. Don’t talk about your competition – Just don’t. Ever. (Even if they start it.)
3. Don’t automate your Twitter account – An automated Twitter account is akin to an automated phone answering system. You know who likes communicating with an automated phone answering system? If you said “nobody,” you’re right. How are you going to form a relationship with your followers if you can’t even be bothered to appoint a real person to communicate with them? (Heck, even hiring a social media expert to run your account is better than automation.) Customer inquiries and especially complaints should be individually addressed and preferably via direct message as to avoid public arguments.
4. Don’t get personal – A brand’s followers are following the brand, not the person who runs the brand’s account. Don’t post personal updates and don’t add or create personal contacts from your brand’s account. That’s not to say your shouldn’t add some personality at times to keep it from getting dull, but remember that you’re speaking in your brand’s “voice.”
5. Don’t reveal company secrets on Twitter – I’m going to go ahead and let your boss explain what will happen to you if you do this. Also remember that at least one of those seemingly real Twitter enthusiasts that follow your brand is someone who works for a competitor and who made a fake account just to keep tabs on what your brand is saying. (Don’t act surprised. Your company is probably doing it right now, too.)
6. Don’t make selling the main focus – Nobody likes to be constantly badgered to buy things, even from a brand that they love. Twitter isn’t really designed to be a selling medium. Leave that to your website and let Twitter just be a fun, cool place to hang out and listen, track and monitor conversations about your brand (and spy on your competition). Go ahead and tweet about discounts and offers, but don’t overdo it.
You’re now ready to be a tweet demon!