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Tips for tackling Twitter

Thursday, 26 August 2010 | By Amber Plum

Like any medium that captures the public imagination, Twitter brings a myriad of opportunities to strengthen customer relationships and build brands and businesses. But not all tweets are equal - and because Twitter allows users to choose whether to listen, it also means they can just as easily choose not to.


"If you're not giving anything of direct value, they will switch off pretty quickly," says Sean Adams, founder and managing director of advertising company The Seed.


"Businesses aren't going to grow just because they're using Twitter - they have to use it to provide something of tangible benefit to the follower... the golden rule is to know what your followers actually want to hear."


Tangible benefits, Adams says, may include offering Twitter followers discounts and special access to sales or new products. He says Virgin Blue's use of Twitter to sell discounted fares is a good example of the kind of tweet that will win customers.


Swinburne University's Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Alex Maritz suggests using Twitter to share business achievements, including awards or media mentions, with followers.


But he says companies should also be using Twitter to ask followers' opinions and gain market intelligence.


"Ask what products they would like to see and ask what they think about any new initiatives you are considering, such as repackaging your product. You should also use it to ask questions about any products that you launch. It may not give you hard facts, but the wave of feedback will provide an important gauge of your customer's perceptions... and that interactivity is what followers are wanting."


"You can use it to ask questions and gain information about who your competitors are and what your followers think of them, he says. "If you're thinking of opening a coffee shop in the CBD, put a tweet out asking where the best places to get a coffee are," he says.


It's especially important that a company's Twitter feed uses language that doesn't sound too "corporate", says Brand Finance Australia managing director Tim Heberden. "If it's over controlled it's likely to lose its value. The smarter companies are letting their staff get out there and just tweet whatever they want... and in reality, any company servicing customers has a whole lot of staff that interact with the public, so Twitter needn't be any different."


But Heberden says that for those whose client base is social networking savvy, the worst possibility is not using Twitter at all. With this in mind, here are 55 ideas for Twitter updates from Michaela Clark, founder of mi virtual pa, which provides virtual administration and marketing to small business.


1. Announcement of sales, specials and discounts

2. Welcome a new staff member

3. Promote a new product line

4. Recruit members for a focus research group

5. Run competitions and giveaways

6. Recruit new staff by listing job vacancies

7. Post industry articles that support your products or services

8. Promote happy hours for online stores

9. Retweet your supplier messages

10. Welcome new clients

11. Promote your next event

12. Get customer feedback

13. Welcome new suppliers

14. Comment on current affairs in relation to your industry

15. Share useful websites for your business

16. Link to your new blog posts (yes it's time to get a blog as well)

17. Broadcast updates made to your website

18. Lessons learnt from business that day

19. Promote your other social media networks eg. Facebook, LinkedIn

20. Conduct customer surveys

21. Notify customers to changes in upcoming events

22. Showcase your new TV, radio or print ads

23. Tell your customers about great service you have received from another small business

24. Get feedback on any new systems, software or equipment you plan to purchase

25. Search for new suppliers and contractors

26. Notify customers of product recalls

27. Promote associations and organisations your business belongs to

28. Appointment availabilities caused by last minute cancellations

29. Give tips to show you are an expert in your field - yes, free advice, no catches

30. Broadcast news in relation to your industry

31. Highlight your business's recent media coverage

32. Highlight your Twitter milestones, eg. 1,000 Followers

33. Profile your staff members

34. Celebrate company milestones, eg. 25 years in service

35. Post changes to schedules, timetables or opening hours

36. Update stock information and shipment arrivals

37. Discounts for mentioning your Twitter posts

38. Any appearances you are making, eg. trade shows, workshops, seminars

39. Link to any instructional videos you have created

40. Seasonal greeting to customers, eg. Merry Christmas, Happy International Left Handlers Day

41. New address and phone numbers if you have moved

42. Any unfortunate outages or delays in customers getting service or products from you

43. Promote your client's product, event or services

44. Highlight any community involvement or charity associations

45. Send reminders to your customers, eg. end of financial year approaching, Father's Day

46. Going on holidays - set automate tweets to connect to your customers in your absence

47. Give your business a personality - share a joke or two

48. Link to photos from your latest event, staff party or networking function

49. Promote a business award nomination or achievement

50. Link to forums you regularly participate in (yes, you should be doing that as well as Twitter updates)

51. Share cost savings you have made in your business

52. Use Twitter as a customer service/help desk for your business

53. Fundraise for a local community organisation

54. Encourage people to follow some of your favourite Twitters

55. If all else fails, make a comment on the weather - that is always an icebreaker!


Have you got any good marketing ideas? We'd love to hear your suggestions. Please comment below.