Character limits, fail whales and good business: Why Twitter can be a great PR tool
The microblogging site Twitter is one of the best known success stories on the internet. With over 65 million tweets posted a day, equating to 750 a second, many would think that any attempt at promoting a company would get lost in the meaningless babble about breakfast cereals and walking the dog. But there are certainly ways of being heard over the noise.
The two main functions of Twitter, from a business viewpoint, are broadcast and interaction. Both are beguilingly simple-looking ideas, so for any inexperienced Twitter users or just any who want to improve the hits on their site there are a few tips that can be followed.
First, no matter what business you are in, from coffee production to advanced robotics; try to get a following of journalists that specialise in your company’s field of expertise. This ensures that the people who you want to know about your latest product, service or survey, for example, are exposed to it.
A related idea here is to tweet a link to a press release or article an hour early, for example, on Twitter. Make an event or link Twitter-exclusive.
You should also build a following of other stakeholders, in addition to journalists. One of the main things to do here is to decide whether to have separate Twitter accounts for different groups of stakeholders, or whether to have one over-arching account. The benefits of two accounts is that you can tailor the content on each to the market that is reading it, while having one account makes administration easier, albeit the content will have to be more strictly chosen.
A customer following can have huge benefits no matter which option you choose; Tweeting links to surveys for market research or to new sections or articles on your website can improve your hit-rate substantially.
Third, take an active interest in any comments on your tweets. Re-tweeting or @replying users who have taken the time to comment on one of your tweets will encourage other users to comment if they have questions or statements. If properly handled this can increase your following and as a result Web site hits.
Finally, hashtagging, or #tagging, is one of the most useful tools for a business’ Twitter account. Placing a hash symbol in front of a word causes that word to become a topic. These topics are then searchable on Twitter, meaning if someone searches for the name of your product, and you have hashtagged it, your product will be more likely to come up as a search result.
Topics that occur frequently on are known as trending topics and are displayed on the Twitter homepage. While it is quite unlikely for a business topic to begin trending, it is possible, and if it happens for whatever reason, hits on your page will increase vastly. Basically, hashtagging can equal more business.
Outside the boardroom there is a fine balance to be struck with individual staff members’ accounts. Having employees use Twitter can be a boon. However it is obviously a bad idea to have them posting negative things about the company or other individuals. Certainly with higher level employees such as CEOs, having someone monitor their account updates before they are sent out can help avoid disaster. Putting a delay on the updates themselves if they are emailed in can also help. This gives the people concerned a chance to rethink anything they may have said in the heat of the moment. This will avoid fiascos such as BP boss Tony Hayward’s incriminating tweets asking if he can “have his life back.” This will also help your PR consultant avoid a heart attack.
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