This blog is about Twitter and why it matters for business. It’s aimed at you if you’re just curious about the whole Twitter thing or maybe you are a ‘never in my lifetime’ Twitter agnostic. It’s an executive briefing to get you ahead of the social media game, armed with information to review your own Twitter use and that of your company – you’ll also have a guide to get started on Twitter if you’ve been waiting for ‘the moment’ to begin.
What is Twitter?
My one-line description of Twitter goes like this ‘It’s a free-to-use way of sending and receiving short messages of up to 140 characters’.
As an example of a short message, this sentence contains the maximum number of characters (set at 140) allowed in a Tweet sent using Twitter
This limit forces users to be brief (hallelujah..) and relevant. How many times in business have we opened emails and seen an avalanche of text cascade down the page, and that sinking feeling as you start to read?
Twitter obliges users to focus on the message and it is remarkable what can be achieved through the discipline of brevity. Perhaps it’s no surprise that some of the world’s most effective communicators are able to exploit it to best effect. Think of USA President @BarackObama, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson @MayorOfLondon and Virgin Tycoon Richard Branson @richardbranson and it falls into place.
And one more thing before we get into the 10 Business Reasons.. remember that your Tweets last forever, much the same as email. They never go away completely even if you hit ‘delete’. Think of the line from the Eagles’ 1970s classic song ‘Hotel California’ ‘…you can check out but you can never leave’. Emails and tweets are always there on someone’s server even after you have scrubbed them from your system. It’s even more pervasive with Tweets, because they are in the public domain from the moment you hit ‘send’ and even if you delete them they can still be recovered by other people. Tweets are tracked, saved and stored on servers across the world 24/7 so think carefully before publishing.
So, why is Twitter for Business? The following 10 Business Reasons combine the thoughts of leaders and academics in my network who have kindly taken the time to respond with their comments. They are not listed in any particular order as the benefits vary according to the individual’s own objectives. It’s also refreshing to note that none of the executives and academics who have taken the time to send their comments for this article claim to be ‘experts’ about Twitter but real-world users of technology like the rest of us.
10 Business Reasons To Use Twitter In The UK (and how to measure them)
1. Enhanced Reputation
Twitter provides a way to present yourself and your organisation directly to the reader. No filter, no reliance on third parties (for example, journalists or commentators in media articles) just you and your thoughts. The way you approach Twitter through consistency of comments, regularity of contributions and style of content reveals an intimate and powerful image of you. It can re-enforce positives, and raise your profile but there is a flip-side and used badly it will erode your image.
How is Enhanced Reputation measured? There are many ways, but why not apply the acid test and see how many invitations to events, speaking invitations, recruitment approaches, business leads and engagement with other people occur directly from you using Twitter.
2. Develop Contacts and Connections
Twitter is a two-way communications channel. If you only use it for broadcast (like traditional marketing channels such as advertising or print) you’re missing the point. Business leaders and academics listen to other people’s Tweets by searching out comment on topics of interest to them. ‘Following’ someone means that you join the audience gathering round to hear their thoughts and you can join in. My network of business connections have all grown new contacts and found new people through this route.
How do you measure whether you have Developed Contacts and Connections? See how many people you ‘follow’ and how quickly it grows. Take a weekly look at people who are now following you and explore the potential for talking to them offline. See who you are now engaged with compared to a month ago as a result of Twitter.
3. Provide Access to New Ideas
Finding a new thought or comment which brings a new dimension to your own business thinking is a click away. Instead of a week of business lunches, conferences and evening receptions to gather new ideas, it’s available from your Smartphone and laptop. Learn some simple tips and tricks and you’ll find relevant observations heading your way and it becomes a case of filtering not just searching.
How do you measure your Access to New Ideas through Twitter? Black and white answer – the number of people you choose to follow and ideas you generate as a result. Set a target and see if you hit it.
4. Intelligence Gathering
It’s no coincidence that major news media (BBC, Sky News, Daily Mail, Guardian, Telegraph etc) are constantly tracking the conversations on Twitter. But it’s not just for ‘big stories’ it’s about intelligence in your industry. Follow some of the ‘opinion formers’ and see just how quickly they get access to and talk about trends and news. See what your competitors are talking about. Read what your customers and clients are saying about you and your products.
How do you measure the Intelligence Gathered? What did you learn this week from Twitter? By following relevant people and issues you should see a weekly (if not daily) benefit from Twitter learning something that is of direct value to your business.
5. Multiply Speed of Communication
Twitter is instant, focused and measurable. Emails and letters, memos and conferences take time to plan, compose, create, publish and send and it’s rare that you will not benefit from increased speed of transmission. A Tweet can provide immediate reassurance to staff and stakeholders, address a customer issue, provide a signpost to more information at a speed that other channels cannot match. Customer care issues are often managed more quickly as businesses recognise the damage of leaving poor experiences un-answered in the public domain
How do I measure the Speed of Communication? You will see the immediate feedback from followers and if you use a link to other content, just follow the timeline of how quickly people start to view it. If you haven’t used these free tools before, it’s incredible to watch the data build up in real time.
6. Sell Products and Services
If you’re in the room talking to people and someone is ready to buy, the deal will probably happen. If you’re not even in the building, there’s no way you’ll make the sale. Twitter provides you with the opportunity to be ‘in the room’. My business network does advise that Twitter is not a primary sales channel, but does play a clear part of the sales journey.
How do I measure the sales of products via Twitter? Units sold as a direct or traceable result of using Twitter.
7. Increase Traffic to Business Website
Twitter can be a great opportunity to take your followers to your website for more information or to interact with you. An interesting comment in a Tweet, with a link to the relevant area of the website (NOT just the homepage, it must be to the specific page) is just the same as someone reading your marketing material and following the ‘Call to Action’. And it’s free. And it works.
How do I measure the traffic increase? The number of visits, where they come from, time of day, and how long they stop to read are measurable using free tools such as Google Analytics and free shortening links such as Bit.Ly (read more about this in the Resources section below).
8. Personalise the Brand
Twitter provides you with the ability to add your personality to your company. ‘Corporate speak’ is tedious and is immediately rejected by staff and customers alike in any communication, but especially through Twitter. Tweets which deliver a business message in your style are more powerful and effective. Successful users of Twitter for Business write their own Tweets and re-enforce the brand by living the values of their organisations in this most public social media forum.
How do I measure the Personalisation of the Brand? Your existing staff and stakeholder surveys along with customer feedback forms can provide input, but also consider how many people are re-Tweeting your content and look for re-quotes of the phrases you used on Twitter in other people’s conversations and amongst your own staff.
9. Increase the Breadth of Business Engagement
How many times have you tried to develop your brand ‘beyond the traditional customer base’ or by ‘widening out the Church’? Twitter can actually help you to achieve this because it is a public forum. Most people who use Twitter have an open approach to networking and so it facilitates a way of stepping into new areas. Maybe you want to reach people who are not part of the traditional media audiences, or would like to talk directly with staff and clients without the filter of journalism. Twitter provides the opportunity, and business leaders can harness it.
How do I measure the Breadth of Business Engagement? Look at the followers who have joined your Twitter stream. And look at it regularly (once per week at least). See who they are, where they come from, what they’re interested in. If they match your target, you’ve hit the target.
10. Direct Management of Customer Issues
Social media are tearing up the established way of how businesses manage customer relations. The call centre is now being slowly eaten away by the listening centre, a new concept where people use social media analysis tools to look for Twitter mentions of their brand, and then contact the person tweeting to address customer concerns immediately. Of course, the smart people are now ‘gaming’ the system and know that if they Tweet they will probably get the attention of business leaders and things will be resolved, because it is public and damaging. Leaders in my network suggest that by nature of their interest in Twitter they are probably at the front edge of customer management and so adoption of social media is a natural progression.
How do I measure Direct Management of Customer Issues? Track issues managed through existing call centres and those arriving and being dealt with via social media.
Twitter and social media in general are part of your business landscape, whether you choose to get involved or not. You may decide that it’s not for you, and not have any online activity in social media and this is a perfectly valid approach. However, this won’t stop other people talking about you online, or your competitors talking to your customers online, you just won’t hear or see what’s happening around you.
Twitter is a communication channel. If you’re going to get the best out of it, you need to have a plan. And that plan needs to be embedded as part of your marketing plan, which is part of your business plan.
If you can’t (hand on heart now) print off or produce your marketing plan or business plan within two minutes of reading this, then you’re not alone. But you are also failing to take a structured approach to your business and consequently missing out on opportunities for increased revenue.
I can help you make the change to a structured approach in a few, simple and enjoyable sessions that will get your business tuned up and ready to grow. My network of associates is also at your disposal, gathered from 20 years working in business and we’re all ready to help.
Let’s make it work is my business motto – just call and let’s see how.
Sources For 10 Business Reasons To Use Twitter Blog
For this article I talked to my business contacts in the UK, the successful leaders who are making a difference in their field and use Twitter for business advantage. They are not necessarily the best users of Twitter, nor do they claim to be. Not all of the contributors wished to be acknowledged in public, but here is a selection of the respondents and I now thank them publicly for their time and views.
Clive Sutton an entrepreneur in the luxury goods sector for more than 25 years. Supplies supercars and other services for clients to order around the world from London premises. Follow Clive @clivesutton
Daksh Gupta Chief Executive of Marshall Motor Holdings, one of the UK’s biggest motor dealers with a turnover of £700m, selling and servicing 400,000 cars a year with 2,000 employees. Follow him @MarshallMotorGp
Heather Yaxley an experienced public relations consultant and lecturer at Bournemouth University and general secretary of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) Limited. Follow Heather @greenbanana
Paul Everitt Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) representing the motor industry in the UK, a sector with 700,000 jobs and £40bn turnover. Follow Paul @PauleverittSMMT
Russ Goldsmith Digital Media Director of Markettiers4DC, a leading broadcast PR and marcomms consultancy with more than 80 employees working for global brands since 1994 producing radio and WebTV content. Follow Russ @RussGoldsmith
About Al Clarke – I am a marketing and communications specialist who has worked in the motor industry at board level since 1997. I have held senior positions in global brands such as Ferrari and the BBC including a decade working as a journalist.I am a member of the Institute of Directors, the Public Relations Consultants Association, an expert member of the digital community Smart Insights and Life President of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association.I speak regularly in the field of marketing communications to businesses and the media with particular reference to digital media. Find me on Twitter @alclarkeltd and LinkedIn.
If you would like to receive my White Paper on this topic Twitter – 10 Business Reasons to share with other people or for future reference please contact me via [email protected] and I’ll send it to you as a pdf. The White Paper includes practical guides to getting started with Twitter, a five point plan for getting your business focused on the opportunities and a detailed list of references and further reading.