Tweeting for Business

A year-long Pew Research Center study about Twitter cast some interesting light on this social phenomenon. It found that events which are sometimes heralded as "trending on Twitter" are in truth simple irrational exuberance or people expressing negativity, and not necessarily reflective of public opinion as a whole. The Center stated that only a sliver of the American adult population is actually using Twitter. Despite the apparent drawbacks, can American companies use this social media opportunity to effectively market and promote their business?

Clayman Marketing Communications, a full service, business-to-business advertising and marketing communications firm in Akron, Ohio, pointed to some possible opportunities in a white paper entitled, "Tweeting for Business: A Social Media Starter's Kit." Company VP of Client Services, Margie Clayman, has successfully used the medium to help their company grow. Although Twitter's uses for a business-to-consumer platform can be easily seen, when asked if this form of social media can work for business-to-business, Clayman said that it depends on the product and sales cycle.

Tweeting in a b-to-b environment can help build brand awareness and engagement, but tracking to sales can be difficult. A business strategy for Twitter might include driving attendance to trade shows, becoming a voice for the industry, connecting with industry influencers, and establishing top-of-mind awareness. It is also a great opportunity to capture the attention of younger professionals entering the job market.

Clayman advises that the first step in developing a social media strategy for business is research to gain insights into what the competition is doing, what customers want, and what the objectives should be for a social media program. One person should be dedicated as the voice of the company and a budget set regarding the amount of time to be invested. When it comes to setting goals and tracking ROI, it is also helpful to read Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization by Olivier Blanchard.

Businesses should think of Twitter as another component of the marketing strategy tool box. It is part of the new form of personal communication, not the mass communication to which marketers may be accustomed. Since there must be a commitment to consistency, it is helpful to develop a strategy in advance for a stream of regular Tweets for the business to send to its followers. Because a Tweet is such a limited length of communication, marketers should follow the "jab" theory of communication -- hit them with one short point, hit them with another short point, hit again with a different take on the first point, and so on -- just enough to make followers stop and take notice of what is being said.

Tweets should be representative of the company's business philosophy, but not self-promotional. They should be relevant about something followers need to know, educational about something they don't know, or informational about an event or service. A company can share blog posts or drive followers to new information on its website. Twitter can also be useful for engaging followers in a conversation and building relationships. Be interactive so they will comment back and start a dialogue. Since the next step is to do something with these leads from a sales perspective, the sales team should be involved in the planning and development process.

Twitter may be the new kid to the marketing block, but with thoughtful planning and implementation, it can help businesses communicate to their target audience in a consistent and cost-effective way.