We don't know about you, but we've become Twitterholics and can't get enough of the popular micro-blogging site. Fortunately, there's a Web site devoted to people just like us called Twitterholic.com, which lists the top Twitter users by number of followers. In case you're wondering, Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears and Ellen DeGeneres are the top three, each with more than 3 million followers.
DeGeneres is funny and fun, but we presume you're reading this article to learn more about effectively using Twitter as a business tool. In a recent Auctiva article about Twitter, we explained how some expert tweeters use the site to skillfully promote their businesses. In particular, we described how David Yaskulka, head of marketing communications for Halo, Purely for Pets, notifies his followers when new blog articles are up and otherwise builds buzz about Halo's products.
But is there a payoff to all this tweeting? Does it drive people to your auctions, build brand awareness or truly help with your customer-relations efforts? How do you assess these things? These are reasonable questions. While using Twitter is cheap compared to other methods of reaching and interacting with customers, it still takes time. And you know what time equals. So let's turn to some experts for some advice in assessing the effectiveness of Twitter campaigns.
Let's begin with Yaskulka, who recommends you pay attention to the following measures:
- Followers: With each tweet you should be building your base of followers, as hopefully more and more people decide that what you're tweeting about is worth tracking. So track your fan base and how quickly it's growing. Twitter provides details on your followers right on your profile page. You can see the number of followers you have and who those followers are.
- Where your traffic comes from: Before your followers came to you, which Web sites were they on? Those sites are called "referrers" in the language of the Web, and knowing this information provides insights into your followers' habits and mindsets, which can help you craft your tweets accordingly. Yaskulka recommends Google Analytics as "a great tool for determining this."
- Company buzz: How many people are discussing your company? That "buzz" is hugely important. If you find that 30 to 40 people a day are talking about your company on Twitter, consider that "Those 30 to 40 people can reach 100 or more people each, and that's just through Twitter," Yaskulka says. Twitter Search can help you with this research.
Each Twitter account should focus on a specific niche—the more focused, the better
Twitter has become so important a marketing and advertising tool that academics are publishing studies about how to use it effectively. One of these is Jim Jansen, associate professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State. Jansen is coauthor of a recent study called "Twitter Power: Tweets as Electronic Word of Mouth."
For his study, Jansen and his team analyzed more than 150,000 tweets that contained "branding comments, sentiments and opinions." With all that research behind him we wondered if he has any advice for businesses that want to craft effective Twitter campaigns. In other words, what strategies work best on Twitter?
"For businesses, each Twitter account needs to focus on a specific niche [e.g., customer relations, sales, marketing, product 1, product 2, etc.]," he says. "The more focused, the better; as Twitter is tailor made for niche markets."
Like Yaskulka, Jansen suggests businesses monitor Twitter feeds for mentions of their companies, their products and industries. He suggests they look for brand and product mentions, and gather the tweets for market analysis.
"This is data that companies used to pay for and now they get it free," he notes.
Businesses that want to fine-tune their Twitter campaigns to make sure they're getting the most for their efforts must set goals, just as they would with any advertising or marketing campaign, Jansen advises. For example, ask "What do I want this effort to result in?" He also points to followers as a good measure of brand community and brand relationship. He adds that "retweets" [when someone reposts your tweet] are a good measure of brand image.
There are companies now that will help you assess your Twitter campaigns, and Jansen cites two in particular. CoTweet helps companies manage their Twitter campaigns by allowing multiple employees to communicate through corporate Twitter accounts, "and stay in synch when doing so," Jansen notes. This allows them to share the work, of course—all that Twittering can get tiresome, leading to uninteresting and less effective tweets. Also, by splitting the work across departments [for example, marketing, PR and customer service] people can insert whatever expertise they bring to the table.
A coherent brand message and customer relations are two areas where companies can positively leverage Twitter
Another company Jansen likes, Get Satisfaction, helps companies manage their communications with the various communities they want to reach and interact with. This is important because "a coherent brand message and customer relations are two areas where a company can really positively leverage Twitter," Jansen notes.
Finally, we should mention Twitter itself now includes a robust section of best practices on its site, which are must-reading for companies formulating and fine-tuning their Twitter strategies. Twitter has the following suggestions for companies:
- Maintain a tally of questions answered, customer problems resolved and positive exchanges. Note whether percentages change over time.
- When you offer deals via Twitter, use a unique coupon code so that you can tell how many people take you up on that Twitter-based promotion. If you have an online presence, you can also set up a landing page for a promotion, to track not only clickthroughs but further behavior and conversions.
- Use third-party tools to figure out how much traffic your Web sites are receiving from Twitter.
- Track clickthroughs on any link you post in a tweet. Some URL-shortening services let you track clickthroughs.
Applying "analytics" to Twitter is necessary to make sure your time is well spent, but when crafting your tweets, remember to do so with a smile. Many people hop on Twitter to take a break from work, so make it pay for them, not only in terms of information, but fun, too!