Two Steps to Leverage the Power of Twitter

Jun 16, 2012 1:43 AM  By

Having spent a dozen years as a list broker searching to uncover prime prospects for merchants of all kinds, I hope you’ll believe me when I say that Twitter is a goldmine that most merchants have yet to fully discover. If your brand is on Twitter and you are not seeing its value, then you probably need to approach Twitter from a different perspective.

Social has been a game changer requiring behavioral shifts that go deeper than many brands and the individuals behind them have yet to acknowledge. Consumers are not on social media to be sold; they are there to receive value, be acknowledged by others and engage. Excuse me for saying this, but a constant stream of sales offers and product promotions is considered “noise” in the world of social media. Don’t let that stop you, though. Read on.

Most merchants I see on Twitter are using the channel like a public email platform. The majority of messages are sales pitches and very little engagement with followers. This strategy completely misses the point—and the opportunity—of Twitter.

The power of Twitter
At its very core, Twitter is a hub of conversations. Conversations provide a platform from which to identify individuals who share interests that align with your brand. The common interest is a gateway for engagement and lays the foundation from which to build or strengthen a relationship.

Social networks should be viewed as channels that can influence the lifetime value of a customer, not channels where ROI is measured at the transactional level. Twitter’s open communication architecture provides you with the opportunity to proactively prospect, build loyalty and positively influence lifetime value if you embrace its conversational nature and strive to build social relationships with customers and prospects.

Here are two key steps you can take to leverage the power of Twitter:

Follow back
One of the biggest opportunities I see merchants missing is having thousands of followers, yet only following a couple of hundred key influencers in their niche. Amidst those followers you don’t follow back may be some of your most valuable customers.
When you don’t follow a good customer back, it may send the message that you are only interested in having a transactional relationship. Not exactly a signal that builds loyalty.

Consider also your competitors on Twitter. Your list of followers is public information and a savvy competitor could be mining your followers and not only following them, but actually engaging them. Think of a new follow as a potential buying signal and follow back.

Don’t limit your strategy to mass broadcasting. In order to gain followers’ attention and build relationships, use the @mentions feature which publicly directs a tweet to a specific user. This is where the gold in Twitter lies, yet it requires that you let go of the mentality that it needs to scale.

This is a one-on-one world, yet a very powerful one. At my firm we run campaigns for clients using the @mention feature and, depending on the brand, consistently see response rates between 25% and 45%. Yet the key here is that the initial call to action is not a sales offer.

The goal is to create a relationship from which a sale will occur later through the now stronger relationship on Twitter or through another channel. You will alienate customers and prospects if your first engagement with them is a sales offer unless their tweets say they are in buying mode.

I view Twitter as the most powerful platform for any brand that sells directly to customers. It’s well worth learning and leveraging it.

Susan Hanshaw is founder and CEO of Inner Architect, a digital marketing agency, consulting and training firm.