Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tweet, Tweet: 9 Steps to a Successful Twitter Strategy

By Brian Anthony Hernandez, BusinessNewsDaily Staff Writer

Like a little birdie whispering the secret to social media success in their ears, business owners keep hearing the oft-repeated business advice: Tweet, tweet. But, while the advice is clear enough, the devil is in the details of how to create and maintain an effective Twitter strategy.

Some businesses never even bother to try Twitter. Others join and fail to effectively use the free service. And a few manage to join the social media network and flourish. Having a plan before diving in can make all the difference.

“The unifying force driving businesses to Twitter today is a simple concept: Consumers don’t like being ignored and businesses know they need to listen,” said communication strategist Ben Grossman of the marketing agency Oxford Communications.

“To avoid the doomed destiny that many businesses have found on Twitter, businesses must enter with a strategy that allows them to experience early successes and long-term evolution with their ‘tweeps’ (people who follow the company on Twitter). Without a strategy that allows for those early successes, businesses run the risk of getting discouraged, being deemed irrelevant by their prospects or tweeting into thin air,” Grossman said.

BusinessNewsDaily asked Grossman to craft a step-by-step process to help businesses develop a Twitter strategy. In his nine-step guide, he also includes questions businesses can start asking themselves today:

Step 1 – Assess business challenges: For businesses to see value in Twitter, strategies must be designed to overcome business challenges. Do you need to get better at customer service? Do you need to encourage incremental sales? Do you want to tap into consumers for research and development?

Step 2 – Create marketing goals: One marketing tactic likely isn’t going to solve a business’s entire challenge, so it is important to define what part of that challenge Twitter can help with. Will it help increase peer-to-peer endorsements? Will it let you resolve your most vocal customers’ complaints? Will it make you aware of emerging product or service opportunities that will expand your business?

Step 3 – Listen: Do some preliminary listening to what people are saying on Twitter to make sure your goals are reasonable. Based on current levels of conversation, will your messages resonate? Will there be enough people to engage with you on the level you’d like to?

Step 4 – Set objectives: Set objectives so you can see the short- and long-term benefits of your Twitter strategy paying off. What Twitter-specific metrics will you use to measure your success?

Step 5 – Plot out actions: What tactics will you use to leverage Twitter? Will you conduct outreach to people talking about certain subjects? Will you search people’s profiles for mentions of geographic areas? How often will you post? What topics will you post about?

Step 6 – Plan process: This is a step many businesses miss in the excitement of starting a Twitter profile. It’s extremely important to put processes in place that won’t let the business fall off the saddle. Put processes in place that proactively alert the curator of the Twitter presence to hot tweets that need attention. It is key during this phase that the curators be honest with themselves about their time restrictions and willingness to make Twitter a priority. During this phase, also consider the wide range of tools available to make your action plan easier. OneForty offers a great directory of Twitter tools and HootSuite is, for many, a mission critical tool.

Step 7 – Prepare for emergencies: What will happen if a user turns on you or there is an unexpected development within your business? Make sure to have a plan in place for what you are willing and able to do to make it right. Sometimes, taking heated exchanges off Twitter and to real life or e-mail is the best thing you can do.

Step 8 – Activate consistently: Make sure that your plans will allow you to keep your Twitter efforts active over the long term. Have backup curators and content in place for the inevitable sick, busy or just plain “over it” days.

Step 9 – Measure and refresh regularly: Start activating your Twitter strategy with specific times scheduled in the future to stop and review progress, success and areas for improvement. Also, make sure to refresh your approach every once in a while. Are there new opportunities for your Twitter strategy? What about new business challenges to take a look at?

“Without a long-term openness to evolving strategy with their Twitter community,” Grossman cautions, “businesses’ Twitter involvement can cease to grow, become rote or fail to provide meaningful returns.”

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