Introduction

Twitter dashboard

Twitter is an online social networking tool in which users post 280 character updates of what is going on in their lives along with links to things they think are topical, interesting, funny, or of benefit to their followers. As of January 2018, Twitter had 3 million active Australian users. 

Twitter for business

Twitter use by business is increasing fast. At the moment business users are largely based in the hospitality, entertainment, retail and technology sectors. Increasingly NGO's, advocacy groups, thought leaders and consultants are using Twitter to build reputation through opinion. Twitter is a growing social media channel in Australia for business, and is a strong platform for real-time engagement.

When considering whether or not you will invest time into Twitter for your business, it helps to first have an overarching digital strategy that considers the reasons that Twitter is going to positively increase your sales and brand – and most importantly that Twitter is where your customers are already, or where you want them to be. As with all social media channels, traction takes time, and you need to invest a consistent presence with quality content and meaningful exchanges to truly determine what works.  Like all social media, Twitter is a two-way conversation that invites customers to develop a relationship with brands over time rather than just a one-off transaction. Tweets are very much ‘real time’, making Twitter one of the channels where you can tweet more often throughout the day/night, as long as the content is relevant and compelling.

So what is it? Twitter is an online social networking tool in which users post 280 character updates of what is going on in their lives along with links to things they think are topical, interesting, funny, or of benefit to their followers. About 24% of people who use Twitter don't tweet, but use Twitter to follow other people so they can keep up to date. More than half the people who use Twitter access it via their mobile phone, so they are constantly 'reachable'.

People use Twitter in many ways: some as a newsfeed by following prominent people, businesses or news networks; some for breaking news in real time global situations such as a crisis or disaster; some as a microblog for updating people about the work they are doing and their personal lives; some to run real time conversations and information exchanges. Twitter can be all of these things, however; it is a valuable and strategic tool when used by businesses to participate in dynamic real-time local and global conversation, and if it’s good enough for POTUS, it’s good enough for your business. Let’s get started!

Video case study

Hillfarm Preserves Tasmania owner Carolyn Nichols is using social media as a way for the Sisters Beach-based business to connect and interact with its customers from across the globe. Carolyn and her employee Karin highlight the advantages of using Twitter and Facebook and how it enhances their community ties, marketing and sales.

Your Twitter profile

Start by completing your profile. As a business account, your two options for optimal Twitter user names are @yourbusinessname or as close a derivation of your brand as is available; or if you are a business or brand driven by your own reputation such as a consultant or thought leader, use @yourname as your username.

The set up process in Twitter is simple and you are guided through a number of steps within the Twitter platform. Before starting, have ready an image that is appropriate for your profile picture (such as a clear professional headshot, or a logo for your brand.) You will also need a larger ‘cover’ shot, which should again be relevant to your business, a clear quality image, and sit comfortably with a left-aligned profile shot.

If you are using a logo, try not to make it too wordy, or it will not be readable at the small image size. Your image can be formatted as a jpg, gif or png.  The size limit for upload is 700KB. Twitter reformats the image for the profile picture and the smaller image that goes next to comments. You can use Canva to quickly and easily create these header images using your branding.

You will need to have ready a description of your business, with a maximum of 160 characters, to put in the bio. Again, this should align with your brand and allow followers quickly and simply to understand who you are and what you do.

Twitter terminology

To use Twitter strategically, you need to understand the key Twitter terminology.

Followers

Subscribing to a Twitter account is called “following". To start following, click the follow button next to the user name or on their profile page to see their tweets as soon as they post something new. Anyone on Twitter can follow or unfollow anyone else at any time, with the exception of blocked accounts (“following” being essentially what “friending” or “liking” is on other social media sites).

Mentions

Mentioning other users in your tweet by including the @ sign followed directly by their username is called a “mention.” It also refers to tweets in which your @username was included.

Tweets and retweets

When you post something, it’s a tweet. When you repost something from another user, it’s a retweet or RT.  Trending topics, or TT, are topics discussed by many users at a given time, usually by using a hashtag. The list of what topics are trending in your region is on the left hand side of the Twitter feed, and you can click on the trending topic to catch up on the conversations.

Hashtags

A hashtag is any word or phrase immediately preceded by the # symbol. When you click on or search on a hashtag, you'll see other tweets containing the same keyword or topic. Hashtags are used for both non-time specific grouping of tweets, such as #politas for political tweets in Tasmania, and for critical time specific events such as emergencies, disasters, breaking news and events such as #AFLfinal.

Like

Twitter has a heart shape ‘Like’ button you clicking on to like a tweet. Liking is a great way to recognise someone for sharing your content, or to let them know you are seeing, and liking, what they are posting. The reply, retweet, like and more buttons are all located underneath the tweets in your Twitter feed.

Polls

Twitter enables polling in your tweet. The polls last for 24 hours and when you start composing a new tweet, the option to add a poll is in the draft under polls. Polls will remain live for 24 hours. After the 24-hour voting period is up, everyone who participated will get a push notification informing them of the final result. Voting is anonymous, and any user can vote on any poll.

Lists

From your own account, you can create a group list of other Twitter users by topic or interest (e.g., a list of friends, co-workers, celebrities, athletes). Twitter lists also contain a timeline of Tweets from the specific users that were added to the list, offering you a way to follow individual accounts as a group on Twitter.

Direct Messages

The messages tab on Twitter lets people who follow you, who you also follow, to send you a direct message. This can be convenient for private or offline conversations, or exchange of sensitive information. Unfortunately, the direct message tab is often where spam and viruses come through, so before opening any message, especially with headings like 'I saw this photo of you' 'you're not going to believe what they are saying about you' etc just delete. If you don't know the sender, or you have any doubts, delete.

Growing your following

Many people use Twitter for ‘listening’ – i.e. they use it to keep abreast of the world and their niche interests by following a lot of accounts to get information. To work as a tool to increase your business, Twitter needs to be used in a more active way, both ‘listening’ and ‘speaking’. As previously mentioned, social media for business works best when it is a consistent two-or multiple-way conversation.

To achieve this, you need to build your followers, follow others who are relevant to your target market, and then engage them in conversation with you, and each other. You may be using a social media channel, but your engagement here needs to replicate the brand experience of customer service you give in your virtual or actual place of business. How you respond and the content you produce needs to be considered, and most of all replicate what you would say in person. The hard work done in creating a brand for your business can be undone instantly by an ill thought out tweet, so, as they say, think twice, tweet once.

When following people, start by targeting your known customers and clients, follow those who are your competitors/collaborators, and those who you would like to have as clients. Follow people, businesses, industry groups in your supply chains and national/global businesses in your sector. Look at the accounts these people are following for new leads on who to follow.

Follower numbers are the most meaningful when those followers are active Twitter users and fit into the previous groups. Keeping your audience niche and engaged is far more relevant than thousands of followers that are not your target audience. Building an audience slowly and sustainably is the goal. Note who likes and retweets your tweets, and acknowledge them. To do this keep your eye on the notifications tab and see who 'mentions' you and respond.

If you want all of your followers to see your tweet in their home stream, it must start with a word or a character not an @nameofsomething. This is a common mistake people make and think they are tweeting all of their followers. If you begin a tweet with @nameofsomething the only people that can see it are you, them, and any followers that have both of you in common. It is appropriate to do this if you want to have a public conversation between a limited number of people, but for a broadcast tweet, best to start with words or if you are retweeting: RT or use a character like a full stop i.e. .@ so a character comes before the @nameofsomething.

For example: Very excited about the new release of your new product @nameofsomething rather than: @nameofsomething very excited about the release of your new product.

Strategic content

It’s been said once and will be repeated in every factsheet on social media channels - posting and content must be consistent, strategic and aligned with your brand messaging and values. When you first start using Twitter for business, spend some time looking at what other people and businesses are tweeting. Note what engages and captivates your interest – and why.

Favourite and retweet posts to start engaging with others, and initially you might respond to tweets with questions or comment. Your own content can be about your business, your sector, your industry, and events that are relevant to you and your business or even your sectoral twist on world events such as climate change, disasters or elections. 

The best way to learn on Twitter is by simply starting to tweet and getting a feel for what elicits the best response from your audience. While Twitter started out as a very text-based channel, it now has a lot of image-driven content. Images and video on Twitter tend to keep users engaged for longer, so use them where appropriate, and make sure the images used are on message and of a high quality. You can attach up to four images to a tweet, but one outstanding image is better than four ordinary ones. 

When creating content on Twitter, remember the purpose of using social media (aside from engaging in brand building and dialogue with your clients and customers) for business is to drive them over to a point of sale or transaction. Twitter is a gateway for this transaction, based on captivating content, trust, and a call to action by the tweet to click through to somewhere else. This could be your website, an affiliate website, or your bricks and mortar venue. 

Not all tweets you post will have this function, but you ultimately want people to be coming to where your brand is undiluted and a sale can be made. The tweet that does this may be a link to a new blog, new web content, new products or services, or new videos. It is always better to use the tweet to take people to your bespoke content on your website. Like all social media, the balance between sales and conversation is 20/80, with 80% of what you post more conversational and fun, rather than pushing your product or agenda. 

Video

As with pretty much all social media platforms, video is the best performing post type on Twitter. If you’re not utilising video, or considering how you could possibly incorporate video into your Twitter strategy, you are overlooking a key opportunity.

Twitter’s live-streaming push seems to have lost some momentum of late, but the platform is still broadcasting a heap of exclusive content, and will continue to make this a key focus as they look to drive more investment in video programming.

Visuals, in general, are key to improving your Twitter performance, and video, in particular, is worth considering. Consider too, that shorter video is generally more effective on Twitter, with research showing that a 15-second video on the platform is just as effective as a 30-second one, in terms of recall and impact.

Nice 'Threads'

Twitter has also recently launched its ‘Threads’ feature – enabling you to string together a series of tweets on a given topic. Along with 280 character tweets, Threads gives you a lot more room to add context, which has significant brand opportunities when used wisely.

One of the key benefits of Threads is that they’re native to the Twitter feed – they’re present on the platform where people are already active, as opposed to Moments or a link back to your website. Because of this, they provide a new opportunity to more easily add context – and because the full thread is hidden behind a ‘see more’ prompt, they are also not generally intrusive, so you can add more context to a tweet without overwhelming your followers.

Threads provide a new way to offer more details explanations, step-by-step instructions, more in-depth messages with added context. And because the tweets are linked, it also makes it easier for users to understand, without seeing a single part of the wider message appear in their stream.

Managing negative comments and trolling

One of the biggest deterrents that new business owners cite for not wanting to use social media as part of their marketing plan is handling negative comments. Twitter 'trolling' is a term used to describe targeted negative campaigns against an individual or brand. You hear of high profile cases usually against celebrities, but in reality they are rare when it comes to your small business. Trolling is somewhat different to simple criticism. 

If someone criticizes your product, service or you personally, the rule of thumb is to respond quickly and politely addressing the issue. Often how you respond to these types of situations on social media says more about your brand values than your brand itself. It is never appropriate to get into a public fight with anyone, better to simply acknowledge their comments or concerns and how you will remedy them if appropriate. You can't keep everyone happy all the time. 

If the comments are threatening, violent or otherwise obscene, they need to be blocked via Twitters blocking mechanism or handled by the appropriate authority. Never delete a regular complaint - it is always better to respond and move on. If the opportunity is there to contact the person directly by phone, that can also be highly valued in terms of resolution.


Paid advertising on Twitter

Recent surveying by Sensis reveals that over 40% of Australians check their social media in the morning, then at breaks throughout the day. Harmonising your content with your users will bring more targeted results, and in turn speak more authentically to your users. There are a three key ways that businesses can advertise on Twitter all of which insert advertising content into the normal content streams on Twitter in an organic flow. 

Promoted Tweets

Promoted tweets are regular tweets that an advertiser pays to display to people who are not already following them on Twitter. Like regular tweets, they can be retweeted, liked, and so on. These tweets extend the reach of content that is already performing well on Twitter or other social channels. Promoted tweets appear directly in targeted users’ timelines, at the top of search results, and in the Twitter mobile app.

Promoted Accounts

Promoted Accounts allow you to get your Twitter account in front of targeted Twitter users to gain relevant followers. Promoted accounts are displayed directly in potential followers’ timelines, as well as in the ‘who to follow’ suggestions and search results.

Promoted Trends

Trending topics on Twitter are the most talked about subjects on the social network, appearing on the left side of the page, on the discover tab, and on the Twitter app. 

Promoted trends allow you to promote a hashtag at the top of that list. When Twitter users click on your promoted trend, they see an organic list of search results for the topic, with a promoted tweet from you at the top of the list. As people pick up on your hashtag and start using it themselves, you can gain additional organic exposure that increases the reach of your campaign.

Twitter ad campaigns can also have a number of objectives. Like Facebook, you can aim for engagement within the social network, or you can try to drive Twitter users to your website or other content outside of Twitter. Some of the commonly used ad objectives on Twitter are: tweet engagement, follower growth, website clicks, conversions and app installs. 

Twitter, like the other social channels provides ad targeting tools. You can target your ads based on location, gender and interests. The targeting options are a little less powerful than those provided by Facebook (as a general rule, Twitter knows less about its users than Facebook does), but nonetheless, you can use Twitter targeting to show ads to a fairly tailored group.

Pricing for Twitter advertising varies depending on how your ads have been targeted and how many people are trying to advertise to the same group of Twitter users. As is the case with other social media platforms, it’s a good idea to set a small lifetime budget initially and experiment with small ad runs until you learn the ropes.


Creating a Twitter ad

Creating a Twitter ad is a fairly straightforward process. Here’s a quick run through of the steps you go through.

  • The first step involves naming your ad campaign, choosing how you will be paying for your ads and setting the schedule for your campaign.
  • Then you’ll need to choose your ad objective. You have a number of choices, including tweet engagements, website clicks or conversions, app installs and Twitter followers. For most businesses, website clicks or conversions is a good place to start.
  • After setting your objective, you will need to set up your targeting. The most useful targeting options relate to location, gender and interests, so use those as best you can to try and pin down your target market.
  • Once you’ve set up the targeting, it’s time to build the tweet itself. You’ll most likely want to add an image or video and include a link in your promoted content.
  • Now that the ad is built, you’ll need to set your budget. You’ll need to set a maximum daily budget, which will cap how much of your budget will be spent per day until the conclusion of the campaign. You can run a standard campaign, which will space your ads out fairly evenly over the course of a campaign, or an accelerated campaign, which will push out ads more quickly. Generally, a standard campaign is a good choice.
  • The last thing you need to do is set a maximum bid per engagement. Twitter advertising works on a bidding system. Your bid sets the maximum you’re willing to pay for an engagement (such as someone clicking the link in your ad and visiting your website), but in many cases, engagements will cost you less than your maximum bid. This is because the maximum you will be charged is one cent higher than the next highest bidder. Nonetheless, if you’re just getting started, you may choose to set you bids low and experiment with smaller budgets until you find your feet.

Learn more about Twitter advertising.