And the last part of this series is about looking at Twitter in a broader sense (for those who missed the earlier posts, check out Part 1Part 2 Part 3 and Part 4). Understanding how you can use it within your business to increase your social signals for internet marketing. The social signals are taken into account by the search engines and hence affect your search engine rankings, whilst also helping to capture the attention of your target audience.

Trends & News

Keep up to date with how your world is developing. Look at the trending topics on Twitter and compare these to Google Trends. Monitor those trends directly or indirectly related to your business. This may have the unexpected consequence of highlighting areas you had never considered before for your business – be warned, it can be quite exciting as the world opens up in this way!

Hashtags

Discover the hashtags related to those trends and follow those who tweet on these subjects. If there are not already people deemed to be an authority on the subject you are interested in, become the authority. Get to know those in authority and treat them with respect. We mentioned in Part 3 about co-operating with others in your sphere of influence

Set up Google Alerts to inform you of mentions of trends of interest to you for the future. Not only will this alert you to mentions of keywords and phrases across the Web, it will also let you know of real time discussions which you can benefit from or exploit.

Bear in mind that any major breaking news stories, whether local, regional, national or international will feature on Twitter, sooner rather than later. If you hear a news item on the TV or radio that relates to your industry sector, product set or region, you can guarantee it broke first on Twitter. And if someone else has not already broken a story eg about your company, then break it yourself.

Events

Find events in your sector or which are attended by your target audience, especially those which have an online presence eg livestream.

If you attend an event, try to discover the hashtag (#) for the event, preferably beforehand so you can network with others attending, or speaking. If there isn’t one, create one yourself and tweet from the event, thereby showing your knowledge and expertise, and sharing your opinions. (This strategy is almost certain to gather followers and raise profile, particularly if you are the only person live blogging or tweeting from an event). If there are others at the event, arrange a tweetup (meeting) on the spot with name tags if possible (such as the one shown here from SuffolkDigital). Anyone who thinks online and offline networking should be kept separate has missed the point.

Forget Stats

This may seem anathema but it is a little known fact that many of those who read tweets do not actually have an account so be aware from the outset that a proportion of your audience are ‘under the radar’. To see how this works, type a search term into Google and then hit the “Real Time” option on the left hand navigation. Anyone can read your tweets. You cannot analyse stats for how many people have been exposed to your message because there simply is no way to monitor casual eyeballs on a SERPS page or from an RSS feed of live tweets to an obscure website somewhere, so don’t waste time on those stats.

Rather, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You are in business to sell products. If there is an increase in your bottom line sales, your social media strategy is working. If you reduce overheads by running a Twitter-based helpline rather than a call centre, your social media approach is valid. For an agency, this has to be the simplest client metric available, and saves considerable time on reporting and so on. The client can see directly whether sales are increasing over, say, a 3-6 month time period. And you need at least that long to establish a presence on Twitter, although Martin Sheen proved that to be not strictly true!

You do need to know who are the people you are communicating with, and when are they most receptive to your content. Schedule your tweets so they reach the maximum audience – box clever by creating your network with followers from at least three timezones, not just in UK and EU. Then, post slightly different tweets, at different peak times, for EU, USA and Far East audiences for maximum reach and RTs.

Twitter is, in the main, in real time and the information overload is similar to real life. Once passed, the moment is in the past. But with Twitter the opportunity to try again is more likely to occur than in real life.

Joined up Thinking

It is important not to view Twitter in isolation from all your other marketing strategies. A press release can be 140 characters now. Your helpline does not need a phone line any longer. Attending a networking event in Manchester can be both real and virtual at the same time, allowing you to network with people who are not able to attend.

CRM, profiling, focus groups, feedback, product surveys, R&D, PR, SEO etc etc – Twitter can play a part in them all.

Understanding how to join the dots for the benefit of your business is the trick, and will be unique for every business. But, as we’ve said before, this is not rocket science, and there are plenty of pointers in these articles to make a success of using Twitter in business.

Know Thyself…and Thy Followers!

Take time to look at the bios of those who follow you. Learn a little about that person or company. Keep a spreadsheet of your followers, using Qwerly.com, Klout.com, Google etc to discover snippets that may come in useful when choosing a subset audience for a specific tweet, for instance. e.g. all those who use Flickr and have a .co.uk website for the launch of a copyleft, photo sharing opportunity for businesses.

All this profiling information can be discovered reasonably easily, and you can group people into different circles so that you can target each group individually and reach a wider audience. Create Twitter lists. We will be seeing much more of this slice and dice of social groups in the coming months and years, so it will become easier, but that is no reason not to do it now.

Content with Content

Keep your followers happy. Provide them with information that is useful, links to items of interest, special deals, and occasionally break the monotony with something funny, weird or sad. And respond to tweets that your followers post. Check out the links that they considered worth sharing, comment upon them. Person to Person, remember? And all work and no play….

Tweeting the SEM way

The carefully crafted keywords and phrases which you have optimised your site for may prove irrelevant on Twitter. The 140 character space restriction means that many terms are abbreviated, or have hashtags associated with them by the interested audience to maximise space. You will need to learn any such terms which may have replaced your keywords. It may well be worth then including these not just in tweets, but also on your website SEO and content, thereby cross-optimising between your social work and your standard SEM.

If the idea of SEM is to attract people to your website or landing pages, then one technique is to send different tweets, or even the same one, to a variety of different individuals who you know will be interested, who are authorities, who blog, who have a prolific circle of followers, who RT frequently, and so on. Further, each RT adds weight to the social signals you are giving out, which in turn affects Google’s perception of your content. This technique should be used sparingly and for valuable content that has the most potential of, if not going viral, at least piquing sufficient interest to gather multiple RTs.

Talking of RTs…..

Say thank you to anyone responsible for a RT of your tweets. It acts as a worthwhile promotional cycle for all concerned. But don’t thank for the thank you for a RT or it can become an endless and tedious cycle, especially for any followers of either party.

RT information that you find which you feel will be of interest to your audience. This means spending time finding items of interest that may fall beyond their natural sphere of research. The best method for this, if you can spare the resources, is to discover items of interest, blog or write an article on the subject on your own website, and then link to this in your tweet.

If you are short on resources, RT the original item to your audience, but bear in mind this will not directly drive anyone to your website, nor sell your products, but it may bring in new followers.

Make sure it is a simple matter to follow you on Twitter and tweet any items of content from your website, be it a product, article, blog post, news items by adding a button eg from tweetmeme. (Ditto for posting to other social media sites your visitors may use such as Facebook, Linkedin, Digg, Stumbleupon, Delicious and other social bookmarking sites).

Social Streams

One of the new components that many websites are adding is Social Streams. These can take a variety of formats, but permit people to contribute to your social stream from a variety of sources, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. You can see these individual social streams at work on a fully optimised LinkedIn profile, where blog posts, tweets, status updates and so on all appear under the user’s profile.

Social streams are an evolution from previous formats such as forums etc, but permit the contributor to use the tool of their choice, rather than the website owner’s choice. For crisis management, news distribution, to bring together a selection of users eg tech help plus users who can help each other out, social streams have a infinite number of uses and should be considered for creating dynamic content for your site. However, any social stream will require moderation or it will fall victim to trolls and misuse.

However you use Twitter, the point is that you must be using Twitter if you want to maximise your search marketing activities.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology