Companies are adopting social media because it has ‘come of age’. No longer is it the unproven, new kid on the block, and we are even seeing a small percentage of companies abandon their websites in favour of a purely social media presence. (Source: Network Solutions)

One of the social media traffic-driving methods is to use Twitter. There are, broadly, three ways to use Twitter:

1) As a broadcast mechanism
2) As a research tool
3) As a conversation tool

Let’s consider each in turn and its place in your social media marketing strategy.

Broadcast Mechanism

One of the simplest ways to reach your audience is to use Twitter to disseminate information about updates to your website, blog, brochure, or to announce sales, discounts and special offers.

However, this requires you to have an audience to reach. In order to gain followers, they need to a) know you exist and b) find your tweets of interest, meaning that they will share them and act as evangelists to their own followers.

As a research tool

For those in active industries, Twitter is an ideal means to find breaking news, watch your competitors, and follow events and news. This use of Twitter can mean taking a far more passive role and needing to engage less than if Twitter is being used for marketing and promotion, as in the other two usages given.

As a conversation/CRM tool

This is easier for smaller companies who inevitably need to engage in far fewer conversations than a large corporate, and can therefore develop deeper relationships with potential and existing customers. For larger companies, if Twitter is to be used in this way, it is wise to assign a number of people to the task and ensure they communicate well as a team.

That last instance is the most likely place where having staff tweet could benefit your company, although keeping others within the company up to date with news, competitive behaviour and so on, can also be extremely valuable.

So, let’s look at staff using Twitter to market the company. There is the obvious use as given above of a dedicated team (or individual) who manages all uses of Twitter in the company name. However, this misses the opportunities presented by involving a wider group of staff in the Twitter promotion of your company.

If this is to work, there need to be ground rules laid down from the outset. For instance, is it wise to allow your staff to tweet about the company on their private Twitter accounts? Probably not, is the simple answer. Is it wise to prohibit staff from using Twitter at all? Again, probably not. Most staff will find a way to access Twitter e.g. on their mobile phones if you ban access.

What is required is a means to allow company employees the chance to tweet about and for the company, but without diluting the message by incorporating it into their own private Twitter account. And all guidelines require an understanding of how Twitter works, and how it can benefit the company if used wisely.

For instance, if each member of staff who wishes to tweet has their own corporate identity on Twitter, and each tweets to their own set of followers, then you have the potential for engaging a far wider audience. This can be seen by large news agencies whose reporters often have their own Twitter identity, whilst each newsroom – Breaking, Tech, World, and so on – also has a stream. This allows followers to watch for favourite journalists as well as follow specific subjects. Hence, permitting a far larger audience across all streams than would be likely from a single all-inclusive account.

So, Increased Reach is a major benefit of allowing staff to tweet. The sum of the parts is far greater than the whole could ever be.

The major con of all this is managing accounts e.g. when a member of staff leaves, you need to withdraw that account to prevent misuse by a disgruntled member of staff. This may prove difficult if that member of staff has changed their password for precisely this purpose, and so security should be managed. Errant ex-employees can have their accounts closed down by Twitter directly, so then again it is not too much of a concern.

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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's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology