Twitter is very much the flavour of the month at the moment, you don’t seem to be able to turn on the TV or read the papers without it popping up in some way.
Now businesses are being told time and time again that they should be using it, but how can you as a business owner use it to promote your business in a positive light?
What is Twitter?
The basic idea is that users have 140 characters to post their message, and then this message (a tweet) appears to their ‘followers’. When you choose to ‘follow’ people you see their tweets. Conversely when they ‘follow’ you they see your tweets.
Twitter is simply what you make it to be. You choose who you follow, and therefore the kind of updates that you see. For example, if you choose to follow the key movers and shakers in your industry, then you’ll not only keep abreast of the latest industry news, but the chances are you’ll also get to hear about it before anyone else. Not only that, but you’ll also have a direct communications channel with industry figures such as publishers, PRs, bloggers competitors and consumers.
Will it work for me?
Maybe, maybe not. If your customer demographic is 16-40, tech aware and users of social media, then getting a presence on Twitter should be a very high priority. Even if your demographic just targets the 16-40 year old age range then you would still be surprised at the number of your customers and potential customers that are already using the service.
- Twitters largest age group is 35-44 years of age accounting for 25.9% of all users
- 63% of users are male
- UK Twitter traffic has trebled in 2009
- There are an estimated 8 million Twitter users
- 53% Earn over Â£40,000 p/a
- 63% Have at attained a college education or higher
- Sign up for an account. You’ll certainly want to register your company name, maybe even individual accounts for key staff within your company. The main thing to consider here is how much time people can spare. It’s probably better to have several people using a single active account than a few seldom used accounts.
- Make sure you add a picture to your account. A clear logo or company name is a must. If you’re registering individual people then a clear face picture.
- Add your bio – a clear concise introduction of who you are and what you do.
- Follow people interested in your company and your industry. This may include customers, potential customers, competitors or suppliers.
- Start to interact. This isn’t a forum for you to post what you’re up to every moment of the day. Ask questions, answer other people’s questions, give opinions, offer tips and advice and post useful links and information. The more useful your Twitter stream, the more followers you are likely to attract and retain. Simply spamming your products and services is likely to lose you all of your followers. Don’t be afraid to put a human face on things and use some personality. People are there to talk and listen to you, notÂ to hear a brand message.
- Above all, be sure to have a clear strategy and goals as to what you want your Twitter account to achieve, who your messages to be aimed at, and how you want to be viewed by your followers.
- While I don’t want to spend too long on the basic account functions, there are several Twitter guides aimed at beginners, have a read of some of these to get a taste of how the real basics work.Â Some of the best onesÂ can be found here, here and here.
How To Choose Who To Follow
Choosing who you follow is one of the most important steps that you’ll take. These are the people whose updates you’ll be seeing, the people that may choose to follow you back, and the people who you’ll be forming relationships with.
How To Get People To Follow You
- Follow people relevant to you, many people follow people back if they are tweeting about similar topics.
- Leverage non-twitter properties, promote your Twitter account on your blog, emails and business cards.
- Twitter isn’t a one way conversation, talk to people, and not just to those that are already following you.
- Make sure you’re following key people in your industry, this is where Twitter ‘communities’ are formed and you need to make sure you’re part of it.
- Be an expert – be free and easy with advice, tips and answers.Â Being anÂ expert on a topicÂ isn’t enough,Â you also need to look like one.
- ALWAYS make sure your profile is complete with a picture and bio, and preferably have more than a handful of tweets to your name. With an empty profile it’s difficult for people to gauge who you are and therefore hard to make a decision to follow you.
- Post interesting material – posting great links and info is the best way to build a reputation as someone who needs to be followed rather than be ignored. Make sure it’s not just links to your own site. Make sure you subscribe to the RSS feeds ofÂ key industry blogs and news sites. These are a great source of interesting industry links that will provide a great source of message ideas.
- Organise contests, giveaways and give discount codes, reward those that do follow you.
Ideas On How To Use Twitter For Your Business
- Getting feedback – Twitter is a great way to get free and impartial advice on product and service decisions.
- Making connections – Bloggers, publishers, journalists and PRs are amongst the heaviest adopters of social media, and a large percentage of Twitter users fall into this category. If you want to make contact with the influencers in your industry, this is probably the best place to do it.
- Monitoring Conversation And Opinion – Twitter is a great way to monitor what is being said about your company, products and your industry. Use Twitter search to setup some search queries, subscribe to the RSS feed and receive email updates every time you’re mentioned on Twitter. Then follow those talking about you, respond and listen to what they have to say.
- Fast access to information – Twitter is a massive source of information and opinion. If you’re following the right people then you’ll get access to news and industry gossip far before its published on any official channels.
- Customer Service – Many companies are now using Twitter as an informal customer service channel, offering product information, answering questions quickly and fielding queries and feedback.
- Brand And Personalise Your Company – Not just branding your company and yourself as experts, but also use it as a chance to show off the real people behind the brand.
- Promoting items of interest – Use Twitter to publicise items of interest on your own website. Be careful here though, there is a fine line between drawing peoples attention to interesting posts and spamming them, so be careful what you post and how often.
- Giveaways and discounts – Reward your followers by offering giveaways, discounts and competitions. As well as increasing interaction and creating a buzz this will help follower retention and acquisition.
- Advertise vacancies and recruit staff – Many companies are turning to Twitter as a way to recruit staff. As well as being instant and free, you can guarantee that any respondents will already be interested in your company.
There are a wide range of companies already using Twitter, with a diverse number of aims, some are unsurprisingly better than others.
Businesses That ‘Get It’
- Zappos – While several members of the Zappos staff have Twitter accounts, the main company account is run by the company CEO. As well as covering the daily goings on at the company, the account is also used for obtaining feedback on website functionality and conducting giveaways. Approaching half a million followers this has to count as one of social medias most successful business users.
- JetBlue – Use the service to monitor people talking about the airline. Frequently responding to people, engaging in conversation, dealing with complaints and resolving issues in a organised and professional manner.
- WineEnthusiast – It’s not just big multi-nationals that can benefit. There are many wine bloggers, publishers, journalists and producers already using Twitter. The Wine Enthusiast website has connected with this group of influencers and posts relevant links for them and builds relationships with them.
- Whole Foods Market - Use Twitter as a way of connecting with their customers. They ask questions, engage in conversation and recommended resources and their podcasts.
In a hat-tip to HR Block, they explain in this interview how they use social media effectively for their company.
Business That Don’t
- Zenergy Internet Marketing - Directly offering (spamming) your services to other users is bad enough, but to do it without checking who they are, andÂ as aÂ consequenceÂ offering them to your competitors is just plain dumb. Pimping your services in this way is the equivilent to going up to people at a party and asking if they want to buy from you, without any form of introduction. You wouldn’t do it offline, so don’t do it online.
- Skittles – Skittles though it would be smart to publish every tweet that mentioned Skittles on it’s homepage. Of course as soon as this was picked-up upon many people started posting less than flattering comments about the product.
- Ryanir – After freely admitting that they have no interest in engaging in social media and calling bloggers ‘idiots’ it was a surprise to see a Ryanair account appear on Twitter. In what looks like a failure to establish a presence on the service, the door was left open to imposters to create accounts and pose as the company themselves. Attempts to contact Ryanair and to clarify the situation have failed.
Twitter Tools For Business
There areÂ many freeÂ tools that help to make running a Twitter account far easierÂ for a business. A short list of my favourite ones include.
- Tweetdeck – This time saving desktop application allows you to save time, organise and group your messages,Â send pictures, create custom searchesÂ and ensures you don’t miss anything important.
- Monitter – This is great for tracking products, company or brand mentions. Input your keywords and let Monittor do the rest.
- PollDaddy – Allows you to create polls for your followers. Useful for asking questions and getting feedback.
- TweetLater – A useful tool that will let you schedule your tweets and it will post them automatically.
- SplitTweet – This is a must if you’re monitoring several Twitter accounts. It allows you to follow and reply to tweets quickly and easily.
I am a regular user of Twitter and can be followed here!
February 25th, 2009.
A throwaway comment on a blog by a Ryanair staff member has led to an online storm that now threatens to spill over into the national press and potentially harm the already tarnished reputation of Ryanair even further.
It all started when a Dublin based web designer Jason Roe posted on his blog that he had found a potential bug on the Ryanair website which changed the displayed price of a ticket to â‚¬0.00 when he amended his flight times.
At this stage Ryanair had three options of how to deal with this,
- Post on Jasons blog thanking him for notifying them of the error, explaining the steps that they had taken to rectify the problem. Possibly even offering him a discount for bringing this to their attention may have turned this into a positive piece of PR.
- Fix the error and do nothing, solves the issue but not much else. The incident gets little attention and goes away.
- Post on Jasons blog anonymously insulting him and his website.
In the event they opted to go for #3.
youâ€™re an idiot and a liar!! fact is!
youâ€™ve opened one session then another and requested a page meant for a different session, you are so stupid you dont even know how you did it! you dont get a free flight, there is no dynamic data to render which is prob why you got 0.00. what self respecting developer uses a crappy CMS such as word press anyway AND puts theyâ€™re mobile ph number online, i suppose even a prank call is better than nothing on a lonely sat evening!!
Although this was done anonymously, the Ryanair staff member was easily identified through his IP address. At this point having their staff members abusing people online becomes far more of a news story than a bug on their website ever was, and starts to get coverage on the major social news sites popular with bloggers like Digg, Reddit and Twitter.
Although Ryanair are starting to look bad for not listening to their customers, an apology and explanation for the comments would probably have sufficed and the story would have died before it gained any more momentum.
Unbelievably Ryanair then released an official statement further insulting Jason and bloggers everywhere.
“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.
“Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel”.
This is now becoming a major story threatening to blow up in the faces of Ryanairs communications department. As well as national press coverage of the story this morning in The Times and The Telegraph people are now threatening boycotts of the airline over their treatment of customers, dragging up old grievances, and has sparked a raft of blog comments and even protest sites.
What Can We Learn From This?
- It just goes to show how failing to deal with, or worse, dealing badly with negative online reputation can blow up in your face.
- It shows how closely online and offline PR strategies are linked and should be treated as such.
- The importance of having an online strategy that ALL staff are aware of and adhere to.
- The power of an apology – it can turn negative PR into positive very quickly.
Is This Part Of A Wider Failing At Ryanair?
Managing the reputation of a budget airline such as Ryanair can never be an easy task at the best of times. Uphappy customers and poor press all take their toll. However, performing a quick audit of their online reputation throws up several areas for urgent attention and improvement.
Their search results, that threaten to take a battering after the latest round of blog posts and national media attention are already suffering. I have highlighted their own properties and positive results in green and negative results in red.
Worryingly for Ryanair, not only are they suffering from negative press in their search results, but there are also competitors and affiliate websites that are potentially stealing business from them, both in the natural results and though pay-per-click adverts.
Failure to respond to this is undoubtedly costing them business and keeps other Ryanair properties such as their hotels, magazine and insurance websites off of the first page. The PPC competition needs to be addressed though a campaign of their own.
In terms of their reputation on social media they fare even worse than in the search results. Searching Technorati for blog posts about them brings back an overwhelmingly negative sentiment, the same is replicated on Twitter, though Digg is more mixed however Michael O’Leary is named among the worst corporate leaders of 2006. Lots of negative sentiment to Ryanair in the comments though.
5 Steps For Ryanair To Take To Fix Their Online Reputation
- Address the search results problems using SEO to boost their own properties onto the first page while pushing down negative results.
- Use press releases and rich media to take ownership of Google news, video and image search results.
- Use a PPC campaign to outbid competitors bidding on their own brand names.
- Instigate a blogger outreach programme to listen to and address peoples public concerns – turning negative PR into positive.
- Create a social aspect to their own website, bringing complaints and concerns in-house so they can be dealt with more quickly and effectively – firefighting negative PR and limiting it’s impact.
Having just got back from SMX London I thought that rather than be one of 50 recap blog posts I thought I would try to do something a little different.
Sitting though about 15 hours of presentations and Q&A over the past couple of days was no mean feat. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for people with a short attention span!
Taking this sentiment on board I have put together a list of the best hints, tips, tools and strategies from the past couple of days, not just from the speakers themselves, but also picked up from around the conference halls and bars.
- Download the Microsoft AdCenter Excel plugin for keyword research. It’s incredibly versatile, users can easily manipulate long keyword lists and data. It even goes as far as adding extra data sets into the mix by offering historical data and demographic breakdowns. Unfortunately, since the is currently still in beta UK specific data hasn’t yet been made available.
- In ushering in a new era of transparency MSN is giving users an unprecedented amount of access to actionable data though the impressive AdCenter labs, some of the best tools include,
– Detecting commercial intention based on a URL or keyword phrase.
– Keyword group detection tool for detecting related keywords.
– Search funnels, for visualising search sequences and search funnels.
– Ad text writer, for the lazy PPC marketer! Enter a page URL and it will spit out a list of ad text.
- MSNs webmaster centre is now displaying lists of pages your pages that are penalised, contain malware or link to pages that contain malware.
- â€œMore than 60% of companies are planning to increase their PPC or SEO budgets in 2009â€³ Linus Gregoriadis. Recession? What recession?
- Keyword phrase composition – consider all of the elements that may make up your users potential keyword phrases.
For example – Use (For school) + Action (Buy) + Price (Cheap) + Attribute (Black) + Brand (Sony) + Location (UK) + Quality (New) + Your Keyword.
Consider the alternatives for each of these and build your keyword lists accordingly.
- There is a real lack of awareness of new UK laws (enforced by Trading Standards and The Office Of Fair Trading) that now make it illegal to offer fake editorial content, without first making this fact clear to the reader. This will also affect fake internet reviews, promotional blog posts and comments that don’t offer disclosure of payment. – Judith Lewis
- Although there is/was some obvious disagreement, the consensus is that owning the local TLD is by far the easiest way of of ensuring rankings in the correct local search engines. Other factors include local hosting, links, translation and address data in both the WhoIs and on the pages themselves.
- The Redfly Google Global Firefox extension is perfect for searching local versions of Google quickly.
- Linkbait – It is now vital to keep it on topic/niche. Wandering off topic may make things easier, but it’s probably tempting fate. Jane @ SEOMoz
- Facebook fan pages are live, indexed and the links are non-nofollow.
- The Forrester Groundwell tool is great for understanding the likely social media engagement level of your target market demographic.
- Social media campaigns must should be carefully planned – be sure that you know who your audience are, which social media channels they’re likely to use, the creative message that you want to get across and your delivery strategy – Ciaran Norris
- Vanessa Fox – Duplicate content across local TLD properties “should” be properly dealt with by Google, the correct verion “should” be delivered in the equivalent local version of Google. – Notice emphasis Again, I would say to be sure to have key content rewritten.
- Use psychological hooks in your linkbait. Take your core niche and add in a social media angle – environment, politcal, geeky etc. Be aware of the linking demographic, they’re typically male, intelligent and tech savvy. Linkbait isn’t linkbait if it doesn’t elicit links! – Lyndon Antcliff, Cornwall SEO
- Use search operators to find expired pages such as keyword+”this page is no longer available” either, contact the page owners for them to add a link to content on your site, or, contact the sites linking to the expired page asking them to link to your content instead. Tom @ Distilled
- Keep an eye on competitor business closures or bankruptcy, this gives an opportunity to either buy they domain, or contact sites linking to them to link to your site instead. Wiep Knoll
- Use forums and similar Web 1.0 communities for user generated linkbait
- Always try to use your keywords in the article title of linkbait pieces – it really helps getting your keyword phrases in links.
- Try launching linkbait on forums before onto social sites. In this way you can test it’s effectiveness, get feedback, and frequently pickup better quality content.
- Avoid foreign links from foreign sites, in large quantities these can be an obvious flag for closer inspection. Jay @ LinkFish Media
- Some “killer” tools worth taking a look at – Linkscape, Majestic SEO, TubeMogul, Optilink
- Buying websites for SEO can provide a competitive advantage in terms of links, or 301 redirecting the site to pass domain trust/authority and the backlink profile. Use these tactics sparingly though, too many sites being redirected can lead to a search engine penalty. Concentrate on buying traffic and relevance over PR and backlinks.
- Web 2.0 linkbuilding! We’re moving away from Web 1.0 methods like exchanges, link pages, paid links and comment spam, and moving towards internal link optimisation, online PR syndication, targeted PR submissions, guest writing, linkbaiting and social media.
- When buying domains change ownership indicators slowly, things like Whois data, hosting, design and content should be left as long as possible and changes staggered, Google will zero any link and age benefits if there is an obvious change in ownership. DaveN
- Finding domains for sale – Google searches, forums, DMOZ listings etc Richard Kershaw
Following on from my previous post about the benefits of corporate blogging I decided to take a look at how companies both in the UK and overseas were choosing to engage their online audiences, and to what extent they were utilising the blogosphere in order to fulfil those needs.
Using the Times Top 100 Companies To Work For list in order to gain a useful cross section of company types, sizes and industries. It soon emerged that corporate blogging seems to be somewhat of a alien concept to the majority of UK business. In fact, of the 100 companies that were surveyed only two (kudos to Rackspace and Pannone) had an official active blog that was available from their corporate website.
So with a rather pathetic 2% of UK companies actively blogging can this be viewed as a failure of their online communications strategies? Possibly not. A saving grace was the number of companies (76%) that did make available a mixture of company and industry news, articles, opinion, comment, press releases and whitepapers. UK companies obviously understand the importance of making useful information available, however making the leap from static news pages to and to a more interactive blog is currently too much of a challenge.
A number of factors could be responsible, perhaps there is a lack of understanding of the benefits and opportunity – a failure of their media agencies to make these clear. Often companies don’t feel they can commit the resources to keeping the site updated or are worried about company perception in what is usually an open and conversational media. Added to all of this there is the intrinsic fear of having people being able to comment and voice opinion on their blog posts on their corporate website.
Corporate blogs have become far more commonplace over the past few years as companies begin to realise their importance in the marketing mix and how valuable they can be as a communications channel. Some of my favourite business efforts include,
Kodak – I love this effort as it doesn’t focus on cameras, but what it’s target audience is interested in, the photography.
Innocent Drinks – Kind of wacky and crazy, just the kind of thing you would expect from the company really! It does a good job of keeping things interesting and engaging the audience.
Southwest Airlines – A really nice showcase for the company, great design, interesting content and does a good job of passing company news while keeping things light-hearted.
ASOS – A good example of what can be done with an ecommerce site. It does a good job of focusing on products, but also scatters in industry news.
BBC – Obviously the huge manpower at their disposal and being able to tap some the finest journalistic minds gives the BBC an unfair advantage, but their blog network is among one of the best online.
Marriott – A self-confessed technophobe Bill Marriott proves that it’s never too late to start blogging. Not only that but the resulting blog is an extremely useful communications channel.
Waitrose – A great example of what can be achieved when a not so traditional web company takes blogging seriously.
I deliberately left out examples of tech and web based companies to prove that it can be done well for traditionally non-web based companies.
Okay, so what is the point?
Audience engagement – Blogs are a great way of engaging your audience with topics that you wouldn’t normally cover on the main section of your site. You can keep company news and conversation clearly defined from the ‘corporate’ sections of the site while at the same time offering your audience more in-depth information should it be required.
Information gathering – Blogs can be used to gather opinions, get product feedback, collect email addresses and collect RSS feed subscribers. Over time a growing audience is a valuable commodity in itself.
Communications channel – Corporate blogs have been used as an instant communications channel between retailer and customer. Product information, manuals, corrections, notifications and recalls can be made available instantly.
Content creation – An increased number of pages of your site will generally increase the amount of content leads to an increase in the number of search engine visitors. With clearly defined calls to action this should lead to an increase in sales.
Social media – Blog are a great way of opening up the marketing power of social media sites. Visitors can easily submit posts to sites like Digg and Stumbleupon, this directly leads to an increased number of visitors, links and the visibility of your site as a whole. Active blogs generally encourage more incoming links from other sites, so can be a great way of supplementing a link building strategy.
Things to remember….
- Get started using a simple blogging script like WordPress. It’s pretty much the industry standard, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s free.
- Keep the blog on your commercial domain. You’ll get little benefit from using a hosted blog or a seperate domain altogether. The idea is to get additional visitors to your commercial site. blog.company.com or company.com/blog is ideal.
- Define a writing policy. Be clear who your audience is and what will interest them. Also be clear on exactly how much information you’re going to make public.
- The writing style is important. Traditionally visitors expect a less corporate and more conversational writing style. The use of humour can work well. Ideally your posts should be short and punchy.
- Avoid over promotion. It’s fine to link to your products and services from within your posts, but visitors won’t come just to read a rehashed product catalogue.
- Keep things fresh. Your blog should be regularly updated, sharing writing amongst your staff is the ideal solution, outsourcing the writing is another, though is no substitute for your staff knowledge and expertise, staff participation should be encouraged.
- What do I write? Traditional topic areas are company news, staff news, product news, industry discussion and thoughts, how to’s and resource lists. Ideally the more diverse the topic areas, the easier you’ll find things to write about and the bigger the potential audience.
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) can become an invaluable tool if used correctly. Although the use of RSS is usually reserved for techies, it is only a matter of time before this technology is embraced by regular web users.
RSS feeds are designed to aggregate multiple feed of information by grouping and storing topics of interest into one location. Users can browse these feeds at their own leisure safe in the knowledge that they can access the latest information relating to their chosen interest. If you are interested in a particular subject, (i.e. football) you could visit a site that exposes its content via RSS and subscribe to it. Now, at your own leisure you can check your RSS feed and browse the latest feeds (or newly posted information) in a uniformed and sortable format.
Each item within a feed contains a title, date, summary and sometimes videos and images. If the topic is of particular interest, you can click the feed link and jump off to the source of the feed (web site) to read more. This is a much cleaner and efficient way of keeping up to date with topics you are interested in rather than trawling the internet and storing lots of bookmarks. This way the information comes to you without having to lift a finger. Users are completely in control of the information they receive as unsubscribing is just as easy, if not easier that subscribing. You remain totally control of the flow of information. RSS feeds are a huge time saver and can boost you productivity .
Types of RSS feeds:
- Blog posts â€“ Receive updates every time a new blog is posted
- Article Feeds â€“ Get summaries or articles written about a particular subject
- Forum Posts â€“ Receive updates each time user reply to a particular forum post you are interested in
- Retail Feeds â€“ Many ecommerce sites are publishing whole product lines as RSS feeds. Each time a new product is added youâ€™ll be notified
- News Feeds â€“ Receive breaking news from sites like Google
- Industry Specific â€“ Keep up to date with industry related articles, news and reviews that maybe related to your industry
Subscribing for RSS Feeds
The best way to do this is by registering with a Feed Reader site like Google Reader, which allows you to store all of you feeds in one central location online. This is a simple process especially if you already have a Google account. Once you have done this you are ready to start subscribing to RSS feeds. The next time you see an RSS link or image simply click it, choose the feed reader you have registered with from the dropdown menu and click subscribe. Youâ€™ll instantly have access to the entire feed displayed in chorological order.
Create your own feed
If you publish regular information on your site you can benefit from publishing this as an RSS feed. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. By not having an RSS feed you are missing out on an opportunity to keep your customer / audience informed on what you business is up to. RSS feeds should be thought of as a free promotional tool. Youâ€™ll be able to relax safe in the knowledge that as soon as new information is add to your site users will be informed. This will bring in more site traffic a users may want to find out more or purchase products