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On the subject of twitter

Matt

March 22nd, 2010.

The Social Media Penetration Of The Major UK Political Parties [INFOGRAPHIC]

With the UK elections fast approaching I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how well the major UK political parties were using social media to connect with voters.

With Barack Obama famously using social media to court the youth vote in the US elections, social media is now a viable  platform for politicians to connect with people on a large scale.

All of the UK parties are maintaining a social media presence, with Facebook pages, Twitter and YouTube accounts prominently linked from their respective websites. To take a snapshot of activity and a gauge of its success I recorded the following metrics,

  • Facebook page friends
  • Twitter followers
  • Twitter tweets
  • Twitter reach
  • Klout score – a measure of Twitter influence
  • Compete score – a measure of website traffic

While all parties get points for maintaining a social presence on the major social sites The Conservatives are way ahead of their competition when it comes to the number of raw followers and the reach of their campaign. The Green Party received the highest Klout score, a measure of their influence and interaction on Twitter.

Interestingly enough the extremist BNP received by far the largest level of traffic to their website, but were one of the lowest scorers when it came to followers and interaction levels – perhaps an indication of voters researching their headline grabbing policies, but a degree of unwillingness to follow and interact with them, will this translate into a lack of votes?

On the whole though the UK parties are doing a fairly poor job of leveraging and interacting with social media users. Compare the Conservatives 23,000 Facebook page friends with Obama’s profile currently over the 7.5 million mark. Even allowing for a smaller population and  lower levels of social media engagement it’s clear that campaigns are failing to achieve what they should be doing. It’s difficult to tell if this is due to campaign mis-management, or simply voter apathy after recent political events.

Matt

January 27th, 2010.

Small Business SEO & SEM

lemonadeSearch engine optimisation and digital marketing for small business isn’t easy. For big-brands people love linking to them without them having to ask, even without them deserving it in many cases.

Small business don’t have that luxury, that’s not to say that the smaller guys can’t compete, they just have to work harder and smarter to get their share of attention online.

Some of my favourite small business SEO tips are below, some are mine, others are from people who volunteered their own ideas on Twitter.

  1. Optimise for local search. Figure out who are the authoritative citations within your city – ie touchnottingham.com via @APSG
  2. Concentrate on local search and longer search terms as these give more of a chance with a smaller budget. Google Maps add is a must in your town! via @StuartFlatt
  3. Be active online. Forge relationships with blog owners, find journalists on Twitter. These contacts will be invaluable when it comes to getting coverage.
  4. Write content that’s relevant to your business and your customers & keep it up to date. via @picseli
  5. Get your analytics package in place as early as possible. The more data you have the more you’ll be able to analyse your marketing decisions.
  6. Utilise your current relationships – reciprocal linking is not perfect, but still has a good effect on local search (imo) via @CMaddison
  7. Brand yourself as an expert. Write informative articles about your industry. Post them on your site, ask to have your work published on others.
  8. Try to focus on conversions rather than rankings. Too many small business owners are obsessed with being first, rather than focusing on profits. via @CMaddison
  9. At the very least ensure your page titles are unique and relevant to the content on them.
  10. Don’t scrimp on your website, a less than satisfactory site may save cash in the short term, but it’ll cost you in conversions.
  11. Build your list – capture customer data, segment it, test it and contact them regularly (not too regularly) with useful information, articles, links and offers.
  12. Consider using Adwords for initial data collection / keyword selection – find your best converting/most profitable keywords for under £100 via @CMaddison
  13. Build trust – make sure you’re easily contactable, make sure your site has a prominent address and telephone number on each page, explain why your buying process is secure.
  14. Find out who your competition is, then find out who links to them using Open Site Explorer – get those sites to link to you.
  15. Setup Google alerts for your business name. Make sure you monitor these, it’s a great opportunity to ask for links when people forget, or to network with people who are already talking about you.

Matt

April 22nd, 2009.

Twitter Guide For Small Business

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.

Some notable Twitter stats (Hitwise & Quantcast) –

  • 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 £40,000 p/a
  • 63% Have at attained a college education or higher

First Steps

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add your bio – a clear concise introduction of who you are and what you do.
  4. Follow people interested in your company and your industry. This may include customers, potential customers, competitors or suppliers.
  5. 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, not to hear a brand message.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. Some of the best ones 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.

I recommend using tools like Twitter Search, Twellow, and MrTweet to find people talking about topics in your industry.

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. Being an expert on a topic isn’t enough, 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 of 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.

Case Studies

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, and as a consequence 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 are many free tools that help to make running a Twitter account far easier 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, send pictures, create custom searches 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!

Matt

April 20th, 2009.

Why Twitter Is A Search Engine – And It’s Better Than Google

A bold statement to make maybe, and a few months ago I would have laughed at anyone making such a claim, but over the past few weeks and months Twitter has evolved into something unique that Google, and indeed no other search engine has managed to achieve.

Lets get one thing straight – Google is still the search engine to beat when it comes to archiving vast quantities of historical information and giving users a simple interface to retrieve this stored data. If you want to find expert reviews of that new LCD TV that you’re thinking of buying, research your homework, find that website that you can’t quite remember the URL of, look for a good cheesecake recipe, and whole host of other search query types, then Google is your first port of call.

However, where Twitter is coming into its own is enabling its users to get real-time access to information from real people.

Three main factors have contributed to Twitters strength in this area and will act as barriers to entry for others,

1. Twitter turns users into publishers – on Twitter people are the key. Everyone using the service is a publisher. Posting information, ideas and facts that effect and relate to them.

2. Achieved a critical mass – over the past few months the enormous growth of the Twitter user base means that with the huge amount of information being published every day by a massive number of users now increase the chances are that someone will have posted on the subject you’re looking for, and if needed you can even contact them directly.

3. Mobility – The concise nature of the service means that it is one of the first web services that is truly suited to use away from the computer and gives people the ability to post and access information on the go.

One of the first examples that brought home the power of the service to me personally was when travelling through London a couple of weeks ago only to experience the usual travel chaos.  A quick Twitter search on my phone revealed that depressingly there had been a fatality, and the station was unlikely to reopen for some time. With the use of Twitter I was even able to meet up at a bar with some friends who were also stuck in the area, and we then got updated via a Twitter travel service when the station had reopened.

Twitter isn’t just suited to turning miserable Friday evening travel chaos into drinking sessions. Even the major news outlets are waking up to realise the power of the service. During the G20 protests in London, Sky News, who were the first to announce a dedicated Twitter correspondent, dispatched three ‘Twitter reporters’ into the area who were tasked with reporting up to the minute news via their Tweets and the use of Twitpic for images. While following the progress of the events on both TV and the major news corporations websites, I increasingly found that is was Twitter search that was providing information far in advance and in many cases in more detail than was being provided though traditional sources.

It’s not just real-time national and local news where Twitter gives access to information that other search engines don’t. It’s also a great resource for “real peoples” product and service experiences. People are now far more likely to Tweet about their opinions on purchases than they are to blog about them or add their views to a reviews website. Consumer electronics, airlines, hotels and internet services companies have all been on the good and bad side of Twitter publicity. An added dimension is given by the ability for these companies to contact their users directly.

With user growth and usage being directly proportional to the volume of information continued growth can only mean increasing the services usefulness as a search engine.
Mainstream media has been among the first industries to wake-up to the potential of Twitter, and on the whole have embraced it as an additional news channel.
So what is next for Twitter? I can see their real-time search results taking on additional dimensions, perhaps some form of relevance ranking, additional sorting options and further integration to tie it more securely to the service. Monetisation of these search results is probably not too far away

Matt

September 4th, 2008.

Reputation Monitoring On The Cheap

Reputation management is going to be a massive growth area for brands over the next few years. Imagine the power in being able to monitor, track and aggregate everything that people are saying about your company and brand online, on blogs, websites, forums, everywhere in fact that your potential clients can find it. With more and more people researching potential purchases online it won’t just be useful to monitor online sentiment, it’ll become vital.

There are several free tools online that will help you to dip your toe into the world of reputation monitoring.

Google Alerts
This is something everyone should have setup. Google alerts will notify you by email every time they find a mention of a specific keyword anywhere online. By setting alerts for keywords like your company name, brand/product names, key staff etc you can keep track of when and why you’re getting mentions online. Key queries include [domain name], [domainname], [domainname.com], [your name], [Brand Name], [yourname], etc.

Google Blog Search
Play with the date parameters to see what people have been saying about your company in the past few days

Twing
Lets you find out what people have been saying about you on forums and discussion boards. Many companies keep a close eye on this and react to positive/negative comments.

Twitter Search
While Twitter is still quite new to a lot of people, it has a huge user base, and many larger tech and media companies are already using it to connect with their audience. Using Twitter Search you can monitor mentions of your company. Subscribe to the RSS feed to be alerted with new brand mentions.

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