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Using Twitter as a Business Tool

By Ray “Catfish” Comstock, Senior Search Strategist, BusinessOnLine

Twitter is one of the most popular social media sites in the world. Described as a “micro-blogging” platform, Twitter allows users to answer the question, “What are you doing right now?” and broadcast the answer to their Twitter followers (friends) in a short text message of up to 140 characters. Its seemingly simple design and application has taken the social media community by storm. It is quick; efficiently enables communication with a large group of people; and can quickly and seamlessly integrate into other tools, applications, and third-party websites. Still, many businesses are struggling to define a role for Twitter within their organization, especially as it relates to accomplishing business goals. In this article, we will explore how Twitter is being used to:

1. Communicate messages directly to your audience
2. Build an emotional attachment with your audience
3. Virally market your message

Understanding how Twitter can help you accomplish these tasks will help build a strong business case for using it as part of your online marketing strategy.

1. Communicate Messages Directly to Your Audience:
The most common application of Twitter is communicating with large groups of individuals who “follow” you. Aside from the ability to carry-on personal conversations, Twitter also allows you to communicate your messaging to a targeted audience, manage your reputation and brand more effectively, and develop link-building relationships with bloggers.

Targeting Through Twitter
Twitter is an opt-in list. So, in order for you to send a message to someone, they have to ask for it. Therefore, when you acquire followers, you know they are interested in listening to your message and are more likely to take action, if prompted. Promoting your Twitter account and developing a large list of followers creates another great marketing vehicle for blog posts, company announcements, event invitations, and customer service announcements. Sounds familiar, but there are other important functions that Twitter’s messaging capabilities have that differentiate it from email lists and other forms of group communication.

Manage Your Brand
Twitter is a hub of conversation and much of it is word-of-mouth interaction between users. Being able to monitor these conversations through tools like http://www.TweetScan.com, can give companies incredible insight into customers’ opinions of products, marketing campaigns, customer service experiences, etc. To my knowledge, there is not another tool that can give you this kind of real-time feedback for free.

Network with Bloggers
Since many people on Twitter are bloggers, another great advantage to participating is that it allows you to communicate and develop relationships more effectively with the blogging community. These relationships can be leveraged for links, votes on social media sites like Digg, guest blogging opportunities, and advertising opportunities. Twitter is a great networking tool to foster relationships, limited only by your imagination.

2. Build an Emotional Attachment with Your Audience:
As you use Twitter, it is important to understand the importance of personalizing your posts. The personal versus corporate nature will increase the likelihood of gaining and retaining followers, and they will be more likely to listen to what you have to say. If every tweet is a URL announcement or company message, the content of your Twitter channel becomes pretty dry. That’s why it is important to use Twitter to build an emotional attachment with your audience. Business is all about relationships, and using Twitter as a method of communication to further develop relationships is one of the primary benefits of this technology. Including tweets about what you’re doing in your free time, minor frustrations with life (“I just spilled coffee on myself,” or “I’m stuck in an airport”, etc), personal accomplishments (“I just won my office pool”), and funny observations (“my co-worker is wearing two different colored shoes”), puts a human touch on your messaging, and makes it more likely to be well received. Showing your brand personality and building an emotional attachment with your audience is a key tactical element to maximizing the effectiveness of your Twitter campaign.

3. Virally Market Your Message:

When it comes to accomplishing business goals, Twitter has the ability to virally extend your message. Viral marketing on Twitter can occur in a couple different ways. The first is to directly ask your followers to re-tweet something you wrote. If you have followers who are passionate about your message, this can be an extremely efficient and cost effective way to dramatically increase the “word-of- mouth” marketing around your message. The other way that people use Twitter to virally market their brand and message is to use “lifestreams.”

A lifestream refers to any mechanism that displays the activities of your followers across a given site or network. For example, logging into Facebook brings you to the “News Feed.” The News Feed and all the other tabs are lifestreams. At MySpace, the lifestream is called “Friend Updates.” Because lifestreams are the first thing that many people see when they log into social network sites like Facebook and MySpace (two of the biggest portals on the Internet), the messaging and updates that appear in lifestreams get a lot of attention, and therefore, a lot of click activity.

read the full article…

Social Media is B.S.* for Many Local Businesses

*B.S = Bad Strategy

In the past month, I’ve attended three webinars, read 14 articles, and attended an early morning in-person seminar all on the subject of Social Media as a business tool.

After all this, in all my experience, I’m afraid that the Social Media Emperor has no clothes!  That’s because I’ve seen no reason to believe that it will actually be worth the effort that it takes to do this stuff properly.

You would expect me to be an evangelist of this work. I’ve not only worked in this field since 1992, I’ve built several social networks (with my team).  But no, I’m not an evangelist, I’m a skeptic.   Having seen the bubble of Internet vapor burst in early 2001, I feel strongly this may be happening again, only this time, the losers could be struggling small businesses who invest their time and energy unwisely.

What a small business needs from its efforts, be they online or off, is ROI. If you have 12 hours in a day to run your business, you probably do not have time to setup Facebook fan pages, write blog articles, tweet on Twitter, and still sell. manufacture, ship, and keep the books as most small businesses do.  So before you tell me to go Yelp, or contribute to the public works Wiki, or check my comments and trackbacks, you’d better be prepared to tell me what it will be worth to me in additional sales and more importantly: profit!

Putting My Money Where My Blog Is

Frankly, I’d love to be shown a true ROI analysis which demonstrates in a meaningful way what benefits blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, or Yelping have brought to you or a client that you work for.  I am seriously interested enough in this information, that I am willing to put an open offer out here for a cash and services package worth at least $500.  If you can show me a real analysis of ROI (time + expenses) for using these tools versus how it has directly impacted your revenue, I’ll give you:

  • A year of “green” web hosting (worth about $150)
  • Web site Search Engine Optimization (worth about $250)
  • $100 in cash

This offer is good through the end of 2009, open to anyone with serious intent to help me learn something about these tools. I remain the sole arbiter of whether you’ve succeeded, but it will be worth it to me to be shown the light, if there is any.

In the meantime, while the jury’s out, I’m helping my clients to cover these many Social Media bases with the least possible amount of time and effort expended. I do it with a process that allows them to simply send a text email to a specific address and then this system will:

  1. Post the message to your web site’s blog
  2. Post it to all of your social media presences (facebook, linked-in, GOTML, etc)
  3. Post the subject line as a tweet on Twitter (linking back to your site)
  4. Send a beautifully formatted graphic html email to your prospect list
  5. Offer you response data to measure interest in the message
  6. Give you a foot rub and a pat on the head (just kidding)

If you are interested in having me wrangle the media for you as noted above, or if you want to submit an ROI analysis, please email me: bg@bgamedia.com.  And I promise to publicly recant my skepticism when I’m properly educated.