Smart ways to use Twitter commercially

Twitter is a lovely tool to keep in touch with your friends, customers and contacts and learn what they are doing. But how can you use it for business purposes? I had a discussion with some of my colleagues and a fellow Business Partner recently about this. Because there certainly are opportunities!

Ok, yes I know. There are some nitwits out there that think that blasting spam-like tweets across their networks with advertisements links is a good way of using Twitter commercially but I block those immediately and so do most of the people I know. Not interested in those and in my opinion certainly not a good use of twitter! If anything, those tweets put me of from using that companies products or services at all. So how can you use twitter then? Well you can use it to interact with your users. Don’t forget: With hundreds of millions of people on twitter this is is an amazing channel to use for name building and branding.

I love twitter and use it regularly in my own personal and business life. So I tend to tweet about the things that happen to me. I recently installed a Beta release of Firefox because I wanted to try out a cool new feature that was in it (Tab Candy but that is a totally different story). While doing so I found out that my favorite Firefox add-in “Yoono” wouldn’t support the Beta release causing it to cease working. Bummed out by this I tweeted the following:

This was just an observation. I wasn’t actually addressing anyone. I took it for what it was and thought I’d have to use an alternative tool in the mean time and was tweeting this. But within 10min I got the following tweet:

Well, nice” you might say but at that moment I was seriously contemplating to use an alternative which would have meant I would have ditched the Yoono tool all together and installed a competitors product. By simply tweeting me a link though, they helped me with my problem, gave me the feeling I mattered to them as a customer and kept me on their product. Effectively they gave me the ‘warm, fuzzy feeling’ that ensures I will not forsake their product any time soon!
Commercial? I would say so, I’m even writing this blog about it!

A second way of using Twitter is by letting your users do the talking. This example is again taken from my personal experience.

Earlier this week I did a session on social plugins for Lotus Notes including a product called Gistat the NLLUG event. One of the attendees tweeted about this:

A couple of hours later this was retweeted by one of the engineers at Gist:

Very clever. They simply retweet a tweet from a user that is appreciative about the product and that mentions it is being talked about at an official event. This gives the product an objective credibility outside of the Gist companies claims. Again, is this commercial? Well I think so! Customer loyalty and credibility ensure people stay with your product and might even recommend it to their contacts and getting your customers to talk positive about you in their network is the best advertisement there is!

Tips on using Twitter for your product/company:

  1. Have a company Twitter account (company or product name) and post on it regularly. Mention updates, enhancement, future developments, etc.
  2. Obey twitter etiquettes, this is important!!
  3. Follow what is said about your product on twitter. They might not always directly mention your twitter account or hashtag so use filters and search tools to search for variations of your products name. In the Gist example above for instance the @Gist name tag or #Gist hashtag aren’t used at all but the name ‘Gist’ and in this case even the site ‘www.gist.com’ are. Both should be included in your search filters.
  4. Retweet positive feedback about your product but don’t overdo it. If you retweet every mention of your product your followers might get annoyed. Try to limit it to one positive tweet every couple of days. That will keep the good vibe without it looking arrogant or becoming spam like.
  5. Answer tweet questions on your product if you can and think they could be relevant to others. It shows goodwill and commitment and your network is assured you take them seriously. At the same time, don’t try to answer all. Your network is following you, not every user that might tweet a question or remark about your product. So they will only see what you answer, not what is being asked/said (unless you retweet them). Answering tweet questions shouldn’t become a day job in itself, you probably have some formal support channels for that.
  6. Use DM (Direct Messages) to communicate with people if you don’t want the rest of your network to see a certain conversation.
  7. Use personalized or support accounts for answering questions. In the above example Gist has a company Twitter account for general messages and updates but the retweet was done by an actual employee called Greg whose twitter account conveniantly is GregAtGist ensuring the link with the company. In the Yoono example a YoonoSupport account was used. So split support tweets from marketing tweets in this way and give your responses a personal feel (people like that).
  8. Be appreciative and generous. Thank people for their compliments (which in itself is a way of retweeting the message) and suggestions (if they are valid and on your roadmap).

And a final one that might be out of your hands already….. Make sure your company or product name is unique because otherwise following it on twitter becomes a whole lot more difficult!

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