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Building your brand on Twitter

by Geoff Searle

Twitter provides businesses with a communications channel for real time interaction with their customers. It can be used to provide customer service and as an avenue to respond to negative sentiment. It can also be used as a marketing and promotions tool, or simply  for keeping an eye on what is being talked about in relation to your industry, product or brand.

Here are a few simple suggestions to get you on your way to building your brand on Twitter:

Listen
Before you jump in and start tweeting it’s a good idea to see what people are talking about first. Twitter search is a good starting point for finding tweets relating to your business. Other useful search tools include Google Alerts and Social Mention which will keep you updated with any articles, forums posts or social media mentions on particular search terms which you can tailor to suit your business.

Finding other relevant accounts to follow and taking advantage of Twitter Lists can make the process even easier. People tweet new information so rapidly that you’re likely to hear news posted on Twitter before you find it anywhere else. Listorious can be a useful tool for finding existing lists that are relevant. By listening to your target audience, you can make sure you’re responding, engaging and interacting appropriately.

Respond
The next step is to begin responding to the conversation. Keeping track of what is being said can be difficult at times, so it’s a good idea to make use of the Twitter applications on offer. Two of my favourites are TweetDeck and Hootsuit which keep your tweets ordered in a way that suits you, as well as filtering out anything you don’t want to hear.

How you respond to tweets will largely depend on your business goals. But you should be responding to questions tweeted directly at your business. When it comes to customer service, the goal is to help someone resolve their problem. For quick, simple queries this might be done in a single tweet. For more complex issues, a conversation in another medium might be required. The benefit to the customer is a quick answer to a question, for the business it can mean one less call to a busy support team.

Engage
Engagement is a buzz word thrown about a lot in social media, but it can mean a lot of different things. For us, we like to think it means sharing content and generating discussion in between the times we’re listening and responding to customers. What you do on Twitter can vary according to what kind of business you’re running, but it helps to keep it linked to your business. You might begin a discussion or post an article about your industry, or ask questions to gather feedback. You can use the medium to announce new products, run promotions or specials, or even share links to areas of interest on your other networks (blog, Tumblr, YouTube etc). By being involved in the Twitter community, you’ll find your followers will grow organically as you go.

Review
Once you’re actively engaged with Twitter, you’ll want to keep track of the conversation and the results of your investment. There are a number of tools that can help in tracking Twitter conversations to provide an overall picture of metrics. Get your hands on some of the free web-based tools or, if you’re really serious about your social media, purchase some software and dedicated tracking services. Try Nielsen if you’re not sure where to start.

Remember, although the number of followers, tweets or retweets you are getting can be important, success of a brand comes down to developing a reputation as a genuine and trusted source of information in your industry. For more information on using Twitter for business, head to Twitter’s dedicated business page or keep an eye on the iiNet Blog for more articles on using social media for your business.

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