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Twitter's hidden marketing superpowers

Twitter's hidden marketing superpowers Madhuri Shekar

Twitter's phenomenal growth does not appear to be slowing down any time soon. And with two-thirds of all marketers now using social media, it's clear that our industry is starting to understand the value of Twitter and similar platforms.

But despite the rapid adoption of social media among marketers, many brands have yet to realize the full potential that Twitter holds for their efforts. After all, there's more to marketing via the microblogging platform than simply throwing up a brand account and seeing what happens. Rather, there are some tried and true functionalities -- which for the purposes of this article, we'll refer to as Twitter's marketing superpowers -- that can be extremely effective in driving traffic to your site, boosting sales, and keeping your customers happy.

In this article, we'll take a look at four of these Twitter marketing superpowers, and as you read, consider whether your brand could benefit from these simple strategies.

Save money through enhanced customer service

Increasingly, companies and brands are turning to Twitter to complement their existing customer service procedures. The platform can be an extremely powerful customer service tool, especially when combined with a website with a comprehensive FAQ page. By redirecting customer questions and complaints to the FAQ site, you can save significantly on having to deal with these same questions and complaints through a traditional call center. A phone call to a customer service representative can be cumbersome and inefficient, leading to extra time spent on the phone for a problem that can most likely be addressed through a few tweets or a FAQ answer.

In addition to saving money on your end, you are providing the customer with an enhanced service experience. As long as your Twitter representative is timely, polite, and personable, your customer will feel very well taken care of and, most importantly, that their views matter to you (as they should). Learn from the example of Best Buy's CMO, who snubbed a customer through his Twitter account, thereby generating negative buzz in the blogosphere.

Learning from past mistakes, Best Buy has recently taken the initiative to launch its innovative Twelpforce portal, which enables Best Buy employees on Twitter to collectively handle customer complaints and questions. Their responses are aggregated on a single stream at @twelpforce. While delegating customer service duties to untrained employees is a risky move, Best Buy has made sure to clearly outline its Twelpforce policies in a handy (and public) guide called "Tips & Expectations."

Best Buy CMO Barry Judge admits: [I know] we will make mistakes. Heck, I have made many mistakes in my own use of social media. But, I also know we will learn from them and be a smarter company about how to better serve customers going forward

This idea has enhanced customer service, generated buzz for the company, and is possibly saving the organization countless hours of traditional call-center troubleshooting.

To follow Best Buy's lead, make your customer service procedure transparent and authentic, pool the resources of your employee base, outline clear benchmarks and guidelines, and focus on delivering quality customer care while being open to mistakes along the way.

Drive sales through customer engagement

If you run an ecommerce website and business, maintaining a Twitter account is an absolute must. A Twitter page can develop your brand image and reputation, provide customer service, collect feedback, and serve as a timely way of announcing new arrivals, sales, and special offers. It can help you create buzz, discover new partners, and expand your customer base.

When you focus specifically on using Twitter to drive sales, however, it is important to understand the distinction between automatically tweeting "Buy now!" links on a regular basis versus developing relationships with customers that will make them not only willing but eager to purchase your products.

Twitter offers a wonderful opportunity to get your customers involved in the development stage of your product. Decide upon your boundaries, and then invite customers in to take a look at the process of research and development. Use your followers for market research -- ask what features they liked in the previous version of your product, what they didn't like, and if they have any ideas for improvement. You may or may not use their suggestions, but by responding to each, your followers now feel like they have a stake in the final product. They will be far more likely to try it out and talk about it on their own Twitter pages.

Take the example of Dell. While the company has already made headlines for pulling in $3 million through its Twitter account, it is now taking its use of Twitter one step further by incorporating customer feedback into its design process. When customers complained on Twitter about the inconvenient keyboard design of the Dell Mini 9, Dell made sure that the problems were addressed in the Dell Mini 10.

Take this concept further by providing feedback to your customers. Let them know how their suggestions, ideas, and comments help you provide a better product and better service for them. Make them part of your company's journey and develop their loyalty (or at the very least, an affinity) to your product. Then, only after you've built this loyalty, watch the clicks and sales spike when you tweet "Buy now!"

With Twitter planning to unveil a new ecommerce shopping portal based on customer recommendations, be sure your product is well established on the platform, with a strong and loyal following, to make the most of this new venture.

Optimize your website or blog

There are several advantages to integrating your Twitter stream into your brand's website or blog. With a plethora of widgets and plug-ins available for every type of platform, weaving different Twitter functionalities into your site has never been easier.

Some key advantages to displaying your Twitter updates on your website include:

  • Creating a fresh and active interface. This is extremely attractive to search engines like Google, which are drawn toward dynamic content.

  • Allowing your website to appear constantly updated, even during lull periods where there are no new developments to discuss.

  • Directly demonstrating to your visitors (and potential customers) how you provide value and engage with your followers on this social media platform. This will in turn will help drive up your follower count.

If your brand or product is generating buzz in the Twitterverse, it would also be a good idea to display a live stream of tweets that refer to the discussions. Twitter offers a customized search widget that will display all conversations and tweets that refer to a particular keyword or phrase. This enables visitors to understand at a glance how buzz-worthy your product is.

Similar third-party widgets include TweetGrid and Monitter.

Of course, it is vital to make all blog posts and news updates on your website shareable, and a plug-in like Tweet This for WordPress allows visitors to instantly share your content on their Twitter accounts. Getting such endorsements from a few key influencers could drive traffic to your website considerably, and earn a fair number of retweets in the process.

Check out all the available Twitter plug-ins for your WordPress blog here

Build referrals

Twitter is an absolute boon for referral marketing, where word-of-mouth recommendations are simple, short, and fast, with the capacity to spread exponentially through user accounts and followers.

The best way to get a referral is to have someone on Twitter publicly recommend and talk about your product. This is an automatic endorsement to that person's Twitter followers, and therefore the message gets passed on to a community of like-minded people.

There are a few simple ways of ensuring that your brand or product gets discussed:

  • Proactively seek out people talking about (or having conversations that relate to) your brand, product, or service. Reach out to them with a comment, a word of thanks, or a helpful suggestion. It's not easy to tell whether a Twitter user would feel comfortable with someone tweeting them out of the blue, but some will appreciate it and be happy to be noticed. Maintain a respectful distance, always be polite, and provide assistance whenever possible.

  • Be sure to nurture and cultivate relationships with key influencers. Twitter celebrities with staggeringly large follower accounts are bombarded with requests and tweets everyday. Although getting a shout-out from one of them might be the ultimate coup, it could be just as useful to target the niche influencers with lower follower counts but substantial authority in their field of interest.

  • Follow up, follow up, follow up. Once a user has tried out or purchased your product, or had their complaint or question resolved, send a follow-up tweet to keep in touch. If it's hard to keep track, set up a system for automatic follow-up such as Future Tweets, which allows you to schedule tweets for a future date and time.

  • Provide opportunities for your followers to mention your product. Tweet interesting content of value that will encourage them to retweet and share it. Providing the occasional give-away, discount, or swag will definitely get a public and enthusiastic endorsement from the lucky follower.

These four basic tenets of Twitter marketing can become incredibly effective superpowers if managed the right way. Of course, all superpowers have their limitations. They won't matter if your audience -- your own personal Metropolis -- isn't even on Twitter. So before getting started, carry out a Twitter audit: Is a significant portion of your customer base present and active on Twitter? Do these include key influencers with large and engaged follower counts? Do you see potential for developing relationships and expanding your customer base?

If yes, be sure to take full advantage of Twitter's various superpowers to enhance your brand image and your customers' user experience. Feel free to experiment, but always be honest and authentic. Have fun connecting with your customers and watching the rewards pour in.

Madhuri Shekar is a freelance writer and new media research intern at Sony Pictures Television.

On Twitter? Follow Shekar at @madhuri567. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Madhuri Shekar is a freelance writer and social media marketing consultant. She has previously worked at Rogers and Cowan in the eMedia department, and at Sony Pictures Television in New Media Research.Madhuri holds a Masters in Global Communication...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Andrew Ettinger

2009, September 03

Given that there are only 24 hours in a day, I would imagine that CMOs can better use their time by managing the marketing for their company than by endlessly tweeting. Twitter is a tool, no more no less. Don't take your eye off the ball because a shiny new bauble is on the ground.

Commenter: Walter Adamson

2009, September 02

Helpful article, of all these I am most impressed by Best Buy as they seem to have the deepest social media strategy, which is really getting embedded in their culture and organistional routines.

Dell also of course has a well thought through social media strategy, of which I might say Twitter is probably a fairly small part.

Maybe I have not read widely enough, but Dell is keeping a good commercial lid on exposing their whole strategy, whereas we seem to see more of all the parts of Best Buy's strategy, and it's impressive.

Walter Adamson @g2m
Social Media Academy, Australia